Newborn Safety Week 2012: Day 1 with Stephanie Robin
This year we are really excited to kick off Newborn Safety Week again with our own safety & posing instructor… Stephanie Robin! Stephanie has an extensive background in newborns, both as registered physiotherapist and from an experienced newborn photographer standpoint (was recently awarded Photographer of the Year). Here at LSI we are committed to protecting these precious lives and we can’t wait to share an entire week of awesome posts by some of the worlds greatest newborn photographers and our community. We really want to remind everyone that our first focus should be on the well being of these babies before anything else! We also encourage all of you, in honor of Newborn Safety Week to share before and after images of composites or other safety information on your blogs, Facebook, and anywhere you think appropriate. Feel free to share this post or link to it on your blogs as you please. We want Newborn Safety Week 2012 to be bigger then ever in hopes to continue shaping the industry to a thought process that is protecting these sweet babies and not focusing on getting the coolest shot at the expense of safety.
Newborn Safety Week 2012: Day 1 with Stephanie Robin
Striving for a varied portfolio that sells
You may or may not be familiar with last yearʼs newborn safety weeks post containing plenty of information on keeping babies safe during their session. I recommend you head on over for a read or re-read as the case may be. This year, I wanted to focus on something else entirely: creating a varied portfolio that sells.
Newborn safety awareness is needed this year as much as ever. There continue to be incidents in the industry that put babies at risk and a general sense that complicated poses or setups are necessary to achieve greatness in newborn portraiture. I disagree.
There is a limit to the number of poses you will be able to achieve with a baby due to the fact that the range of the joints are limited physiologically. While itʼs true you can vary a pose with a slight change in the placement of the hands or feet, a tad more rotation at the hips or otherwise, there are still generally a limited number of basic positions in which to pose a baby.
The Bum Up:
The Side Lie:
The Chin on the Wrists:
And the composite Bunny or Frog Pose:
All of these poses can be achieved on a simple and safe beanbag setup as well as within or on top of props (including slings) or in parents hands. Really when you think about it, that provides at least 18 different varied setups in and of itself. Realistically it provides and unlimited number as each parent, each prop and each baby will require individualized adjustments to these poses though the 6 basic poses remain.
But really, is it necessary to present all of these poses to your clients? Are you a lesser photographer if you arenʼt able or decide not to? No. Youʼre not. In truth there are patterns to what sells and what doesnʼt. Sometimes, what you think are your greatest achievements at a session donʼt resonate with parents (though it sure might get you some attention amongst your peers) and even more surprising, itʼs often the more natural (read safer) poses that find their way into your clientsʼ shopping carts.
So what does sell? Emotional shots. Period. Clients love when you can pull emotion out of your session and 100% of the time, these are the images they will buy for their homes or otherwise. Sure there are those who will come to you requesting certain, albeit occasionally more difficult, setups. Their list of must haves. More often than not, what they will actually order post session looks quite a bit different. It only takes a short while spent in in-person sales to figure out which images hit home and here are the ones I have noticed sell best regardless of the difficulty of the pose in which baby is positioned.
Eye Open Images:
I like to refer to these as the Grandma shots and youʼre definitely missing out on a potential sale if you neglect to or canʼt include a great eye contact image of baby in the gallery. People just love those little peepers and it makes sense, doesnʼt it? I remember back to when I first had my littles. After the gender had been revealed, the only other question not directly apparent to our babyʼs visitors was the colour of their eyes. People seemed intent on waking them, getting some great eye contact. Introducing themselves to a baby who “sees” them (Letʼs be real here, theyʼre likely only seeing blurry shapes at most but oh well). These images will grace the front of the birth announcement, find their way onto the desks of their parents and be gifted to grandparents 9 times out of 10. In my studio, theyʼve also found their way onto canvases as album covers and large mounted prints for the familyʼs living spaces.
*TIP: for more active babies, swaddle the arms by babyʼs sides to avoid hands flying up to the mouth stimulating the rooting reflex and some darn odd expressions.
