Photographing Siblings & Newborns Safely
One of the most important safety aspects that I do want to emphasize about siblings in a studio space is if you have heating, make sure that it's something that they're not going to come into contact with. Being here at Creative Live, we're in a very large space, so it's a little hard to keep that temperature consistent because it has really high ceilings. It's an open environment and has large windows, which can let that light out. We have got a few heaters going on here, so that means that while I'm photographing our little babies and their older brothers and sisters, I'm gonna be very, very aware of these heaters and making sure that they don't come into contact with them. We're gonna photograph babies with siblings of different ages. I've taught before in previous classes with siblings that it depends on the sibling, it depends on the older brother and sister. I have a bit of a rule, anywhere from sorta four, four and a half and under, I'm gonna photograph them laying down cause I ...
don't know at any point if they're going to move, if they're going to get up, run away. They're unpredictable, I also don't know if they fully understand exactly what it is that I'm asking them to do and the safety of the baby is paramount. So, when I'm setting them up, I always have them laying down on my posing bag. I have photographed siblings on the ground that are a little bit older and too big for my posing bag, but that's if the client has requested that image. When they're a little older and they get too big for my posing bag, I move on to a backdrop, and I have them sitting comfortably, but I always talk to my clients first and get a gauge as to whether or not they've already held the baby, had cuddles, and are comfortable doing that because you don't wanna put a baby in a sibling's lap, and they have not yet had an opportunity to cuddle them because it's a pretty special experience, but also they're not really sure where to put their hands, how to hold them as well. Another thing to be really careful of is when you are photographing them here, because they can move, you wanna have a parent close by, someone that they trust, someone that they know. When my siblings, well, when my clients come into the studios, the one thing I don't do is get down to their level. It's not play time for me and them. I'm being paid to get an image, being paid to create a photograph for my clients, and I need to get it. It's really important that they listen to me, and if I get down to their level, and I start playing, it's that old saying, you give them an inch, they're gonna take a mile. I want them to listen to me. Once I've got the photo, then I'm their friend, then I'll play with them, but they still need to know the boundaries in my studio. For example, toddlers love to come in and run and jump on my posing bag. It's a bit dangerous when there's a baby on there, and you have a camera up to your face, and you don't have peripheral vision of where those toddlers are coming from. So, when they come in, you let the parents know that this is the seating area, this is where they're comfortable. You get them some toys, you create a space for them and say I've got a special space for you over here with some coloring books, things like that, some toys that they can play with, but when it comes to my posing bag, I let them know uh-uh (negative) that's mine, this is where I work, and you can come over in a moment and be a part of that, but you have to let them know in a nice way that's assertive, you're not gonna scare them so they're gonna run away crying, but just let them know that there are boundaries. When I do photograph a little one on the posing bag, and we've got some beautiful models that have just walked into the room. You guys can come on in. My clients, when they originally contact me, and then I send them the pricing and information, when they come back to me, and they say, oh we have, oh you can just take a seat over there, just for a moment. We have a sibling, is it okay if we can get some photographs of them together, is it okay if we can get some family photographs. This is when the communication lines need to open. I always let them know to talk to the toddler, talk to the child and let them know that they're coming for photographs. Tell them to tell them my name, so that when I say I want you to look at Kelly, they know who I am. They need to know roughly what they're kinda coming in for, and they're not just turning up at a stranger's home studio or a studio or someone's turning up on their doorstep to photograph the baby, and they're like what's going on here? Prepare them for the session, so we just sat out in the little waiting room where our parents have been sitting and waiting, and we had a little conversation about what it is that we're gonna do in here because it can be overwhelming, especially in a environment like this where we have a few people and lots of cameras, and we want our siblings to lay down and listen to our commands cause it can be very distracting, but we've had a little chat, and she is very excited to come and be photographed. Can we get her shoes taken off, is that all right? (child talking in the background) She can do it, perfect. Another thing I always do when I'm photographing newborns with siblings is make sure that the baby is wrapped. Secure arms and legs so that the baby is nice and supported and the baby is comfortable, and it's easy for the toddlers to hold them. If they've got arms and legs going everywhere, they're squirming around on the posing bag with their sibling, they're gonna get ticklish, they're gonna wriggle, they're gonna respond to that movement, and they're gonna start moving. So, keep them nice and calm and secure, and that way, if at all they decide that it's time to get up and move, the baby's nice and supported, it's wrapped. I always position the newborn closest to the window and the sibling away from the window, so that I can have the parent nice and close to the sibling, and that way if they see them start to move, they can place a hand on them and reassure them and make sure that it's okay, and that way I've got time to put my camera down before I can grab that baby if they are wriggling. I've had some instances with younger siblings where they've like literally tried to push the baby away. We have to be really careful of that and be mindful of that. I got asked recently why do I do it on my posing bag? It's because if I do have my camera up here, and I'm about to take a shot, my hand is right there. I'm not having to go all the way to the ground. I'm right here, I'm here, I can put my hand down if I can see them moving or anything like that and prevent any potential dangers of the baby moving. Oh yeah, so I'll take my glasses off. What we're gonna start with is wrapping the baby on my lap and then once the baby's ready to go, and we have a little baby girl, do we, and what is her name?
Margaret and how old is she?
She's three weeks.
Three weeks old, that's so cute, she's tiny, yeah. Whenever you put hand sanitizer on it usually makes your hands sticky and cold, so I always put them back down in front of the heater to warm them up before I take the baby. Another thing when I'm doing sibling shots, they're usually the first set-up of my session. I try to make them the first set-up because that's when the sibling's interested. Sometimes it doesn't always go according to plan, and we have to resort to doing like a composite set-up where I photograph the baby and a prop, and then I'll bring the, get the baby out of the prop and bring the toddler in for safety reasons, but the majority of the time, at the beginning of the session, they're interested in what it is that we're doing, and they're listening, and then that way, I know a lot of photographers sorta suggest to the clients that they can take the sibling, one of the parents can take the sibling then out to play or to a park. I actually recommend in my what-to-expect guide that parents bring a pair of runners because I have a great park around the corner that they can go to because this session does go from between two to four hours, and they do lose interest very quickly. (laughing) Righty oh. So, my posing bag has got a Flokati rug just on top, and you can see I've got a piece of material rolled up here. What I'm aiming to do when I'm photographing them on here is give their heads support at the back, the sibling's head support. I want the head to come forward, so that when the baby's in their arms, you're creating that connection between the two of them. Fun thing to do is I always sit, I've got a nice big backside, but I always sit on the edge of my bag to create a nice well. What I'm doing is now I have a nice comfortable space. I've elevated the back of the bag, so that I don't have to get all the way over the top when I'm shooting. I can shoot from back here at an angle, and I'm not gonna lose my perspective. I am gonna create this nice support under the Flokati rug, so it's gonna come down around their arms so it's gonna support the arm from underneath and help them hold the baby. Then what I do is I bring an apple box around for the sibling to put their feet on if they need to or occasionally just to get their interest, I will grab their toes and hold them up her while I'm shooting and tickle them to get a response. So, it's a great way to kinda get that interaction and that response from them.