Ninety Degree Light

Ninety degree lighting is what I use when working with newborns, or when I’m going for a more dramatic look.

I love it, especially when I have a sleeping baby on a bean bag.

A ninety degree setup looks exactly like it sounds, with your light set at ninety degrees to your subject.

You can position your light on the same level as your subject if you want dramatic shadows.

For a softer look position your light higher off the ground. This will enable your light to fall softly on your subject, a technique known as feathering.

I do both, depending on the look I want.






This is how I start every newborn session, a sleeping baby on a beanbag, with my light positioned at ninety degrees. When in this position, I will stand over the baby and shoot.

P.S.A Please, please, please always wear your camera strap when working over a baby!!! The last thing you would ever want to do is injure a baby by dropping your camera… so if you are standing over a baby, your strap should be around your neck. Always.

Here is my studio with my 50×50 softbox set at ninety degrees to my subject. Notice here how I have the softbox lowered to the same level as the baby on the beanbag. The light at this level will create more dramatic light and deeper shadow.

Below is an example of a ninety degree lighting set up with the top of the baby’s head pointing toward the light.

If I were working with a newborn who was awake, this is how I would light them.

You’ll notice that here my light is higher off the ground in this image. That is because I’m wanting to feather my light so that it will fall softly out of my softbox and onto the baby, much like window light would do. I’m not going for dramatic shadows here.

The image below was shot using ninety degree light with the light positioned at the top of the baby’s head. The softbox was elevated to allow the light to fall softly onto the subject.

I love photographing dads with their babies using ninety degree light.

Ninety degree light is very dramatic and will highlight textures and lines.

Most men I photograph look good when lit this way. I joke with my clients that this is “man light”.

I rarely photograph women this way, however, as most woman I know (myself included) want to minimize to look of lines and texture on their face. When photographing moms and babies, I will use fortry-five degree light or I will backlight them.

“man light”

Below is ninety degree light  with the light is positioned at the top of the baby’s head.  Notice the slight shadow under the nose.

Feathering                                    Back to the Table of Contents