Within Newborn Photography sessions, my favourite go-to lenses are the Canon 24-70mm T2.8 and the Canon 100mm Macro. Admittedly, the 24-70mm is my most used lens during both a newborn photo shoot and baby photo shoot. I believe it is one of the best lenses for baby photography overall.
I have been photographing babies from newborn up to 12 months old for over 5 years now, and through all the research and advice I have read from other photographers, I am very happy with my lens choices.
Because I choose to use Canon products, this blog refers to the best Canon lens for newborn photography. I also use a 5D Mark 3 camera - eagerly awaiting to get my hands on the new Canon mirrorless camera!
Why The 24-70mm Canon Zoom Lens?
As a newborn and baby photographer, I personally feel this is the best lens for newborn photography. This lens gives me the versatility I need within a Newborn Photography Session without the need to swap my lens - which can be so important! Often newborn babies are unsettled during a photo shoot and they need a bit of TLC to encourage them to fall asleep. Once I do get them settled and in a deep sleep, I need to move fast! So eliminating time by not swapping between lenses can mean the difference between capturing a great variety of beautiful newborn photos, or not. Newborn babies have 45 minute sleep cycles so it’s important to pose them as quickly as I can, capturing the precious moments as I go. I can use the 24-70mm range on the lens to achieve most of my portraits!
Why the Wide End of the 24-70mm is the best lens for newborn photos in props
The wide end of this zoom lens allows me to capture newborn babies posed in a prop, such as a basket or crate. I commonly capture these portraits at around 35mm. The 35mm is quite a popular choice for many newborn photographers. This lens size means that I can fit the whole basket in my frame including some surrounding room - and not have to climb up on a step ladder! This is also very important to me for safety reasons, as I am sure you can understand that I don’t want there to be ANY chance of falling over or on to a newborn baby! I can safely position the newborn baby in the basket and once I have settled them, simply pick up my camera and capture the perfect shot by standing above them. I also use the 35mm to capture a variety of photographs within this same set-up. I can move in closer to the baby to capture a cropped version, plus play with different angles.
I choose not to use the 24-70mm zoom lens at any wider than 35mm during a newborn photo shoot because the wider lens will distort the image too much. Although this can be corrected to a degree using editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop, it is not ideal.
Distortion on the edges of your frame when using a wide lenses is very normal. An extreme example of this is a fisheye lens! Wide lenses are often used within landscape photography, but when capturing nature it’s not a big deal if you have a little distortion on the edges of your frame. However, as a portrait photographer it’s important to be aware of this issue because it is very noticeable. When photographing people, they will look strange and it will also be very unflattering if their faces are distorted! For this reason I chose to use a tighter lens for family portraits.
Why the Mid-Range on the 24-70mm is the best lens for many different newborn photos
As a newborn photographer, I love using my 24-70mm zoom lens at around the 50mm length! It is perfect for so many newborn portraits, and is also the best lens for baby photography. I can capture closer portraits of your baby’s face and this length is also ideal for particular poses, such as the hands-under-chin pose. The beauty of the 50mm is that it won’t distort your baby’s perfect face! One of my favourite techniques is to photograph your newborn baby from a particular angle ~ having their face in focus and the centre-of-attention, with their little body fading out of focus in the background. This angle also enhances those gorgeous long eyelashes that a lot of babies have!
Newborn Family Photos
The 40-50mm length of this lens is also ideal for family portraits during a newborn photography session. My photo studio isn’t huge (although it’s also not tiny!) so when posing families it's important that I can stay close to them. This is also important because I need to feed them instructions without yelling across the room, plus I find myself commonly re-adjusting their newborn baby. Keeping close to them makes the whole experience quite personal and I can also feel the love while I capture it through my lens!
I love to also move in close and capture images of newborn babies whilst in their parents arms. There is something special about capturing a portrait of a baby that focuses on them, but the parents are still present. This is also a very popular newborn photo for parents who are a little self conscious and don’t particularly like the traditional looking-at-camera portrait. During my newborn photo shoots I always offer a variety of looking-at-camera portraits plus some more natural, candid moments.
Newborn Sibling Photos
The 40-50mm size on the 24-70mm lens is also perfect for sibling portraits! It is common for newborn photo shoots to include an older sibling, and usually just a toddler. Again it is important when photographing toddlers that I can be quick on my feet because they don’t stay still long! The flexibility of a zoom lens allows me to react depending on what mood they are in, and capture that spontaneous kiss they might give their newborn baby brother or sister! I choose to lay a toddler down on their back with their baby sibling in their arms ~ this gives a beautiful portrait but is also a safe option as there is little risk to the newborn baby of being dropped or hurt. Mum and Dad can also stay very close and supervise, whilst I stand above them and capture the perfect portrait! The 40mm length on this 24-70mm zoom lens is perfect for this pose! If the older sibling decides to give their baby brother or sister a little kiss, I can easily zoom in a little closer and capture this intimate moment.
For older siblings who are more comfortable holding the baby, I attempt a different pose of them laying on their tummy and holding their baby brother or sister in their arms in front of them. Even a 5 year old will struggle with the weight of a small 3kg baby, therefore this pose allows the baby’s weight to mostly still be on the ground and their older sibling can simply wrap their arms around them. For this pose I get nice and close to the ground with my camera and use around a 40-50mm length on my 24-70mm lens.
