The Importance of Baby Safety in Newborn Photography

Baby safety during newborn sessions is my first priority!

As newborn photographers, not only we have to make sure that the baby is safe and secure throughout the shoot, but we have to handle the baby with care so the parents feel reassured and comfortable with their baby in your hand.

I remember how I felt as a first time mum 9 years ago with my little girl in my arms. I got quite scared when she was visited by the paediatrician in the hospital. She was only 12 hours old. He was moving her so quickly and holding her just with one hand. I felt very uncomfortable. And I was relieved only when I exit his room. I knew he was doing his job and he was a specialist. Still, I felt a bit nervous. It was the first time a stranger was holding her. And the first time I was experiencing it.

So when parents come to me, it’s again, one of the first times that they see their baby held by a stranger. I don’t want them to feel uneasy as I felt in that room 9 years ago. I want to handle their baby as I would handle my own. With care, attention, calm and prudence. I don’t want the session to feel rushed or the baby neglected. This one below is me, while I comfort a baby before taking photos.

London newborn photographer Valentina holding a baby during a session

Here a few measures I take for baby safety during newborn sessions.

Clean Space

Of course, this is the basics. Newborns are super fresh, not vaccinated yet and therefore more vulnerable to germs and viruses. Their immune system is building up slowly so a clean environment is paramount. Even before Covid, cleaning the space before and after a session, washing the fabrics and outfits used in the session, using hand sanitiser throughout the shoot, wearing clean clothes just for the session was the normality. I postponed sessions because I woke up with a simple cold or because my daughter was poorly and didn’t want to transmit any bugs. And again I worked with a face mask (pre-Covid time) when I had a bit of cold left if parents were okay with it. Baby safety is important from the very start.

Camera Strap On!

A lot of images are taken while I’m above the baby. So the baby is laying on the beanbag on his/her back and I’m directly on top of the baby with my camera. I always wear a camera strap when I take these photos. Not sure if you are aware but the camera with the lens is pretty heavy. Heavier than a baby. So it’s super important to have it secured around the neck to avoid any accidents. And sometimes photographers wear fancier straps, with patterned or floral materials, but I would be aware of the materials of those straps. I thought about buying them as well, as they look pretty, but most of them don’t have a rubber bag that grips on the neck or shoulder so they can be dangerous.

Baby Never Unattended

When I take photos I’m always near the baby. The beanbag is the main working area and where the baby lays during the newborn photoshoot. It’s a safe place. The baby is placed in the centre and physically cannot go anywhere. However, I’m always at an arm-length distance in case the baby will slightly move or has those normal startle reflex. Being close allows me to quickly place a hand on the baby and reassure him/her. As they don’t have much control of their arms and legs, it’s important they feel secure. And promptly have a hand on them will soothe them and they avoid to wake up. Normally, I have all I need around me. However, if I need to grab another blanket or something I forgot, I always ask parents to be close to the baby and keep an eye.

Baby safety. Black and white image of sleeping newborn on a beanbag with white blanket.

Never Force a Baby to Pose

My style is very simple. I like to keep it easy and authentic. And I’m baby-led. I don’t do poses that I believe are not natural for a baby and were “made” by photographers in their workflow to have more variety. Personally, I like a natural look. And capturing moments, emotions . . . Going back to poses, not every baby will go in every position. Some babies will be more “flexible” than others. Or simply more comfortable. While posing, babies normally will give some cues and if they pullback it means they are not comfortable. I usually give it another go, but if the baby looks unease I will move on. There is no need to upset a baby over a pose. Babies’ muscles and ligaments are not yet completely formed and it’s important not to put pressure or strain as this could cause injury.

Supporting Neck and Head

Again, as a mum, I was very careful to always support my daughter’s neck in the early months. And I had clients super worried about this too. I totally understand it. Babies don’t have control over their muscles in the neck. The head is also the heaviest part of their body and it’s wobbly. The little vertebras again are not fully formed yet and babies simply can’t support themselves. That’s why is super important they are supported all the times! I don’t use props and baby while laying on the beanbag is always supported. When I hold babies I make sure the head is secure and the same when parents are holding the baby.

Don’t use Props

My style is simple and I don’t use any props. I did in the past but it’s not me. When a baby is put inside a prop, the photographer needs to make sure it is safe. Definitely any breakable props like glass or porcelain vases should never be used. But also wooden or wired bowl should be checked for splinters or any pointed bits that could potentially injure a baby.

Never Put Baby at Risk

No image is worth the risk of a baby. I had parents asking for images that are not part of my work for a reason and I didn’t do them. Of course, I explained my motivations and they were okay, actually grateful I raised those concerns. Sophisticated poses or elaborated setups have always to consider the potential dangers involved. Like hanging babies in branches or on vintage props or just simply not supporting babies in poses that require composite work in photoshop.

By the way, I take this opportunity to point out that images like the one below are not done with baby up in the air. Baby is safely laying on the beanbag. I’m very surprised at the number of parents who think they have to hold the baby up high (and would be okay with it)! Are you curious to see how this is done? You can see a behind the scene image here.

Baby safety will always be the priority!

Baby in dad's hands. Black background

For more details about my session visit the website, there is lots of useful information.

Baby safety is always a big concern for every parent. Please consider everything when you are choosing a photographer. You can read more about general baby safety and the most common accidents affecting infants on the NHS website.

Any questions feel free to get in touch

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07577 978246 VALE@PHOTOGRAPHYBYVALENTINA.COM

LONDON NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHER