{‘Shop Talk’ – Newborn Safety & Cyberbullying in the Photography Industry}

It’s a ‘Shop Talk’ day! Yay!

Shocker image above right?  Yes, this is an example of ‘non-composite, non-posed’ newborn photo (we’ll be discussing composite photos below).  It’s just a sweet newborn who was not enjoying my camera being in his face.  He was happy with his pacifier and wanted me to leave him alone.  I respectfully did, after this shot and maybe a couple more.:) Anyway, this image sets the mood for my topic today.

I’m sure you’ve seen adorable newborn photos of  babies hanging from a whimsical looking tree branch or babies with their heads perfectly propped on their hands. They look so sweet…but how do photographers do this?  Are these babies naturally posing this cute?  A lot of people aren’t aware that these are actually composite images.  What’s a composite image?  It’s taking two (sometimes more) images and meshing them in photoshop to edit out unwanted hands (or other items) assisting in the set up.  Pretty cool trickery;-) My friend Amanda is an amazing photographer and her newborn photos are breath-taking.  I wish I had her skills with newborns.  She’s the owner of Amanda Andrews Photography located in Boise, Idaho and she let me use these composite photos so you could see what a composite is and how it works.

   The results are breathtaking when done properly, as Amanda shows above.  She’s aware of safety and makes sure that is top priority.  I’m still in awe over her images and her abilities.  Sigh….

But many new photographers are unaware of this process and want to replicate these images.  Unfortunately safety is compromised without proper information.  As most of  you are aware, this has became a very heated topic in the photography industry as a result.  We are seeing more and more non-traditional newborn set-ups that appear to very dangerous and compromise these fragile babies.  More photographers are sharing their images through social media.  This cyber sharing is bringing to the forefront these dangerous practices.  But we’re also seeing blatant attacks on new photographers who don’t know about the important safety precautions needed to create these images.  More seasoned photographers are posting these ‘unsafe’ images on their Facebook pages.  They’re including the newborn photographers website as well as watermarked photos along with insults and hurtful words.   This is the catalyst for a string of unconstructive, hurtful comments and image ‘shares’ (cyber-explosion) on Facebook. The definition of Cyberbullying is: harassing, humiliating, threatening or embarrassing another person through electronic methods, such as instant messaging, email, social networking sites or text messaging. I’ve watched how quickly this spreads and in a matter of hours I witnessed 1) the post 2)the post being shared 22 times  3) 100+ comments that weren’t constructive and   4) the new photographers wall fill page after page with hateful and threatening comments.  Are these pictures okay?  Not really, they’re clearly are unsafe.  But is bullying helpful or constructive?  Not at all.  Education and awareness of safe practices are what’s helpful and constructive.   Cyberbullying is becoming rampant in our industry I’m embarrassed to admit.  Rather than reaching out to the photographer and providing constructive advice and communicating concern, many are posting hurtful and damaging things about these photographers.  Safety is number one, but there’s a way to communicate these concerns.  I reached out to one woman who was cyberbullied by other photographers back in November to see how she was doing and how these comments have affected her.  She told me that she realizes now that she didn’t use the safety precautions necessary and she feels awful about that.  She said it wasn’t the bullying that helped her realize this, it was one e-mail from a photographer that included safety tips and sites where she could see composites (a practice she wasn’t aware of).   But she also said  that all the comments and threatening e-mails have made her leave the industry.   She told me ‘she was crushed and completely devastated’ by the mean comments and emails she received from photographers and even non-photographers.  She thought she was being safe but later realized that she needed to learn more.  Someone sent her an e-mail threatening to ‘hunt her down’ and hurt her children, because that’s what she could’ve done to these babies.  Crying became a regular part of her day for weeks.  She still enjoys photography but no longer has a business and still feels grief over the whole incident.  She said that she felt like she ‘was an awful human being’ for this and it continues to haunt her.  This is the sad result of cyberbullying.  And it needs to stop.  We know better.

So next time you see an image where a newborn looks compromised, please reach out to the photographer who posted the ‘unsafe’ image and help that person through education.  Our industry is a wonderful one – but we need to be build people up (through education), not knock them down (through cyberbullying).

