How to: Newborn Baby and Red Skin Tones

AndyAndy BicameralNew YorkPosts: 60,808Registered Users Major grins
edited May 11, 2007 in Technique
OK the topic is, Newborn Baby!

Yep - those very first shots, in the hospital, available, mixed lighting, and you're the new Dad, with a new dSLR, and you want to do your best with in-camera jpgs so you can get the shots, upload to SmugMug, and share.

This shot is from a SmugMug customer (and new Dad!)... right from his camera (Nikon D70, sRGB mode, available light no flash).

45646969-L.jpg

We actually color-corrected a batch of 100 shots by hand (we meaning Baldy - who's seen thousands of cases of off-color, and was nearly stumped with this job) and sent them off to our printer - for sure they're an improvement but of course, the objective here is to see if this can be avoided by Mr. New Dad in the future!

Baldy has discussed the near-infrared issue in his blog and there's also a great section on skin tones and why they're too red in the smugmug help files. These are great resources for fixing the problem in post-processing, but how about when we want to get it as right as possible in-camera?

Now newborn babies are tough - they fresh 'n red and plump and juicy and cute - and all of that combined with typical poor available light in the hospital room - makes for very difficult shooting circumstances. So c'mon you experts - let's hear your ideas :ear

And thanks to our anonymous new Dad, for allowing us to use these pics as a learning experience (he'll be watching, and he wants to learn, too!).

Enjoy (newborn baby) photography,
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Comments

  • DavidTODavidTO Mod Emeritus Posts: 19,160Administrators moderator
    edited November 23, 2005
    OK, so here's a 5 minute or less fix. On my laptop, no mouse, talking to the kids, no promises.

    Basic outline: in curves, set the gray point on the sheet. Convert mode to LAB. Use Shadow/Highlights on the L channel only. Add a curve, apply the A channel to create a mask. Use levels to make the mask useable. Use the curves to pull back the magenta in the face. Duplicate that adjustment layer and double clicked the curves, reset them to start from scratch, and then used the L channel to lighten slightly in the face and especially on the red parts of the face.

    If you need more detail, I can do it later...it ain't perfect, but gives an idea of what's possible...(like I said, laptop, no mouse, kids, yada yada...)

    45651925-M.jpg
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  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter Posts: 14,028Super Moderators moderator
    edited November 23, 2005
    Shoot the baby by window lighting and set the camera white balance for shade, or use the flourescent setting on the camera white balance for hospital flourescent lights.

    Or do what dave suggested, if you understand it ( I think I do) but I venture most new father's with a brand new digital camera probably do not understand layers and LAB channels like Dave does. :D
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  • DavidTODavidTO Mod Emeritus Posts: 19,160Administrators moderator
    edited November 23, 2005
    pathfinder wrote:
    Shoot the baby by window lighting and set the camera white balance for shade, or use the flourescent setting on the camera white balance for hospital flourescent lights.

    Or do what dave suggested, if you understand it ( I think I do) but I venture most new father's with a brand new digital camera probably do not understand layers and LAB channels like Dave does. :D


    Yeah, they're pretty bad destructions, but it would take me much more time than I have now to make them clear. I'll post them later.
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  • Shay StephensShay Stephens Artist in Residence Posts: 3,165Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 23, 2005
    Well a couple of things come to mind.

    1) Getting a good exposure from the beginning will help with the over-saturation (reds looking redder) you can get when you adjust the brightness in post. So pay attention to the exposure firstly.

    2) Make sure the white balance is appropriate. It looks good in this photo.

    3) Have realistic expectations of the result. If the skin is really and truly reddish, as it is here, you can't expect something different to be in the photo. You won't be getting a model babies skin in a situation like this (curse the movies and TV for giving this unrealistic view hehehe).

    4) If the color temperature of the ambient lighting is just too hinky, use flash to help give a normalized output that can be dealt with easier. You can modify the flash output anyway you see appropriate (color, softness, etc)


    Andy wrote:
    .. but how about when we want to get it as right as possible in-camera?
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  • gtcgtc Greg Posts: 916Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 23, 2005
    baby shots
    i dont want to dampen anyones enthusiasm for photoshopping baby but i have found that baby usually takes about two or three weeks before they are suitable for a photograph.

    by then the skin colour starts to stabilise eg redness and blotchiness fades,the weird skin stuff clears up,cradle cap etc and the eyes are open and alert.

    its usually daylight too and babies features are more recognisable.

    so,anonymous baby shooter,dont despair if photoshop cant work miracles-wait for nature to take its course.
    Andy wrote:
    OK the topic is, Newborn Baby!

