Many parents don’t realize that anyone can call themselves a newborn photographer; but untrained photographers can make what should be a relaxing experience, incredibly stressful. It’s not just about the images, it’s about soothing babies and knowing their cues. It is a great job, but newborn photographers really should care enough to invest in training.
Becoming a photographer is a journey, and mine started in Norwich, Norfolk 7 years ago. From the start I knew I wanted to be a highly trained newborn photographer. Through my own pregnancies, I discovered newborn photography was one of my callings. I decided early on that I would invest money to ensure that not only did I become highly skilled in my field, but that I also became as safe as possible.
Newborn photography calls for new parents to put their trust in you, and many aren’t even aware that this field is sadly not regulated—meaning photographers are posing babies with little, or even no, training. I am proud to be a Pro Level Member of the British Association of Newborn and Baby Photographers.
I have invested £1,000s into my training, working with a mentor and ensuring I did hands-on training with skilled photographers. Not only to ensure that my posing was safe and gentle, but also to ensure I could soothe and settle a baby coming into a new environment. Whilst, of course, I had my own two babies at the start of my career, it was important I was able to have the skills to recognize the cues of an unsettled newborn from any family and not just my own.
Doesn’t it look easy!?
Newborns all curled up, fast asleep, relaxed and calm, it looks like it’s a doddle… but it’s not! The gentle moulding of a baby into a pose takes patience and care. This applies to even the most relaxed styles. There are lots of ‘standard’ poses and many are what the industry call ‘composites.’
I don’t offer the complex composites, that’s just not my style. My style is simple and relaxed, so everyone gets the most natural of shots. But if you do like the composite style then it’s incredibly important that you invest in proper training to ensure that you are providing the safest of shoots for your clients’ little one.
What is a composite pose?
A composite pose is one that requires a lot of maneuvering and more than one image merged together to create a single image. For example, the ‘froggy’ pose. Not only does it take an experienced photographer, this pose also involves the parents. The photographer will ask a parent to hold the baby’s head first, then the baby arms and afterwards, in post-processing, the photographer must merge two images together to create the final shot.
There is a fear from myself and many others that new photographers will attempt this pose without the necessary training. If you’re a parent, always ask the questions below when you are choosing a photographer. If you’re a photographer, don’t attempt complex poses without proper training first.
The Poses I Offer
Most of the poses I offer require training and hands-on experience, because the strength these little babies come out with is amazing. My main rule of thumb is that I never leave a baby unattended on the bean bag—they can push themselves forward, some almost roll. (See the examples below).
Head on hands
Most babies can gently go into this pose. With experience and being aware of their cues, its the photographer’s job to ensure they are happy and relaxed. If a baby has a good set of cheeks, they may need a parent’s finger lightly supporting their head (this then gets edited out). One-to-one training provided me with the necessary guidance on exactly how this is executed safely.
Tummy/bum up pose
Another pose that looks quite simple (and with gentle maneuvering, it is), if you go in with no training, you could easily lay baby on their arm and cause distress. This is the last thing any new parent needs when they are meant to be enjoying their time with you.
Who is policing newborn photography?
While not regulated, organizations like the Baby and Newborn Photography Association (BANPAS) are helping to spread the word to parents that they shouldn’t hire just any newborn photographer. For parents, I would always encourage you to do and ask the following. Photographers, consider these questions as well, and be ready to answer/address them:
- Research the photographer, would you be comfortable with your baby in their signature poses?
- Do you believe your baby would be comfy?
- Would you be happy to work with them?
- Have they any evidence of insurance and training?
- Can you see what their studio looks like?
- Get in touch and discuss any concerns
I am all for new people embarking on this as career. It’s an amazing and fulfilling job. However, the industry must be respected by newcomers, and it’s important for them to build up skills for posing babies and making parents aware of their training.
About the author: Jess Wilkins is a trained pregnancy, newborn and family photographer based out of Norwich, Norfolk. To learn more about her studio or see her work, visit her website or give her a follow on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. This article was also published here, and is being shared with permission.