Newborn Lighting Dream Art Style

I have been asked how I light my newborn photo sessions. I am certainly not an expert in lighting, but I am happy to share what I do and what works for me. Other people will find different things work for them and their particular style of photography. Experiment and see what works for you and gives you the results that you are after.
When I first started I used exclusively natural light. Now I am using a mix of studio lighting and natural light. Sometimes I travel to clients homes and sometimes they come to me in my temporary studio (also known as the kids playroom and the guest bedroom). When travelling to clients home I don’t know what the light in their home will be like until I get there. I will decided whether I use natural or studio light based on how much light is in their home and what the weather is like. If the home is dark, the natural light inconsistent (for example clouds covering the sun and making it dark then moving and suddenly making it bright) or there are strong colour casts coming through the windows I will use my studio lighting. If the client has lovely big windows or sliding door and the light is consistent I may choose to use natural light.

Regardless of which lighting option you choose the basic principles of positioning the baby in relation to your light source are the same.  In general try to position your baby at 45 degrees to your light source.  One big advantage of studio lighting is you can move your light to get it exactly where you like it.  I find it much easier to move my light than to re-position a sleeping baby or move my entire beanbag set up.  Experiment with this angle to get the results that you like most.

My style of newborn photography has soft shadows.  To achieve this I use a reflector to bounce some light back on to the baby to fill in the shadows.  At clients homes sometimes I will place my set up so I can use natural light from a door or window to provide this fill light and I don’t need to use the reflector, although this can impact on my white balance (but that is another tutorial).

Please excuse me for using a doll and a styrofoam ball as models.  I didn’t have any babies booked and keeping a plastic doll safe while photographing from a distance is much easier than keeping a real baby safe.

All of these images are SOOC (straight out of camera) expect that they have been sharpened for web viewing.

Beanbag set up


Here you can see my light at approximately 45 degrees to the “baby” and the reflector in position to bounce light back.  And yes, I use a lot of background clamps.  I like my background smooth so I don’t have to spend time in Photoshop removing wrinkles.  Note the catch lights in the babies eyes and the soft shadows around the nose, mouth and top most side of the head.

My settings above: Shutter speed 1/160, Aperture f/2.8, ISO 100. Alien Bee on 1/16 power.

Prop set up (upright)


The position of the light and reflector basically the same for the beanbag set up.  You can see the edge of the reflector in the top right hand corner.  Haha.  I didn’t pay much attention to the wrinkles in my floor drop.  Oops.

My settings above: Shutter speed 1/160, Aperture f/3.2, ISO 100. Alien Bee on 1/16 power.

Prop set up  (on floor)

tests-8558-copyPlease note that the curtains in the background where only opened so I had enough light for the pull back shots of the set up.  And yes, my softbox does have extra legs.  That is Alex, the younger of my 4.5yr old twins.with-reflector22

You can see the difference in the shadows in the bottom right corner with and without the reflector.
My settings: Shutter speed 1/160, Aperture f/4, ISO 100. Alien Bee on 1/16 power.

Natural light set up

This was my set up for a natural light set up from last year.  Note that the beanbag set up is angled towards the light so I can still position baby at approximately 45 degrees to the window light.  Just a quick safety note.  The set up on the ground was shot first and then moved so I didn’t have to worry about tripping over it while shooting on the beanbag.


My settings above: Shutter speed 1/100, Aperture f/2.8, ISO 400.

When I first considered using studio lighting and I knew nothing (and I mean NOTHING) about it, I did a short course (Illuminate) via The Milky Way.  It is for those new to studio lighting and includes lighting for newborns and for maternity photos.   I found it very helpful.  It got me started and gave me the confidence to experiment.  You can find more information here:

I hope you found this helpful.

What I am using:
Camera – Canon 5D MK III
Lens: Canon 24 – 70 mm f/2.8 MK II

Light – Alien Bee 400 –
Softbox – Westcott Apollo 50 x 50 inch
Reflector – Basic everyday collapsible reflector. Mine is 105 cm diameter.

