A video is currently circulating Facebook showing a newborn falling out of the 'froggy' position. The photographer has the baby balanced with no assistance or spotting from a parent or assistant and the baby collapses and falls to the side. I do not believe the baby was injured, but it has motivated me to do my part as a professional newborn photographer to educate parents on the safety issues involved in a newborn portrait session. I like to periodically show behind-the-scenes photos on my Facebook page but I figured it was a good idea to gather the photos and information and put them all together is one place...right here. :)
Let me start by saying the above position is super adorable and many parents request it, but it is by far the most complex positions to achieve properly. First off, the baby has to be super asleep and relaxed. Even super sleepy and relaxed babies usually fuss a bit getting started with this position. A professional photographer will be able to tell if the baby will settle into the position or not. I will get the baby in position as I explain the procedure to a parent and direct them how to properly hold the baby, supporting their wrists and head. A baby's head is very heavy (25% of their entire body weight) and they should not be supporting that on their own! Sandra Moffatt, a professional photographer and co-founder of the StandInBaby, has made an excellent series of newborn photography safety videos along with a registered neonatal nurse. She goes into great detail to explain the importance of proper positioning. You can see the videos here - Newborn Photography Safety Series. Several shots are taken and then composited together in Photoshop. The baby is supported the entire time!
Another popular pose, sometimes referred to as the "Simba" pose, looks like mom or dad is precariously holding the baby up in the air, when if fact, the baby is lying comfortably on a cushy beanbag.
I can't count the number of times my dads have been ready to just hold the baby up over their head! Talk about scaring the crap out of me...thinking 'people probably actually do that'! Un-educated photographers see something on Pinterest and try to recreate it without doing any research and will put your baby at risk just to get the shot. PLEASE, for the love of God, hire an educated, professional photographer for your newborn session. Pay the extra money. PLEASE!
Things you don't see in these photos - weights in the bottom of the bucket to counteract the weight of the baby and lots of blankets and pillows to cushion around the baby. I had mom and dad on either side of baby and there was ALWAYS a hand on her. Then I simply take the images and photoshop them together to mask out the parents hands. And VOILA!
Which reminds me of another issue...props. I purchase my props from reputable vendors that specialize in newborn photo props. They need to be safe and sturdy with no sharp areas. They should always be counterweighted with weights or beanbags and cushioned properly to support and protect the baby. Believe it or not, I even have special made prop pillows like the E. Tole Pillow and Rainbow Posing Beans to support baby in different positions. There is so much more to an image than you would think!
In these photos, mom or dad are helping support baby's head and I just photoshop their finger out of the picture. They are also there, just inches away, in case baby startles and moves.
Speaking of Photoshop, my latest obsession is doing composites. This is an excellent way to keep baby safe but I worry about unexperienced photographers seeing the photos and thinking I really put a baby on a bench in a field unsupervised or in a bird's nest in a tree. Ok, if someone believes that than we have more serious issues to deal with...but that person is out there and possibly trying to photograph babies!
Extreme care is always taken to insure baby is safe and comfortable. It takes time and patience to get baby in the proper position, not just for the best shot but for the baby's safety. Posing is manipulated to never inhibit baby's airway or circulation. You will often see me adjusting baby's head with little pillows and stuffers under the blanket to insure this. Also, if baby's hands or feet are turning red/purple they should be moved out of that position because their circulation is being cut off, and this happens with some babies faster than others.
I believe it's also important to note that my parents are right there even with toddlers. They may look like they are sitting on that chair or stool safely, but we all know it only takes a half-second for a baby to tumble. With mom or dad right there spotting the baby, I can concentrate on getting the perfect shot.
So, I'm not one to preach but I just want to say, if you are looking for a newborn photographer, please choose someone who is experienced, educated, licensed and insured. Yes, you will have to pay more for that experience, education, licensing and insurance, but your new baby is definitely worth it. And if you do hire a less experienced photographer (we were all one at some point), PLEASE do not attempt the more complicated poses and PLEASE speak up and ask your photographer questions to make sure they have had some training and are aware of safety issues.
I take a lot of pride in my work. I have over 27 years of experience working with children as a mom, a licensed daycare provider, a certified teacher, and now a professional newborn photographer. I continue to educate myself on best practices for safe baby poses along with bettering my camera and lighting skills to give you the most precious keepsakes of your newborn baby. I would LOVE for you to hire me to take portraits of your little one, but more importantly I want to educate you on what to look for when hiring whoever you decide to hire.
Now go make a baby and call me to set up your newborn session! :D