An important note on Newborn Photography and Safety
Photography is an art, and we as photographers are artists. As artists we like to feed our creativity through using different ‘mediums’. In newborn photography such mediums include using a variety of props and posing newborns in artistic ways. It is completely normal and expected that we feel the urge to push our creativity to new heights, however there are a couple of important things that we must always keep in mind.
Although we may feel like we’re ‘stuck in a creative rut’ and that our images don’t stand out from the crowd anymore, we must always remember that our clients/customers are the ones viewing and buying the photos, not the internet/social media community. Although you may have done the same pose or used the same prop in what feels like a thousand times, we must remind ourselves that the parents of these newborns are seeing these images and poses used for the very first time, with their little one. They will get that same amazing and magical feeling that you did when you first saw and fell in love with particular newborn photos/poses/props. For alot of photographers it's important to receive recognition and respect from their peers (i.e. other photographers), but when it comes down to it, if we want to run a profitable photography business, then it's the opinions of our clients that we should be most concerned with. They are the ones paying the bills, so to speak, and their Word Of Mouth (WOM) is one of the most powerful marketing tools out there!
Of course, in order for us not to burn out we DO need to feed our creativity, so a lot of photographers will continue to try new poses, buy new props, etc, but we need to do this in a SAFE way. Never, EVER should we put a newborn in an uncomfortable or unsafe position, for the sake of our art. It is completely unprofessional and just plain silly. Think about it logically - it would only take one major accident/injury or dare I say it death of a precious newborn, and enough media/news coverage, to give newborn photography a ‘bad name’ and potentially turn off customers and bring the whole industry to a grinding halt. This is not scaremongering, this is a very real possibility.
There are extra things to consider when posing newborns. For example, NOT EVERY NEWBORN CAN DO EVERY POSE! Some babies will curl easily, others won't. Some babies will allow you to fold their legs up under them, others won't. Do not force it! You should also find out from the parents if the baby has any medical conditions. If you are ever unsure, then do not attempt the pose. As my mother used to say 'If in doubt, don't!'.
Most photos that could be deemed (or look) unsafe are actually acheived by the pros using Compositions* or Cloning** (or a combination of both). More on this below....
Most professional photographers ARE doing the right thing, but I think improvements can be made. For example, I personally think every photo (that is uploaded onto Flickr, Facebook, Forums, etc) where Photoshop Composites or Cloning (or another similar technique) has been used to achieve the final outcome should be clearly labelled as such. Similarly, if special methods or equipment was used in a photo that contributes to the safety of a newborn, then I think that the photographer should clearly label what was used, for each and every photo. Think about it – this is where new photographers find most of their inspiration (through photos taken by other photographers) so it makes sense to believe that this is how we can educate people in the most effective way.
Although it is not the responsibility of photographers to educate others, and that some people may feel like they’re ‘giving away their secrets’, I think newborn safety should be everyone’s Number 1 priority. Let’s face it, some photographers WILL still try and achieve certain poses, whether you told them how you did it (the right way) or not.
There are plenty more things to learn (safety wise and other) through attending newborn photography workshops (click HERE for a list), watching training videos and reading educational material and SHOOT BABY! strongly encourages newborn photographers (and photographers who photograph newborns) to utilise these resources.
I hope that sharing my thoughts, and that’s all they are is just thoughts, is helpful to others and assists in protecting newborns. You may even feel inspired to capture new and creative images, which is great, but just remember that safety comes first :)
Owner/Manager of SHOOT BABY!™
*Composite - com· pos· ite
Noun: A thing made up of several parts or elements.
In the photography world this refers to ‘Layers’ merged together in Photoshop (or other similar program) so that different areas of each photo are used to create 'one' photo. See examples below.
In computer graphics software, specifically Adobe Photoshop, the Clone Stamp tool selects and samples an area of your picture and then uses these pixels to paint over any marks. The Clone Stamp tool acts like a brush so you can change the size, allowing cloning from just one pixel wide to hundreds. You can change the opacity to produce a subtle clone effect. Also, there is a choice between Clone align or Clone non-align the sample area. In Photoshop this tool is called Clone Stamp, but it may also be called a Rubber Stamp tool.
Composite example courtesy of Stephanie Robin Photography & Design:
Composite example courtesy of Brittani Capetz Photography:
Composite example courtesy of Jodie Otte:
Composite example courtesy of Portraits By Mel: