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What Not to Do with a Newborn

Lesson 10 from: Baby Safety and Posing for Newborn Photographers

Kelly Brown

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Lesson Info

10. What Not to Do with a Newborn

Lesson Info

What Not to Do with a Newborn

We just spent an incredible segment, working with some little people who have their own agendas. And are busy. And it's tough when you're a photographer, and you've got clients coming in, and they want that shot. And you've gotta know how to do it safely. And so, working with each individual child, and what they're capable of, and, in an environment like this where we're educating, and we're not 100% focused on that communication between the children and the parents, and all of that, we're focused on the teaching aspect of things, it can get a little busy, going on in here. There's a lot of distractions. But, I just want you to know that in a real studio environment, that happens. We have kids that are come in, we have some that are high energy, we have some that are a little bit more quiet and shy, and you've gotta know how to adapt to each situation, and take all those safety precautions. Obviously when I found out that we had a couple of older kids coming in, I thought, five and fou...

r, perfect. They're gonna fit on my posing bag. It would have been great if I had a larger area on the space to pose them on, so they felt a little bit more comfortable, but you know, that happens. And we got a shot. The parents love it. And I'm happy with it. And it was kind of fun in the process. When that little guy said to me, "This is the best day ever." I was like, oh my God. Imagine what he's gonna say when he goes to Disneyland. So ... But it is always fun. And you have to remember to have patience. You gotta remember to work with every single baby individually, and every child individually, and make sure that you can communicate to them. You do have to have control of that situation. Not because it's your studio and all of that. You have to have control, because when they're holding a baby, they're so unpredictable, they can get up at any point and move. And like I said, they can push them away, they can do all those things. Tomorrow, well later on in the class, we're gonna be doing a lot more posing, in terms of more advanced things like that, and it's hard to show with a real baby what not to do. So, this segment we're gonna focus on a little bit of the don'ts, and a lot of don'ts, actually, and what not to do with a baby, and talk about some of the poses that are out there, some of the setups and styles of photography that are potentially dangerous, in terms of how we position babies. So, I work with my fake baby. This one doesn't have a name. I did used to come with Crystal, and she had a wonderful set of hair. But this one is, it's a great doll. It's lifelike in size. It doesn't move like a newborn baby, but that's not what I use it for. I use it to show what not to do. She is very pliable. But you can find dolls everywhere to work with. And it's really important that when you're starting out in newborn photography, that you have a tool and an aide that you can work with. Something you can practice on. Something you can practice all of your wrapping techniques. Something you can practice your camera angles, your exposures, your lighting. All of those things, because, when you go into a studio with a newborn baby, they should come naturally. You shouldn't be fumbling with your camera settings, when you've got a baby that's moving. Because the different aspects that you have to be aware of in a newborn session, obviously number one, the safety of the baby. Then, reading the baby and its movements, its behavior, understanding what it needs. Creating the right environment for the family and the newborn. And then the posing side of things. Getting them perfect. We have to be aware of so many things, that when you go into a shoot, the camera side of things should come naturally. You should be able to pick it up, walk into a room, and go, my ISO probably should be around 400, 600 in here. I'm gonna shoot at 2.8. I'm shooting on a light background. I'm gonna shoot with my exposure slightly overexposed. All of that should just be there. So when we're working with these people, tiny little precious people, our 100% undivided attention is focused on their needs and the safety of them throughout the session. That's why all studios should have, or all photographers who are starting out in newborn photography, should have a doll. I'm not gonna tell you what type of doll to buy, but there are lots out there. There's a new doll that's on the market. It moves really well. It's great for posing. It's great for learning how to place your hands and things like that. It's gonna be available later on in the year. It's called Stand-in Baby. There's other babies. There's this one. She's 100% vinyl doll, that moves, that bends, and I can position her how I need, in terms of an educational tool for what not to do. So, when I am working in my studio with my clients, if there's a setup that they come in, and they're, we all get the clients that come in with their iPhone, and the screen captures of all the shots that they'd like to get. And sometimes they're not your work. And they might be something that you've never done before. If you don't feel comfortable doing it, don't do it. But if it's something that you are comfortable with, if you are experienced, perhaps showing the parents how the baby would be positioned in their arms with a fake doll, before actually doing it, so that way if you're doing a shot with a mum holding a baby like this, she knows where her hands are going to be. Because it's not natural to hold a baby like that. They've seen the photo. It's beautiful. But they don't know how it's created. So showing them first what to do, making them comfortable if this is something that they want. So, when I am teaching with an aide like this, it's about what not to do. There's poses out there. There's a lot of hanging shots, where babies are suspended in fabric from different branches, and it's a little scary. And then it's doing that in a way that shows people how wrong it is to place fabric and certain things on parts of the baby, especially when the weight of the baby is on that fabric. Like if you've got a baby hanging on a piece of fabric, and the fabric's coming underneath the jawline here, or under the fingers, and the weight of the head is on the hand, you're going to do some damage. You're going to cut circulation off. You're going to affect their breathing. All of those things. So knowing how to position all of that, with practicing on a doll, is really, really important. My rules in the studio are fairly straightforward. You never leave a baby unattended ever. Not even on the posing bag. Because if you turn your back for a moment, they could roll, and they could go face down, then their breathing is compromised. It's the same in home. When you take your baby home from the hospital, you are told to make sure that that baby is sleeping on a mattress, and in a cot, or in a bassinet that's been approved by certain safety standards, to prevent things like SIDS. We have to be really mindful of that in the studio as well. And if we leave a baby unattended, walk away to grab something, and come back, even if it is asleep on the posing bag, you don't want your parents to kind of think, huh, is it alright up there? It's not gonna go anywhere? Their angle of view is very different to our angle of view. Even though we might think that that baby's safe, always have someone, because it's that reassurance that's really important. I say to the dads, I always have a stool next to my bag. I always say, "Can I get you to just come and sit over here while I grab something?" And then the important thing of not overheating your baby. We talked about this in our previous segment, when it comes to the temperature of the studio. When we're using fan heaters, if you have a heater that's too close to a baby, it's like holding a hairdryer on your head in the one spot. It's eventually gonna get hotter and hotter and hotter and burn. A heater's gonna do the same thing. If a heater is blowing too much hot air in one direction and hitting the baby in a certain spot, it's going to burn the baby. Bring the heat back. Heat the whole room. One fan heater is not going to do the job. You're probably gonna, if you're in a fairly open space, you'd be better off having a couple, further away from the bag, to create that beautiful, warm environment in that space. And as I've mentioned before, not overheating the baby, because it's gonna make them uncomfortable, and it could really, really upset them and make them feel very unwell. You're gonna have an unsettled baby very quickly, but it can also make them quite docile too. And lethargic. And we don't want that. In terms of the baby being cold, they're gonna let you know if they're cold. They're gonna squirm. They're gonna cry. They're gonna show you signs that they're not comfortable, and they're not gonna go into that beautiful deep sleep. And do not stand on anything above a baby. This is my number one, number one pet hate. The amount of time that it takes you to stand up on top of a step ladder, or a box, get your balance, I could have fixed that photo in Photoshop. Or in Lightroom, with lens correction. I shoot with a 24 to 70 lens for a reason. It's my big question. A lot of people email me with what sort of lens do you use? 24 to 70, because it's the most versatile lens that I own. It means that I can get through an entire shoot, and not have to take any lens on and off, put any lens on and off my camera. And it means that if I'm shooting from above, and I wanna get the whole setup, but I can't because I've got a prime lens on my camera, I'm gonna have to go and change my lens, baby would have moved, baby would have woken up. My goal with every session, is to keep the baby comfortable, obviously, and safe, but get my clients in and out of the shoot as quickly as possible. They don't want to sit in a hot room for four hours. Or five, or six, from some people that I've heard. They want to have their baby photographed, be comfortable, enjoy it, and leave. If they're there for too long, they're like, it's hot in here. A woman's body after she's given birth is going through so many changes, are hormonal, and they feel the heat. Especially when they're breastfeeding, and they have the heat of the baby on them as well. You don't want them sitting there for long periods of time. So, when I'm shooting with my 24 to 70 zoom lens, I'm gonna zoom into 70 mill for the majority of the time, because I want that longer focal length, because I want that beautiful soft sort of depth of field in the background, and I wanna be able to zoom out when I need to. So, when I'm shooting props, I can get directly above, leaning over, and I can shoot at about a 35 mill, quite comfortably. If the baby's in the center of the frame, I'm gonna have little distortion on the baby. It's the edges of the image that's gonna have the distortion. And it is quite easy to fix in Photoshop, or in Lightroom, when you know how. And there's some great tutorials on that in other classes. Because I'm not gonna teach that right now. And obviously, never force a baby into any pose. To me that's kind of like a no brainer. If you're trying to push a baby, it's not comfortable. If you're trying to get that bum up pose, and that baby's got a rounded back, it's not gonna lift its bum up in the air. That's not how it naturally lies. It's like all of us. Some of us are a little