An experienced nurse of 45 years is pushing for photographers working in the rapidly emerging field of newborn photography to embrace the opportunity for continued professional development to safeguard themselves, their business and ultimately the babies they are working with.
“I find it really concerning”
Brisbane’s Carlene Bourke, a registered neonatal nurse who specialises in midwifery, paediatrics, and child health, is so passionate about this she volunteered to sit on the Academy of Newborn Photography’s advisory committee, recently launched by Australian photographer and training expert Kerryn O’Brien.
“I find it really concerning how little awareness there is within this growing industry,” Carlene said.
“Photographers are incredibly lucky to be capturing these precious moments with bubs, who are so vulnerable in the first few weeks, and they need to know exactly what is safe and what is right. I applaud ongoing professional development.”
Ask the right questions
Carlene said she strongly encouraged parents engaging a photographer to take pictures of their newborn, to ask questions around their qualifications, their knowledge of infection management, (ie how they clean their equipment and props after each shoot) their safety knowledge of newborns, whether they have CPR training and if they have been vaccinated.
“Some of those working in this field clearly have no awareness about what poses are safe and what can do long-term harm to an infant or newborn,” Carlene said.
“It also alarms me how many parents don’t ask the photographer if they have been vaccinated, but will make sure key family members are kept away until they have had their vaccinations.”
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Carlene said since being involved in the Academy of Newborn Photography she has started asking family, friends and colleagues about what skills and qualifications a photographer working with young children would ideally have and it seems to be something most people have not given much thought to.
“Increasingly I am seeing photographers in the birthing suite during labour to photograph the delivery and the parents don’t know their background or if they have had vaccinations,” she said.
“They could literally be anyone off the street taking photos and parents are assuming they have the skills and knowledge required to get a great pic while keeping their newborn safe. Parents have a right to ask photographers about their knowledge working in this field.
“I also encourage parents to ensure they tell the photographer they don’t know everything about the birth. No birth is the same and issues that arise during the birth can dictate what poses the baby can safely be positioned in.”
A need for training photographers
The Academy was launched earlier this year by Kerryn who has photographed more than 1,200 newborns and infants in her acclaimed photography career. Kerryn also worked for many years as a trainer and educator and said she recognised a need for training photographers in this niche field.
“I knew what I knew, but needed to make sure we had input from medical professionals to fill in the gaps in my knowledge,” Kerryn explained. “I’m not a medical professional myself, so formed an advisory committee comprised of a Paediatrician, Neonatal Nurse, Chiropractor, Solicitor, and a Workplace Health and Safety Advisor to get that input.
“Our aim with the academy is very simple; we want to strengthen and raise awareness within the global newborn photography industry.
“Newborn photography requires a different set of skills to other specialisations as a photographer. You have to navigate the expectations of parents who want the perfect picture, while working within the constraints of what is physically possible and even safe.
“As neonatals barely have any sweat glands with active glands found only in the hairline, at the nape of the neck and the palms of hands and soles of feet, the early clinical signs of hyperthermia are not very obvious.
“It is this kind of information that we touch on in the academy.”
7 questions to ask before hiring a photographer
There are a number of questions parents of newborns and infants engaging a photographer should ask. A few key questions include:
- Do you have infant CPR/First Aid training?
- Are your vaccinations up-to-date?
- What procedures have you put in place in relation to workplace health and safety?
- Are you a registered business/are you licensed?
- Are you insured and what type of insurance/s do you have?
- What infection management program do you have?
- Can I see testimonials from clients?
“We see the Academy as providing a higher level of training for photographers who want to specialise in this field and who are open to lifelong learning, while also providing parents with peace of mind that they know their photographer is up to date with their safety practices,” Kerryn said.
“It is an exciting journey we hope many photographers of newborns can take with us.”