The following guest post was created by Kaylie Kempsell from Kaylie Ruth Photography.
There is nothing quite as perfect as a newborn baby. Their tiny fingers and toes, their beautifully soft skin– every little bit of them is perfect. Your little one will grow so quickly and it’s important to capture these fleeting moments before they’re gone. However, when you hire a photographer, you’ll want to make sure your baby is safe and cared for throughout the entire process.
There are currently no safety regulations in place for the newborn photography industry. Anyone who owns a camera can simply begin photographing newborns, without knowledge of their specific needs and without any training. Parents should be prepared to advocate for their baby’s safety and ensure that they’re choosing a photographer who is specifically trained to work with newborns.
Newborn Photography: You Can’t Believe Everything You See Online
There are so many adorable newborn images online these days and you can find plenty of newborn photo ideas for your photo session on platforms like Pinterest and Facebook. You may not realize, though, that a lot of the pictures you find on the internet are not quite what they seem on the surface. Many photos are actually two images stitched together in Photoshop (called a ‘composite’) to create the illusion that babies are supporting themselves in positions they are physically incapable of or that would simply be unsafe.
1. Froggy Pose:
Take this “froggy pose”, for example. A baby’s head can be up to 25% of their total weight and they don’t have the neck strength or control to hold their head up in this position. Placing a newborn in the ‘froggy pose’ and then stepping away to snap a photo places them at risk of toppling over. It is essential that your photographer is properly trained and can direct either you or an assistant on how to support your baby during these types of photos.
2. Suspended in the Air:
Newborns have something called the Moro (startle) reflex. If they hear a loud noise, feel like they’re falling, or feel a sudden movement, they will likely respond by quickly extending their arms and legs and arching their back. If your baby were suspended in the air (say, in a hammock, a cute basket, or even in your own hands) when they are suddenly startled, this would put them at a huge risk of falling. ‘Suspended’ images can be achieved by compositing two photos together or, as in the black-and-white image above, laying the baby on a posing beanbag to make it appear as though they’re being held in the air.
3. Buckets and baskets:
Even if an image isn’t a composite, there are safety precautions that should be in place to make sure your baby is safe. Buckets and baskets should be weighted to make sure they don’t topple over once the baby is placed inside (making them top-heavy). Additionally, either you or an assistant should be within arm’s reach at all times just in case the baby suddenly startles. This makes it really easy for a comforting, supportive hand to be placed on baby’s head in between pictures, too.
Newborn Physiology in Photography
Whether they’re feisty, fussy, sleepy, or silly, it’s amazing just how different every baby is as soon as they’re born! In the same sense, every baby’s physiology is just a little bit different. Not every baby will be comfortable in every pose. If your little one was ‘frank breech’ in your uterus, for example, he likely won’t appreciate having his legs pulled down and you’ll want your photographer to be aware of the different positions that may or may not be comfortable for him.
A newborn’s physiology is completely different from that of an adult. There are certain precautions within the studio that need to be taken during a newborn photoshoot that a photographer in other genres wouldn’t normally need to think about. Here are just a few of those things:
New babies aren’t able to regulate their body temperature like we are. The studio needs to be heated so baby doesn’t get too cold, especially when they’re naked for those cute tushie photos. In the same sense, it’s important to make sure the baby doesn’t overheat, especially when wrapped in multiple fabric layers. Your photographer should be educated about proper studio temperature, as well as the warning signs of a baby who’s too hot or too cold.
Newborns can’t tell us if they’re having trouble breathing and, depending on the situation, they may not be able to reposition themselves to ensure they’re getting enough air. It’s up to your photographer to make sure your baby’s head is positioned properly (not bent too far forward or back) and they aren’t wrapped too tightly (especially around their neck).
In certain poses or when wrapped tightly, it would be easy for baby’s arms, legs, hands, or feet to get a bit pinched and lose good circulation. Your photographer should know what to look for, continually assessing baby, and repositioning if necessary.
Siblings aren’t always sure what to think when a new baby arrives in the family. This is especially true for toddlers! The photo session can present a stressful experience for siblings who are often already experiencing some feelings of jealousy and adjusting to a new family dynamic. Your photographer should ensure that the baby’s safety is a priority at all times and this may mean using an assistant or parent as a ‘spotter’ or creating a composite image like above by taking one image with the toddler and one with the baby and then merging the two together.
For example, these girls were very comfortable around their baby sister, and the baby was supported both by big sister’s arm and her lap (so she didn’t have to hold her entire weight). Dad was also right next to his girls, just in case the baby decided to startle or big sister’s arms tired. I actually had to edit dad’s legs and feet out of this image, but it’s so worth the extra time in photoshop to make sure baby is safe at all times.
So, What Can You Do for Your Newborn’s Safety?
- Trust your gut: Make sure you feel comfortable with the person who will be photographing your newborn.
- Ask Questions: What training has your photographer received? How will they make sure that your baby will remain safe throughout the session?
- Speak up: If you’re ever uncomfortable with something your photographer is doing, say something!
- Check to see if your photographer has a business license.
- Find someone certified in newborn photography safety.
- For additional tips, make sure to visit Shutterfly’s photo ideas and baby ideas.