Is Posed Newborn Photography Safe?
There is nothing as precious as your newborn baby, and if you’re anything like me the way you look at the world changed the moment you found out you were pregnant.
I spent hours researching the foods I should and shouldn’t eat, the safest car seat, the safest sleeping positions …. the list goes on and might sound familiar! Your new baby is the most important and precious person in the world, and you want to know that you’re doing the right thing for them at every opportunity.
If you’re thinking about a newborn photo shoot you might be wondering whether it’s safe. Are those cute, curled up poses you see online really ok for newborn babies to be placed in? And what about things like studio lighting – is that safe for your baby too?
Like most things in life, whether newborn photography is safe or not really depends on who is doing it and how they do it.
In this article I’ll explain the things that you can ask your photographer about, and look for in their studio to check that they are working safely. So that you can feel confident that your precious new baby is in safe hands.
- Your photographer’s experience and qualifications.
- Safe posing for newborns.
- Safe set up in the newborn photography studio.
- Is camera flash safe for newborn babies?
- My experience and approach to working safely when I photograph newborn babies.
Your Newborn Photographer’s Experience and Qualifications
Posed newborn photography is unlike any other style of photography. Not only do you need to understand your camera and lighting, but you also need to understand how to safely take care of and pose newborn babies.
It may be surprising to know that there are no requirements for a newborn photographer to have any formal training or qualifications before they start posing newborn babies. Anyone can call themselves a newborn photographer and offer this service to families.
However, although there is no requirement to be qualified, there are many opportunities to train with experienced newborn photographers – both in person and online. From one-to-one training at an experienced photographer’s studio, to conferences, workshops and online video courses.
Because there is no regulation of the industry, you’ll probably find that each photographer has a different level of experience. From those who have done no training at all, to others who have trained extensively alongside experienced photographers, continue to invest in education to develop their skills, and have hundreds or thousands of hours of hands-on experience photographing babies under their belt.
Safe Posing In Newborn Photography
Posing newborn babies in the positions you see in newborn photography portfolios can be simple or quite complex, depending on the nature of the pose.
Some of the things that photographers must be mindful of are:
- Supporting baby’s head and neck at all times.
- Being mindful of how a baby responds to each pose and changing the pose if a baby is not comfortable – babies should never be forced into a pose they are not comfortable in.
- Monitoring how sleepy or awake a baby is and whether they could ‘roll’ or move themselves out of a pose and into an unsafe position.
- In some poses, being aware of the baby’s circulation and making sure that there is not too much pressure on one body part – for example arms or legs – which could affect healthy circulation.
- Safe wrapping and swaddling of babies to make sure that the wrap is not impacting the baby’s movement and circulation.
Composite Images In Newborn Photography
In addition to these safety considerations, there are some poses that should be created as composite images, where two or more images are ‘stitched together’ in Photoshop after the shoot and should never be created as a single photograph.
These poses include any pose where it would not be safe for a baby to be photographed in that position – for example where a baby appears to be sitting up in a ‘cocoon’, supporting their head with their hands, lying on top of objects, or in a hammock or swing. These photographs should always be created as composite images, and your baby should never be put into any of these positions unsupported.
A Safe Environment In The Newborn Photography Studio
As well as how your baby is posed and supported, it’s also important to check that the studio is a safe place for them to be.
Here are some things to look for and ask about to make sure that your photographer is working safely:
- Cleanliness – is the studio clean, and are the blankets and wrapped properly laundered between sessions?
- Does the photographer camera neck or wrist straps to make sure the camera doesn’t fall on your baby; lots of photographs in newborn photography involve leaning over the baby to take the photograph or holding the camera above your baby. It’s essential that the camera is properly secured, by having the neck strap around the photographers neck, or a wrist strap around their arm to make sure that it doesn’t slip and fall onto your baby.
- Does the photographer use steps to create photographs of baby taken from above? In creating the photographs taken from above your baby some photographers stand on steps or even ladders – this obviously poses a risk as they could fall onto your baby.
- Are large pieces of studio equipment such as lights or backdrop stands weighted down to prevent them from falling? This is commonly done with weighted sandbags. Travelling photographers may use a their camera bag, filled with heavy equipment as a weight instead.
Is Camera Flash Safe For Newborn Babies?
Something I’m occasionally asked by parents is whether camera flash is safe for newborn babies. And I completely understand this – as a parent and photographer I would never want to put a baby or child’s eyesight at risk.
Provided it is used properly there is no evidence to show that studio lighting is harmful to babies. The risk would be if a very bright flash was pointed directly at a baby’s eyes.
However, the vast majority of photographers who use studio lighting in their newborn sessions are never pointing the light directly at the baby. The light will usually be a very low level of light – no different to the light shining through a window, and will be diffused through a soft box or umbrella as well as being angled so that it’s not pointing directly into baby’s eyes.
Related article: Natural light vs studio light. Which is best?
My Experience and Approach To Safely Photographing Newborn Babies
As you can see there are lots of variables that determine whether newborn photography is being done safely or not.
So how do I work?
Before I photographed any babies on my own I trained in-person with an experienced photographer at her studio which meant that I could learn from her how to correctly and safely pose babies. It was important to me that I didn’t handle and pose other people’s babies until I had understood how to do it safely.
Since then I’ve completed countless hours of online and in-person training with other experienced and world-renowned newborn photographers. I’ve also completed a paediatric first aid course to make sure that I know what to do and how to support parents if a baby or child becomes unwell during a session.
During my sessions I never leave a baby unattended, and have a large, low beanbag so that there is no risk of baby rolling off.
Because my beanbag is nice and low, I don’t need to use steps to get high enough to photograph babies from above, and always use my neck strap when I’m leaning over babies to capture the right angle.
I don’t create the photographs that need to be made as composites such as baby in a swing, or with their head propped on their hands because I have a natural style and have chosen not to offer these ‘composite’ poses.
My studio light and backdrop stand are weighted with sandbags, and my studio light is filtered through a very large soft box and never pointed directly at a baby’s eyes.
My studio is a clean, calm space and is cleaned thoroughly before each session. All of the blankets and wraps that I use are laundered after every session to make sure that they are fresh and clean for every baby.
I hope that this article has helped you to know what to look for when checking that a newborn photographer is working safely, and given you the confidence that if you book a session with me your baby will be in safe hands.
If you have any other questions about safety in newborn photography please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
You can learn more about booking a newborn session with me here: Newborn Session Information
Photographers – find out more about training in newborn photography with me here: Training and Mentoring For Photographers