    Yep - those very first shots, in the hospital, available, mixed lighting, and you're the new Dad, with a new dSLR, and you want to do your best with in-camera jpgs so you can get the shots, upload to SmugMug, and share.

    This shot is from a SmugMug customer (and new Dad!)... right from his camera (Nikon D70, sRGB mode, available light no flash).

    45646969-L.jpg

    We actually color-corrected a batch of 100 shots by hand (we meaning Baldy - who's seen thousands of cases of off-color, and was nearly stumped with this job) and sent them off to our printer - for sure they're an improvement but of course, the objective here is to see if this can be avoided by Mr. New Dad in the future!

    Baldy has discussed the near-infrared issue in his blog and there's also a great section on skin tones and why they're too red in the smugmug help files. These are great resources for fixing the problem in post-processing, but how about when we want to get it as right as possible in-camera?

    Now newborn babies are tough - they fresh 'n red and plump and juicy and cute - and all of that combined with typical poor available light in the hospital room - makes for very difficult shooting circumstances. So c'mon you experts - let's hear your ideas ear.gif

    And thanks to our anonymous new Dad, for allowing us to use these pics as a learning experience (he'll be watching, and he wants to learn, too!).

    Enjoy (newborn baby) photography,
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  • MitchellMitchell Major grins Posts: 3,482Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 23, 2005
    I have to agree with Greg. For the first 2-3 weeks, most babies will have red, blotchy skin. Take some pics as memories but don't expect much.

    I always turned to B&W during this time with a little softening. The moms usually love them.
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkPosts: 60,808Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 23, 2005
    Hey, everyone, thanks.

    If you read carefully my post, though, you'll see that I'm looking for discussion around IN-CAMERA techniques (at shoot) only. There are plenty of ways to fix the shots after the fact. Thanks again!
  • MitchellMitchell Major grins Posts: 3,482Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 23, 2005
    Andy wrote:
    Hey, everyone, thanks.

    If you read carefully my post, though, you'll see that I'm looking for discussion around IN-CAMERA techniques (at shoot) only. There are plenty of ways to fix the shots after the fact. Thanks again!
    Sorry about that, Andy.

    When shooting portraits with the D70, I found the sReala version 2 custom curve to be very helpful. It really seems to work nicely with skin tones. If he doesn't have this, he should try downloading it into the D70 to see the difference.

    The link can be found here http://www.digitalkb.com/nikon/d70/tone_curves/my_curves/sreala/version_two/
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkPosts: 60,808Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 23, 2005
    Mitchell wrote:
    Sorry about that, Andy.

    When shooting portraits with the D70, I found the sReala version 2 custom curve to be very helpful. It really seems to work nicely with skin tones. If he doesn't have this, he should try downloading it into the D70 to see the difference.

    The link can be found here http://www.digitalkb.com/nikon/d70/tone_curves/my_curves/sreala/version_two/


    clap.gif now that's what I'm talkin' about! Thanks Mitchell thumb.gif
  • DavidTODavidTO Mod Emeritus Posts: 19,160Administrators moderator
    edited November 23, 2005
    Sorry, Andy. I read your post and all I saw was "Blah blah dad blah blah blotchy baby blah blah baldy processing blah blah help."

    Guess I should read closer.

    Aside from the things mentioned above, I would also set my parameters to whatever is not vivid, anything that would mute the saturation.
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  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkPosts: 60,808Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 23, 2005
    DavidTO wrote:
    Aside from the things mentioned above, I would also set my parameters to whatever is not vivid, anything that would mute the saturation.

    lol3.gif No worries, David it's hard to keep up with all those big words naughty.gif

    You bring up an excellent point - at higher ISOs especially, the saturation needs to be turned down - so using a parameter that decreases saturation for in-camera jpgs would be great.

    thumb.gif thumb.gif thanks for your contribution!
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Posts: 6,511Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 23, 2005
    I don't have much experience with filters becuase 90% of the time I can achieve the effect I want in post. But some of the photographers have a lot of expience with them and this seems (to me, knowing as little as I do about filters) to be a perfect application. Maybe somebody can chime in.

    Of course, filters aren't exactly an "in-camera" technique. More like "on-camera". But I suppose it would be great to know what filter to take to shoot your newborn with.

    Back when I had my last newborn, it was still the age of film. The day we brought him home, I followed advice not that different from Pathfinder's: window light. At the time we had a bedroom with windows on three sides. I put him on a blanket on the floor and shot medium format and got a few good enough that I still have. There was no photoshop involved, of course, but there was a really good pro lab. They could have done stuff not that different from what I'd do in PS. Don't know what they did do.
    If not now, when?
  • ChrisJChrisJ Major grins Posts: 2,150Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 23, 2005
    Windows light is nice... but not all babies cooperate. If the birth is at 12:31AM, like ours, then you have to make due with the light/flash you have.

