Crucial Newborn Safety During a Newborn Photography Session
Newborn Photography is not like other types of photography. It requires extreme patience and an understanding of how little bodies work. Safety is paramount and all newborn photographers should be trained to pose newborns safely. The reality is that many of the Pinterest-perfect poses are not what they seem. Photographers use composite images or otherwise construct setups with Baby's safety and comfort in mind, even when it is not obvious in the photo. For example, the image above is done with the baby laying down on a black cloth with Dad's hands underneath her. The fabric's wrinkles are later removed in Photoshop to make it look like Dad is holding her in the air. It's a beautiful and powerful image and 100% safe. However, if it is taken out of context by an untrained photographer, it could be extremely dangerous for baby.
Some of the things I take into consideration when photographing newborns:
Heat: I run a heater in my studio to keep baby nice and warm. It's a key soother for the times when I am changing baby's wraps, and you'll often see me warming my hands by the heater before touching baby so I don't shock her with cold fingers. The heater also serves to keep my blankets warmer than room temperature and make sure baby does not develop a chill. However, I constantly monitor heat output to make sure that baby doesn't get too warm, especially when I have him wrapped in several layers.
Pose: There is so much that goes into a comfortable pose. I pose to make sure that baby's head and neck are always supported and that their little hands and feet are not so tightly wrapped that they lose circulation and change color. I ensure baby's feet are flat so they cannot push up and off of my bean bag. If they will be laying on their hands or feet for an extended period of time I make little tweaks as I go to make sure that circulation remains constant and that their hands and feet don't fall asleep. Limbs falling asleep is uncomfortable for adults - imagine being a baby and not understanding why your limbs are tingly!
Head Position:It is often necessary to adjust baby's head before photographing him. For lighting, I typically will face his head to the light with his chin slightly up. I make sure that baby's chin is not resting on his chest, which could possibly restrict airflow. You will see me using a soft rocking motion when repositioning baby's head and neck, this motion mimics natural movement and is much less abrupt than using baby's chin to tilt his head up or down. When positioning baby's head I think about how adults feel comfortable. Looking too far behind us would strain our neck, so I ensure baby's head is within the range of normal motion and adequately supported by his hands or posing beans.
Wrapping: Babies love to be wrapped, but photography wrapping is not the same as swaddling in the hospital. Photographers wrap to make their photographs beautiful, but there are many considerations that go into how we wrap. Circulation is always a consideration, I make sure that the legs and feet are crossed in a way that is comfortable and allows for normal circulation through the bottom half of the body. Whether or not the infant is comfortable with her hands near her body is also a large consideration. If she flails and struggles against the wrap, I will often leave her hands out. Just being with baby for a few minutes is enough to tell me how she is comfortable being wrapped. Some poses require multiple stacked wraps which can get warm. You will notice that I adjust the temperature in the room and feel to see if baby is sweating throughout the shoot.
Prop Safety: I carefully select my props to be the right size for babies, but much more importantly, I use sturdy props. Many of the props that I have are specifically made for newborn photography, however, sometimes I see something so inspiring when I am out and about that I purchase it for Newborn use. When selecting a prop I take the material into consideration. Are there any rough edges that could poke or hurt baby? Is the prop sturdy, is there a risk of it tipping over? I check the size using the arm test. Generally if my arm fits in it from elbow to fingers, I know I have a prop that can safely hold baby. I check the height - is the prop too tall? Is there a fall risk? For bucket shaped props I check around the edge. Though newborns in buckets are always posed with a blanket or fluff stuffed in for comfort, I make sure the edge will not poke or disturb baby should they come in contact with it.
When it comes to putting baby in the prop, I ensure that it is properly weighted so it does not tip. Safety is always first. Baby's hands and feet are wrapped appropriately to avoid baby pushing up and out of the prop. I typically add a blanket or fuzzy layer to make sure baby is not coming in contact with the actual prop and posing beans or pillows for comfort. Then I run through my posing checklist and ensure they are posed to promote circulation and comfort.
Supervision: I tend to photograph newborns by myself, and it is sometimes necessary for me to get up and get a prop or a blanket that I had not anticipated using. When this happens, I always ask one of the adults accompanying baby to stand by my beanbag and watch baby. The notion that a two week old baby cannot roll over is not fact, and has happened on more than one photographer's bean bag. While the probability is low, safety is always my primary concern.
Patience: Patience is the number one requirement for a newborn photographer and I have plenty of it! The fact is, children grow up so quickly and now that my four are out of their newborn stage, I love holding yours for an hour or two. I constantly have clients wowed by how patient and gentle I am with their newborn. I typically schedule newborn sessions for three hours and tell parents that I take photographs for about 30 minutes of that. Sometimes we are done in an hour, and that's great, but often baby needs feeding and soothing to go to sleep or will wake up half way in and need time with Mom or Dad to fall back into their sound slumber. I know how to watch baby's hands and feet to see if they are truly relaxed and will be oblivious to me when I am moving them. I watch for natural movements like stretching to change their pose as it's less likely to disrupt their sleep.
Parent Safety and Comfort: You are investing both time and money into your newborn's photography. I have set up my studio with you and baby in mind. I know at 2-4 weeks postpartum Mom still doesn't quite feel like herself, and all caretakers are tired from restless nights and adjusting to having a new member of the family. When you are at my studio, I want you to be as comfortable as possible and feel at home. The studio is equipped with reclining sofas, snacks, and drinks. If you are uncomfortable with any poses or have questions, please speak up! I've had many parents doze during their newborn's session and that is perfectly OK. I want you to feel at home in my home. If you need anything, please ask!
Covid-19 and other illnesses: During the COVID-19 risk period, I have taken additional safety precautions with my studio to include sanitizing all surfaces before and after each client. I am currently photographing a max of one family or newborn per day in my studio. I am wearing a mask and taking the temperature of all of my family members 24 hours before the session and again the morning of. I expect several of these precautions to remain in effect after the threat of COVID-19 has diminished, but hope to be able to allow more than one family in my studio per day. All other pre-COVID precautions are being observed to include washing linens and wraps after each client and washing and sanitizing hands often.
Kristian Hutchings is a Photographer in Richardson, TX who specializes in Newborn, Maternity, Child and Family photography. I have been professionally photographing families since 2012. My home studio is located in the Richardson "panhandle" within 2 miles of Garland, TX, Sacshe, TX, Wylie, Tx, Murphy, TX and Plano, TX. I serve the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and have been honored by many out of state families who come to have sessions with me.
My philosophy is that family sessions should be fun and truly show the beautiful relationships between parents, children and siblings. I also love to shoot individual portraits and create timeless images for the next generation. I pour my heart into making sure your session is extra special and that everyone enjoys themselves. I have four little people myself, so I have plenty of tricks for making sure we capture JOY.