“I can’t believe she hung that baby from a tree branch!”
click image to see Carrie’s original post
I’ve seen comments like this posted in photography forums and chat boards across the internet. And it astounds me, in this day and age of advanced Photoshop skills, that people don’t recognize a composite when they see one. And admittedly, it scares me… a lot. Inexperienced people are then attempting those shots as they appear. I want to educate people so no would-be photographer ever compromises the safety of a baby.
What is a composite image?
A composite is a final resulting image created by overlaying two or more images, like puzzle pieces, blended and combined in photo editing software, like Photoshop. It is primarily used to keep subjects safe or achieve artistic rendering impossible in-camera.
The baby is NOT hanging on a tree branch. Much like a painter mixes colors on his palette, a photographer blends images together to create her masterpiece. Composites are how artists like Tracy Raver, Kelley Ryden, Carrie Sandoval and Britt Woodall make the images they are known for.
At my studio we have a “hands on baby” policy. Any shot that can be created with a composite, is. I do not balance baby’s head on her hands. I do not hang babies on branches, hammocks or slings unsupported.
Since I am a newborn photographer, my examples are all of babies. But the same safety first rules apply to photographing all ages.
All of the following images are composite images:
I’ve seen photographers make excuses like, “Well, if you do it carefully you can achieve it by yourself without having to hold baby.” No matter how safely photographers believe they are doing this, I will stand firmly that it’s irresponsible. I’ve seen too many babies jump or twitch in their sleep. The risk is too great, and the life is too precious.
But it’s not just with posing. There are other important safety issues to consider.
And that shot is with a trencher bowl that is only about 3 inches up. The risk is low, and still, safety comes first.
- Use weights to balance top-heavy props or equipment
- Use sandbags over legs of light stands or tripods – to balance top-heavy weighted equipment
- Be aware of your environment. Read David Duchemin’s story.
- Always wear your camera, if dropping it would mean injuring your subject (you should anyway! dropping your camera is bad, bad news!)
- Before you take on a SINGLE client, make sure you have liability insurance. Without it, you could lose everything.
Other articles about safety and composites:
Photo Tip, Day 4: Never, ever, ever, ever hang a baby on a branch, balance his neck, or place baby in a way he could fall. Please be judicious with the little life that’s been entrusted to you. These shots should be done with an assistant and created in Photoshop. ZERO exceptions.
What are some tips you have for photographers to maintain safety first?