I saw a disturbing thread on social media recently, where a video showing a newborn being posed in the popular 'head supported on hands' pose was shared. Although the final photograph was undoubtedly cute, the poor baby was pushed and pulled about during posing and to my horror, was left completely unsupported while the photograph was taken.
Newborn babies carry most of their weight in their heads, and they are not able to support this weight until around 6 months of age. If that baby had moved suddenly and the balance been thrown off - well, I shudder to think what damage could have been done to the baby's little neck and head.
Those of you who follow my page will know I frequently talk about newborn safety and how I'm a keen supporter of BANPAS (the Baby and Newborn Photography Association) which promotes safety, standards and development for newborn photographers.
One great thing BANPAS also does is try and educate parents looking for a newborn photographer in order that they can make a well informed choice when booking a photographer to work with their precious baby.
This is hugely important as, aside from the actual video, what concerned me were the amount of comments from people saying things like 'oh how cute!'. In other words, these people believed that what they were witnessing was standard practice. On the flip side of that you had comments from people rightly condemning the method of posing, but assuming that all newborn photographers using this pose must work that way.
Several newborn photographers had commented about the unsafe methods used however, these comments were then denigrated as being interfering and over the top.
In my opinion, you can never be 'over the top' when talking about the safety of a newborn baby!
Ok - I'm dusting off my health and safety cap here. Every workplace is required by law to control risk. To do this, we need to think about things that might cause harm to people and decide whether we are taking reasonable steps to prevent such harm. It is obvious to me that by placing a newborn baby into these complicated poses we are exposing them to a risk of injury should baby's head become unbalanced and suddenly fall - it doesn't matter if the risk is a small one, a risk is a risk!
What steps do I take to alleviate these risks? If a parent requests this pose I will explain that not all babies will comfortably achieve it and I won't force it should that be the case with their little one. My clients have all been great, even if I've had to disappoint them by not giving them the particular image they like, because at the end of the day, they don't want their baby made uncomfortable for the sake of a cute photo. Secondly, if baby does comfortably achieve the pose, I will ensure that he or she is supported by a parent or assistant whilst I take the photos required to produce a composite image (separate images put together in post process).
This is a popular pose which is widely used and safe when carried out by a good newborn photographer. It just makes absolute sense to me that any potential risk, no matter how slight, should be addressed.
Here is an example of a composite image. I would urge all parents and photographers interested in newborn photography to have a look at the BANPAS website for further information.
Thanks for reading!