One of my favorite setups for studio portraits of children was inspired by Jill Greenberg’s photos of crying babies. These portraits are fun, simple, and focus on teasing out a variety of natural expressions of children as they are being photographed. This tutorial demonstrates how to photograph and edit this particular style of a three-light children’s portrait.
The lighting setup consists of two lights on either side of and just behind the subject and are modified by shoot-through umbrellas. A large softbox is positioned directly in front and above the subject. The power from the main light should be about one stop less than the light coming from each of the lights on either side. Either a white or grey backdrop works well for this style of portrait to make it easy to replace the background.
To take the photos, position yourself in front of the main light so that it’s just above the back of your head. I like to photograph these portraits at a medium focal length such as 85mm and keep only the head and shoulders of the subject in the frame. Some tricks to encourage a variety of expressions from your subject include playing peek-a-boo, singing songs, and giving your child subjects something to eat. For post-processing, follow the steps below using either Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop to complete the portrait.
These portraits are always popular with parents because they emphasize the child, rather than props, and once you have made your selection, the sky is the limit on what you choose to use as a background.