Posing Beanbag – Newborn Posing Pod Australia – , International –  Also similar product from Shoot Baby
Flexi Blanket Bars – Shoot Baby –  Check you have the correct store for where you live
Cream wood backdrops – Lemondrop Stop –

Crochet basket – Love Beanies –
Head wraps – Make with Love and Sew Whimsy &
Cheesecloth wrap on doll – Knitz –


  • Thanks for sharing Fiona 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Fiona

    Hi Fiona,

    Thanks for that- very nice work. Also where did you get the cream/white fluff rug in your tutorial?

    Fiona HReplyCancel

  • michelle

    I am trying to work through how to make the jump into studio lighting… and you have inspired me!
    When you mention that you use your Alien Bees light on 1/16… does this mean it is continuous lighting, or do you use strobe/flash lighting?


    • Dream Art

      Hi Michelle. It is used as a strobe/flash. Lights generally have what is called a modelling light which gives you enough light to work by and enough light so your camera can focus. It is the modelling light that you can see on in the photos in the post. When you trigger your flash the modelling light goes off while your flash is on. It all happens in the blink of an eye. Plenty of people I know use their alien bees at 1/32 power as well and just adjust their ISO and aperture to suit. It comes to down to experimenting and finding what works for you and your work environment.ReplyCancel

  • Val

    I LOVE YOU !!!! SIMPLE AND PERFECT !!!ReplyCancel

  • Abdullah Kokce

    thank you very much for sharing this important information. I try to get bee 400 and Wescott Softbox in Australiabut i am struggling to find any items. I found Bee 800 in ebay but I dont know where can I get Wescott 50″. If i get wescott 50″ do I need to buy any adapter or converter for using bee light?

    Thank you for sharing againReplyCancel

  • iman

    im just wondering with the 5dIII did you use a remote control to fire the light ?ReplyCancel

    • Dream Art

      So sorry, I only just found this. Yes you need a trigger on the camera and a receiver on the light.ReplyCancel

  • Hi Fiona
    Thanks for this – it was just the kind of thing I was looking for! Do you think this set up would work with a continuous light?

    • Dream Art

      Hi Janine. Yes, this sort of set up would work for continuous light. Many I have talked to about continuous light find that it is not as versatile as the strobes and often it isn’t bright enough. I bought and tired a continuous light set up and didn’t like it at all. But it suits some people’s style and work space.ReplyCancel

  • Meaghan

    Hi Fiona

    Can you tell me a little more about the Alienbee flash? Does his disturb the baby? Or is it s soft flash? I have never seen them used so I have no idea
    Would you consider this flash essential for baby photography?

    Thank you

    • Dream Art

      Hi Meaghan. No a flash is certainly not essential. There are plenty of wonderful newborn photographers who use natural light. The Alien Bee’s are now only available in the USA, but there are similar lights available in most countries. No the flash doesn’t disturb the baby. I haven’t had an issue with that and have been using lights for years.ReplyCancel

  • Ricki

    Hey! Love this article… I was wondering where you got your back drop stand though… or what are you using to hold the blanket up? I’ve never seen a flexible one like that. I love it!ReplyCancel

    • Dream Art

      Hi Ricki. The flexible arms holding the sides of the fabric were from Shoot Baby but I don’t think they are sold anymore. The backdrop stand holding the fabric is a cheap one from ebay. I wanted one with a low minimum high so I didn’t need huge pieces of fabric and the fabric didn’t need to be on a sharp angle at the back. I paid about $25 for it 6 years ago and it’s still fine, but it is light weight and I would never hang anything other than fabric from it. For backdrops/wall drops for family photos/prop shops I have a large, heavier, strong backdrop stand from Kayell Australia. Again I have had it for 5-6years. I think it was around $350-400 back then.ReplyCancel

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