Why the 70mm Macro feature on the 24-70mm Canon lens is perfect for newborn photography
One of my favourite things about the 24-70mm zoom lens is the 70mm end of it, and it being a macro focus! This feature gives me so much versatility! I absolutely love capturing the precious details of newborn babies - such as their hands, feet and long eyelashes. As mentioned earlier, newborn babies are often unsettled during their professional baby photo shoot so being able to move fast once they fall asleep is very important. Having the 70mm macro on the 24-70mm lens allows me to quickly capture a detailed hand portrait and other close-up features of babies. Saving the time in swapping lenses can be vital!
Down-side to 24-70mm Canon Lens
I guess not everything in life can be perfect, and there are always some down-sides. The 24-70mm lens is perfect in so many ways, but if you were to ask me what is one disadvantage about this lens, I would only say that the auto-focus isn't amazing. It is literally the only down-side I can think of in regards to this lens though!
I always use the auto-focus feature on the 24-70mm, but unfortunately it can be a little hit-and-miss. To compensate, I therefore take a lot of extra ‘safe’ shots just in case one is out of focus. I find this is mostly noticeable on the long end of the lens (70mm) and particularly on the macro shots - where I pin-point the focus to be, it sometimes focuses slightly forward or back from there. I have tried calibrating the lens but found this didn’t help. I also sometimes wonder if it’s a bit of user-error! I accept that’s probably the case at times so therefore chose to keep using this lens and just work around this issue. To eliminate possibly not having a shot in focus at all, I will capture multiple focus points to be sure!
Canon 100mm Macro Lens - the best lens for Newborn Photography when capturing precious details
The other lens I use occasionally during newborn photography sessions is the Canon 100mm Macro Lens. You may ask why would I use this when the 24-70mm zoom lens has a macro feature? My answer is that the 100mm macro gives such a beautiful feel with it’s shallow depth of field and pin-sharp focus. I love this lens!
If I find myself photographing a newborn baby who is very settled into a deep sleep and I feel that I have the time to capture some extra special detail shots, this is the lens to do that! I particularly love using this lens if the newborn baby has gorgeous long eyelashes that absolutely deserve to be preserved in photographs! The sharp focus on this lens allows those eyelashes to almost be counted one by one! The shallow depth of field also means that the eyelashes become the feature of the portrait - the only feature in the portrait!
The only thing to be mindful of when using the 100mm macro lens is that with such a shallow depth of field, the aperture does often need to be increased to allow for more detail to be in focus. A low aperture means a more shallow depth of field (less in focus). A higher aperture means a deeper depth of field (more in focus). Depending on what feature of the newborn baby I am capturing, this will depend on what I set my aperture to and therefore I can achieve the focus I desire.
Other Camera Settings used in Newborn Photography
As mentioned at the beginning, I currently use a Canon 5D Mark 3 full frame camera. I love this camera so much, it has been an absolute work-horse the past 5 years and never skipped a beat (fingers crossed!). I am eagerly awaiting Canon’s new mirrorless camera though!
When photographing newborn babies, there are a lot of variations of camera settings that can be used. Every photographer is different and ultimately what they chose to use creates their own style. Lighting and editing are also important factors in achieving a unique style, but we won’t touch on that today.
When photographing newborn babies in my Kiddy Kats Photography studio in Ferntree Gully (Melbourne’s Eastern Suburbs) I use quite a high ISO ~ usually 1000 or 1250. ISO is a setting that basically tells your camera how sensitive it needs to be to the light.
I also commonly use an aperture of T4. The setting of the camera’s T-Stop will also control the depth of field in my photographs, and I like to have enough depth of field so the newborn baby’s face is in focus. I also love using this T-Stop in both sibling and family portraits as it keeps all faces in focus. How I position family members is also very important in achieving this, as well as choosing my focus point carefully. In particular, when newborn photo sessions include a sibling who is just a toddler - they can quickly move from where I have positioned them, so I have to watch them carefully and change my focus point when needed!
The last camera setting that is important is the shutter speed. This controls the length of time the camera’s sensor is open and therefore also controls how sharp movement is within photographs. Example, when photographing a car driving by, if you would like it to be sharp then you need a high shutter speed otherwise it will be blurry. Within a newborn photo shoot, the newborn babies obviously don’t move much so I can use quite a low shutter speed when photographing them on their own. I usually use a shutter speed of about 160. However, as mentioned earlier, when toddlers are involved and they move FAST I need to compensate for this and therefore bump my shutter speed up to about 250. I will also keep it on this for family portraits.
One other thing to be mindful of in regards to shutter speed is your own movement when holding the camera. We all have hand shake when holding a camera, and I’ve noticed over the years that mine can be considerable. Therefore I keep my shutter speed 160 or above to ensure my personal handshake won’t make my photographs blurry. You can obviously use a camera tripod to combat the issue of hand shake, but as a newborn photographer I find this only restricts the angles I can achieve and is also much more time consuming.
Feel free to contact me for any further enquiries relating to this blog.
Michelle - Kiddy Kats Photography
Based in Ferntree Gully in Melbourne’s Eastern Suburbs