Don’t Be Hanging Babies From Trees- A Newborn Photography Safety Lesson from Jennifer Dell

I’m excited to have a very informative, important guest post for you all today from Jennifer Dell, a photographer located in Tomball, TX (near Houston). If you are pregnant or have a newborn photo shoot coming up, or even if you are a beginning photographer who’s planning to take pictures of newborns, this is all really valuable information. Jennifer covers everything, so I’m just going to turn it over to her.
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We’ve all seen the super cute newborn photos of baby with her head in her hands or of baby hanging from a tree branch or in an awesome wood basket. What a lot of parents and even new photographers, might not know is that these images are composites. A composite is when you take two, or more, images and combine them very carefully in photoshop in order to create the look that the photographer wanted as an end result. Safety during newborn sessions is becoming a rather hot topic at the moment and when you hire a photographer to help you capture your sweet new baby please be sure that they are taking all the safety precautions to ensure that your baby, and their well-being, are top priority.

This is an example of a composite image is of just the prop set up. The second shot is of the prop set up alone. The first is of baby in the large wooden basket with my assistant helping to brace his head even though it was mainly resting on the edge of the basket (and blanket). She was in constant contact with him at all times while he was in the basket.

Sometimes there is an older sibling that is excited about the new baby and of course we all want to capture that excitement. I have always found that it is best when the older child is surrounded by mom and dad to ensure that baby is safe incase the older child gets too excited.
 
Even when baby is just on a beanbag posing ottoman it is essential that either an assistant or mom and dad be very close by incase baby rolls over (yes it can happen, I’ve seen some very strong newborns!). Even if baby seems to be comfortable and able to hold the position fine on their own it is always good to have a helpful hand to help brace their sweet little heads as most do not have the proper neck strength to keep their heads from bobbling over to the side. In this image I just cloned out my assistants hands in photoshop.
 
 
I know that I have been mainly referring to newborns in this article, however proper safety precautions should always be taken with children and babies. In this image, I had my assistant ducked down just below the frame in front of the girls, their mom behind them ducked down just below the counter and their grandma off to the camera’s left just out of the frame in case one of the girls decided it was time to jump down.
 

 Below are a couple more examples of composites or where I cropped mom/dad out or even cloned them out! The main goal of a photo session for your new baby is safety, while we all love those squishy sweet photos, we need to remember that they are little lives, not dolls and that their health and well being should come first at all times. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to remember for your newborns first photo shoot…

Do’s…

Do remember that they have very fragile bodies and they need support in those popular poses.
Do remember to take baby’s cues seriously… if he/she starts to become uncomfortable at any point. STOP. No pose is worth injuring your child or causing them to be uncomfortable.
Do make sure that the temperature in the home or studio is appropriate for a little baby… as they cannot regulate their body temperatures.
Do keep baby’s safety the top priority.
Do make sure that you are taking time to stop and feed baby or comfort them, bonding is very important in these first few weeks (and beyond) and should be continued even if there is a photo shoot. Newborn shoots can be quite long so take frequent breaks.
Do talk with your photographer about your concerns and their training with photographing newborns.
Do speak up and take an active roll during the shoot. If you are uncomfortable with a pose, just say so, your photographer is there to help you capture memories of your baby and family and will be happy to listen and stop if you wish.
Do try to capture lots of lifestyle images of you with your new baby, as these will be the most treasured when your child is growing.
Do find a professional photographer that has experience photographing newborns.

Don’ts

Don’t literally hang a baby from anything without the proper set up and assistance and even then think twice as most of the “hanging” images are actually composites where they have photoshopped baby into the image.
Don’t leave baby unattended, at any time.
Don’t try to recreate an image if you (or your photographer) do not have the proper training or knowledge.
Don’t try to force a pose.
Don’t treat baby as an object, but remember that he/she is a human life and needs to be treated as such.
Don’t use heavy materials around baby’s face due to suffocation hazards.
Don’t place a space heater directly in front of baby but keep it a little further away.
If you keep safety a top priority you will, no doubt, end up with beautiful photos and a happy, healthy, baby.
*Disclaimer, these are merely my observations, tips and knowledge, (I am not a doctor). Please consult with your pediatrician and photographer for their recommendations prior to a newborn shoot.
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A huge thanks to Jennifer for addressing this topic here. Please spread the word with any new or expecting moms you know. I confess that up until recently I thought many of these poses were achieved by magically posing the baby in these positions and then stepping away to take the picture. It boggled my mind, but I figured I just didn’t have enough talent to pull it off (though I never tried). It’s easy to look at a beautiful picture and not realize all the technical/not magical steps involved in creating it. 
Jennifer is obviously very generous and talented. You can find her on Facebook and over on her blog if you’d like to see more of her gorgeous work.

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