“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
― Maya Angelou
Oh, newborn babies… I’m so looking forward to meeting my own third newborn this spring when he or she arrives. Babies are petal soft, smell heavenly, and they represent all that is perfect and pure in our world. What photographer wouldn’t be excited to capture these exquisite little beings? With the rapid growth of the photography industry, more and more photographers are venturing into newborn photography. Inspired by the very popular, gravity defying posing they see, new photographers are often eager to jump in and try these same poses. For good reason, newborn safety has become quite a heated topic on the internet. As a mother, former pediatric nurse and a photographer, handling tiny babies respectfully and safely is very important to me. I’m passionate about protecting these tiny people and I cringe when I see a photographer post a photo with a baby who looks unsafe to the experienced eye. Given the active debate about newborn safety, many of you cringe as well. Actually, many of us are doing more than just cringing. We are speaking up. We are educating. We are trying to teach better techniques and ideas.
I’ve read many well written articles on how to photograph newborns. I know there are excellent newborn workshops that are available to help teach others how to protect and photograph new babies. Photos have been generously posted that show examples of how a composite image is created by experienced photographers who are willing to share their secrets. These are things that are meant to help educate those who are new to photographing newborns on how to handle a baby safely. I’m so proud that the photography industry includes leaders like this who are willing to share their time, knowledge and talent to keep these little ones safe.
I’ve also seen something that is deeply disturbing to me. I’ve seen photographers posting harshly critical comments on other photographer’s business pages. I’ve read comments that include swearing, name calling and rudeness on these business pages of fledgling newborn photographers. I’ve seen the work of new photographers shared virally on facebook and forums in a way that is meant to ridicule and shame. I’m so ashamed that this is also part of our photography industry. It makes me think of an anti-bullying poster in my son’s school that reads. “Is it respectful? Is it kind? Is it helpful?”
I strongly believe that criticism can be a very valuable tool to learn from. But, criticism works the best when it is constructive. Criticism aimed at tearing down someone else’s character is bullying. Its mean and it rarely accomplishes more than inflicting hurt and causing the recipient to withdrawal. Constructive criticism on the other hand, it builds the recipient up, it teaches a better way, it encourages. Constructive criticism spurs change to happen.
When you see something you are passionately sure is wrong, take a moment or two to consider how you could best prevent the wrong from happening again. What can you say to make things happen differently next time? Your words are powerful, use them in a way that they do the most good. If newborn safety is what makes you fiery and passionate and unable to keep quiet, awesome! These little babies needs someone to advocate for them and teach new photographers how to respectfully handle them. But, let’s be kind.
A good place to start if you feel you must say something personally to the photographer is contacting the new photographer privately. Sharing your thoughts privately is a good way to show you respect them as a person and hopefully create a relationship that will encourage safe techniques. Kindly share your concerns, without attacking character. Share the name and contact info for a good newborn workshop. Share a blog post on safety. Invite them to come join us on The Bloom Forum and ask any questions they might have. If you feel you need to take action publicly to change the awareness of newborn safety, please do so without calling attention publicly to the photographer whose work you saw flaw in. Be respectful. Be kind. Be helpful.
Finally, if you are reading this and you feel like you might have crossed the line on facebook or elsewhere with your words, I encourage you to go contact that person. Write a simple apology and delete your comment. While words are hard to forget, an apology can go a long way to heal someone else’s feelings. Everyone makes mistakes, it can be hard to reign in our words and feelings when we see something we know to be wrong. Passion is great, passion fuels change. Just make sure you channel that passion in the way that best affects the change you’d like to see. From the very wise Maya Angelou… when you know better, you do better.
Meg Bitton, Thank you so much for allowing us to share your beautiful image.