I bang on about newborn safety A LOT, but I'm not sorry. Creating awareness for risking the life of baby can not be said enough, and that's because I cannot stress this enough! You don't learn to pose a newborn over night, it's not a case of practice, it's a case of training. I know parents like a bargain, but please don't compromise cheap by putting your baby in danger, newborn photography isn't cheap for a reason! Don't be afraid to ask your photographer questions prior to booking, ask what training they have taken part in, see if they've been approved by any newborn associations such as BANPAS, check they have valid insurance. A professional will not hesitate to give you evidence of the information you require. This isn't an advertising ploy, it's to promote awareness. Safety first.. Especially with newborns!
I'm guessing many of you have seen the cute adorable photo's of babies holding their own head up, leaning out of a bucket resting on their arms or wrapped up all snug and sat up? Well as amazing as that is, it's fake! No baby can possibly do this without any support, and it's highly dangerous to even risk trying. Parents who see these images coo over them, and want them for their own baby. Which is great until they ask a photographer who may not be qualified to carry out these poses, but will attempt them anyway. Photographers may also see these images and aspire to re-create them, again which is fine as long as they take out the necessary training to do this safely beforehand. It's not just a case of give it a go and hope the baby is fine. You need to remember it's a real little human being you're dealing with, not a play doll.
Whether you hire me as your newborn photographer, or somebody else, please still read this post and take everything into consideration. If you don't feel comfortable with the way your photographer is carrying out your session, ask them to stop. I know you may feel a little awkward but it's better that than something dreadful happening. Although, if you hire a professional, fully trained and qualified photographer, you should instantly feel at ease and not have to worry at all. I've had parents worry when they arrive, and feel nervous giving me their baby, to then fall to sleep and let me get on with my job. I'm not saying you should take the opportunity to snooze, but you should feel comfortable enough to do so. You get my point!
These images below are all done in the safest way possible, with baby being held at ALL times. You should NEVER EVER let go of a baby in certain poses which require a composite. Here's a few examples...
1 - Froggy: To get this 'froggy pose', baby should be held at all times, and two photos are merged together to create one. This pose should never ever be done with no hands on baby, no matter how sleepy they are! The froggy pose is a popular one, yet the most dangerous. If this is attempted by an un-trained photographer, there are many things that can go wrong. For example, if the baby startles, which happens a lot during a session. In this position they will fall flat on their face, not only shocking them but potentially breaking their tiny little bones.
It's videos like this that parents or amateur photographers see and try to re-create, and it's SO dangerous, I can't stress this enough. Yes this is going to be a such a cute photo, but IT IS NOT SAFE!! Click to view - https://www.facebook.com/350513791642076/videos/1543721518987958
A baby is not supposed to be balanced holding it's own head up. You can see in this video above it's a matter of seconds before she starts to fall, what if she startled during that and landed wrong? It's really not worth putting a brand new life in danger for the sake of saving a couple of minutes in photoshop!
2 - Hammock: Baby is photographed safely laying on a beanbag and photographed from above to look as though they are hanging, the object they are hanging from is photographed separately and two photos are merged together to create one. You should never actually attempt to hang a baby from a hammock. Firstly because fabric is very thin and flimsy, it could rip, or the knot could come undone. Also because it would require the baby to be balanced and it only takes a tiny flinch for them to roll out.
3 - In Hands: This is just like the hammock where it is photographed from above to appear like baby is being lifted up or held. This is probably more dangerous than the hammock above if you were to try this. Babies are heavier than they look, and if they were attempted to be held up by parents, they'd get shaky hands and may not be able to do it for long. I'm sure parents wouldn't drop their baby, but never say never. This should be done with baby laying on a beanbag posed, parents kneeling with their hands positioned around (but ask Mum if she can do so following the birth).