Almost every parent that walks through the doors of my studio gets in a picture with their newly born baby. Itʼs my first priority to convince them to do so and Iʼve been known to push parents into posing on more than one occasion with the simple statement that “if [they] donʼt like it, [they] donʼt have to buy it. At least this way [they] have the option”. One day their baby will grow older and will love nothing more than to see how loved they were by their parents. Iʼve certainly enjoyed looking back at these images myself and feel most connected to the childhood images that included my parents. Almost every time, they will buy.
Next, and always high on a second time parentʼs must have list, the sibling shot. These can be tricky and pulling off a great sibling setup gives me more satisfaction than any other pose or setup ever has. Bet your bottom dollar, the parents will purchase this setup, even if you donʼt particularly like the resulting images. Thereʼs a lesson in that. Do NOT present a sibling portrait you would not want representing your business. You will cringe as they order multiple copies, put it on the announcements and plaster it most everywhere they can.
*TIP: Stock simple T-Shirts, plain wraps or dresses and small clamps so that you can clothe parents who have arrived otherwise unprepared. It also doesnʼt hurt to have lipgloss with Q-Tips, nail polish remover and a disinfected comb on hand. Whatʼs more, itʼs amazing what you can do with a shallow depth of field and some creative posing to make moms feel their best in their photos. When working with siblings, swaddle baby to avoid eliciting the startle or rooting reflex and choose the simplest setup you can when small children are involved. Laying siblings on their backs and weighting their arms with baby will stop them from dumping babe on the floor when they are “all done” or running away every 2 seconds. Spend every effort connecting with babyʼs sibling to get some great smiles and eye contact from them in your imagery.
Regardless of the pose, if baby smiles, the parents will buy. Generally a great time for smiles will be as baby is waking for a feed or directly after babe feeds. Smiles are those flutters of magic in your session that you want to be sure not to miss. Thereʼs nothing more emotional than a happy newborn and whether or not babeʼs smiles are genuine, they will come across that way in imagery.
*TIP: Stroke babyʼs cheek lightly from corner of mouth to ear or press lightly in the middle of their chin to help elicit smiles when noticeable twitching of babeʼs mouth is already present.
If parents can connect to something about the way in which babe is posed, they are more likely to want to purchase the image. “He sleeps exactly like that at home!” “Aww thatʼs the way she looked swaddled in the hospital basinette”. In general, parents will connect with anything they might find baby doing naturally on their own. The poses that lend best to this scenario are most notably the side lie, bum up or supine curl. They also happen to be the least likely poses to cause injury to babe as you can lie a sleeping babe naturally on their tummy, side or back and they will almost always pose themselves accordingly.
More and more, I am tending away from overly posed baby imagery and finding myself drawn to those natural and curly poses that are so unique to these little subjects and so much a part of who they are in their day to day lives. I think all sessions require a bit of finessing and certainly posing in this way is no easier than placing all fingers and toes “just so”. It does have the advantage of keeping the subjects safe though. I admire those who can do it, and do it well, and think it offers balance and realism to the session. I truly feel a wind of change on the horizon for newborn photography and am excited to see where it takes us.
So before you go on your next hunt for the world’s craziest prop or begin dreaming up some elaborate hanging in Santa’s sack from a tree decked out in Christmas lights setup, consider which images your clients really want hanging in their homes. My bet… cozy, peaceful and timeless. For a peek at some of the masters of natural newborn posing, check out the likes of Raye Law, Kerianne Brown, Kristen Cook, Ashley Skjaveland and Jillian Kirby. Curly fingers, whispy hair, tiny crossed feet. You can almost smell the newborn in their portfolios.
Please note that during the week of November 5th, 2012 we are publishing a series of Newborn Safety posts. Alexis Media Co (Learn Shoot Inspire) and each photographer will NOT be held responsible for any accidents that may be caused from following techniques being displayed. The photographers are being kind enough to voluntarily show their own personal techniques which may not be the only method available. Just by reading an article online and following it step-by-step does not make you a professional or even trained in their or other methods. Attempt any of the poses or techniques at your own risk.