While newborn photographers are often chosen for price or editorial looks, safety can be easily overlooked. Documenting this amazing event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so it is important that safety is a number one priority.
Choosing your newborn photographer can be a tremendous task. Not only do they need to be professional, experienced, and creative, but they also need to be safe and trained to handle your precious infants.
It is beneficial to find a photographer for maternity photos if possible so you can see how you like their work beforehand and ask questions leading up to the birth. Photographers should be prepared to be asked these questions by expectant parents and always be able to provide proof of experience.
There are certifications photographers can receive through various organizations such as the Academy of Newborn Photography and the Accredited Professional Newborn Photographers International which include extensive safety courses. This will help parents choose someone with both skill and instruction.
I feel so lucky every time I get chosen for newborn photos, and it is always such a blessing to see happy parents with each completed album. Communication is key, and your photographer should always have an open line of communication with you before, during and after your session to answer any questions you may have.
A photographer should have plenty of firsthand experience with babies' needs, including temperature regulation, plenty of extra time for breaks, and an option for some personal space for feeding and calming if necessary. Newborn babies can't regulate their own temperatures, so they of course will not be happy in a cold room under bright lights! They may also be cluster feeding in the early stages of life and need lots of short breaks.
A popular pose in the newborn photographer community, The Froggy Pose, with the baby's chin cradled by their hands, is very adorable but also quite difficult and should only be done by professionals. The potato sack pose can also restrict airways and cause overheating, and of course all suspended baby photography is simply editing magic. Many popular poses can restrict air or circulation to the baby and cause injury if done incorrectly. This applies to at-home photography as well if you decide to try to try them yourself!
Many of the favorite photography shots in the newborn genre are actually composite images spliced together rather than just one photo with a risky pose, and may only be achieved with a large amount of editing learned over years of sessions
When COVID started, photography was put on hold in Michigan and many parts of the U.S. There are always some people willing to go against regulations, and some photographers chose to continue to hold sessions, even with newborns. The COVID vaccine will not be available to infants for quite some time, and prevention is still very important. A few questions to ask your photographer would be if they are comfortable wearing a mask in your session if possible, ensuring everyone uses hand sanitizer and requiring a vaccination status if it makes you most comfortable.
You are the parent, and you get to decide who handles your new baby!
When I am working with a newborn, I will always ask if parents are comfortable with me swaddling, handling, adjusting, and helping to calm a newborn. Your photographer should go with the flow depending on each infant's temperament and never force them to pose or onto a prop. Some newborns are easygoing and will fall right to sleep, and some are squirmy and will not want to be swaddled. I am always sure to adjust to what is most comfortable and will result in the best experience for both the parents and baby.
If photographing a newborn from above, it is essential to wear a camera strap to ensure the camera never slips and falls. You think it could never happen until it does. Newborns should also never be left unattended, and I like to have the parents spotting nearby just in case baby decides to stretch or move around.
Costumes are an amazing part of newborn photography, but if baby is clearly unhappy it will be sure to show. Be sure nothing is pinching or hurting baby just in case and bring backup outfits in case of accidents or discomfort.
Sibling safety is also a huge priority, and allowing toddlers in a session should always be done with help close by just in case. Young children can be unpredictable, even if just being overly affectionate, and it’s best to be prepared with a newborn, studio equipment and props nearby.
Photographers should always continue learning and improving, while educating themselves on safe practices. As a mom of two, I had a few years of experience working with newborns and infants and love to cuddle new babies during their sessions and help parents capture their precious memories before they grow too fast. Newborns change so much in the first few weeks, and those tiny details are what I strive to define while ensuring safety and comfort.