23 ago Learning to photograph newborn: can it be with real newborns or should it always be with dolls?
Safety during a newborn photo shoot is not optional, it is obligatory. The newborn is a unique and irreplaceable being. It is extremely important that all newborn photographers study, after all, that little model in their hands is the most precious thing in that family life.
Newborn photographer needs to know all about the babies anatomy and physiology, to recognize and respect their limits, to understand their cries and reflexes, their needs, fragilities and, more important, their immaturity. Their defenses are still developing, as all systems of their body. The photographer must be prepared to deal with the newborn baby in the best way. Everything that happens to the baby / family in the photo shoot is photographer´s responsibility. We need to cherish their well-being throughout the photo shoot.
Ideally the photographer should learn from a person who has more experience, and who can show how to perform this photo shoot safely without putting the baby’s health at risk.
We are neonatal registered nurses since 2000 with over 8 years of experience working with sick and healthy newborns babies. We also have extensive experience in infection prevention and in dealing with emergency situations on daily basis. Healthcare providers trains with special dolls and basically human beings. During this training we are supervised by qualified professionals on their specific area.
When we started our career as newborn photographers, we became very concerned about the baby’s health, not only in Brazil, but also throughout the world. This is a market that is growing up and it is natural that many photographers want to start photographing babies that have just been born. As a result, we have developed our course, “How Newborn Works” on March 2015 and since then more than 300 photographers from Brazil and from other countries have been learning with us. The course is a `translation` of the knowledge that we acquired in the years acting as neonatal nurses, adapted by us for the newborn photo shoot world.
The campaign that came up about using dolls for newborn photo shoot training can be of great value when the professional is thinking about improving angles, light and compositions. Regarding safety, it is extremely important that the photographer has had contact with real babies, to understand that the baby is very different from a doll, after all he moves, has reflexes, limits and each one of them has specific characteristics. That is why to know how the babies work is essential.
In February 2017, together with a pair of photographers from Curitiba (Brazil), we launched a book, “Newborn Photography Manual: Care, Inspiration and Technique”. We are interested in translating this book into several languages, so that all this knowledge can be disseminated worldwide.
Here are some tips for those who are starting out in newborn photography and need to have a first contact with learning. These are some basic tips that are developed both in our face-to-face course as in our book.
Some items are essential when performing the photo shoot:
– Ideal temperature, around 80,6 to 82,4 degrees Fahrenheit: babies still don’t have perfect self control of their body temperature. So, if they stay in a cooler environment, their body’s tendency is to cool down and if the environment is too warm, their bodies also heat up. To have this control, the ideal is always have a thermometer with hygrometer next to you, which also shows the humidity of the air. Humidity must be controlled (the ideal is between 50 and 60%) because a very dry environment can lead to dehydration quicker if the baby does not have effective fluid replacement.
– Suitable location for the photo shoot: whether external, in the studio, or at the client’s home, the environment must be suitable to receive a newborn. The studio should be cleaned and disinfected periodically, as well as all materials and accessories used in the session (every single session). In the client’s home, the environment where the photo shoot will happen must also be clean and disinfected.
– To be safe in external photo shoots, the baby must be positioned in a closed environment with controlled temperature and humidity. In addition, the baby must always be dressed or covered with a cloth diaper even though the outside environment is hot and humid. When the baby is properly positioned and the outdoor environment is appropriate (free of insects, insecticides and / or pest control products, direct sunlight and wind), the baby should be photographed and within a few minutes he must return to the controlled environment.
– The photographer and assistant need to know the newborn baby deeply, study about it, deepen their knowledge about the stages of sleep, about breastfeeding, about their physiological needs to attend the baby in the safest way possible.
– Newborn baby´s skin is 40 to 60% thinner than an one of an older child. To touch / position a newborn baby, we should have short and sanded nails, unadorned hands to avoid skin injuries. The baby’s skin should never touch the prop, since its surfaces are usually rough and can scratch the baby’s skin witch can be a gateway to microorganisms and lead to a possible infection.
– Hand hygiene is the main measure for microorganisms transmission prevention. It should be performed with the right product (most often alcohol), in the right way and at the essential moments. The alcoholic product kills 99.9% of the microorganisms that are in our hands. If we touch contaminated surfaces such as: hair, floor, cell phone, camera, for example, we must sanitize our hands again before touching the newborn.
– The newborn head represents 1/3 of their body in both volume and weight. Their heads should be 100% of the time supported, the baby can not suffer sudden movements in order to preserve their bodies and avoid injury to the cervical spine, or trauma.
– Elaborate poses: always must be done with fusion of two images. As an example the pose of the “froggy pose”, in the first image the assistant gently supports the baby’s head and the photographer takes the picture. In the second image the baby’s arms are supported for the photo. Eventually, the newborn baby may stay balanced in that position for a few seconds, but their muscleskeletal structure is not mature enough to remain in that position without risk of injury and / or trauma. The baby’s cervical region is fragile and needs constant support to not suffer any injury. The joints and musculature are also fragile, as their bones. All manipulation should be gentle and respect the limits of the newborn baby. No position should be forced.
– Whenever the baby is positioned for the photo, an assistant should keep by his side because if he moves or presents a reflex, that person is ready to support him immediately. If the photographer does not work with an assistant, the professional must always ask someone to sit beside the child. This person should pay attention focused on the baby 100% of the time.
– When offering baby bottle to the newborn, raise head and shoulders to avoid the risk of bronco aspiration in case of regurgitation.
– Photographers: Choose your mentors well, as this will make all difference in your life and other people / families as well.
– Parents: Choose your photographer well. Your child is your most precious gift.
To conclude, we repeat and repeat always, the safety of the newborn baby is the most important in a newborn photo shoot. Newborn´s fragility must be respected because they are in a delicate phase, which requires a lot of affection, care, love and dedication. The family is also psychological fragile and sees in the photographer a source of reference for subjects that are new to them and often frightening. The photographer needs to be prepared in every way as well as providing security for the baby and to demonstrate to parents, through love and care, a solid knowledge base and committed to the little life he has in his hands.
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