Ten Newborn Photographers Safety Tips
We take the safety of our babies and clients as the highest priority in the studio, even above capturing requested and amazing portraits...babies must be safe, period. Here are ten safety tips we have picked up from our experience working primarily with newborns.
1. Keep it clean. Wash your hands thoroughly as soon as you get into the studio or to the client's home to avoid bringing in any germies from your children or the outside world. Often times this is baby's first trip away from home and they shouldn't be getting sick on your watch. Also be sure to keep all materials clean and sanitized as well as sanitizing your own hands between cleaning up the hineys to rubbing that sweet head to put them to sleep.
2. Always spot in props. Newborns can push themselves off a prop faster than you can imagine, an accident has never happened to us but there have been many times where if it wasn't for our spotters hands it certainly would have. We aren't being dramatic here and this job may sound easy, "ok I can hold my hands out to catch baby" but it actually entails not taking your eyes off that baby at all while on a prop....not even a second. You may be chatting with the Mom as she exclaims how mightily adorable that image is going to be but while smiling and responding to her you must have all concentration focused on spotting that baby, hands ready to catch him if he froggies up or log rolls out to rescue them to safety. They may be in a deep slumber even but as quickly as you look the other direction to grab the beanie hat they can startle and move. We recommend if you need to look away, even for a second and you do not have an assistant or parent close to help, put your hand on the baby so you can watch him with your hands.
3. Belly button smelly button. Come on if you shoot newborns you likely have smelled a belly button before right haha. Ok so I'm not a comedian but I lol'd at that one. So there is a popular type of newborn wrap used recently and it is very stretchy with tiny holes in it. When you are wrapping a baby up make note of the belly button and remember to go slow when unwrapping that last layer to be certain it isn't stuck on their button. If the corners of the belly button are sharp or pointy then put a small cloth between the wrap so it doesn't get hung up. For some babies that have larger belly buttons still we may even go for minimal tummy poses to eliminate a lot of pressure being put on it. There have been times babies have lost their buttons in the studio, it was already loose and literally that milestone came while having their portraits done, score right. Wait, don't toss it out just yet, inform the parents immediately if this happens, they are usually excited and some even want to keep it.
4. Heating it up. Most electric heaters have warning signs not to use an extension cord because this can cause the plug to overheat. If you do need to use an extension cord keep the actual plug part where it attaches to the extension cord somewhere where it will not overheat and off carpet. We keep ours underneath the small stool the heater rests on top of on hardwood floor. We can see it, nobody will step on it and burn themselves, and it stays in open air to avoid it overheating. We do a check of it a couple times in the session too just to confirm it isn't melting if it's a longer session than typical. Then also use a heater that has a fan to blow the warm air out. One rule with your heater should be if it were to tip over and fall will it hit the baby? If the answer is yes then it's too close to the baby. We also suggest using a heater that displays the temperature on it, we usually keep it between 80-85 degrees. For a bare newborn unable to regulate their body temperature they need this atmosphere to stay comfortable, however, you must also watch them closely to be sure they are not overheating. Signs of overheating are extreme red skin, difficulty breathing and sweating. If it is humid baby's skin will become moist but they should never be profusely sweating. Then during the summer months you can click off the heater when baby is wrapped or swaddled to avoid overheating the baby. Overheating babies can be a cause for SIDS so it's very important to also inform parents that it's not necessary to warm their nursery to 80 degrees when baby is clothed and likely swaddled. We have had parents joke with us about this so we always stay on the safe side and mention this in every session.
5. Make some space. Always keep the areas where you and your clients need to walk open and available to avoid trips and falls. Especially in a client's home where you aren't familiar with the areas, take a look ahead if you need to carry the baby at any point and do a floor check ensuring nothing is going to be in your way. Move anything that needs moving and make extra space before you pick up the baby.