    Also, C-Section babies usually look better than Natural birth babies (due to non-squeezage). Ours had a little splotchiness, but nothing close to our subject baby.

    Interesting to hear more results from this in preparation for (eventually) Baby #2!
    Chris
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter Posts: 14,028Super Moderators moderator
    edited November 23, 2005
    By 8 am, there will be light, and the baby will be more composed 6-8 hours after birth than immediately after it enters this mortal dimension. A few hours of sleep and a good meal improve the temperment of most of us, babies included.
    If you must have an image 5 minutes after birth at 3 am, use a good flash and pass on the funky flourescent hospital lighting. Set the WB on the camera to Flash if possible.

    As for me, it really is hard to beat nice soft window light for portraits especially in a hospital. Window light worked for The Great Masters 300 years ago, and it still does :):

    For an example of the use of windowlight, in a hospital, I give you this link by Yuri, of a nurse in a hospital thumb.gif http://dgrin.com/showthread.php?t=22991&goto=nextoldest
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  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkPosts: 60,808Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 23, 2005
    Hey, great advice in here from everyone! Thanks so much to everone. I think there's something here for the "heat of the moment" (right at birth), for the next day (less red, go for window light) and also for the post-processing when dad has time.

    I'm embarking on a some further research into the near-infared issue, and hopefully will have some interesting findings soon.

    I'm editing the title of this thread so it's more easily searchable.

    Thanks everyone!

    clap.gif
  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Posts: 6,511Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 23, 2005
    Andy wrote:
    I'm embarking on a some further research into the near-infared issue, and hopefully will have some interesting findings soon.

    Gonna use that new IR modded sony camera to shoot some newborns? Will they let you in the delivery room? (My wife's a doctor and I've done some unethical sneaking into ORs in my day, but not into delivery rooms.)
    If not now, when?
  • TOF guyTOF guy Big grins Posts: 74Registered Users Big grins
    edited November 23, 2005
    Mitchell wrote:

    When shooting portraits with the D70, I found the sReala version 2 custom curve to be very helpful. It really seems to work nicely with skin tones.
    This curve is likely to make the problem worse - not better - in this case. The D70 has a fairly weak IR filter and what Dad needs to do is to buy this:

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?ci=1&sb=ps&pn=1&sq=desc&InitialSearch=yes&O=RootPage.jsp&A=search&Q=*&bhs=t&shs=b%2Bw+486&image.x=9&image.y=9

    Expensive, but worth the money. Dad gets a 15% discount from B&H if he calls and give the following promotional number:
    #PSDEC093
    (applies to all B+W Heliopan Cokin Tiffen & Hoya etc filters, BTW, valid through December 20th, 2005).

    Believe it or not headscratch.gif I'm not affiliated in any way with B&H .

    Thierry
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkPosts: 60,808Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 23, 2005
    TOF guy wrote:
    This curve is likely to make the problem worse - not better - in this case. The D70 has a fairly weak IR filter and what Dad needs to do is to buy this:

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?ci=1&sb=ps&pn=1&sq=desc&InitialSearch=yes&O=RootPage.jsp&A=search&Q=*&bhs=t&shs=b%2Bw+486&image.x=9&image.y=9

    Expensive, but worth the money. Dad gets a 15% discount from B&H if he calls and give the following promotional number:
    #PSDEC093
    (applies to all B+W Heliopan Cokin Tiffen & Hoya etc filters, BTW, valid through December 20th, 2005).

    Believe it or not headscratch.gif I'm not affiliated in any way with B&H .

    Thierry
    That's the filter Baldy uses - and has had good results with. This is part of my research - great contribution, Thierry! Thanks man thumb.gif
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter Posts: 14,028Super Moderators moderator
    edited November 24, 2005
    Wow, I've not spent $199 for a 77 mm filter yet. Wait, what does a Singh-Ray blue-yellow polarizer cost?? Close to that I think.

    The IR/UV filter might be a nice addition to a wedding shooters kit thumb.gif
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  • DavidTODavidTO Mod Emeritus Posts: 19,160Administrators moderator
    edited November 24, 2005
    pathfinder wrote:
    The IR/UV filter might be a nice addition to a wedding shooters kit thumb.gif


    Is it like a haze filter, in that it doesn't really effect the speed of the lens? Do most colors stay the same as you would expect, and it just corrects those problem shots?
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  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter Posts: 14,028Super Moderators moderator
    edited November 24, 2005
    Dave, It just limits the light entering the lens to the visible spectrum, so no change in f stop. Only disadvantage is two more air-glass interfaces for refraction/reflection to occur.