more flexible than others, some of us prefer to sleep on our tummys. Some of us prefer to sleep on our side or our back. We're all different. In that thought, every baby is different, and we should be treating them that way. Reading their cues. When their photos, when we create the photos, and we want the baby to look comfortable in it, it should be because that baby is comfortable. So when a baby's continually moving, and squirming, and not wanting to go into a pose, read their cues, move onto the next pose, because that baby's only gonna eventually become agitated, wake up, and you're gonna waste more time trying to settle it and get it back to sleep. Do we have any questions about any of those before we ... Can you just please remind us again, we had questions come in about the doll. Yeah. In terms of what to look for when you're looking for a doll? Yeah. And then also, what the temperature is. I know we talked about that earlier, but when we're talking about now, not overheating. Yeah. So, I've found that the most comfortable temperature for parents in my studio, is 28 degrees Celsius, which is about 82 degrees Fahrenheit. And it's actually, I'm glad you brought this up Kenna, because I forgot to mention that when my clients come into my studio, they've already been given a what to expect guide. In terms of clothing, they're told, wear something cool and comfortable, because it's nice and warm in the studio. They're also told, in my pricing and information, that it's, the photos that are created in a warm studio environment. When they arrive for their shoot, I open the door and I say, "Come on in, it's nice and warm in here." So I'm continually preparing them mentally to walk into a hot room. They're not just gonna walk in and go, oh my God, it's hot in here. I want them to be prepared mentally, but I also have the temperature in the studio set at a lower degree when I'm starting out. It's usually at about 25, 26 degrees Celsius, which I think is about 72 to 75 in conversion. Don't quote me, but you can do the conversion online. The temperature at that point is comfortable. When they walk in, it is a little warm, but it's not overbearing. And it means that when my clients come in, it's going to be comfortable. They're gonna come, sit down, relax. If I start the session with the baby wrapped, with the sibling and the toddler, and it's at 28, I'm gonna have to cool it down so I don't have to overheat the baby. So having at that cooler temperature means that if they come in, there's no sibling, I can just gradually increase that temperature to a comfortable 28 degrees. It's never blowing on my parents. I have them positioned in my studio, so that the heat is not actually directly on them, so it's a little cooler. And I always say to them, "If you get too warm, please feel free to step out into the hallway, or you can watch from outside if you wanna go for a walk," or something like that. Most people in Queensland don't go outside though, because it's too hot. So I usually have to cool my studio down, especially in summer, so when I'm setting my studio to 28 degrees Celsius, my aircon's actually blowing cool air in there to cool it down. Not onto the baby, but off to one of the side walls, so it disperses evenly. And I say to my parents, "Go and stand in front of the aircon, it's actually blowing cool air." And it's comfortable for them then. But you can even setup a fan off to the side of the room, that can blow towards the clients and give them some more comfort, especially if they are affected by warmer temperatures a lot easier. The overheating of a baby though, it's really important. When we talk about temperature, and I think I have mentioned it in a previous class, when babies are born, the first thing they do is bring them out, put them under hot lights. And they wrap them to keep them warm. So, when we're working in a studio, we want that consistent temperature for them to be comfortable. When we provide all their needs, they're gonna relax. They're gonna go into that deep slumber. It's gonna promote sleep, along with a few other things. So, I always say to my clients, if they are a little uncomfortable in the temperature. If they say, "Aw, it's a little hot in here, does it have to be this hot?" And earlier on in my career, I would have that hesitation from clients, because I obviously wasn't as confident back then in the way that I communicated with my clients. I wasn't always sure of what to say. And now I say, "I know it gets a little warm in here, but it's for the baby's comfort. It's to keep them nice and sleepy throughout the session." And I say, it's what they're used to. It's really warm inside the mother's tummy. I tell them that inside, when they're inside the uterus, they are at the mother's core body temperature. So it can be quite hot in there. It can be a lot hotter than 28 degrees. And, when you bring it back to the baby, and make it all about the baby, and focus on them and making them comfortable, the parents are like, it's fine. It's fine. But, having a calm, comfortable baby, also means having calm, comfortable parents. And it's creating that nice environment for them. And what was the other question? It was about how to find the baby. Oh yes, the baby. That's right. So, this, I just, Googling, online. There's lots of babies out there. Obviously I needed one fairly quickly, because I do a lot of teaching, and I do a lot of traveling. So in terms of having to wait for a new product to come out, it was pretty important that I got hold of one quite quickly. But what I looked for, in terms of searching, was a lifelike, or a life size newborn doll. And I would type in vinyl, because the arms and legs are made out of vinyl. It even has a vinyl chest plate that's over fabric. And the arms move. And it actually said in the description that it was