Safely Photographing Newborns and Dogs
I've received a couple of enquiries about one of my recent images, so thought it was about time to dust off the old brain cells and write a blog.
First things first. I am a portrait photographer. That is what I do - I photograph faces. This includes families, children, my specialist area of newborn babies....... and the furry faces of dogs.
I wanted to say this up front because I remember reading in another photographer's blog once that animals were never allowed in their studio for 'reasons of hygiene.'
As a keen supporter of baby safety, I do partly agree. However, I also understand that for millions of families in the UK, their pet dog is a very important member of the family. Having said that, dogs would not be allowed in my studio were it not for the fact that I have separate back drops that I use for dogs, separate props (not that I use many props with dogs!) and, after each and every pet session, my studio is thoroughly cleaned (I'm talking about the going to bed with backache because I've been on my knees scrubbing the floor with Dettox type of clean).
If a couple really want to include their much loved family pet in a photograph with their newborn, I will always try to accommodate. However, those who know me will understand that baby's safety is my number one priority. Fortunately, with the magic of digital photography, there are ways to safely accommodate such wishes.
First and foremost I need to know that the pet in question has a calm and friendly temperament. Even then, having literally grown up with dogs (my mum managed a branch of the Dog's Trust for many years) I am well aware that as animals, you can never rely 100% on any dog's good nature. For this reason, I will have a parent very close by and in total control of the dog at all times. After all, post processing isn't just for tired eyes and to soften blotchy newborn skin - its also pretty good at removing protective hands and dog leads!
If I am in any doubt at all about the safety of a set up, I will use composite imaging. For example, I will photograph baby posed in a prop, then take a separate photograph of dog sitting next to the same empty prop and merge the two together later. This is something I also do with a younger 'older' sibling who can't always be trusted not to suddenly make an excited grab at their new little brother or sister.
I also need to consider the dog's comfort. Newborn sessions take place in a very warm studio, which isn't ideal for most dogs who have no choice but to wear a fur coat! For the image below, the family's gorgeous Golden Retriever attended the couple's maternity session and was photographed in a nice comfortable temperature weeks before the couple's daughter was even born. The photographs needed to complete the final image were subsequently taken during the newborn session while the dog was back in the comfort of his own home.
I'm including the three separate photographs used below. You will see that baby was fully supported in daddy's well padded fireman's helmet (if baby had been too big for this I would have used another more appropriately sized container) and then all the images were put together in post process.
Dogs are such an important family member for so many people. We are a nation of animal lovers after all! I hope this little blog has given an insight into how I work with pets and newborns. Thanks for reading!
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