Certified Newborn Photographers

Until recently, there hasn’t been a specific course or certification for newborn photographers. When I heard about the new Certificate in Newborn Photography by the Academy of Newborn Photography, I jumped at the chance to complete it – to receive a certification for my 7+ years of newborn photography experience and training, and perhaps learn something new to help keep my newborn clients safe.

Why is a certification in newborn photography so important?

Newborn photography is an unregulated industry in Australia. This means that anyone can pick up a camera and start advertising their services as a baby photographer. To me, this is incredibly scary. There is no requirement to have any basic first aid training, no training on how to safely pose newborns, no requirement for photographers to be vaccinated, no need for photographers to have insurances.

Having the Certificate in Newborn Photography is a wonderful way to ensure that newborn photographers have the necessary knowledge they need to help keep their clients safe. The certification program helps parents choose a qualified newborn photographer.

What topics does the Certificate in Newborn Photography cover?

The Certificate of Newborn Photography covers 19 modules as well as face-to-face CPR and First Aid training. The course has been written in consultation with experts in the fields of neonatal health, physiology and OHS.

Qualified Newborn Photography

I was excited to be one of the first newborn photographers in Australia to complete the Certificate in Newborn Photography (and one of only 3 so far in NSW). I am really excited to receive this qualification and for the step ahead that it will give our industry. If you’re looking for a newborn photographer, be sure to look for this symbol for the assurance you need that your potential photographer is a qualified professional newborn photographer:

Accredited newborn photographer
When looking for a baby photographer, always look for this symbol to ensure that your photographer is a qualified professional.
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    Compositing for Newborn Photography

    Have you ever looked at newborn photography images and wondered how on earth they’ve managed to get a baby in a complex position? Chances are they’ve used a Photoshop technique called compositing – where 2 or more images are stitched together to make one image.

    Why is compositing important in newborn photography?

    The most important reason all baby photographers should be using compositing is simple – NEWBORN SAFETY! The safety of the little people you are photographing should always be your number one priority. Some popular images look very cute, but they’re not at all realistic (or safe!) to capture as they appear.

    compositing for newborn photography
    Complex images in newborn photography should always be done using compositing. This ensures that the baby is always in a safe position. The above image was created by using 2 images stitched together in Photoshop. (Image taken by me – Amy Tong Photography).

    Compositing for beginners

    With some fairly basic Photoshop skills, it’s quite easy to use compositing to create a beautiful image. The most important element for success comes at the time of taking the images. You need to ensure that you keep your camera positioned at the same angle for each of the separate images you will be compositing.

    The number one element to compositing success is to ensure that you stay as still as possible when taking the images. This will reduce the amount of time required to make the image look realistic. Getting it right in camera is always preferable and makes for an overall better result. (Image taken by me: Amy Tong Photography)

    Photoshop for Composites

    The skill required in Photoshopping a composite image might not be as complex as you might think. With only a basic level of Photoshop experience you can quite easily achieve a good composite image.

    Step 1: Open the files up in Photoshop. You may have 2 or perhaps more images that you are wanting to use. Select which image is going to be your primary image (the image that already has the most detail you’re wanting to keep. In the above example, I used the image on the left as it was mostly what I was wanting to create for the final image).

    Step 2: Using the lassoo tool, circle the area that you wish to overlay into the primary image. (Tip: select more than you perhaps are wanting to use in the final image. It is far easier to erase off extra image than to add it back in later). Copy the selection (Ctrl – C on PC or Command – C on Mac). Go back to the primary image and paste the selection (Ctrl – V / Command -V). The extra piece of the other image will now be added for you as another layer.

    Using the lassoo tool, select the part of the secondary image that you want to incorporate into the primary image. In this case I took the top part of baby’s head and pasted it into the primary image so that the Dad’s hands were no longer visible in the final image, but so that the baby was safely supported at all times during the photoshoot.