I’m leaving you with one more of this little guy who clearly wasn’t a fan of my camera.  I’ve convinced him otherwise since this session.  Yay!  Thanks for reading my post.  xoxo




by Kara

show hide 48 comments

ShantelJune 4, 2013 - 7:28 am

I have just recently run into this same situation on FB with a new photographer. The photo had the baby bin a basket in a tree and so if course there were many comments. On the wall, no one was rude, disrespectful, or critical to her, but instead all gave some piece of advice or a link. She did not take this well was very unhappy saying she has been getting PM from people saying how dumb she was and how that is so dangerous. I sent her a PM expressing my apologizies for how unprofessional some had approached her. I sent her several links to how to do a composite safely, to other professional photogs that show many before and afters for inspiration and even have her the name of an editing. Software that is free to start off with (she was very new and did not use any kind of software like LR or PS due to costs) I tried to reassure her that everyone starts off new and to not let the criticism she was receiving keep her from continuing. Her response was so rude to me. She expressed how she had permission by the mother to do that shot, that many of her friends and family think she is amazing and no “editing” was not nessesary and that people like me need to just back off because despite my “help” I was in fact insulting her work and being very disrespectful. Then she said I’m the one who needs help and “she’s got this, probably better than I do and that she thinks its funny how some people like me just sit and wait to prance on someone just to tell them what to do!
Well yikes! Not to be a negative nancy, but I don’t think someone will make it in the real world if she cannot handle an apology (which I didn’t even need to give) and words or kind advice. I welcome CC on all my work, its how we kearn and grow! Frankly, I wouldn’t have reached out if I wasn’t concerned about the danger she was putting these newborns in. Lessoned learned!

DanielleMay 3, 2013 - 10:57 am

I disagree about the “bullying” I think the word is over-used and is made to silent people who have an opinion. Someone “cyber bullying” you is going to make you leave a profession you’re passionate about? That sounds like a cop-out, but if you legitimately had to shut down your business because you were endangering babies and people found out about it and stopped booking you, that’s a consequence of your actions. We live in a free market society. I care WAY more about “poor innocent” babies LIVES than if I’ve offended some “poor innocent photographer”. I have personally never posted any comments on any photographers page but I commend anyone willing to stand up to protect these infants. The “stick your baby in a bucket” photo craze needs to stop.

RhondaFebruary 14, 2012 - 1:08 pm

I sometimes ask myself WHY these babies are posed like this in the first place? Sometimes I find poses weird and unnatural..I get the feeling photographers are just trying to one-up each other with strange poses. Anyway..Nice post and I LOVE the baby in the first pic! :)

Lyndsay MeadlowFebruary 12, 2012 - 12:51 pm

I’m shocked at Amy’s comment below. This is a perfect example of cyberbullying that Kara mentions in her post. If you think that’s okay that’s really sad. Cyberbullying and humiliating someone to get a point across is NEVER okay. Thank you for posting this Kara. You are an example of what this industry needs more of.

mugsie5February 12, 2012 - 8:06 am

typo-meant to say there.

mugsie5February 11, 2012 - 4:51 pm

“big girl Panties” mean that you acknowledge your mistakes and do not need to make anyone else feel belittled and small. Using cyber-bullying to make a point is how so many people continue this disgusting trend. One needs to communicate in such a way that their message is heard and negative, public statements will NEVER accomplish this. Communicate privately and with concern, not abuse. Many kudos to Kara for putting this out their. All should be above this behavior.

Melissa NewmanFebruary 11, 2012 - 1:50 pm

Bullying is what I’ve seen too. It’s not the way to change what these photographers are doing. They need constructive feedback and education. Way to go Kara! You’re well-respected in this industry and I think this is an important topic for everyone to see. Thank you.

StephanieFebruary 11, 2012 - 1:46 pm

well done, well said. Great job, Kara.