posable. I can't quite remember the name of the brand. I'm sorry, but, you can just Google those things and lots of different brands come up. There's quite a few out there. But yeah, what I'm looking for is a baby that does look realistic. That weighs a similar amount to a baby. That is a similar average size. So if I'm working with props and things like that, if I get a new prop in, or I'm making a prop, I've got something that I can use to make sure that it is the correct size, that it's, in terms of weight, if it is upright, I know, how much do I need to sort of counteract that weight at the bottom of that prop. Things like that, in terms of safety. And also, for wrapping techniques and things like that. I've seen some, we do all see some photos on the internet that aren't great, where babies have been put into dangerous positions. They've been put into dangerous props. And it's not on. That's why having a tool that you can use, to practice on, is so important. Because if something happened in a session, there's no turning back from there. I will also emphasize the importance of making sure that it is a tool, and it's not, you can't learn how to pose a baby, if it's not real, because they don't have muscles, they don't have ligaments, they don't have reflexes. So, you can learn wrapping techniques. You can learn camera angles. You can learn positioning. You can look at the shape of props and use it for all of those things, but in terms of actual posing, you can put this baby into a perfect position any time of the day, when you get a real baby, and you're not gonna be able to do that. So, I would recommend, when you do have a baby, let me sit down so I don't have to bend all the way over, that when I do my flow posing, for example, you're using it to remember where to put your hands. But you must, I can't emphasize enough that it's not gonna move like a real doll. That comes with experience. And I've been doing this for a long time. I should know, because I come out of every session and go, oh God, I wish I'd just done that. I still do it. I still look at the photos and go, oh if I just moved that hand. If I'd just moved that leg. And then, it's not gonna have a reaction when you touch it. So in terms of the posing side of things, you can go through your flow. And we're gonna talk later on in the course about creating a workflow for your sessions, in terms of how confident you are, and how comfortable you are with what it is that you're doing. But if I'm going from the back pose, I know that I want the hips slightly turned towards the light. And this is how I'm gonna hold my hand to practice the wrapping side. Then, when I bring the wrap off, I know that I'm gonna bring the legs out, and it does have, it doesn't stay in position, which is great, because it means that you have to use your hands to keep that restriction there, from them having that startle reflex. Then bringing the legs down. The arms. And then turning the baby into the next pose. You know where you're gonna have to place your hands. Then, let me bring it this way so you can see. Out of habit, I pose to that side, because in my studio, that's where my windows are. I'll come in behind as well. Okay, so then when you're in the side pose, when you're trying to get the baby over into the bum up pose, you wanna bring the bottom arm up to the back. So this is a great way for you to actually look at, okay, well how do I get that arm underneath? Am I going to put my fingers down here on the, what's this bone called? I can't remember what that bone's called. I had a brain freeze. Anyway, on the forearm. We're gonna use our fingers on the forearm, and we're gonna bring this hand down and behind the shoulders, and give it a slight lift, and a turn, pushing that arm through. So, my aim when I'm working with a doll like this, in terms of where I place my hands, is trying not to pick the baby up and put it down continually. So, when you are working with a posable doll, treat it like a real doll. Like a real baby, sorry. Like a real doll. It is a real doll. Treat it like a real baby. Try not to pick it up, put it down. Try not to move it too much, because you can't do that in a session, because that's what causes overhandling, overstimulating, and you're gonna end up with a grizzly baby. So yeah, this is how I would work with it. But in terms of knowing how to respond to a real baby's movements and things like that. That does come with experience. It comes with learning how to read the movement under your hands. When I do position my hands on a real baby, I'm feeling how their little feet are moving. I'm feeling how their legs are moving. I'm feeling if they're pushing back. So I'm aware or not if they're comfortable. If they're not comfortable like that, readjust it. Come back. But never push. Never force. Your hands need to be soft and flat. Warm, obviously. And moving the baby on parts that are nice and strong. We've talked previously in another class about how many bones are in a baby's body. Obviously, when they're born, some of their bones are a lot softer. They're like a soft cartilage. And it's not until they get a little bit older that those bones start to fuse together. So you've gotta be careful where to place your hands. Knowing that the shin bones and the thigh bones, and then the forearms, the side of the head, and at the back of the shoulder here when you're turning them, that's where you're going to place your hands to keep them nice and supported. You need to be aware of what parts of the body you should and shouldn't touch. But yeah, that's kind of my reason for using a demo doll in the studio.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Baby Safety and Posing for Newborn Photographers Bonus Packet
Baby Safety and Posing Slides
Potato Sack and Frog Pose Editing Videos - Large 1.1 GB download