    Step 3: Line up the new layer on to the primary image as closely as you can. (Tip: The best way to do this is to reduce the layer opacity to about 30% so that you can see the new layer as well as the primary image underneath). Once you are happy with the positioning of the new layer, use a layer mask and a soft black brush to paint off the layer around the edges to give it a soft blend into the primary image.

    Voila!

    Did this tip about how to composite images help you? I’d love to hear about it!

    Best wishes for 2019!

    Amy xx

    Amy Tong has been specialising in newborn photography since 2012.  She’s based in the Sydney Inner West and is a member of the AIPP and the Academy of Newborn Photographers (ANP).

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      6 Ways to Keep Your Newborn Calm & Settled

      How do you ensure your beautiful baby remains calm and settled during a photoshoot?

      Mothers ask me all the time how to ensure their baby is settled during the shoot to help get the best images. Photos where their baby is posed perfectly, resting peacefully and oh so calm. While babies might be known for mainly crying, sleeping and eating, there are many things we can both do to ensure a successful newborn photography session.


      >  Deal with all the NEEDS first

      Before you try any of the below settling tips, you should always ensure that they don’t need anything first. Are they fed?  Are they dry?  Are they too hot/cold?  Have they been burped?  Simple but effective. Babies need very few things when they are so young. A full tummy and dry nappy go a long way in making sure they are content during the session.

      After you’ve dealt with all the physical reasons for your baby to be upset, now you can focus on things you can do to reassure and calm them.

       

      >  Top ways to keep your baby calm and settled

      Just like adults, all babies are different.  They will respond to different things.  But here are some settling tips to try if you’ve checked all the NEEDS and they’re crying or upset:

      1. White noise
      Inside the womb is quite noisy, in fact, some experts say it is as loud as a vacuum cleaner. White noise and shushing sounds help babies feel calmer because it is closer to the natural state they have been in for 9 months. During sessions I have white noise in the background to distract them from the sound of my camera shutter and to help keep them calm.  At home, you might like to try any number of White Noise Youtube Clips or Itunes tracks.  I have used Natural Womb Sounds by Joe Baker for the last 7 years – both for my own babies and also during my sessions.

      2. Swaddling

      When babies become unsettled during a shoot, swaddling them tight is often an effective way to calm them. Again, in the womb they are a set temperature and curled up tight. When a baby becomes unsettled during a photo session, I wrap them up so they feel secure (and also to prevent them waking themselves with their Startle Reflex).  Often it’s enough to calm them to sleep.


      3.  Swinging and swaying

      Gently rocking your baby is a great way to soothe them. They spent months inside you moving around gently, swinging them slightly in a similar way is soothing.  A great trick I’ve learned is to lie them down already swaddled on my lap and to rock my legs side to side.  It’s a great back saver!

      4.  Sucking
      While I would never want to push a dummy on a baby, if families use one already, the sucking motion can help your newborn calm down. Alternatively, a quick feed with either breast or bottle, with that same sucking motion can soothe them as well.  You might notice that your baby seems to want to feed when they are getting sleepy and tired even though they might have already had a full feed only a short time ago.  This is often due to the soothing effect of sucking which can often help nod them off to sleep.

      5.  Side-lying
      Many babies calm down when being placed on their side.  I’m not really sure why this is but it’s worth a try!

      calming an unsettled newbornSwaddling newborns is one way to settle an unsettled baby. Often I can take beautiful awake images your newborn when they’re wrapped and calm

       

      6.  Calm parents
      Being calm yourself is one of the biggest things you can do to help ensure your newborn is calm too. They can sense when you are stressed which can cause them to cry and be unsettled. Of course, hearing your baby cry is probably the most stressful sound in the world for new parents.  I guess we’re biologically programmed that way for the survival of our little ones!  If your baby is crying and you find yourself getting upset or frustrated, be sure to put your baby down in a safe place and step outside the room for a couple of minutes to regain your calm.  Taking some long deep breaths can be really helpful in allowing you to calm down.  Your baby will stop crying eventually!

