Maddy Rogers and The National Photographic Society

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Newborn Safety Assessor with The NPS

l’ve spent my career of 8 years as a newborn photographer supporting the campaign to keep newborns safe in photographers hands because there is something incredibly innocent and beautiful about a new life.

While they are beautiful, they are also utterly defenceless, and while we may wish to preserve these early days in stunning images, we must always respect their vulnerability when taking their photographs.

There are safety issues to always remember, from temperature and circulation, to safe limb positioning, making sure baby’s head is supported and safe, and making sure baby won’t fall from a prop. A baby can’t, and often a sleeping baby won’t, tell us when a foot is going numb, or a toe is bent under them, for example. A skilled newborn photographer will know to consider these potential issues and pose the baby to avoid them.

However, newborn photography is possibly the fastest growing genre of photography in the world, certainly here in the UK, and with it come new ground, new skills, and totally new techniques. So far it has been treated in a similar fashion to other genres when it comes to many photography associations, and specifically, competitions that they run.

While it can be argued that they are still photographed with camera and lighting, so therefore the same rules apply, many argue newborn photography involves other aspects that go to create really great images that simply don’t apply elsewhere. No other genre involves the chosen photographer handling their subject completely through the session, or being solely responsible for their safety and comfort.

Ongoing from that, the photographer is then responsible for representing the baby is a way that shows she was comfortable and safe, even when camera trickery was used to ensure it. It’s easy to assume all new babies look cute no matter what position they’re in, but good newborn images go way beyond this.

The NPS have recognised that newborn photography must be set aside in competitions and judged on an extra level to other images entered. Images will be judged using exactly the same system as all entries, but will then be required to be assessed after that process is complete.

I am proud to have been asked by the NPS to be their Newborn Assessor for all competition entries put forward as award winning until this stage.

My role will be to assess on two criteria only. l will not judge on lighting or exposure etc, as this will already have been completed by the panel judges. l will asses on safety. The baby in the image must have been kept safe. lf it is an image that looks like a composite should have been used l may ask for proof of this before passing the image. l will also assess on the all important comfort of the baby.

Simply seeing that a baby in an image was safe while the photographer created it is not enough.

The baby must appear comfortable and relaxed. This is because seeing a new baby apparently in discomfort or distress when factually they may not have been, is not appropriate and leaves questions to be answered about the photographers skill in this highly specialised genre.

Making a baby feel AND look comfortable is just as important as ensuring she is safe, and being skilled in lighting and other in camera techniques are only one part of being an award winning newborn photographer. Photographers need to understand how to make a baby look serene and peaceful, and above all, comfortable, and so its important to recognise that set of extra skills when judging newborn images.


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