Lately, I have had a few new-ish photography friends ask about newborn posing. Most are off put, or taken back when I preach about the safety, instead of how to get that sweet little baby into the pose they desire. Safety is often the first thing overlooked by a new photographer. Often they think of props, blankets, something to pose them on, etc, but they often forget my #1 rule, which is of course, is the baby safe at all times?
If you know me personally, you may know I am not exactly a risk taker. I am a huge fan of rules, bedtimes, bike helmets, child safety caps, 5 star safety ratings and full coverage auto insurance. If any of you know my husband, Randy, personally, you understand why full coverage is a must.
My husband likes to joke that I am a perfect blend of Ben Stiller's character in Along Came Polly, a life insurance underwriter and risk assessment pro and Ryan Reynolds' in Chaos Theory (watch if you haven't!!). His character prides himself on never taking risks, perfecting time management and maximizing efficiency. I am 10 and 2 on the steering wheel, phone turned to "do not disturb", radio off and buckled. I blame my overly cautious ways on my mother, who cut my steak into tiny bite size pieces until I was 17. Now, imagine me at my senior prom, presented with my steak dinner and to my horror, it was in one piece. My best friend had to cut my steak for me (Thanks Mike!).
Now, when I discovered newborn photography about 2 years after my oldest son was born, I knew that was my passion. I had found a copy of Sleeping Beauties by Tracy Raver and Kelley Ryden and knew that is what I wanted to do. Now mind you, in my area, newborn photography meant in hospital photos before you went home, or the awkward in store kiosk at 6 weeks old. My oldest sons newborn pictures where taken at a Kmart, and he was just on a brown blanket, and it was 2 shots and done. I noticed there wasn't much concern for his safety. Being a new mother, I wasn't sure what to say, but figured she was the pro.
I began diving into any class I could take, learning about how babies move, what soothes them, what is safest and mastering photo shop. Any safety class that The Milky Way or Creative Live offered, I immediately signed up for it. I absorbed as much information as I could before I began offering newborn sessions. I studied posing and safety for almost 2 years before I even started! Now, I still photographed weddings and seniors, and that really was to fund my education and help me build an inventory for my up and coming newborn business.
I would watch some photographers take risks for shots, or not keep safety at the #1 priority and this made me realize and stick to my belief:
Babies are not props. They are people.
They are your clients most precious thing in their life. They have trusted you, the professional photographer to not only capture the small window that is a newborn; they have trusted you to do it safely. When my sons were born, I would snuggle them so close to my body, I could feel their breath on my chest, and I knew they were safe. I would expect my photographer to do the same, and keep them safe.
So often, I hear photographer friends say "I can't wait to try this pose, prop, etc", then become frustrated when little Baby E won't cooperate. Then they have to photograph the baby in the same chin on wrist, or bum in air pose as the last 10 newborns, but guess what? He's comfortable, he's happy and so is mama. Her son has never been photographed in that pose, and she will still love it all the same. I literally had a blue bucket for FOUR years before a baby would pose in it, but it was ok. All those babies that wouldn't pose before were safe and happy in another pose.
Can you lend me a hand?
While I prefer having an assistant at shoots, I can usually get by on my own. I do however, ask dad to usually lend me a hand so I can safely get the shot I want. This is usually true for prop shots, and the oh so loved, froggy pose.
Shots like these are taken in a series, so that way, there is ALWAYS a hand on the baby. Usually I hold the wrists so I can get the top of the head, then dad hold the head, keeping stress off baby's neck, and I combine them in post production. Baby is safe, parents are happy and I too am happy.
All in the details
Now, what about the poses where they are safely wrapped in a bowl or on a flokati rug? All is good! Well..
I use a lot of organic wool, felt, or knitted props. Sometimes, these little fibers can come loose and wrap around the baby's fingers and toes. I always make sure the baby is clear of this, and comfortable. Littles like the grab and pull the rugs and bump blankets (the white blanket little Harley is on) and sometimes it can come apart and wrap around little fingers. While it's not the first thing most think of in newborn safety, it is an important one!
What about babies circulation? Are all the extremities pink with good blood flow? Erin, Sonia and I are both trained in how to pose and WHY you pose a certain way. Keeping them warm, and those arms and legs pink and rosy is just as important!
Bottom line, find a photographer who is about the safety of your baby. Our main focus is safety, and the rest will fall into place!