Haleigh RohnerFebruary 11, 2012 - 1:04 pm

Kara! Thank you so much for sharing on this issue. As you stated in your comment, your suggestions of sending a private message and contacting the person directly is the best way to put on your “big girl panties.” There is NOTHING grown up about the way that these women have been harassed recently. I talked to one in particular that said that the only personal messages that she received were from people educating her and uplifting her through the day of torment and harassment that she experienced at the hands of her own peers. She was called multiple names, etc. Just read a quote recently that is a follows… “A mistake made by many people is that they let nothing stand in the way of their views, not even KINDNESS.” Some people get so caught up in their convictions that they forget that there is a person behind their computer screen being attacked. As Kara mentioned in her post, she is 100% about education and completely opposed to the unsafe posing of babies, but there’s a classy and a trashy way to go about educating. Thank you so much for this post Kara. It’s a great reminder for everyone in this industry!!!

SallyFebruary 11, 2012 - 12:47 pm

I appreciate the article and the composite shots. I have contacted several photographers locally to try and get a better understanding on how to pose newborns safetly, however no one wants to help. So where do we safetly learn how to do the poses?

Lilly GraceFebruary 11, 2012 - 12:24 pm

Wow, how can anyone think that bullying is okay. I’m shocked by one if your commenters below. Safety and education is the way to help photographers not insults and bullying. Great post Kara

KristinFebruary 11, 2012 - 12:04 pm

Great post Kara and so relevant in our industry. Now at the risk of sounding like a bully, I completely disagree with Amy’s comment below. Cyberbullying is not okay in helping these photographers. Education and awareness of safety precautions is the way.

Pamela JFebruary 11, 2012 - 11:55 am

You hit the nail on the head Kara. Hurting the feelings and embarrassing a photographer isn’t going to save a life but education will. You’re one classy lady. Thanks for posting!

ZekeFebruary 11, 2012 - 11:41 am

Education is what will save a baby’s life, not bullying. Amen on your post of wisdom.

AmyFebruary 11, 2012 - 11:21 am

I agree that spamming and harassing photographers is wrong. There’s a polite way to point out dangerous methods. But I don’t really care about uneducated photographer’s feelings. I do care about the safety of newborns – at least one newborn I know of has permanent damage from being dropped by a photographer.

KristinFebruary 11, 2012 - 11:11 am

Kara – Very nice post. I absolutely agree. Composites are the way to go. As a new photographer, I won’t try anything ‘new’ without knowing how it’s probably done. That being said, there have been many bullying photographers I’ve seen unfortunately. There is ALWAYS the private message option to provide any constructive feedback or expression concerns to a photographer. I believe that whether it’s photography, a personal FB page, or any other, any negative comments do not belong in a public space. It’s just impolite and rude.
Thanks so much for sharing!

KaraFebruary 11, 2012 - 10:54 am

Amy – Cyberbullying definition: harassing, humiliating, threatening or embarrassing another person through electronic methods, such as instant messaging, email, social networks or text messaging. I think this clears things up. Privately contacting the person and sharing your concern is more appropriate. Now that’s putting on your big girl panties.

MaryFebruary 11, 2012 - 10:16 am

Thank you for this much needed post. Love the images and Amanda is certainly accomplished creating these composites.

AmyFebruary 11, 2012 - 10:04 am

Cyber-bullying? Really? I disagree. I’m much more concerned about newborn safety than photographer’s hurt feelings… We are all adults, let’s get our big girl panties on and stop acting like teenagers.

Bekka MarieFebruary 11, 2012 - 8:58 am

Bullying is never okay. I’ve seen the glass jar ones too and it’s clearly unsafe and not even cute but that when emails to the photographer politely expressing concern and educating is necessary. Bullying is never the answer. Great post!

SharaFebruary 11, 2012 - 7:44 am

I’ve never “cyber-bullied” anyone, however I have expressed my concern politely about an image that I once saw. Putting babies in glass jars…the end result is beautiful but there is also a sense of danger! Who puts babies in glass jars? I have confirmed that those images are not composites. While I respectfully mentioned an uneasy feeling when I see those images, I received a number of attacks on how I need to show more respect towards that photographer, how I need to learn to be creative, and use my creativity better since that’s what the “glass jar” baby photographer does. Sheesh!! So I guess my point is: the cyber-bullying works both ways. I feel bad for the above photographer. This is a cut throat industry, and whether behind the screen or not, harsh words are spread around and meant to break down the photographer. Sometimes you can learn from mistakes, and if something did happen as a result of improper saftey precautions, fix it! And reassure everyone that’s it been fixed. And then forget the nasty comments! “And hope that your insurance will cover the damage.” ;-)

ChristyFebruary 11, 2012 - 6:23 am

Great post! Great of you to share the information on composites but the bigger message was well said!

