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The ultimate goal of newborn photography is to capture the essence of that little person whilst they’re still very new to the world. Because that very newness will grow and change in a heartbeat, having a visual record of it before it’s gone forever will make a world of difference. Especially the tiny, cute sweet details! You want to get up close to those to really highlight them! This is where macro lens photography comes into play…
That’s right…macro photography is not all about bugs and flowers.
A specialist macro lens allows you to focus much closer than regular lenses, which is why it can be used for any very tiny subject. Think about it…is there anything smaller than the eyelashes of a newborn baby?
Award-winning Tasmanian Newborn & Maternity Photographer Peta Nikel creates beautiful macro photos in her newborn work. Peta contributed some of her images and professional tips when using a macro lens for baby photography to help us write this tutorial.
If you’re new to macro photography in general, check out our beginners’ guide, it’s the perfect place to start.
Related: Macro Beginners Guide
Look at that skin texture and detail…and that tiny wisp of hair! You could never capture that with a regular portrait lens.
You can use it any time during a session. But my top tip is to nail those shots as soon as the baby is asleep to get them in the bag. Macro lens photography offers a very shallow depth of field (more on that in a moment). For that reason, you don’t want any motion at all. So get those shots whilst you can.
Related: 7 DIY Newborn Photo Tips
Just generally in photography, the closer you are to your subject, the less depth of field you have. So naturally, that shallow depth of field is extreme in macro lens photography.
So you need to forget the go-to apertures you would use for portrait photography with a regular lens.
I shoot these close-up detail shots at f/4, but you could experiment with a little narrower if you like more depth of field.
When working this close to your subjects attempting to focus on such small details, camera shake becomes very noticeable.
You’ll see even very minor hand movement or subject movement through the lens.
So whatever the minimum shutter speed you would usually use to combat hand shaking in everyday shooting situations, increase that. As a guide, aim for a minimum of 1/250. If you have to, embrace ISO to enable you to do that.
I always use manual focus when shooting macro. Working with such a shallow depth of field, manual focus allows me to be more precise.
Related: When to Use Manual or Auto Focus
However, you do need a steady hand. Particularly for macro lens photography because the depth of field is so shallow. So if you’re not confident using manual focus, use auto focus, but it does require patience as the lens can hunt a lot more in macro photography. I find it helps to focus on the edge of the element so that it can grab more easily.
Whether you’re using manual or auto focus, where focus lands is crucial.
When shooting this close, you have virtually no wiggle room with your depth of field, so you really need to nail it. If you focus just a couple of mm forward or back from the detail you want to highlight, the intended detail will be out of focus.
If you’re using auto focus, manually select the focus point that sits exactly on the detail you want to highlight.
Related: Master Your Focus
Try different angles and framing to find the best composition. You can fill the frame with those fine details, but my personal preference is to include some of the baby’s other features for a more balanced composition.
I shoot with a Canon 100mm f/2.8L, which is super sharp and creamy.
If you have any questions on macro lens photography, let us know in the comments!
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