The Importance of Newborn Safety
Guest Blogger Series: Birth, Baby and Belly Photography
‘Newborn Safety’ by Sandra Burns, of September Blue Photography
Ah, the newborn baby… so delicate and precious, so new and so beautiful to photograph! These tiny little babies handed over to us by trusting parents are already amazing works of art with their fresh skin, still-curled toes, and brand new belly buttons. As custom newborn photographers, we aim to show that beautiful artwork in its best light through newborn photography.
We curl them, we swaddle them, we put them in props, in a basket in a field… We prop them up on their chubby little arms, and we even (seemingly) dangle them from vintage scales and tree branches… From there we create beautiful imagery that parents will adore for years to come.
While we are creating beautiful art and imagery, we must not forget to protect those precious gifts of life as fiercely as we would protect our own and ourselves.
Newborn safety is not to be taken lightly. It should be a newborn photographer’s number one priority above all else. Above getting the perfect pose, above capturing the perfect prop setup, above our own pride and above even the wishes of new parents who may not realize how complicated a particular pose or setup can be. No excuses, safety comes first! It’s not even that difficult to do…
So, let’s break it down. A pose or setup and the photoshop work required afterwards may be extensive or complicated, but safety is not. Here are some simple guidelines and tricks to follow:
1 – Have a spotter at ALL times when you are unable to properly spot or support the baby. I can’t stress this one enough. It’s what I see most lacking. If you don’t have an assistant, hire one or enlist Mom or Dad’s help. There are no excuses for not having a spotter. Mom may be having difficulty recovering and may not be as agile as Dad so keep that in mind. On the other hand, some Dads are far more nervous than Moms.
Prep your parents thoroughly on the setup and requirements for any shot or series of shots that require their assistance. Instruct your assistant/spotter that they are never to take their eyes off of the baby and they should remain within arm’s reach at all times.
For outdoor sets, take extra special care in baby’s exposure to the elements – sun, wind, or cold.
The obvious thing that comes to mind here is baby in a prop. But think above and beyond that. When you are changing blankets on the beanbag, baby should be spotted. When you are checking your LCD, or reaching for a prop, baby should be spotted. It only takes a second for a baby’s immature reflexes to jerk them into a precarious position or even just startle them awake.
Here’s another that many photographers miss – extra careful spotting when a young older sibling is also in the shot. Toddlers and preschoolers can be unpredictable, especially during a photo session with their brand new sibling that they still have mixed feelings about. I’ve seen the older sibling being too rough with the newborn, kicking (intentionally or not) the prop, and/or even hitting the newborn. Do not let your guard down. Enlist a well-counselled spotter – preferably two: one for the baby, one for the sibling.
2 – Carefully check your props for sturdiness, sharp edges or pieces, and/or sensibility. Some props simply should never be used for newborns. If a parent brings you a prop that you cannot safely pose baby on or with – it is your job as the professional to inform them that you cannot risk the baby’s safety. Consider using weights in certain props to prevent them from moving, rocking or swaying.
3 – Know your limits. If you don’t have experience with a particular pose or prop, do not attempt it without first thoroughly researching how to execute the pose/use the prop, taking a workshop, or practicing with multiple assistants/spotters. You should also be aware of baby’s bodily limitations for certain positions. Not all babies are as flexible as each other, and we need to learn and follow their cues, and know when to change it up and attempt a different, safer, more comfortable pose for baby.
4 – Rely on the power of the composite If you are sitting there asking yourself “how in the world is that possible?” while looking at modern newborn photography, the answer is probably “it’s not”. Most likely, a lot of the work was done in Photoshop (a post-processing software). Use this knowledge to help you attain the images you want as safely as possible. If you are unable to edit images in post-processing, don’t do the pose or setup. Learn post-processing skills prior to attempting any risky posing scenarios. Nobody’s safety is worth a “pretty image”.
Be creative, be unique, be an artist…but above all else, be safe with these precious little lives we are given the honour of photographing.
I leave you with this quote from Louis Pasteur:
“When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR. Sandra Burns is the photographer behind September Blue Photography, located in Long Island, New York. September Blue Photography specializes in custom portrait photography of newborns, babies, children, family and maternity photography. Photographer Sandra Burns is one of Long Island & NY’s most sought after newborn photographers and provides on-location fun , contemporary, and artistic portrait photography of your newborn, baby, child, kids, family and pregnancy. Her photography style clean, fresh, modern, sprinkled with vibrant colour or rich, deep tones. If you are looking for timeless yet fun-loving images, Sandra would love to work with you to create fine art portraits and capture candid, loving moments. View more of her work at www.septemberbluephotography.com