Using your military uniform in your newborn photos
Being located near a military base has been such a blessing over the past three years. For the first three years of my business, I was based out of Hodgenville, Kentucky, but in 2016, I set up a studio in Vine Grove, a quiet little community ten minutes outside of the Chaffee gate. It has been a great move and really allowed me to better serve the military personnel in the area.
My favorite part of being a newborn photographer is the planning period. To say I have a large variety of props would be an understatement, but sometimes I still need to order a few things to get those little details ready for the baby's portraits. However, I've learned that some of the parents' most treasured images are the ones incorporating their own family's pieces, and being near a military base, the uniform is definitely a popular choice. To be completely honest, when I first tried using a uniform, it was much more complicated than I thought. Today I'm sharing the layout, lenses and lighting I used for a session featuring a father's uniform for his son's newborn session.
My go to lighting set up is a Paul C. Buff Alien b400 with an 86" plm umbrella and diffusion fabric. I use a manfrotto light stand that allows the large soft light to be placed on the floor. The light is trigged by Pocket Wizards. Throughout the session, I will adjust the angle and power to suit the lighting pattern and exposure settings I have in mind. For the wide angle shot, I want a higher aperture than some of my closeups where I get a softer bokeh.
When working with a uniform, I have a larger to smaller approach when placing each of the items. The army coat is not a soft material and compared to fabrics normally used for the baby's comfort, not one I would like rubbing against the skin. By placing the coat as a base, I am able to build the other details on top. When folding the coat, try to have as many badges (the flag, name, unit, rank etc.) visible as possible. When in doubt, ask the parents they will appreciate being involved in the process. The baby was wrapped in a nice brown jersey knit wrap from Freebird Proppe Shoppe. It was the perfect shade of brown to coordinate with the army camouflage and set from Serendipity Backdrops. (One of my favorite vendors)
The boots were placed at the top of the coat with the toes slightly in the frame for two reasons. The first reason was to hide the inside label of the coat, and the second was to hide the holes where the feet would be inserted. This eliminated the dark, hollow openings in images.
I placed the hat on the left side of the baby so that the light did not hit the cap first, but ensuring the name is still a part of the portrait.
Lastly, the dog tags were placed in the baby's hands. Please ask the parents to remove any tags with sensitive or personal information like social security numbers. Flipping the tags upside down and photoshopping some of the words out of the tags may be another option worth considering.
After including all of the elements, I will begin photographing the baby. Throughout this look, I will move different pieces to create unique images for each. My favorite is to take the cap and place it on the baby with the name showing. It's too cute! At the end, I will remove all of the articles to create a nice, clean image to complete the collection.
When creating any image, I like to switch up my lenses during the setup to vary the different angles available. Once the baby is placed, I like to move quickly and purposefully. I first photograph the entire layout to ensure all of the elements have been incorporated. In my mind, this would be the image that would be printed for a nice wall portrait. I use my 24-70mm 2.8 to get that wide "birds eye view" image. Then I zoom in and move around the subject to get different angles and looks.
While for this example I used an army uniform, I've also worked with State Troopers, Firemen and other uniforms for clients. I'm blessed to be a part of this community and I'm thankful for all the opportunities I have had to work with our local military families and all who sacrificed for our safety. If you or anyone know would be interested in honoring your connections with our service men and women, you can fill out the simple contact form here.