ChristyFebruary 10, 2012 - 10:30 pm

Thank you for this wonderful post. I am always amazing at how people hide behind their computer screen and say mean and spiteful things. Safety is obviously a priority, but it is our responsibility to help educate our peers. We didn’t automatically know what to do and what not to do, someone educated us. I think honestly that the secrecy of the ‘newborn workshop’ has just contributed to the problem, rather than help that masses who are dealing with these little babies.

AnonymousFebruary 10, 2012 - 9:34 pm

Could you post maybe a list of tips or things to avoid when photographing newborns?

Kyle RodmanFebruary 10, 2012 - 9:31 pm

Absolutely amazing post. I completely agree with this. Attacking someone doesn’t help them learn, and in fact it’s probably hurting the industry MORE because photographers are afraid to post their work in fear of being criticized, so they aren’t getting the proper education.

By the way, what are the songs on your blog? I love them!

Melissa SmithFebruary 10, 2012 - 9:24 pm

That just broke my heart. And I admit I have put others down for not being safe. I have never sent emails or been mean to them but I have talked openly about it. Good for you for calling this out.

Vanessa ByrdFebruary 10, 2012 - 8:47 pm

Nicely said. As a new photographer it’s nice to know there are people like you out there that are supportive.

meredithFebruary 10, 2012 - 8:32 pm

It saddens me to hear this story. I thank you for shedding light on the situation and really – as with anything….safety first.

KaraFebruary 10, 2012 - 6:39 pm

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and comment. I wasn’t sure I should post something like this since I know it’s a heated topic, but I think it was important to bring to the forefront. I love hearing your thoughts. Thanks so much!

julesFebruary 10, 2012 - 6:00 pm

well said … it’s such an ugly thing that’s been happening. thank you for taking the time to educate and inform! it needs to spread!

Brandy MooreFebruary 10, 2012 - 4:05 pm

Love the images of the baby being ‘expressive’. Lol yes, this bullying is bad. Some of the things attempted are pretty dangerous that I’ve seen. This information is so important. The composite images are so helpful in getting the safety info out. Beautiful, important and informative post. Thank you!!

LDFebruary 10, 2012 - 4:00 pm

Thanks for this post. As someone just starting out, this information has been invaluable. While I’d never attempt to replicate a pose such as the head in hands one, I also didn’t realise it was a composite. Useful to know if a client was ever to request I try one. I shudder to think what poses people are doing that puts babies in danger. I’m lucky to find inspiration in the natural and candid.

Thanks again!

Philly Baby PhotographyFebruary 10, 2012 - 3:52 pm

Nicely written, Kara!!! I haven’t seen the bullying that you speak of, and I hope I don’t!

I have been trying to spread the word about newborn safety as well and I love having some where to point people to:)

Lisa S.February 10, 2012 - 11:59 am

Thank you for saying this. In the past few months this has exploded. I think newborn safety is the utmost of importance, but the nastiness has gotten out of hand. It has crossed the line of trying to get someone to see the error of their ways, and into the land of cyber bullying (The last attack someone actually made a comment that the photographer deserved to be shot…and not with a camera). The facts are this: the babies in these photos survived (and some of the photos I wonder how they did… because they are majorly unsafe) BUT what needs to happen now is EDUCATION on how to do this properly. Or maybe someone needs to impose a “IF YOU DON’T DO IT WITH YOUR NEWBORN NATURALLY, IT SHOULDN’T BE DONE FOR A PHOTOGRAPH”. Maybe what needs to happen is everyone needs to start using their common sense. But most of all, we need to remember the golden rule: Treat other people the way you want to be treated.

BrendaFebruary 10, 2012 - 11:52 am

Very well written post and perfect examples of composites. Thank you for sharing. You are admired by so many in the photography world so this message screams & echoes. Which is very much needed in our industry right now. Words can be painful especially done in masses and with such intense cruelty. Thank you for posting. I love your work btw. You inspire me.

