Newborn Safety Week 2012: Day 2 with Brittany Woodall

We are so excited to be able to present to you an amazing safety post by our friend, key inspiration, and world renown newborn photographer… Brittany Woodall of Baby as Art! Please enjoy this amazing learning experience and image spectacular by one of the best newborn workshop instructors on the planet!

Newborn Safety Week 2012: Day 2 with Brittany Woodall
Outdoor Newborn Safety Measures & Composites

When shooting outdoors we take many of the same precautions that we would take in the studio and more! There are elements outdoors that we don’t have to worry about in the studio: temperature, wind, bugs, sun, noises, etc. Our studio is a controlled environment that is perfectly suited to naked newborns, but when we venture outside we take on a lot of risks we can’t control like a sudden gust of wind or a loud and unexpected sound. We have to take all these risks into consideration when we are spotting and shooting to ensure the baby’s safety at all times. There are specific set ups that allow for a much more comfortable baby while also being safer.

One of my favorite set ups to do outside is the baby in a bucket. Why? First of all it’s extremely cozy! We swirl a blanket in a bucket, so the baby is tucked into a nice and warm little spot. The baby can also be wearing a diaper, socks, and pants in this set up without them showing at all. Those layers help insure the baby is always warm. In addition to being tucked into a warm spot we regularly use warm knitted hats to keep the newborn’s head nice and toasty! Also, there’s always a spot for us to tuck our phone which is playing white noise. The white noise can help mask unexpected noises you may encounter outside. I have found that some babies startle easy with loud noises and you don’t ever want your baby to startle out of a bucket or basket- even if you are close by. It will likely upset the baby even if he or she is still perfectly safe and sound.

Some favorite outside pictures where the baby is nice and warm all snug in a bucket or basket:



The key to safe outdoor newborn photography is really warmth. You want your baby warm at all times- after all, a warm baby is a sleepy and happy baby! When we venture outdoors to do a set up at our studio we will set everything up inside our studio first. This includes all prop set up, posing and dressing. This allows us to do everything in the warmth of our studio, which is something that our babies seem to really appreciate! Once we have set everything up we will take a very warm blanket and drape it over the head and arms of the baby (leaving the face uncovered), so that no skin is unnecessarily exposed to the air. We then pick up the prop with the baby in it with the baby’s face facing our bodies, so that we block any wind from blowing on his/her face. Once outside we will set the baby down in the spot we would like to use and we will take a quick test shot to get our settings. Once we have our settings and are ready to shoot we will then remove the extra blanket on top. We always, always have someone very close by to the baby to not only spot the baby, but also keep an eye out for bugs. Also, sometimes a gust of wind will come up suddenly out of no where. Whoever is spotting the baby can easily re-cover the baby with the blanket to prevent him or her from chilling or startling from the unexpected wind.

A sweet baby girl we photographed recently. You can see the warm pink blanket we wrapped around her to ensure she stays nice and warm… This was a quick test shot I did just to make sure my settings were correct.


Here’s the final edit:


Also, here’s a great view of how we cover the baby as much as possible. If it’s a little cooler outside even that extra little bit of covering will help keep him or her nice and warm. It’s all about minimizing the amount of skin exposed to the air.


Here’s the edited version…


Say I’m shooting on location away from the studio..unless it’s just absolutely hot outside, which is always a bonus when it is, I will actually set up the prop and do all my posing and dressing inside a heated car! Once everything is ready I will carefully and quickly take the baby outside, take the shots as quickly as I can and then right back into the heated car we go!

The temperature really dictates what sort of set up I’m going to do. If it’s hot, hot, hot out I can do a pose where more of the baby’s skin is exposed to the air. I really have to use good judgement on what type of set up to do. I don’t want to risk a baby getting cold just for a cool shot.  A good way to ensure a baby is warm is to check the tip of their nose or their little fingers for warmth. If a baby begins cooling those are two spots that will quickly cool first. Getting prepared before exposing the baby to the air and shooting quickly is the best way to insure that the little girl or guy stays warm at all times.

Spotting is definitely a topic I would like to cover. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have an attentive spotter close by to the baby. You never know when a baby will startle. A quick startle can easily send a baby up and out of a prop even if they appear to be tucked in very well. Never under-estimate their ability to move quickly and suddenly without warning. When I am spotting a baby I always have my eyes on him or her watching for any movement. I’m also very close- within a foot of the baby with my hands ready at all time to quickly secure the baby if necessary. Here’s a pretty terrible diagram I drew in photoshop that gives a good idea of my spotters position in relationship to the baby and the photographer. If you position your spotter correctly, many times you won’t even have them in your frame which can save a lot of time in photoshop! I always have the spotter in front of the baby off to the side. I then position myself, if I can, so that when I shoot my spotter will not be in my shot. As you can see below. I’m shooting directly into the baby and my spotter is very close the subject. The spotter is the circle that is to the right of the baby.


My fantastic spotter at work… the baby squirmed and she swooped into action :)


Now that I’ve touched on spotting I am going to cover composites. Sometimes there are situations where I need someone extremely close to the baby and I cannot avoid having them in my shot. Also, if you are ever unsure of a certain set-up’s safety always err on the side of having someone very close by and just doing a composite. How do composites work? Well, it’s pretty easy. First I take a shot of a baby with my spotter very close:


She was actually even closer to the baby than it appears in this photograph due to the angle I was shooting at. Notice her eyes are on the baby at all times and her hands are ready to secure the baby with any sign of movement.

Once I have my shot I instruct my spotter to switch sides:


So now I have my shot. You ask… HOW?? Well, in photoshop I just open one picture and then open the other. I the lay the two images on top of each other. Ill go ahead and reduce my top layer’s opacity to 50% so that I can line up the two images exactly. I then erase away where my spotter is and since she was spotting on the other side on the bottom image what will be left is background and the rope.  Once you have erased the top layer where the spotter is showing you need to take the opacity of the top layer back up to 100% and then flatten your image!

The final edited image where I used the composite technique:


Beach shoots can be breezy and when it comes to getting the perfect lighting at sunset you won’t have a lot of time to work with, so keep in mind that you may need to be quick and use a set up that ensures the baby is kept nice and warm, so that he or she won’t wake up and fuss with only a few minutes of sunlight left. This was one of those shots where I set everything up in the car. It was a breezy evening on the beach and I was running out of light quick. I was probably on the beach for less than five minutes when I photographed this little guy.


This beach set up was way easier. I had a partly cloudy day with high Florida humidity to work with, so I had no worries at all when it came to wondering if the baby was warm enough! Here’s a helpful hint if sand happens to get on the baby… Baby powder works wonders for getting the sand to come off easily. It’s a must have if you are working on the beach!


There may be a few images of mine where you scratched your head and wondered… How’d they do that? Here’s some quick descriptions!


Was the baby cold? Nope it was hotter than heck outside! This was taken in the late spring in North Carolina! It was hot and humid and Ames loved it!


Okay, that baby had to have been cold!!! No way!! He was wearing multiple layers, including a hat, he also had a warm bag of rice wrapped around him. I set everything up inside where it was nice and warm. We then carried the carriage right outside the client’s door and I got the shot in about a minute. And if you were wondering, yep this is a shot that is a composite! When we unwrapped him after we were done he was nice and toasty :)

I’ll end with some of my all time favorite outdoor images. Shooting outside is personally one of my favorite things to do. The possibilities outside are absolutely endless and I take great inspiration from the organic beauty that the great outdoors create!


On one last note… safety should always be your priority when you are photographing babies!! Never ever risk the safety of a baby. It just isn’t worth it.


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.