       

      If your baby is really upset, try a combination of the above techniques.  (I used to swaddle my babies with a dummy in a swing for their daytime naps with some white noise playing – it worked a treat!).

       

      Keeping Your Baby Calm During Their Newborn Photo Shoot

      Over the last 6.5 years of photographing babies, I can safely say I’ve seen it all.  I’ve had really calm babies who have slept through their entire session and not made a peep, through to very unsettled babies who have been very wakeful and needed a lot of the above techniques to keep them as calm as possible.  Many times, parents of more unsettled babies will arrive feeling stressed or worried about how their baby will “behave” for their session with me.

      Please don’t worry!

      In all my years as a baby photographer, I have never had to do a re-shoot.  We always work with your baby and their unique needs on the day.  If that means that all we get are awake photos of your baby wrapped to keep them happy, then that’s what we will do.  If they need more cuddles with Mum or Dad to feel secure – we have lots of time for that too.

      I use the above settling tips to try to make the most of every session regardless of how settled your baby is on the day.  We always get enough images for your gallery.  Here’s some more information about how I work with photographing tricky newborns

      Have any more baby settling tips that I missed?  I’d love to hear about them!

      Amy xx

      Photographing Tricky NewbornsEdit

      The truth of babies is that some babies are just tricky.  There’s no apparent rhyme or reason.  Just like we all have different personalities – some adults are more sensitive, or fussy; others are easy-going and relaxed.  The same is true for newborns.  While the vast majority of babies co-operate for their newborn photography session.  Every now and then you come across a baby that’s just tricky.

      If you’re a baby photographer, no doubt you follow your photography idols.  You know the ones – you look at their Instagram feed and you can feel your confidence shrinking with every image.  “HOW can their photos be so perfect?”  “They make it look so EASY!”  “Do they ever get tricky babies?!”  “Is it me?  It is something I’m doing wrong”.  We’ve all had those questions (or at least I know I certainly have!). Tricky babies do rattle your confidence.  You’re feeling good about your photography and have a run of “good” babies, then suddenly you get just one baby who won’t sleep, who doesn’t like to be touched, who cries a lot.  It can be deflating!

      The good news is that with time and practise, you will gain confidence in sessions with babies who don’t want to go with the flow.  Sure, it might not be your best session ever, but if you follow these tips you’re sure to get a gallery of images the parents will be happy with.

        • Tip #1:  Tricky babies follow their own rules
          Babies (and particularly) tricky babies, run to their own rules.  As adults this can be a hard lesson to learn.  We are independent beings that are used to being able to have control over our lives.  This goes out of the window (somewhat) with newborn photography sessions.  If you go in to a session with concrete ideas about what images you will get and in what order, you’re set to fail.  Newborns don’t follow your plan – particularly the tricky ones.  They’re going to do what they want, when they want and they’ll be vocal about it if they’re not happy (and this doesn’t make for a pretty picture! haha).  It’s important to follow baby’s lead.  If they need a cuddle to feel safe, give them that opportunity.  If they’re hungry, they need to have a feed.  Follow their cues and they will cooperate with you much better.  Making your session flexible might mean that you go in with a rough idea that you’re going to start with beanbag shots, and then move on to a basket shot.  If you have a tricky baby that won’t sleep, this might be reversed.  Don’t let it phase you.  Remember to go with the flow.

      Sometimes you will come across a baby who will be trickier to photograph. Don’t worry!  It happens to every newborn photographer.  Even your idols!

