Lately I’ve had a few messages from new photographers to our industry regarding the safety of certain newborn poses so I thought I would share some of my thoughts regarding safety, some tips and a couple of images.
The safety of the baby is the most important aspect of your session. And, parents will also feel more comfortable throughout the session knowing that their baby is in safe hands.
We must remember that it is a privilege to be asked to photograph these little bundles and I believe that too often then not we get caught up in getting ‘the’ shot that we forget the real reason we are hired – which is to document every little detail of these babies and this incredible time in our clients lives so that it can be remembered forever.
When photographing newborns, it doesn’t have to be complicated. The simplest of images are often the most beautiful and treasured.
These are the safety rules I have in place for my studio…
- Never leave a baby unattended in a prop, on your posing bag or with a young sibling.
- Always have a spotter or parent next to your baby when using props
- Use a support hand or finger when posing the baby and clone it out later in Photoshop.
- Don’t force a baby into any pose. Instead, adjust them to where they are comfortable.
- Have your camera strap around your neck when shooting above the baby.
- Never stand on anything above the baby in case you fall or it breaks.
- Never put a baby inside or on an object / prop that could potentially break or fall.
- Glass props should never be used.
There are some poses that you may be asked to create by your client. I can’t stress enough how important it is to know how they are created safely. Some being composite images that will require Photoshop to put multiple images together. Composite images are the only way to really ensure the safety of the baby when doing poses like the ‘froggy’ or ‘cocoon’. You need to be able to explain to your clients what’s involved with creating these set ups as they will be required to assist you if you don’t work with an assistant.
I would explain to the parents that if the baby becomes uncomfortable at any stage, you would move onto the next pose. I personally would leave images like these if they are requested till the end of the session and I would not attempt poses like these on your own if doing them for the first time.
If the baby isn’t going into a position easily or is showing signs of discomfort by waking or wriggling it’s time to move on or finish the session if you are at the end.
I am lucky enough to know a lovely photographer by the name of Fiona McGuire who before having her own children worked in neonatal and paediatric intensive care and special care wards as a physiotherapist. A while back we had a discussion about poses like the ‘froggy’ and the ‘taco’ regarding the dangers. I believe it’s very important to understand babies and what they’re capable of when handling them. No shot is worth the risk if something was to go wrong.
And I’m a big believer in “prevention is ALWAYS better then cure”.
The ‘froggy’ pose puts the hips into a bent up and spread wide position (flexion and abduction). This causes their muscles up the back of the legs and bottom to stretch. When in utero most babies hips and knees are bent up like this, which is why after birth their legs will remain up and bent when they’re on their backs. So in theory there should be little risk of dislocating hips in this position as dislocation usually happens when the legs are bent up and bought in together. My main worry with this pose is the placement of the hands – getting them into position requires a very sleepy, relaxed baby. If they’re wriggling around in this upright position they will be very unstable because a newborns neck is not strong enough to support their head – Most babies are top heavy as their head accounts to roughly 25% of their body weight. And if the hands and head are not properly supported the weight of the head can put a lot of strain on their little wrists.
The hip positioning in the ‘froggy’ pose is basically the same as in the ‘taco’. But in the ‘taco’ pose the weight of the upper body is on their lower half, which can be very uncomfortable to the baby if they are not supported and positioned properly. I tend to only attempt this pose on newborns that naturally draw their legs up into this position.
If a baby has unstable hips with a tendency to dislocate this should have been picked up during their screening after birth at the hospital. I would check with the parents about screening before attempting either of these poses.
And, use common sense. If the baby isn’t easily going into a certain position or is showing signs of discomfort do NOT force them.
The more comfortable you make the baby during your sessions the more content they will be. If they are continually moved and disturbed during the shoot they will become over stimulated and unsettled. Gentle, small movements that transition babies into different poses will keep your babies nice and calm and ensure a smoother session.
And remember that every baby is different. They will all have ‘their’ comfy spot so they need to be worked with and photographed individually.
Above left the ‘froggy’ pose on the left and above right a safe simple hand held set up using the posing bag.
Above the ‘taco’ pose. This image has been rotated counter clockwise to make the baby look like they were lying flat.
Above the ‘cocoon’ pose.