    The IR problem was discussed in the baby shot forum - some digital sensors are more sensitive to IR than the human eye.

    UV filters were used for aireal haze of course, but the problem wedding shooters have is that many white wedding dresses are coated with a non stick coating that flouresces UV when shot with an electronic flash so they come out looking blueish in the final image.

    The IR/UV filter slays two dragons with one swipe of the optical sword! Cool! Not cheap, but cheaper than spending hours postprocessing the IR/UV glop out after the fact.
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  • DavidTODavidTO Mod Emeritus Posts: 19,160Administrators moderator
    edited November 24, 2005
    pathfinder wrote:
    Dave, It just limits the light entering the lens to the visible spectrum, so no change in f stop. Only disadvantage is two more air-glass interfaces for refraction/reflection to occur.

    The IR problem was discussed in the baby shot forum - some digital sensors are more sensitive to IR than the human eye.

    UV filters were used for aireal haze of course, but the problem wedding shooters have is that many white wedding dresses are coated with a non stick coating that flouresces UV when shot with an electronic flash so they come out looking blueish in the final image.

    The IR/UV filter slays two dragons with one swipe of the optical sword! Cool! Not cheap, but cheaper than spending hours postprocessing the IR/UV glop out after the fact.

    The link to the filter on the B&H site, listed above, showed with and without the filter, and the difference was more than you are describing. Green tree leaves were orange with the filter.
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  • ruttrutt Cave canem! Posts: 6,511Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 24, 2005
    And this is really a better solution than learning to use LAB curves or whatever in PS?
    If not now, when?
  • DavidTODavidTO Mod Emeritus Posts: 19,160Administrators moderator
    edited November 24, 2005
    Andy wrote:
    Baldy has discussed the near-infrared issue in his blog


    Finally, an explanation for this shot, which I took years ago with my Canon G5.

    44801676-M.jpg
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  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter Posts: 14,028Super Moderators moderator
    edited November 24, 2005
    DavidTO wrote:
    The link to the filter on the B&H site, listed above, showed with and without the filter, and the difference was more than you are describing. Green tree leaves were orange with the filter.

    I saw that too, and am not certain that I understand that. IR/UV filter should not affect color so ....
    ne_nau.gif
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  • DavidTODavidTO Mod Emeritus Posts: 19,160Administrators moderator
    edited November 24, 2005
    rutt wrote:
    And this is really a better solution than learning to use LAB curves or whatever in PS?


    Well, yeah. As much as I love working on shots and have found LAB to be helpful, why not reduce the need for it?
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  • BenA2BenA2 Major grins Posts: 364Registered Users Major grins
    edited November 24, 2005
    The filter's got to be better...
    DavidTO wrote:
    Well, yeah. As much as I love working on shots and have found LAB to be helpful, why not reduce the need for it?
    Plus, consider this. The IR filter addresses the near IR problem, which is generally a problem for skin tones, and not other areas of the image. So, to effectively correct for it in post, requires a mask to avoid adversely affecting the rest of the image. With the IR filter, you get a shoot-time, instant mask.

    I haven't tried the filter myself, but look forward to Andy's thoughts as I spend probably 50% of my time in photoshop correcting skin tones.

    Ben
  • DavidTODavidTO Mod Emeritus Posts: 19,160Administrators moderator
    edited November 24, 2005
    How do you assess the strength of your built-in IR filter? How do you know that it's weak on the D70? How is it on the 20D?
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  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter Posts: 14,028Super Moderators moderator
    edited November 24, 2005
    Baldy has said some lenses are better corrected for IR than others. If I remember correctly, I think the 24-70 L is supposed to have more IR filtering built into it than some of Canon's older lenses. With film, it was not an issue since film was generally not sensitive to IR
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  • DavidTODavidTO Mod Emeritus Posts: 19,160Administrators moderator
    edited November 24, 2005
    pathfinder wrote:
    Baldy has said some lenses are better corrected for IR than others. If I remember correctly, I think the 24-70 L is supposed to have more IR filtering built into it than some of Canon's older lenses. With film, it was not an issue since film was generally not sensitive to IR


    Oh, that makes sense that it would be more the lens than anything else. Unless the sensor has an IR filter on top of it, otherwise it's a straight shot from the lens...
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