4 - Potatoe sack: Firstly this pose is done using THREE wraps, one wrap will not be enough support for the baby. You need to wrap them tight enough to support their neck unaided, but not too tight to cut circulation. Their limbs are all tucked in underneath these wraps, so you must ensure they're in the most natural, comfortable position under this. It's important to make sure medical staff have checked hips and joints are all in working order before you attempt to do any squishy poses like this. If the baby has had to be referred, even for something minor, do not attempt poses such as this.
As I mentioned, the neck is supported by three wraps, which is equivalent to your hands holding the head up. But For babies under around 6lb, they can still be quite 'floppy' so just do a composite and hold their head. Even if baby feels like they might be okay, don't risk it. You must be 100% confident that they are comfortable and safe. And the baby shouldn't be left in this upright position unaided for longer than about 20 seconds. If baby is safe and secure, still make sure hands are very close by ready for any jumps or falls.
5 - Leaning on hands: Newborns necks are very floppy and cannot support holding their head up on their own. You don't need as much pressure here, but you still need support to take the weight.
6 - Bucket: Same as above, with the same pose in a prop, head must be held at all times. Not only that, but the way the baby is positioned is also very important as there's still a risk of joints and blood circulation being an issue. People also don't realise that babies are stronger than they look, they can use their little legs to push themselves forwards meaning they could quite easily dive out of the bucket head first. This is a bit extreme, but it's not worth the risk so always be only arms length away as a safety precaution.
7 - Sibling shots: These are lovely, and may not always need hands on baby if the sibling is older and can be trusted, although there should always be a 'spotter' close by. With younger children it's very important to have a parent helping, as they lose interest in the pose very quickly and do not understand the dangers involved.
8 - Pets: Pets are very welcome to pop in for a photo, they are fury family members after all! But of course I do not know the animal so the trust in them with your baby is with the parents. Sometimes photos are taken individually and merged together
So after reading this, please do not put your baby at risk, parents and photographers, do not attempt this without the relevant training!!!
Newborn photography is such a specialised field, and unfortunately there are photographers who do not use the correct techniques, and have a total lack of awareness on how these images are created. I understand that parents see these kind of images online, and assume it's simple and therefore request it, putting their trust into their photographer and being none the wiser about how it's done, so the photographer complies, with no experience or knowledge. It's not to say that the photographer isn't well established and a professional, they probably are and their family/ wedding photo's could be amazing, but newborn photography is a whole new skill level.
Babies are being put at risk, I see it a lot on social media, where newborns are clearly uncomfortable and do not appear to be relaxed. I see photo's where their feet and legs are purple from restricted blood supply having not been positioned correctly. I see red spotty skin from them being too cold. I see unsafe poses which can potentially damage wind pipes and wrists. I see poses being attempted when they're awake and crying. Properly conducted sessions last around 2-4 hours, in a temperature controlled room, with a spotter at arms length to support the baby at all times. And these poses have to be done when the baby is completely zonked and in a deep enough sleep to even attempt.
Photographers, don't just practice on a baby, attend a couple of training courses and then practice, but warn the parents that you are practicing from your training so they know what they are expecting. Becoming a parent is a scary thing, and your baby is the most precious thing to you. If I'd have gone to a photographer who was using my baby to practice without telling me, I wouldn't continue the session. At least if you fully warn them, it's their choice. We all start somewhere, so don't be put off learning, just take the relevant precautions. And get insurance!!! The amount of photographers I see without insurance is scary. Even if you're not an official business, things can still go wrong. And I know training is very expensive, but it's such a worthy investment.
Parents, now you've read this, check out your photographers training and qualifications, see what safe practises they use, even ask to see their own examples like above, see reviews etc. If you attend your session and you're not confident in how they're handling your baby, do not be afraid to ask them to stop.
I know there's nothing I can do to police this issue, but I can however raise awareness of this. If you're a parent reading this, I hope I've made you a little more aware of how dangerous this can be for your little bundle, so you can now be in control of your session and ask the relevant questions. If you want to know anymore about this, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you're a photographer reading this, please do not attempt these without professional education. I'm always happy to advise and recommend courses so don't be shy, we all have to start somewhere so I'm willing to help you along the way.
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