      • Tip #2:  Find out what they like
        Just about every newborn has something that they like.  You can usually figure it out pretty quickly (but if not, don’t forget to ask the baby’s experts – their parents!).  Some are “sucky” babies – they love to suck their fingers or a dummy.  Others hate feeling exposed and just want to be wrapped up.  In cases like these you need to find out what their “thing” is, and try to use it to your advantage.  In the case of sucky babies, I encourage parents to bring along a dummy if they’re using one.  It can really help to settle them down.  I set them up for a shot, and quickly whip out the dummy with one hand whilst taking the shot with my other hand.  Then I replace it before they get the total cranks with me taking their beloved dummy.For babies that like to be wrapped, you just have to be imaginative with your wrapping.  I have come across babies who will not let me unwrap them at all for any shots at all.  In these cases, I tend to get a lot of variety in galleries.  Basically, when you have a tricky baby you need to find their thing and stick with it!  For some great tips on settling upset babies, be sure to check out Dr Harvey Karp’s ‘Happiest Baby on the Block’
      • Tip #3:  Get as much as you can
        When you have a tricky baby you’ll need to get creative.  Moving them around too much and fussing with them will make them upset.  You’ll need to think on your feet to get lots of variety for their gallery.  You can achieve this by using different colours (try adding additional colours over the top instead of completely re-wrapping to save upsetting them), using different textures, different angles, macro shots and wide shots.  You’ll be surprised at just how much you can get!  99% of the time when I have a difficult session, the parents are overjoyed when they see their gallery.  Often they are worried that their baby isn’t cooperating and don’t think we can get much for them at all.
      • Tip #4:  Don’t get disheartened.  It happens to all of us!
        I get a lot of emails from beginner newborn photographers looking for reassurance after a difficult newborn session.  We’ve all been there.  When you have a difficult session it can really rattle your confidence.  I remember in my first couple of years as a newborn photographer I would get home and cry and be too scared to look at my images for fear that I hadn’t got anything at all.  The good news is that if you are creative during your session you will almost always get enough.  In the 5 years that I’ve been a newborn photographer, I’ve yet to have to re-shoot a tricky session as the parents have always been happy with the variety of images I managed to capture.  Remember that despite our best efforts, babies are their own little people and sometimes they just don’t want to go along with what we want to do.  This can be a hard lesson for new parents too who desperately want to capture a particular pose or image.  It’s good practise to prepare parents before their session that their baby will lead the session and that some babies just won’t be happy to do certain poses.  That way you can feel less pressure to get particular images for your clients.

       

      I hope this helps you!  I’d love to hear what you think

       

      Amy xx

       

      Amy Tong is a multi award-winning newborn and baby photographer in the Sydney Inner West suburb of Balmain.  She has been specialising in newborn and baby photography since 2012.  Amy is an accredited member of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) and holds a Certificate of Newborn Photography from the Academy of Newborn Photography.

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        Dear every Mum…

        Dear every mum I’ve ever known,

        I’m done. I can’t and I won’t compete anymore. I’m not the ‘perfect mother’ because no one can be. My mother’s generation fought for gender equality, not for me to be pressured into doing everything. She fought for choices and this myth of the perfect mother is taking away my choices.

        We live in a society where mothers are expected to bounce right back to bikini bodies after they’ve had a baby. If we don’t, we stand there looking in the mirror hating our bodies. Our beautiful, amazing, strong bodies that created life. We pull, poke, squeeze and berate ourselves for having stretch marks and not being stick thin. “I should look like her” we tell ourselves, comparing our new mum bodies to the bodies of Instagram fitness celebrities.

        Instead of spreading myself thin trying to go to the gym at 5am before everyone is up, cooking the ideal breakfast, making sure the house is spotless, getting everyone where they need to be then rushing off to work, trying to combine parenting, housework and a career into the same hours I used to focus just my career on, I’m done. I’m choosing me.

        Living life the way I saw in magazines, on Instagram and everywhere crippled me. It made me depressed and instead of being able to focus on my gorgeous bundle of joy, I am constantly worried about how I parent, if it’s right, how I should look and what I should do.

        Let it go. Stop comparing and live your life with me. Be in the moment and trust yourself.

         

        motherhood blog sydney

        Behind every closed door or perfectly made up face, coiffed hairstyle and manicured nail is a different story. One we don’t know about. We can’t compare our everyday with everyone else’s highlight reel. The reality is usually far from the facade we’re presented with.

