Create a delicate, window-lit portrait with plenty of gentle bokeh
Windows work like softboxes in many ways: the closer your subject is to the light source, the stronger the light is. Unless you’ve got sunlight falling through the window directly onto the baby (which will probably cause a lot of grizzling and eye-scrunching), it should be fairly soft. To increase or decrease the light, you’ll need to move the baby closer to the window or further away.
01 Soft options
Bring along light and dark blankets to the shoot. They give you different background options, and babies like soft textures or fur against their skin. Use quilts, clothes and toys that are personal to the baby as props. They’ll help to add colour to your portraits, and for a shallow-depth-of-field shot, any patterns will blur beautifully.
02 Position the baby
In a photograph, you can tell where the window is from the catchlights in the eyes. Make sure the light is coming from above the face rather than below – picking out the top of the head, cheeks and tip of the nose, not under the chin and nose. This is a more natural angle for light, as our eyes are used to seeing light coming from above.
03 Select aperture-priority
Set your Nikon to aperture-priority (A) mode. This way, you can choose the aperture while the camera works out the correct shutter speed for a good exposure. This means that you have full control over the depth of field in the shot, and can narrow the aperture slightly if you decide you’re getting a little too much blur.
04 Choose a wide aperture
Set your len’s maximum aperture – this allows for low light and enables you to create a very shallow depth of field. This is where prime lenses with wide maximum apertures like f/1.4 or f/1.8 come into their own, as the wider the aperture you’re able to use, the shallower the depth of field in your pictures will be.
05 Set a high ISO
As the baby can’t pose on request, you’ll be shooting handheld for flexibility, so set an ISO high enough to allow for a fast shutter speed of at least 1/100 second. With window light and a wide aperture, ISO400 should be enough, but you might need to go up to ISO800 or 1600 (or alternatively set Auto ISO).
06 Focus precisely
As is usually the case in portraits, the eyes are the most important point, though for some of the shots you could get creative and focus on the tips of tiny fingers instead, perhaps with the parent’s fingers to give a sense of scale, allowing the rest of the baby to fade into a gentle blur. Work quickly, though, as babies don’t stay still for long!