A newborn baby wearing headphones sleeps peacefully atop a stack of vinyl records, with an adult seen partially sitting beside, in a studio setup designed for newborn photography with a gray background.

Newborn Photography 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 you see on my page are done safely with parents nearby. I don’t balance babies precariously on guitars (I think Baby would slide off!) or balance them on a stack of records.

Newborn Baby Photography Safety

Baby safety is paramount – especially with so many newborn photographers around. I would hate for someone to copy my photo and not realize that baby is not balancing on their hands for that shot – and that basket will not 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.

What Not To Do

Every parent needs to think of this 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 following 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, never let anyone do anything you are uncomfortable with with your baby or children.

Safety First For Newborn Photography

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 will not 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.

Newborn Photography Techniques

Now, I won’t sit here and act like a saint. Until I delved into newborn photography, I had no idea these images were done with Photoshop. I wondered how those babies were hanging in branches and was curious about some poses. Some photos 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 don’t do it. No photo is worth a baby’s life.

Composite Photography

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. Some cloning is often required to get the image to its final state. Below, you will see examples of the images that were merged soon (straight out of the camera, i.e. unedited) and the final image after merging, cloning, and editing.

Case Study: The Record Shot

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 can 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 the 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 must be cautious! 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.


Any questions?

If you have any questions about this blog post or general newborn photography, please contact me!


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