Choosing a Safe Newborn Photographer
When it comes to newborn babies, the most important thing anyone needs to remember is safety. They're so fragile and injuries or worse can happen very quickly if your photographer is negligent.
The images decorating the internet are beautiful and the poses you see are sweet and adorable but they're also specifically designed with babies in mind. They keep the baby safe, secure and comfortable. Comfort is also very important. If the baby is fighting you, chances are they are not comfortable in the pose you are attempting.
Babies in the womb are living in a very small, tight space so in order to do that, their skeletons are very soft and pliable. The baby's skeleton is not composed of the same rigid bones as an adult, they are composed of a temporary cartilage which forms into bones over time as the body matures.
The poses you see mimic the baby's positions inside the womb and are designed to keep pressure off of the baby's joints, neck and spine as well as protect circulation and keep the airways open. Have you ever seen a newborn being posed, or an image where the baby's feet or hands are purple? Some babies do have very red skin, but this is more likely caused by poor circulation to the area.
Newborn photographers might talk about their posing flow, this means the safe and fluid movement from one pose to another so the baby is moved as little as possible. We generally have our poses planned and do so in a specific order for this reason.
We also have your baby's itty bitty parts in mind when posing as the baby's private parts should never be exposed. Often you see images of babies with pretty wraps covering them, their purpose is not necessarily for covering private parts but they can be used to preserve dignity as well.
It's recommended that a newborn photography session takes place in under 14 days as it will become difficult to achieve these poses once baby is 4 weeks old when they are able to move and stretch more easily. They typically startle and wake easier after the 14 day mark, although I have worked with very sleepy newborns after 14 days. My personal preference for newborns is no earlier than 5 days old as the mother's breast milk is not quite in until at least 4 days, some are longer. The process is quite interesting as everything with newborns from conception to birth and beyond is designed with a purpose.
The first few days after birth, the body produces colostrum, a nutrient rich pre-milk which includes many protective properties such as antibacterial and immune system boosting substances that are not available in infant formula.
The flow of colostrum is slow so that the baby can learn to nurse, involving coordination to suck, breathe and swallow.
After 3-4 days of this process, the breast milk supply is increasing and changing from colostrum to breast milk.
Other than the fact that under 5 days is just too early for a new mom and baby just learning together to be having photos done, the baby is not likely getting a good fill enough to be sleepy and content for their session.
Think about it this way, would you be full and content just drinking a glass of water in place of a good meal? Do that for a few days and see how happy you are ☺️
When you're choosing your newborn photographer, other than ensuring they are a legitimate, legal business you need to ensure they are properly trained and understand how to not only pose your baby, but also how to properly secure and weigh down props and buckets so they don't topple over or baby does not fall off. A baby should never be left in or on a prop unattended and should have hands on or inches away at all times.
If they use wraps, they need to know how to properly wrap so the baby is safe, comfortable and warm at all times.
They need to know how to achieve specific poses to keep baby safe and secure at all times. These poses do not come naturally to a photographer. They are learned, practiced and perfected over time. Always choose an experienced photographer that has the training and is able to perform these poses safely.
Another thing to note, a photographer should never ever try to force a pose! If the baby is fighting and obviously upset, it does not matter how badly you or they want that pose, you do not continue. Newborn photography is baby led, they tell us what they are okay and not okay with and it's not up to us to tell them any different. You WILL hurt a baby by forcing it.
Not every baby can or will go into every pose!
There are certain poses that are more advanced than others and these are the ones you see where it appears the baby is sitting up, holding up their head, propped on a bucket etc on their own. Trust me, they are not! And if a photographer is attempting these poses this way, they are NOT qualified and should not be working with newborns period.
These are composite images, where two or three images are combined to create the image featuring the advanced pose. See example. There are hands on the baby at all times during these poses. If a photographer does not know how to do this, or does not care for the extra work then they are never to be touching a newborn baby, simple as that. If you see your photographer doing this, STOP! Better yet, DON'T hire them, choose someone who IS trained and WILL do the work required to achieve these images. In fact, choose a photographer that refuses anything but.
A photographer should never put a baby at risk for a photo.
I would hope you as a parent would never attempt it yourself, but babies have been seriously hurt because parents have attempted their own newborn photos at home and thought they could do these advanced poses. They might look easy to you, but they are not. A parent and a trained newborn photographer do not see or understand newborns in the same way and the skills between the two are very different. Do not attempt to DIY your newborn photos, you will end up disappointed or worse.
You'll also see images where a baby appears to be floating in the air, or in a prop that is hanging. Sometimes these images are done using a beanbag, solid backdrop and hands are holding onto the baby but hidden, or the baby is laying down and the photographer shoots at an angle to make it appear the baby is in the air, there are many ways to achieve these images. I myself have a swing prop that sits about 2 inches above the floor, the swing is attached to a branch with rope and the branch sits in two side braces to hold it up. I have used this prop a couple times, and the babies are never on the swing without a person either holding on to them directly, or someone is sitting directly beside them with hands inches away and I photoshop them out later.
Otherwise, if the image is not done with an actual prop, it is done with a digital backdrop. Example of one of mine. There are always safe methods of achieving images like this and no photographer should never take a short cut.
Along with understanding the use of props, a photographer should also know what NOT to use in a newborn session. A baby should never be in direct contact with any item that is hard, sharp, rough or just not a blanket, fabric backdrop, wrap etc.
The props and poses are not the only things a photographer needs to be cautious about. The environment is so important! The studio or room being used should be clean, sanitary and germ free and kept at a proper temperature for the new baby, all items used need to be cleaned and sanitized every single time. Be aware of potential allergies, there should not be pets or other items in the environment where a newborn will be that may cause an allergic reaction. No persons who are ill should ever be permitted in the studio or area where the newborn will be.
Some photographers do photograph newborns outdoors and this can be done safely. Obviously you would never do this in winter or a cold, windy day. You would never place a baby in hot sun. Babies should be wrapped and not exposed to hot or cold or come into direct contact with nature such as grass and weeds. I know this might sound like common sense, but it does happen.
I promise you, there is much more to hiring a newborn photographer than the price and even the images. Sometimes you will see an image that was achieved similar to examples shown, but that doesn't mean it was done safely. Always ask questions and learn a bit about your photographer before choosing and hiring one. Your baby is the one at risk with your decision.
Safety is not optional, and is performed in it's entirety, there are no shortcuts.