11 top tips for newborn photography safety

The below guest-post was written by Elli Cassidy

The newborn posing scene has been massive in the US for a while now, and is finally catching on at speed here in the UK. I’ve been a newborn photographer for a few years, and whilst I welcome the increasing popularity in this genre, I’ve seen and heard of some really scary practices when posing fragile newborn babies. I absolutely love the thrill of taking the elusive shot, the perfect pose, the windy smile, though it’s really important to never compromise the safety of a baby.

With so much competition out there, I understand the desire to keep our methods secret, but newborn posing is one area in which I think we should all be more transparent and willing to share.   If just one baby becomes injured or dies due to dangerous posing, it would be devastating both to the family and also to the whole newborn photography profession.

Let’s face it, yes, you might be able to pose a baby so they can balance their own head in their hands for a few minutes, and you may be able to hang a baby in a sling from a tree, but my question is ‘why would you?’  All those set-ups can be achieved easily and safely with the use of composites and cloning (composites are multiple images merged together), so there is never a need to put a baby at risk.

To give you more of an insight, I want to share some of my own posing methods.  My number one tip is to use a spotter. I always have a parent right next to the baby, babies can be much stronger than they look and can push themselves forward with their back legs, or roll over off a beanbag.

When posing baby’s head on their arms, I keep their head supported by a finger or hand and then clone it out, and for head in hand shots, I use two images, one holding baby’s head and one holding baby’s arms, and merge them in Photoshop. Composites take no time at all when you get used to them, and I highly recommend using layer masks for this.

For sling shots, I have mum or dad hold the sling and raise it just a few inches over a beanbag, then merge it with a separate shot of the sling tied to a branch. (I also know photographers who do tie the sling to a bar or branch, but the parents are right there and the baby is again held directly over a beanbag.)  For the composite shot, weighing the sling down with a ball, some veg or even a drinks bottle can help the fabric to sit right.

Anytime baby is suspended I ensure they are directly over a beanbag or similar surface, and lifted by the smallest height necessary.

With props such as boxes, baskets and bowls, I put something heavy in the base to weigh it down if there’s a chance of it tipping, and I line any hard edges with soft padding such as a thick blanket or fur. Again, I always have a spotter next to baby, and support their head as needed.

To summarize, here are my 11 top tips for photographing newborns safely:

  1. Always have a spotter nearby
  2. Keep the room toasty warm for baby, whilst keeping any fan heaters at a safe distance
  3. Clean and sanitize your hands regularly
  4. Check limbs regularly to ensure a good flow of circulation
  5. Don’t try to force a pose; some babies just don’t like to bend
  6. Support baby’s head in upright poses
  7. Always keep baby low when hanging/holding and have a supportive beanbag underneath
  8. Take extra care when using any hard props or surfaces
  9. Avoid putting baby in any glass props
  10. Use composite images where necessary
  11. Remember to listen to their cues, whether it is comfort, feeds or even just cuddles that they need.

So have fun, get the shot, but get the shot safely!

Elli Cassidy
Elli is an award winning maternity and newborn photographer based in Lincolnshire, UK.  She offers one-to-one mentoring and is also part of the Memories Mentoring team delivering Newborn Workshops.

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  • Aidan

    Really interesting stuff Elli – thank you for sharing.

  • I’m so glad someone is sharing these safety tips!  I hardly ever shoot newborns but I’ve done the sling shot before with the baby actually hanging without much of a spotter.  It hadn’t occurred to me at the time that a composite shot could be done, making it much more safe.   I know that now, but it makes me feel so bad when I remember the times when I did it unsafely.

  • Tim

    Really Interesting and god common sense – Thanks for sharing

  • Guest

    Good read, thank you

  • Great information, Elli!  Thank you, Elizabeth, for the guest blog!

  • Great stuff! Thank you very much for sharing!

  • Good read.  I wish everyone knew that the fantastic shots you see out there are often composites so they wouldn’t try to do it themselves.

  • Jael caballero

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’m a newbie in photography and always wondered how those shots were done.

  • Excellent post!

  • Bharley123

    I’m not a photographer or a mother but I found this post super interesting and insightful. Really fascinating stuff!

  • shannon

    thank you for this insight. I am one of the newbies everyone complains about, but I have spent 5-6 hours a day just reading and trying to gain information before I try anything other than the “traditional” poses. It is very hard to find tips because everyone is so gaurded with their trade secrets. I understand this, but I just want to make sure that everyone I come in contact with never has to worry about the safety of their children. Thank you again for your candor.

  • Lisa

    Really great advice as im a mum who has been having shots done of my little a little worried tho at how close they get with the flash, what’s your opinion?

  • Dee

    This is great information- I had no idea- thank you!! From NB, Canada, >dee

  • Rosiane

    Thanks a lot for the tips!

  • great tutorial, my only question, is do you photoshop the moms hands out ? The one with mom holding wrists, if anyone can offer help, would be great, (

  • Guest

    Thanks for sharing your tips. Like you, I’m definitely in favor of letting baby dictate the flow of the session. Love the blanket pose shot!

  • Amanda

    Great article!!!! Really well done.