Ratings and Reviews

Lindsey Wall

Kelly Brown is one of my favorite teachers not just in newborn photography but photography and learning in general. Her patience is inspiring and she makes this job seem so much more enjoyable and installs passion in you to improve and be the best you can be! Kelly is an expert at what she does and is great at communicating how she does it. I have taken the Creative live baby bootcamp class which is actually what got me to want to go into newborn photography! Ive also purchased a few of her newborn posing courses and I love them all. I literally own my new blossoming little career to Kelly! I love creative live, I have just learned so much from these courses. They are constantly giving out new classes that are so affordable and such amazing resources for any photographer or professional. I am so lucky to have discovered them and Kelly Brown. Thank you Kelly and creative live!

Alice T.

This is an amazing class! Kelly Brown offers a wealth of information that is comprehensive and straightforward. She has such a soothing voice and such great patience that it translates into becoming a great presenter and instructor. Her methodology both in business and her art are sensible and desirable which has taken me up significantly. She has helped me in understanding this business and how to become successful while doing what I love in a profitable and safe manner for both my clients and myself!


Kelly is such a fantastic instructor! This class is wonderful for both beginners & intermediate newborn photographers to improve their posing and keep safety number one. Not only does Kelly teach you step by step how to safely pose, she also explains why she poses the way she does - which is so important. This class is a great resource to watch over and over again until we are all masters!

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