6. You know what you know. Do not feel pressured into doing a pose or photography style you aren't prepared to do when clients make requests. We have had clients bring in examples of other photographer's work asking us to do a specific pose. If it isn't something we already have in our portfolio and have experience doing we will not do it, especially if it's an unsafe pose or position for baby to be in. Politely let the client know why you can not oblige and give them an alternate option. They trust your professionalism and skill or they wouldn't be there with you so stay in control of your work. The most popular poses in our studio are the simple timeless ones.
7. Count the toes! We count the toes and fingers after each session as a way to check closely for knits or threading that may have become wrapped around them. This stuff can be tiny and almost invisible to the eye but you want to be sure there is nothing wrapped around any of their digits at any time. Do a check after your session is complete again, we also mention to the parents as we are handing their baby back to them to check their fingers and toes again to ensure we didn't miss any threads on a tiny toe or finger. If something like this remains wrapped around a digit long enough it can cause great damage.
8. Is he circumcised? Whaaaaa you may say, where'd that come from?! Yes this may sound personal but we want to know how long it's been if baby boy has been circumcised. This should be healed well prior to the session to avoid infection and discomfort of baby during posing and working with him. We usually shoot for 5 days post procedure at the earliest to schedule their session. If they come in and they still have jellied gauze applied we ask if they prefer us to leave it on or if it is ok to take it off. We never touch the circumcision with our hands, if little Mr needs a new application of vaseline we use a qtip provided by the parents or have the parent do this. It helps to avoid any chance that you will cause it to become infected. The health of all parts of the babies is of the utmost importance in the studio. There have been times where parents schedule the circumcision at a later date, when this is the case they can typically bring baby in prior to this event so there are no worries at the session and baby is still in the newborn stage. If you don't ask at booking they likely wouldn't bring this piece of information up, so go ahead and ask but let them know why.
9. Hire an assistant. This steps up your business a notch above those that do not have one, giving you an extra set of eyes and extra pair of hands to assure baby is safe and kept comfortable every moment and never unattended. We always have another's eyes on newborns so that no-one is ever alone with the baby, baby is breathing well, not spitting up, and even be sure they do not flail and scratch their face between shots--ouch. Then there are times when you need to work on the technicals of the camera, prepare a new setup, change out a soiled blanket, or grab a paci and having someone there to help with these tasks can be monumental. When we hired an assistant full time our session time improved from about 4 hours to less than 2 so that's an added bonus. You can always trade assisting with another photographer you may know closely or have a patient friend help you out. Yes I know the parents are there and are often eager to help but sometimes they can be a distraction or arousal for the baby when too close. Honestly you don't want your clients to have to do any of the work for their portraits which they are paying you to create. You want them to sit back, relax, and watch you take care of things safely!
10. Be insured and incorporated! If all else fails you need the assurance any business related accident wouldn't crush your personal life too. Actually, you don't have to fully Incorporate, obtaining an LLC separates your personal assets from your business. In the event of an accident, yes your business may be done, but you will still have your home. All professional photographers should also carry liability insurance to cover any clients claims as well as equipment coverage for theft and damage. Yes these are big "what if's"...... but what if!?
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About the Artist:
Bitsy Baby Photography, LLC offers professional baby photography, infant portraits, baby's first year packages, maternity photography, maternity and baby photography packages. Founder Rita Lawrence has grown her business from a one-man-show to now having the help of several professionals trained and running the business smoothly. Our newborn photographer Shannon photographs at the studio serving Annapolis MD, Baltimore MD, Edgewater MD, Washington DC. Rita is now taking limited newborn photography clients in Northern Virginia, Virginia Beach VA, Suffolk Virginia, Portsmouth, Norfolk VA, Newport News Virginia, and near areas. Photography mentoring and a variety of teaching tools are available to photographers. Group parent's photography workshops are also offered for the amateur photo enthusiast wishing to improve their day to day portraits at home. Inquire if you are interested in hosting a group workshop for your friends to meet and learn together with Rita.