One of the first things I always go over with my newborn parents are my rules for safety. Every baby's comfort and safety are my top priorities in a shoot - as it should be.
With a bazillion options in newborn and baby photographers, not just here in Charlotte, but everywhere across North Carolina and around the country, I think it's so important to know that the photographer you choose for your session understands all of the aspects of how to keep your precious little one safe while achieving those perfect shots. It requires an understanding of newborn and baby development and physiology as well as an expertise in the use of editing software. There are so many people advertising as newborn photographers that it's easy to forget that many of them may not understand all of the things that go into keeping a newborn safe during a session.
There are two main areas of safety concern when it comes to photographing babies for me; one when they are placed on my large shooting bag which is about 3 1/2' wide and second when they are placed in any prop (basket, bin, bucket, moon, etc.)
I generally shoot newborns with a 35mm lens when I am working. This allows me to be within arms reach of baby at all times after I have perfected a pose on my beanbag and if baby starts to stir it's simply a matter of placing my hands on them to make sure that they continue to be stable and safe from going anywhere. If for any reason I have to step away from my bag to grab an item I always have mom or dad step in to replace me and keep a hand on baby. While they seem small and you can't imagine them moving that much, newborns can be surprisingly strong with their legs and can very much move themselves forward by "frogging" or pushing their feet behind them into the surface and scooting forward. The other time I ask parents to help me with newborns on the bag is when I have them positioned so that they are facing forward with their head supported by their arms or wrists. Those heads are wobbly and I would never expect a baby to be able to maintain that position without gentle support or else they could easily flop to the side. Photoshop allows me to remove helpers hands and arms in editing.
Here Mom is holding baby's head from behind with her fingers applying very gentle support at the back of the head. Prior to this shot I had her holding baby's forehead as well and asked her to move that arm up out of the frame for 3 seconds and then replace it. The final image is below.
These same rules apply when baby is in a prop of any kind as well as a few other basic rules for safety. Generally mom or dad is sitting directly to the side with a hand on baby the whole time. I also will only attempt prop shots when baby is in a nice deep sleep. Babies that are awake or fussy can easily throw their arms and feet out causing props to become unbalanced. I add weights to the bottom of all of my props regardless and make sure never to put baby in anything that has sharp or rough edges.
As you can see, these rules should extend all the way up to older babies and toddlers. Many babies celebrating their 6 month and 12 month milestone sessions still require support and close adult supervision in order to feel safe, stable and comfortable.
So while you will obviously have lots of decisions to make when it comes to choosing a photographer for your newborn or baby, I think one of the most important is how they will safely handle your little one when working to get you those perfect moments. As a mother myself, more than style, price or anything else, that would be the most important thing you could know!