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Best Setup for Low Light Hospital / Baby Pictures

Joseph K , Sep 12, 2009; 06:27 p.m.

Hello Everyone,
I am expecting a baby in a few days. I have just purchased a D5000 w/ 18-105 VR Lens for my wife. I would however like to take pictures with the camera during or I should say after the birth in the hospital room. I do not wish to use a flash (Might hurt the baby eyes). Can anyone setup the best equipment and settings for me to use and purchase to take pictures in the hospital. Best lens for the job? Best settings in the camera? Best filter if any?
Thank you
Joseph

Responses


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Kris Bochenek , Sep 12, 2009; 06:38 p.m.

get a 50mm f1.8 for about $100 but the only thing is it will not autofocus on your D5000 but will be great for your use.

Shun Cheung , Sep 12, 2009; 06:39 p.m.

First of all, congratulations.

You already have a very capable consumer DSLR. With the D5000, feel free to use ISO 1600 or perhaps even 3200 indoors. While the 18-105mm is a bit slow on the long end, it should be ok.

The most important thing is to get familiar with your new camera and take some test shots at ISO 1600 so that you know what type of results you can get.

If you can get another lens or an external flash, I would get the 35mm/f1.8 AF-S DX, which will auto focus with your camera or another other Nikon DSLR. You can also buy an SB-600 flash and bounce it off the ceiling or the wall behind you. I would not use the pop-up flash on the baby.

Joseph K , Sep 12, 2009; 06:52 p.m.

Great thank guys. I know why everybody said to get the D90 over the D5000 (For the ability to use less expensive lens). Still not a huge deal. I will pick up the 35mm tomorrow at B&H. I really do not know how to use a speed flash I am worried I will wash out the pictures?
One other question -- Is there much difference between the 50mm and the 35mm other than auto focus? And don't they make a 50mm AF-S?
Second Question -- No Filter needed...
Third Question -- Other than ISO@ 1600 is there any other idea's -- Want background smoothed and baby sharp.
Thank you,

Lex Jenkins , Sep 12, 2009; 06:57 p.m.

Bounce flash works for me. Most hospitals have fairly bright reflective ceilings and walls, so bounce flash carries pretty well. You might have a few color correction problems due to off-white walls but nothing that can't be fixed in editing.

Many of my Stewie project photos were taken with bounce flash in the delivery room and ICU. Unless I check the EXIF data it's sometimes hard to tell which were taken with flash and which were done with available light.

I like to reverse the flash head on my SB-800 to point toward the ceiling, away from the baby's face. Besides not startling the kiddo so much it also provides much more diffuse lighting. But be careful of your surroundings. Reversing the flash head just makes the flash a problem for someone else, so check your surroundings to be sure you aren't blinding some poor sap looking over your shoulder. Not a big deal in ordinary conditions but potentially a problem in an ICU, ER or operating room.

If you have only the pop-up flash built into your D5000, just use a homebrewed diffuser. Tape a sheet of white typing paper over the flash. The full sheet will provide much better diffusion but will be a bit hard to manage, so cut, tear or bend it to fit.

Don't worry too much about traumatizing the little one with flash. Most babies hardly notice the flash. I've taken thousands of photos of babies in my family over the years and not once have I seen one of 'em cry or seem upset. But I do try to avoid direct flash. At the very least I always use a diffuser.

And if the hospital prohibits flash (very unlikely), your D5000 will have plenty of high ISO performance for good results with available light. Even at the f/5.6 maximum effective aperture of some variable aperture zooms you can get good results at ISO 1600-3200. Any residual noise can easily be fixed later with noise reduction software (try the freebie version of Noiseware, or the demo/trial versions of Noiseware or Noise Ninja).


Direct flash with homebrewed diffuser, Olympus P&S digicam (needs some color correction tho')

Kent Staubus , Sep 12, 2009; 07:13 p.m.

