I’ve done several articles in the past about baby safety, but I feel like I need to discuss it often. Consumers: There are a lot of new photographers coming into this business. I know a lot of newbies get their toes stepped on when I say this, but there is a huge movement of people who buy a digital SLR camera, and go into business within the next month or two. This is not a good idea, and I teach this all the time in my classes. There is much business to learn prior to becoming a business. I understand that everyone starts somewhere, I bought my first SLR in 1994, and I remember being all excited to see what I could do with it. I truly understand that, but please be aware that there are many new photographers, yes they charge very cheap for their work, but they aren’t necessarily operating legally, paying taxes, carrying malpractice/liability insurance, or most importantly, have the experience and know-how to keep your baby safe. This is so incredibly important especially since there is a huge wave of “one upping” the next newborn photographer concerning new baby poses or props.
Healthy competition is always a good thing in any industry, but we must remember, babies are little human beings. They are alive and have souls. They are not objects. I’ve absolutely gotten physically ill when I have seen some “behind the scenes” photographs of setups to achieve things like “hanging babies” or babies on shelves, etc. Babies are being put in incredibly dangerous positions. I have actually heard stories of photographers dropping babies! Yes, you read that right. A knot comes undone in hanging fabric or baby stretches and moves and everything goes off balance.
Please be aware, a professional photographer is going to take every precaution to make sure that your baby is safe. The key to most of these “dangerous looking” images is Photoshop. Photoshop allows us to combine images to create a final image that looks like it really happened that way, but didn’t.
When I work with a newborn in a dangerous situation, first, I check with the parents and make sure it is something they want to do. Most photo sessions I do, I keep the baby nestled comfortably in a beanbag; but by request, I will do prop shots. Personally, I’m not out to one-up the next photographer. I do like a challenging shot, but I typically only do them by request. I can go 10 newborn sessions and all of a sudden get a request for something different. I explain in detail to the parents how we are going to make this happen, and what their responsibilities will be (usually, within inches from their baby), while I am taking the shot. If I don’t feel the baby is in a deep enough sleep or isn’t stable enough, I will back out of the pose altogether and explain that this is just not going to work safely at that moment, and we will try again usually when I feel the baby is in a better state. The most important thing is your baby’s safety and comfort. Period.
Some other things professional photographers are watching for are how the baby reacts to a certain position. It must be said that not every baby will be comfortable in every position. Babies are flexible, but there are some unnatural positions that some babies will do, and some won’t. Many babies do not like to have their backs arched because that is not a natural position. If a baby cries or shows discomfort when I am posing, I back out of that position. There is no need to force anything. It is also important that extremities should be carefully monitored as well for any circulation issues in different poses.
Parents: These babies are YOURS… if you ever see a photographer put your baby in a position or in/on a prop or just handling your baby in a specific way, and you are not comfortable with it, tell them NO. There are some photographers that will not let parents in the shooting room with their babies. I think this is unacceptable. You are mom/dad, this is your baby, never feel pressured to do something when your gut is telling you no.
UPDATE: Since posting this, photographers have been telling me some stories of what they have witnessed photographers doing with babies. One in particular saw another photographer putting a baby on live train tracks…. *sigh* It’s only getting worse the more oversaturated this industry is getting, sadly.
Here’s a behind the scenes of how we achieved a recent guitar and baby shot.
Using the images above, we combine in photoshop, pop the image a little, and create a final image as follows…..