Don't Do This - Newborn Safety!

I'm back with another newborn safety post and example of what NOT to do and what TO do instead. If you're a new photographer just starting out, just starting with newborns or wanting to work with newborns, pay attention. Now this pose is new to me, I've only just recently done it for the first time so it definitely has room for improvement but I wasn't going to actually perform it until I learned HOW to do so safety and I had watched numerous videos with in depth steps and descriptions including a live mentoring session with an educator, as well as have looked at dozens of examples done by other professional photographers and mentors. I also walked my clients through it and they were aware it was my first time but that I had done my research and put in the effort to learn before I performed it on a real baby. A huge part of our job as photographers, especially newborn photographers is to reassure our clients and put them at ease so that they know we know what we're doing. There are NO shortcuts allowed here, no excuses. Parents expect us to know what we are doing and it can put a permanent scar on a parent if their baby is harmed during a photo session. The example below is from a post I saw in a photography group (no one local) but let me ask you this if you're a parent. If you saw your photographer do this and these images are what you witnessed happening, how would that make you feel? Both in the moment and afterwards?

To me, and this isn't even my baby, I feel terrified for this baby and absolutely appalled that someone thought this was okay to do. This baby's head and neck is left unsupported and could have very easily fallen out of the wrap. With the learning resources available for photographers, new and experienced both paid and free, in person training, and the thousands of support groups with free mentoring within them, there is absolutely zero excuses for any photographer to perform ANY pose unsafely like this and there is zero excuse for anyone to simply do something and not take the time to get educated first. Everyone starts somewhere and there will always be a first time but if you don't have the knowledge first, you shouldn't be doing it. It doesn't matter if you're new or experienced, we have tools at our fingertips to prevent anyone from ever doing something like this. We all, no matter who we are, every single person knows newborn babies are fragile and to be handled with utmost care and safety. What do we tell toddlers when they meet their baby brother or sister for the first time and teach them as baby grows? Be gentle, be safe. Adults shouldn't have to be told this. Even if a photographer is just starting out with newborns, there is no excuse to say "oh I don't know how to do this but I just wanted to try it". Then you DON'T DO IT! Period, if you don't know how and trust me you absolutely know you don't know how before you even do it, you do not do it. I wish I has gotten a pull back shot of what this looked like when I did this with the baby but below are some cell phone shots of the set up I just took to give you an idea.

I plan on buying a crib wedge to use going forward but I had used a folded up toddler nap mat underneath the backdrop which was secured to the stand and resting on my beanbag on a downward angle. You can see the lines of the mat underneath the backdrop and you can see that the mat is in contact with the beanbag.

Once the baby was in the wrap, her weight allowed the wrap to stretch low and her body actually lay on the beanbag just below the mat so the wrap was kept on that upward angle along the mat but the baby was safely on a secure surface. I then shot this from a high angle above mom to get the suspended look I was going for.

The idea of this pose is that baby appears to be suspended in air and in order to get the hanging look with the wrap stretched the way it is using the weight of the baby to pull it down. BUT, let me be clear the baby did not leave the surface of the beanbag underneath. The baby was NOT suspended in air and was not without added support. Mom was sitting on my stool right in front of the beanbag with one hand directly below baby and one on baby's head for support I then removed from the image and the lines of the mat to make everything nice and smooth. So you see, this pose may look easy but it takes skill and knowledge on how to execute it and there is always multiple steps to creating these types of images, and often they're perfected in photoshop later.

I see this pose in just about every other image posted in many photography groups and I'm certain that everyone else in the groups see the same images and can clearly see the baby is NOT actually hanging AWAY from the backdrop or off of the floor. They're not being held from above by a person like the first images. The photographer who shared the first images asked how to do this pose as it doesn't look right and it doesn't look like everyone else's with the backdrop closer. I have some choice words but I would love to just scream at these people to find out first! If it doesn't look right and it doesn't feel right and you can clearly see the baby is upset and uncomfortable, you DO NOT DO IT. The other important thing to know and understand and I explain this to my clients as well is most of these advanced poses should not be done if the baby is wide awake and moving. I will refuse to do certain poses if the baby is awake because they cannot usually be done properly or safely. This particular pose I could probably do with an awake baby but they must be calm and not moving around a lot and the reason I know I can do it in that case is I know what I'm doing! I know the baby is actually laying on a surface with assisting hands on so he or she will not be at risk of falling or getting hurt. Newborn photography is not for playing, it's as simple as that. If you want to play with babies get a doll. Every day since this isolation thing started I have been watching live mentoring sessions, tutorials and workshops and learning more. It's the perfect time for all photographers to learn something new and for those new ones just starting out, to learn at least the basics before they start working with clients. If you're not investing into your education, you're not in the right industry. I've got over 10 years of experience under me yet I've learned quite a few new things just in the last week and I've still got a lot more to learn. The common difference between professionals and amateurs is that professionals know they need work and they do whatever they can to master their craft and ensure they are performing all poses safely. They take no shortcuts and they take their job seriously. Parents, please do right by your baby and hire a professional. I know this person isn't local to us but there are people who think and therefore do just like this person who are and I am telling you it is absolutely not worth a cheap price that makes your wallet feel good. Your baby is priceless and if you want to beautifully capture this special time in your lives, invest in a professional so you can be assured that you and your baby are in safe hands.

- Melony,

Your newborn, child and family photographer

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