Newborn Safety & Composites

Hi all! So, I have been asked about a couple of images in my portfolio and wanted to make a quick post about them. Many shots that you see on my page are done very safely with parents nearby. I don’t balance babies precariously on guitars (actually, I think Baby would just slide off!) or balance them on a stack of records. Baby safety is paramount – especially with so many newborn photographers around. I would hate for someone to copy my photo and not realize that no, baby is not balancing on their hands for that shot – and that basket is not going to tip over with them dangling on the edge since there are weights in the bottom and parents right there. I have parents help with the more intricate shots to make sure the baby is safe.

This is something every parent needs to think of when they have newborn photos done. If anything makes your heart race or you worry about your baby’s safety, do not let your photographer do it. I have seen images that make me want to scream – a baby in a knit cocoon hanging from a tree crying and in distress… a pair of twin newborns in a suitcase on railroad tracks – with the next image being a train rushing by while the family stands 5 feet away with their babies and other small children.  A baby in a glass jar surrounded by gumballs – every breath that baby takes those gumballs will compress on her chest making it harder and harder to get a breath in and let her chest expand- not to mention that glass can break! I have no idea what either photographer or parent is thinking in times like these. I often think parents have an unspoken trust with their photographers because they assume that the photographer knows what they’re doing. They don’t always know what they’re doing. Just know that as a parent and never let anyone do anything you are uncomfortable with with your baby or children.

Photographers need to think long and hard about what situations they are putting their clients and their babies and children into and be willing to say no, that’s not safe too!  I tell my clients right off the bat “Your baby startles easily, we will not be able to do X, Y and Z” or – your baby does not like to be (insert whatever here) therefore this shot is not going to happen. It is a safety concern and to me, although they may be a bit sad they are not getting that photo they wanted in the end I genuinely believe they are happy I put their baby’s safety first rather than a picture.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and act like a saint. Until I delved into newborn photography, I honestly had no idea these images were done with Photoshop. I wondered how those babies were hanging in branches, and I was curious about some poses. Some images can be done without it being a composite – the “head in hands” pose for instance but safety-wise – it’s better to do it the way shown below. It’s all about learning and knowing. I hope this post will help other photographers in their journey (and parents too!) and make them think about photos they see around the internet and look at the image and think to themselves, “Hmmm…. is this a composite?” because more likely than not – it is and for your and your client’s safety anything you deem unsafe please – take precautions to make it safe or just don’t do it. No photo is worth a baby’s life.

Back to the photos and a little about them. Many parents and new photographers do not realize these images are called composites. They are 2 (sometimes 3+) images taken and merged in Photoshop. Many times, a bit of cloning is required to get the image to its final state. Below you will see examples of the images sooc (straight out of camera i.e. unedited) that were merged, and the final image after merging, cloning and editing is done.

The record shot. First, I take a photo of the prop alone – so I have the background to use during the merge.

The following image is the baby’s father holding the baby’s bottom and keeping him in position. His other hand is free to grab the baby should he wake or startle.

Here are the two images on top of one another to see how they look. I then used masks to add and remove what was needed and, finally some cloning.

The final image

This is the same as the above image. First, I take a photo of the prop and backdrop.

This is not the image I used for the composite but you can see baby’s back leg and arm are being held by dad. Mom is right there if needed.

Here is the image I used along with the first image of the prop and backdrop on top of each other. Again, I had some layering and cloning to do.

And the final image

 In this image, the head-on-hands pose or, as we photographers call it, “The Pose”. Babies must be very sleepy for this, and generally, mom or dad assists with holding the baby. Not all babies like this pose, so photographers need to be cautious of this! First, the baby’s arms are held together. The top part of this image is used in the photo. Then, she holds the baby’s head for the bottom part of the image. With a bit of Photoshop magic, we have the final image.