Anya is a Madison, Wisconsin and Brooklyn, New York Maternity, Birth, Newborn, Baby, and Family photographer. She’s had years of experience working with newborns, and has written a two-part series on Newborn Safety just for Belovely You.
Newborn safety is a concern for photographers that work within this niche. The fear of injuring a precious, little one stops many photographers from entering this niche. Take these tips into consideration.
As a professional newborn photographer for the past 7 years, a mother of 5, and a midwife, the safety of newborns at every newborn session I shoot is critical to me.
In this two-part tutorial series, I’ll walk you through some of the most important aspects of infant and newborn safety, and some of the best practices I use to make sure I am always keeping the health and safety of my little client in mind.
Before the Session Begins….
First, foremost, and arguably most importantly, I fundamentally believe that if you are around newborns, you should be updated on at least two critical vaccines – DTaP (for Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis) and MMR (for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella, which is also known as German Measles).
Both Pertussis and Measles are very dangerous to newborns, and whereas previously there had been little to no threat of either disease, recent outbreaks in numerous states have been reported. Newborns are especially prone to such sicknesses, as their immune systems are not quite developed yet, making it incredibly easy for them to get sick.
Secondly, keep your nails clean and well-trimmed with no chips in your nail polish (if you choose to wear it). This will help reduce the spread of germs, as a multitude of bacteria and dirt can live underneath your fingernails and spread to the newborn during handling.
I always carry unscented hand sanitizer to every newborn session and use it liberally. Additionally, prior to beginning every newborn session, I always let parents know when I wash my hands as I believe that shows how important the health of their baby is to me.
If you are bringing blankets and/or wraps with you, make sure they are clean (launder them between each and every session), sanitized, and have been washed with unscented detergents or dyes. To find a good, unscented detergent, look for labels that state that the detergent is “Free and clear of perfumes and dyes.”
If you are traveling to the client’s home and know you’re in for a long day, it’s a good idea to pack and bring your own snacks, as I always do. However, if you choose to do so, make sure they are nut free, as a lot of people have nut allergies, which can be fatal.
When preparing your clients for their in-home session, tell them to prep the room by increasing the temperature to about 85 degrees (which is what I personally suggest for my clients). Babies lose heat rapidly, as they are still figuring out how to thermoregulate their body temperature, so the added warmth helps them stay comfortable during the shoot.
During the Shoot…
As already mentioned, it’s a good idea to keep the room you’re working in relatively warm.
Besides heating up the room temperature, a lot of photographers also like to use warm air from a space heater blowing on the baby to keep the baby warm.
While I think this is ok, always be aware of how close the heater is to the baby, as well as placement of the heater. Make sure the heater is securely placed, not too close to the baby, and does not have the potential to tip over, causing a hazard.
If you use a heating pad to warm your newborn posing space, it should never come in direct contact with the newborn. Newborn skin is extremely delicate and can easily burn, and by placing the heating pad in direct contact with the newborn, you run the risk of injuring their delicate skin.
If I use a heating pad (which is rare) I place the heating pad on my beanbag until baby is ready to be set down, which warms up the beanbag. I then remove it prior to placing baby on my beanbag.
Whichever method you decide to use to help keep the baby warm, make sure that when you’re not posing them you gently place a blanket over them, which will help keep them warm as well as keep them feeling safe and secure.
Keep in mind though as you’re making sure that the environment is comfortably warm for the newborn that you’re not letting the little one get too warm, as it is possible for the infant to become overheated.
Make sure to keep a close eye on the infant for signs of overheating, such as consistent rapid breathing.
Prop and Newborn Safety
There are so many available props out there for newborns. I personally prefer to stick to natural poses, which is just personal preference based on my style of newborn photography. Any props I do use tend to be very simple (and of course, safe).
The prop I use the most often would be my large wooden bowl that I use to gently curl the baby in so he/she feels safe like in the womb.
Other great props that you can use for simple, natural posing would be something like Shoot Baby bean bags or Newborn Nest Newborn Posing Bags.
Props or items/locations that are considered not safe for posing the baby include any of the following:
- Props made of glass or any other type of breakable jar
- Putting the baby on a bookshelf or high up
- Putting the baby in unstable baskets (make sure they cannot tip! – always have a spotter)
- Putting the baby in a mailbox, refrigerator, or any other type of appliance.
Be VERY careful posing babies with animals. Always remember that they are animals and have animal instincts, and it is not the animal’s fault if he/she is upset by the baby.
My typical scenario when the family wants to incorporate a pet (dogs specifically) is to shoot lifestyle, like the image below.
Don’t forget about mom! Make sure mom has plenty of water, snacks, is sitting down most of the time, and is not getting overheated either. I routinely check in with how mom is doing during the shoot as well to make sure she’s having an enjoyable experience all around.
The second half of the Newborn Safety Tutorial will discuss infant posing do’s and don’t’s, so be sure to check back next week for the second half of the tutorial!
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