Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.

Baby Pictures Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

30 September 2016

A few days ago we got our first chance to photograph one of our newest family members. Over the years we've come to enjoy packing the dSLR along to the hospital and taking some new-born infant shots in natural light, some of which have even led to an article or two here.

All Smiles. Natural light at f5.6, 1/30 second and ISO 800.

But this birth was not in town so we didn't get a chance to take a photo until the happy family arrived for a visit. And by then Baby was able to focus a bit and wonder what was going on.

Up until their arrival, all the photos we'd seen of him (without exception) were smartphone photos. And there were a lot. From his surprise appearance at the hospital onward. And they were shared immediately by texting the image (which, unfortunately, is a killer with our AT&T contract).

Those images are good enough to make 4x6 prints and we made them, lots of them. Having an image on your phone is wonderful and being able to share it immediately is a blessing.

But having the prints laying around made us realize how seldom you look any particular image on your phone and even then, you don't look long. We've gazed at one luminous black-and-white conversion from an underexposed color shot of the happy trio for hours now. It sits right in front of us on the coffee table.

You can't beat that.

You also can't beat a high-resolution, deep bit-depth, post processed capture. We knew that from comparing our previous shoots to the smartphone captures we received. And not just because we printed 9x13 prints of our dSLR images.

So even if we'd had, say, an iPhone 7 Plus, we'd have gone down to the bunker for our old dSLR.


Every time an iPhone is released the hyperbole about the new camera spikes. Otherwise perfectly sane adults start raving about the obvious limitations and pretending smartphone stunt photography is stunning.

Apple does a much better job than other smartphone companies in processing the image data into an appealing JPEG (and they always have). It's probably one reason it took until iOS 10 and only the most recent phones for the company to permit access to the Raw data by developers.

But the recent iPhone 7 coverage of an NFL football game and a professional tennis tournament showed the limitations of the small sensor. Blown highlights, oversaturated color and the wide angle focal length are still issues the photographers had to accommodate. They were not advantages.

So, no, smartphones can not touch the image quality a dSLR or mirrorless camera delivers.

This point seems to be becoming obvious to young parents who compare their smartphone shots of the new baby with their parents' images captured with dSLRs or mirrorless cameras. A few young parents have asked us for advice about upgrading.

We go over the options -- mirrorless, APC-C dSLR, full frame -- and talk video as well as stills, plus various sharing methods.

But we also talk about the skills they're going to have to acquire. Why it's a good idea to shoot Raw and how to efficiently edit a Raw shoot. Why they should use off camera flash. That opening the aperture blurs the background nicely.

Baby steps.

The new camera does promise better imaging but good photography isn't automatic. It's about choices. Which implies knowledge of the alternatives.


We like to shoot in natural light and when they arrived in the late afternoon, we did, even though we had to crank up the ISO to keep the shutter speed fast enough to avoid most subject blur.

But we had known we'd run out of sunlight. So the night before we charged the battery packs in a Flashpoint 180 Monolight, which is our portable studio strobe. You can certainly do this with a wireless flash propped up on its clip-on stand or a small tripod but the monolight is more powerful and recharges faster.

So as the light faded, we brought the strobe upstairs to the living room and stuck it in the corner by the fireplace.

Artificial Light. Shot at f11 at 1/60 second and ISO 1600.

A fireplace is a generally the focal point of a room, the place where the heat can radiate evenly throughout the place. That isn't quite true of ours but it's close and it's always a good bet.

With just the one strobe and intent on avoiding the hard light of direct illumination, we opted to bounce the light off the ceiling. We tend to do this in the bunker for our product shots.

That meant setting the camera in Manual mode at the highest shutter sync speed. We'd let aperture determine depth of field and adjust ISO as necessary.

The quality of the diffused light was just what we wanted. Plenty of illumination but soft light.


We have no complaint about posed photos and often ask for them and always get happy cooperation. But we greatly prefer candids. That's just the way we're built.

Babies appreciate it too because they don't have to be tickled and jiggled and cajoled into looking into the camera as if they were having their portrait taken. They just play and some giant snaps photos of them now and then.

So we kept the camera strapped to our wrist and the strobe on with the remote trigger on so we could move around (although we didn't much). And for a few hours, we just shot whatever we felt like.

That way, as Baby got passed around, we managed to get a few shots of each person holding him. Before you know it, we'd documented the evening.


We shot Raw because we always do these days, no matter the situation. There's just more information to work with and modern editing software makes it very efficient to process batches of files quickly. It never feels like work.

To the left, we show three treatments of the same image. We grabbed the in-camera thumbnail embedded in the Raw file (so, you know, you can see it). Then we added a Lightroom edit done by simply clicking the Auto button in the Basic adjustments of the Develop module (which is a lot like what a smartphone might contrive). Finally, we show you what we did with a preset we saved of our normal Raw adjustments for this camera, which we always tweek a bit.

The natural light and strobe shots required different adjustments. But we surprised ourselves with the strobe shots.

We made very few edits. Even adding Clarity, which we almost always do, wasn't required and seemed to hurt. We did add a little but only half what we've come to think of as a standard dose.

We did open the shadows a tiny bit but the important edit was to Color Temperature.

Camera Raw. Final adjustments.

Our white ceiling paint is a little cool. So we moved the slider toward the yellow or warmer part of the scale to add some color back to the faces. Big difference. And, again, all you have to do is just slide that slider back and forth until you find the sweet spot.

We also darkened the Highlights a tiny bit to bring a little more detail in the faces.

Being able to work on the Highlights, Shadows and Color Temperature independently is why you use software like Adobe Camera Raw. Being able to work on a set of images at once is why you use software like Lightroom.

When we liked what we had with one image in a sequence, we simply extended the selection to the others in the sequence and Synced them so they shared the same adjustments.


In the course of the evening, Baby's father had mentioned his iPhone hardly had any room for photos on it and he had to keep deleting them to make room for business emails.

We mentioned that there's a solution for that. Google Photos. Free unlimited photo storage and an app that monitors the free space on your phone to delete the oldest images (which have already been stored in the cloud). Essentially what he was doing manually now.

So when it came time to share our edits, we exported them as full resolution JPEGs and uploaded them to Google's cloud.

After reviewing them and making a few edits, we shared the URL to the album we created.

Google Photos. Unlimited storage, easy sharing.

At home, we texted the URL to a phone number and looked at them on the small screen of an iPhone 6. They looked great but small. So we emailed the link to an iPad and looked at them on a larger screen. We found once through the slide show was not enough. Even on the third time through we were seeing things we'd missed before.

They are rich images.

And for the first time, the rest of the family got to see some high-resolution professionally processed images of the baby. It was almost as if they had been there, too.

We did have one problem with Safari on a 10-year-old iMac running OS 10.4 not being able to display either the Google interface buttons or the album. We just switched to the TenFourFox browser to be able to see the buttons and images.


We were starving for dSLR shots of Baby and when the chance came, we grabbed as many as we could. When the afternoon light faded, we stuck a strobe in the corner of the big room and kept on shooting with a radio trigger on the camera.

But shooting is only half the fun. We processed the images in Lightroom and posted them on Google Photos.

And still, we're not done. We want to make a few prints to leave lying around to see Baby's smile whenever we feel like it. It makes the whole day brighter.

BackBack to Photo Corners