Updated: Feb 18, 2020
Posed or traditional newborn photographs are usually taken when a baby is asleep as this allows the photographer to be able to manipulate the newborn's position or hold them in certain poses. Typically backdrops, props and costumes are used during the session along with studio lighting. And to ensure that babies appear flawless, editing techniques are used to smooth the skin, remove the imperfections and occasionally photoshop away hands used to hold the baby in position. Before I began my natural lifestyle approach to photographing newborns and their families I tried to do it the traditional way. I invested time and money in to a style that frankly just wasn’t me. Here are the reasons why I no longer like doing traditional newborn photography.
I don’t think babies should be posed. There are lots of articles out there aimed at reassuring parents that newborn posing can be done safely however currently there are no safety regulations in place for the Newborn Photography industry. Anyone who owns a camera can begin photographing newborns with no training and no knowledge of the unique needs of infants. Some photographers will tell you that there is a safe window (normally up to 14 days old) in which a baby’s joints are at their most flexible and so are able to be safely placed into poses such as the ‘froggy’ position. The thing that bothers me about this is that it seems to vary from one photographer to another with no definitive answer. So for me it's not worth the risk.
I don’t like removing so-called imperfections. Compare an edited picture of a baby in the tradition newborn style to one in real life and you will immediately see that they look nothing alike. In real life, newborns don’t resemble the smooth-skinned, pink, babies curled up asleep that you find in a traditional newborn photographers portfolio. In real life, they are red and a little mottled. They often look a little bit cross-eyed. They have dry skin on their wrists and feet. And usually, they have little red marks on them leftover from when they were delivered. These adorable little imperfections are part of the package and they don’t last forever which is why instead of hiding these flaws I like documenting them! I don’t like working in a studio. To me, a studio is not a baby-friendly environment. Firstly consider the potential health and safety hazards. Heaters, lights, backdrop stands and clutter. I felt nervous every time I had to move the baby from one place to another and navigate my way around various trip hazards. When I’m taking photos with a family in their home they are normally of the couple holding their baby or occasionally of the baby lying on a bed but in any case, I almost never have to handle the baby myself. This is left up to the parents who are the safest pair of hands that a child can be in. Secondly, I believe that everyone in that family benefits from being in a familiar environment. If mums are breastfeeding they can do so comfortably and if toddlers get bored they can go off and play with their toys. Lifestyle photography in the home allows you to document that special time in a family's life while not disrupting them too much. I don’t like my sessions to feel stressed. Finally and perhaps most importantly – I never enjoyed doing it. The whole process from start to finish was stressful. The room was too hot, the lights were too bright and everything in the background had to be smooth and perfect. I would spend the majority of the session praying that we would actually get the baby to sleep and then ever so carefully repositioning them so they would stay asleep without messing up the blankets. After that I would spend hours editing out all the baby’s natural imperfections. Reducing the redness in their skin tone, painstakingly removing dry skin from around their hands and trying to reduce the appearance of the fine downy hair they are normally born with. Newborn Lifestyle photography is simpler, safer and allows me to concentrate on getting to know the family and doing what I do best – taking natural, relaxed, beautiful photos.