When you look at images a newborn photography session, you see tiny fingers and toes and adorable little faces. Sometimes baby is all swaddled up and cozy and other times they are in perfectly posed positions. And although my ultimate goal is to provide beautiful images for you to remember those little details about your sweet baby, my number one priority is always keeping your little one safe. Whether you are hiring a photographer or going the DIY route, these are important newborn safety rules that should always be followed!
This one seems obvious, but it’s a big one! Before you start, wash your hands and make sure everything that is going to be touching baby is clean. I keep hand sanitizer in my studio near me at all times and I use it regularly throughout the session. I also make sure everything is cleaned and sanitized as much as possible between sessions. Babies’ immune systems are still developing so keeping them healthy is a big priority. I also make sure I am up-to-date on vaccinations and reschedule if I am sick!
Have a plan of what you want to take pictures of and make sure you have everything in reach before you get started. Have a fun little prop to add in like a tiny teddy bear? Make sure it is somewhere you can easily reach when you’re ready for it. You never want to walk away from a newborn while they are posed – especially if they are on a raised surface like a posing table or in a prop.
This may sound like a repeat of the “be prepared” rule, and in some ways it is. But always stay within reach of baby. Newborns have a startle reflex that can make even a sleeping baby jump without warning. Staying aware and within reach is crucial to newborn safety. If you use a longer lens or need to be a little farther away, make sure you have another responsible human helping to be an extra set of hands.
Babies cannot always protect their own airway. It is up to the people who are handling them to make sure they are positioned in a way that they can easily breathe. Always make sure baby’s chin is not resting on their chest. Having their heads flopped forward can make it harder for them to breathe. Try it yourself! Put your chin all the way down and try and take a deep breath. Hard, isn’t it? If you cannot fit two fingers between baby’s chin and their chest you need to reposition. Grunting is also a sign that baby may need to be repositioned!
Sometimes we get so caught up in mastering a certain pose we forget that these newborns are tiny humans with their own preferences and comfort levels. If baby is fussing or resisting a certain position, listen to what they are trying to tell you. Never force a baby into a position! Even with the really curled up poses you see, baby should be comfortable. Also keep an eye on arms and legs to make sure their circulation isn’t being compromised. Babies have an immature circulation system and a little bit of redness or discoloration is normal – but if you notice really purple limbs it’s time to give baby a break.
I really shouldn’t have to say it, but just use common sense. If you are standing over baby, put your camera strap around your neck so you don’t drop a camera on the baby. Support baby’s head and neck. Make sure the poses you are attempting are ones you are familiar with and know how to do safely. Some advance poses (like the one above) are actually composites meaning they are multiple images stitched together in photoshop. (Watch a video of me editing this pose here: https://bit.ly/3PDAAX2 ) Putting a baby into this pose and letting go is never a good idea. A few years ago there was a trend of putting babies in glass trifle bowls – just don’t do it. Newborn safety is largely just using common sense. If it feels unsafe, it probably is.
Newborn photography is intimidating at first, but there is no need to be scared to take pictures of tiny humans. Whether you are a parent doing DIY photos or a new photographer still learning the ropes just take it slow. Follow these basic tips and stick to what feels comfortable for you and you’ll surprise yourself with beautiful images and a happy, safe baby.
Photographing babies and families in Northern Cincinnati