What you have will work, set to ISO 1600 maybe. To blur background you can do one of two things. First is to set your camera to "portrait" mode, which will automatically put aperture at it's widest setting. Then, move in fairly close, maybe two feet. The background should blur well. A lens such as Sigma 30mm f1.4, Nikon 35mm f1.8G will blur the background even more. In fact, if you aren't careful you will only get the nose in focus and the face behind will blur a bit. Usually with portraits the thing you really want in focus are the eyes. Nikon does make a 50mm f1.4 AFS lens now, and it's good. For about the same money I think the new Sigma 50mm f1.4 HSM (HSM = AFS) is a tad better. Both are about $450 though. For half the money, I think you'd get more use from a SB-600 flash.
Kent in SD

Joseph K , Sep 12, 2009; 07:46 p.m.

Which is technicalily better -- the Nikkor 35mm/f1.8 AF-S DX or the 50mm f1.4 AF-S. If I am going to spend the money I might as well get something the is really a "Best in Class".
Are there pro and cons for each one with regard to Portraits?
Thank you,
Joseph

Shun Cheung , Sep 12, 2009; 08:19 p.m.

50mm is a weird focal length for DX; it is a short tele but a little short for portraits. Since you already have the 18-105, adding a fast 35mm/f1.8 seems to make a lot of sense. The hitch is that the 35mm/f1.8 AF-S DX seems to be out of stock at B&H at the moment.

Lex Jenkins , Sep 12, 2009; 08:21 p.m.

Joseph, if you're wanting to get a faster lens to minimize the use of flash and maximize use of available light and the slowest practical ISO, the 35/1.8 DX AF-S makes the best sense for your D5000. Not only is it fully compatible, including autofocusing, but the effective focal length is close to the "normal" lens that I've found useful for many years.

The 50mm lens will effectively be a short telephoto on your camera. Whether this is suitable for you depends on your style. If you have a lot of photos already taken with digital cameras you can study the EXIF data to evaluate your tendencies. Otherwise, if you trust the experience of someone who's done a lot of this before, I'd recommend the 35mm focal length for a DX format dSLR.

Many of my documentary photos of the early life of my nephew Stewie (including the birth of his brother) were taken at the 35mm focal length using various mid-range zooms, which was equivalent to a "normal" focal length on my D2H. Unless I needed group shots I seldom found it absolutely essential to use anything wider. And I'm not at all shy about getting in close when photographing people, especially family and friends, so I seldom feel at all constrained by lenses that are only moderately wide, or even when using short telephotos. But what's best for you will depend on your own comfort level with taking photos in very close physical proximity to your subjects.

CC Chang , Sep 12, 2009; 09:36 p.m.

Your post bring memory back. Last year I bought a D80 for my son's arrival ...
Another vote for the 35/1.8, if you can find one in time for the delivery. The 35/1.8 is very versatile and smaller and lighter than the 50mm so it is easier to use in a cramped space. Because it is so light and small, it is a wonderfull go-every-where lens. If you can't find the 35/1.8, the Sigma 30/1.4 is another excellent choice and its bokeh is slghtly better than the Nikon's, but it is also much bigger and more expensive. As an alternative, the Nikon or the Sigma 50/1.4 will work well, but you need a bit more working distance with these two lenses. The Sigma 50/1.4 is a really good people lens b/c of its smooth bokeh, which is slightly better than that of the Nikon, but it is bigger. It is a good investment if you plan to take picture of your baby in the years to come.
One good way to find out how these lenses can do for you is to go to Flickr. Each lens has a user group so you can look at the pictures taken by each lens. There is also a Nikon/Sigma 35/30 group where both users share pictures on the same site.

If you go to the hospital at night, the light levels there is expected to be very low so the D5000 will be a great camera for this type of situation. I would also recommend to download Nikon's "Nikon Transfer" and "View NX" for processing your RAW data. In ViewNX, you can change the picture mode to "Portrait" which does an excellent job in smooth out the skin tone, and removing harsh high lights and shadows.

While most people do not use the video feature in the camera, but once you have the 35/1.8 or 50/1.4, set the aperture to f2.8 and shoot a few videos around the house. You may be amazed by the movie-like quality that it produces. Because D5000 has outstanding performce at high ISO, it will beat most consumer camcorder for picture quality in low light. After a few trials, you may not want to lug along a camcorder any more.


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