Newborn Photography is a very special sector of Photography. It takes a certain type of person to understand the patience and care that goes into dealing with both a newborn and the new mom. I have gained a lot of experience and spent many hours training online on how to properly work with newborns and it upsets me greatly to see how some photographers in the world will go to great lengths to get a creative photo without thinking of the safety of the baby. This is not a doll, this is not a prop, it is somebody’s child. A perfect little gift that should be respected and honoured throughout the shoot time. Some shoots might take 30 minutes and others might take 4 hours. Only the little one will dictate what happens on the day and no amount of planning will change that. A lot of patience is needed.
I have written a few rules to live by when practicing safety in newborn photography and I am hoping it will help those photographers who are new to this.
My golden rule when doing a shoot is this: If a baby is not hungry, in need of a wind or nappy change – there are to be no tears! Simple!
Newborn Photography Safety Guidelines:
1. Never leave a newborn unattended and always insist that one relative remains in the room at all times.
2. Baby’s happiness takes priority over getting great baby poses. (Happy baby results in great images)
3. Never arrive at a shoot even with the slightest of germs lurking. Give the client opportunity to postpone or offer a replacement photographer if you are sick.
4. Wash and sterilise your hands multiple times before and during the session. Make sure your nails are clean, short or false (less sharp).
5. Recognise that images with posed babies or props are composites and at all time the baby was supported. Always make sure there is somebody supporting the baby.
6. All babies are different and everything you set out to achieve is not always obtainable. Respect your baby and let him or her command the results. Remember beautiful natural photos are sometimes even more special so don’t push a baby into positions that he or she is not comfortable with.
7. Never suspend a baby more than 2 inches above any surface that is not a large cushioned soft area.
8. Props should never be breakable or have sharp edges.
9. If a baby cries in a shoot it should be ONLY because he or she needs a feed, wind or change.
10. Always communicate with the mother explaining everything you are doing and reassure her at all times that if there is anything that she is uncomfortable with she must say something.
11. Always have a spotter present, either parent or an assistant, when attempting more complicated poses. Newborns have spontaneous reflexes and it only takes one quick jerk or startle for a newborn to push itself over.
12. Newborns should never be balanced in positions while we step back and photograph. Their little wrists are not meant to support their heads and any time an image like this is attempted it should be a composite. The chin in hands pose should always be done as a composite to keep baby safe. Any photographer who says they can achieve a pose without support of a mother /assistant is being irresponsible. Babies heads should always be supported.
13. Don’t force a pose – if a baby is resisting it try something else. Every baby is different. Some love being curled up others stretch out their legs. Some love to be swaddled others don’t. Be flexible and work with the baby. Baby’s comfort is priority.
14. Always anchor props. Most buckets and bowls become top heavy if they have a baby in it and they need to be weighted down.
15. Always keep checking the babies circulation. Limbs should always remain nice and pink.
16. Never put a baby on a warmed up bean bag or hot water bottle under a blanket. Rather use heaters to keep the room temperature a constant warm.