        I’m tired of feeling the pressure to be everything to everyone. I’m a human, I made tiny humans, but that doesn’t mean I am no longer me. It doesn’t mean I suddenly have to work full time, exercise to have crazy flat abs and buff arms, always have my hair perfect, makeup done with contouring and fake lashes to boot, as well as dress amazing, do yoga daily, bake the cupcakes when my child has a birthday, cook nutritious meals each night and keep an amazingly clean home. I’m not superhuman.

        Constantly comparing myself to the carefully styled images on Instagram, the curated photos and posts you choose to post on Facebook, the carefully worded conversations at the school playground making your life out to be amazing is not healthy for any of us. In fact, it’s ruining our relationship with ourselves and makes it harder to parent.

        Suffocating in the sea of expectations of feel myself drowning. Each day I see another fabulous life on social media, another article about what I should be doing, how I should be raising my kids and how mothers can have, be and do it all because we are amazing.

        I agree, we are amazing, but in our own way. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy!” Instead of comparing our lives to the pressure we feel from society to be the perfect mother the only person to compare yourself against, is you.

        Be you. Love what you do. Enjoy your kids. Have your career if you want one. Choose what you want in your life and live it that way. Say goodbye to the myth of the perfect mum with me and reclaim your life.

        Life is meant to be lived.

         

        Love,

        Amy xx

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          Lighting for Studio Baby Photography

          As a baby photographer, there are lots of options when it comes to lighting.  Lighting is one of the most important aspects of getting beautiful photos.  As you’ll soon see, there are plenty of options when it comes to choosing the type of lighting.  Over the last 7 years as a baby photographer, I’ve tried all 3 of the main types.  Here is an introduction to them as well as the pros and cons of all of them.

           

          Natural Light for Baby Photography

          Natural light is the light that most photographers use.  Indoor, outdoor, in-studio, wedding, at the park – you name it.  Natural light is used in every type of photography.

          Pros:  It’s free!  It’s everywhere.

          Cons:  You can’t control it.  You’re at the mercy of mother nature (rain, dark overcast days).  The colour temperature changes throughout the day which will alter your white balance.  The direction of the light changes and can be obstructed by buildings/trees etc.

           

          Strobe Light for Baby Photography

          Moving into artificial light – strobes have become more popular in the last few years.  I first moved into strobe lighting about 4 years ago after I got frustrated with just how inconsistent natural light can be.  (For more about my journey into studio lighting you might find this blog post interesting).  Basically, strobes are a light unit which are triggered by a wireless transmitter & receiver which cause a light to flash.  For nice soft light (a definite must for baby photography), you would typically use a light modifier such as a softbox or an umbrella.

          Pros:  It’s consistent.  You can move the light instead of moving the baby.  The light colour temperature (and therefore your white balance) stays the same.  You never have to worry about the weather.

          Cons: Extra equipment which can be bulky and annoying to move.  Leads etc. which pose an extra safety hazard in your studio.  The light itself get incredibly hot and can pose a safety risk.  If your equipment fails or there is a power outage, you have no light.  Specifically for strobes – the flash (although minor) can startle newborns a little and disturb their sleep.  Parents can also be nervous about the flash hurting their baby’s eyes (there is absolutely no evidence that this is true – you might like to read this blog article I wrote several years ago about the safety of flash for babies).

          studio lighting for baby photographyIn my studio I use a continuous light with a softbox to create some beautiful soft light.

          Continuous Light for Baby Photography

          After trying both natural light and strobe light photography throughout my baby photography career, this is the type of lighting that I’m currently using and will likely stick with forever.  Continuous lighting is virtually identical to strobe lighting.  When I moved from strobe to continuous lighting, the only thing that I changed was the light head itself.  I’m now using the Godox SL-200.  It is fan-cooled with a constant white balance.

          Pros: All of the benefits of strobe light…. PLUS:  Constant light – no startling babies!  Fan cooled and less of a hazard in the studio.

          Cons:  Like strobes, you still have a rather bulky light to move around in the studio.

           

          I hope this has been helpful if you’re a baby photographer and are considering what type of light to use!

           

           

           

           

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