You have searched the internet for the best newborn photographer in your area, you have asked for recommendations on a local selling page. You looked at their page and selected who you would like to capture photos of your baby. Time of the session arrives, you turn up for a session but something does not feel right? I have listed three situations below that I would consider a red flag as a mum and as a newborn photographer with over 7 years of experience in the field.
The Photographer asks you to leave the room
I have heard about this practice many times now and the main 'reason' behind this request is that baby can smell mum and will therefore be more unsettled. Whilst this is true to some extent, there is absolutely no need for mum (and dad) to not be in the same room as their baby. It is in fact a safeguarding worry if any photographer requests this and this alone would be a reason to abandon a newborn session in my eyes.
I have been a newborn photographer for over 7 years now and I have never needed mum to leave the room. I do explain before the session that I will be handling baby most of the time, I will try to settle and soothe them before posing them and taking beautiful photos for you to treasure. I will try to limit handing baby back for the reason mentioned above. A baby can definitely smell and sense mummy and can become a bit unsettled if I pass them to mummy whilst they are sleeping, thinking it is food time :)
I would never let baby get too upset and if I feel that I can't settle your little one or they are showing signs they are hungry I will always pass them back to you for a snack and cuddle. I also ask that if mum or dad needs to use the toilet or step out to take a call or anything else that one parent always stays in the room with me and baby.
2. The photographer is handling your baby too roughly
There has been many posing videos I have watched recently where the photographer is using (in my opinion) unnecessary force and is just a bit too rough and impatient with an unsettled baby. I mean there is jiggling and there is shaking! Babies are little and fragile and just because someone calls themselves a newborn photographer does not always mean they have been trained in newborn posing and safety. I have attended plenty of training days, I have had one to one training and I have also received newborn posing safety training with my Guild of Photographers mentor and trainer. I will cuddle babies, swaddle them, shush them, pat their bottoms and do whatever I can to make them comfortable. I will not shake them, or pat them roughly and vigorously as there is absolutely no need for this. If at any point during your newborn session you feel like something doesn't quite feel right, speak up. Speak up, stop the session, walk out. This is your baby and their safety is paramount.
3. The photographer is not posing baby safely in props
A baby leaning their head on their hands inside a bucket is gorgeous, a baby in a froggy pose is so cute and a baby in a prop on top of another prop could look really dreamy.
IF this is done safely. A froggy pose is always a composite image where baby is never left to support their own weight on their hands/ wrists. Baby is always supported either by the head or the wrists and the final image is a combination of the two (sometimes more images). See photo below for an example of how a composite image looks when shot.
A baby posed in a bucket leaning on their hands is a bit safer but you still need someone very close to baby 'spotting them for you' as babies could move, startle, kick with their legs and potentially hurt themselves. I usually ask daddy to be my assistant and stay close to baby, keeping a hand on them unless I am shooting. I will ask them to briefly remove their hand so I can take the photo all the while they need to be watching baby ALL the time as I am a little bit further from baby to take the shot so can't reach out to steady baby if they did decide to move.
Unfortunately I have seen countless videos and reels of babies posted in props without a spotter in sight, I have seen images of babies posed in a prop on top of stacked crates that made me very concerned if the image WAS indeed a composite. I have seen videos of babies posed in a froggy pose (as demonstrated in the composite below) where baby was not supported and was left to balance the weight of their head on their little elbows. All of this is wrong and most definitely not safe. If you see this happening in your session, speak up. Question your photographer about this being safe and don't be afraid to say you don't feel this is right.
I guess what I am trying to say is, you are baby's mum and dad and you speak for them. If something does not feel right, question it. I would much rather parents ask me during the session if they are unsure about anything and I am very upfront and often explain what I am doing and why. I have learned to 'read' babies pretty well and can tell if they are bothered by wind, if they are feeling uncomfortable or if they are just doing a little grumble to tell me off for moving them and will settle back to sleep beautifully as soon as I am done fussing with them :)
As photography industry is not regulated I would always recommend asking to see your chosen photographer's credentials. The important questions to ask are: Do they have insurance (public liability and professional indemnity are the two you want them to have). Are they trained in newborn posing? (Do they have any proof of this?) Are they members of any professional bodies? (This one is optional but often being registered and/or qualified with a professional body means they would have had to show their insurance certificates to them and their work would have been evaluated).
It is also a good idea to have a good look at the photographer's portfolio. Do you love most of their work or is there just a couple of images that have caught your eye? If there is only a couple you like but you prefer a different style of photos it might be better to look for a photographer who creates work in the style you love. There is nothing more crushing to a photographer then when you come to them with Pinterest pictures or screenshots of someone else's work which is in a completely different style to theirs. Finding the perfect photographer for your baby's photos is important as you want to have a relaxing, enjoyable experience with gorgeous images you will love for years to come.
And most importantly, if you are uncomfortable or concerned during your newborn session, speak up. Or end the session. No photos in the world are worth your baby not being safe or not being handled with gentleness and care that they deserve.