Laurie CrutchfieldFebruary 10, 2012 - 11:21 am

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that you made this post!!!! way to educate all of those in the photography world!!! def worth sharing!!!!! a million times over thanks for making a stand!!

Amanda DykanFebruary 10, 2012 - 10:19 am

Thank you SO much for posting this. I’m a victim of cyber-bullying. Not in the photography industry, but another. It’s scary. I’ve had someone threaten my life and the life of my children all because I used a piece of stock clip art “incorrectly” in a digital scrapbooking design. I was ostracized from the industry and it completely tore apart my life and livlihood. I hate to see it happening to others in the photography community. I wish there was a way to stop it. I can only imagine what goes on in high schools and middle schools between kids “bullying” one another. It truly saddens me. Thank you for saying what you did.

Melanie ParkerFebruary 10, 2012 - 10:02 am

Its refreshing to see a photographer of your caliber and talent post such a powerful message. Thank you. You are truly talented and your words speak so loudly in our industry. I applaud you.

Teresa NorrisFebruary 10, 2012 - 9:40 am

Kara, thank you for this wonderful post. The safety of newborns is so very, very important, and education in this area is the answer. Cyberbullying has become so commonplace, and it’s so easy to jump on a bandwagon online. I’m afraid we sometimes forget there are real people with real feelings behind a profile pic. Safety for everyone is what I wish for, and cruel attacks compromise an adult’s safety. It sounds like your friend was traumatized by the whole event, and continues to suffer. It makes me so sad. Education in the form of helpful suggestions delivered with kindness would result in babies being safe and photographers learning and growing in the field they love. Thank you for speaking up.

Christine WallaceFebruary 10, 2012 - 9:35 am

Great post! I’ve missed alot of the posts that you refer to but I have seen the aftermath of them! Facebook (and every other social media site, including our own websites) are suppose to be a means of communication, support and networking, not bringing another photographer down. Thanks for sharing! Love the images of the babe not thrilled with your camera!!! HAHA

MariellenFebruary 10, 2012 - 9:23 am

Excellent post. So well said. I completely agree – we need to build each other up.

Shanna-Kaye FancherFebruary 10, 2012 - 9:10 am

Thank-you for writing this. I’ve been very surprised by the cyberbullying I’ve seen in the last few weeks, and its nice to see another photographer reaches out and explaining how to help. I love your “non-composite” shots…they are my favorites!

Anna BethFebruary 10, 2012 - 8:54 am

Cyberbullying hurts and I’m so glad you wrote about it. I’ve been cyberbullied and I can say first hand, it’s painful. I felt stomped on and beaten up. More people need to know about this. Thank you!

LauraFebruary 10, 2012 - 8:50 am

Thank you for this!

YvonneFebruary 10, 2012 - 8:18 am

Great post Kara. So proud of you.

MelissaFebruary 10, 2012 - 8:15 am

I’m so happy that someone like you has written a post about composites and cyberbullying. I’ve been on the receiving end of the bullying and it’s really painful. I took a break from photography to let the bullying die down but I’m starting back up after learning more about safety. This post is so valuable. Thank you.

Caroljean StrawnFebruary 10, 2012 - 7:41 am

Kara, thank you for taking the time to write and post this! I love how you are trying to help your friend and others like her. That shows such loyalty and compassion. Although I have not done newborns, I can relate a bit, since I get such weird, degrading spam comments on my blog. Thankfully I just delete them, since I have a filter….but it is a form of bullying also. It doesn’t make me cry or make me stop, but gosh I can imagine your friend’s hurt was deep, and it just makes me sad for her and wonder why these people feel the need to “atttack” others on the internet who are just innocently working to grow in their love of creating images for others. Btw, your work is amazing.

Nadia SwindellFebruary 10, 2012 - 7:35 am

Well said! I totally agree Kara, the posts you are referring too were just awful. Why do all these people feel the need to wade in when one comment was sufficient to get the point across? As a UK based photographer, I really dislike the way this industry is heading. There are too many sycophants waiting to jump on the bandwagon and whilst education is absolutely essential, there are ways of doing that which don’t require a witch hunt. The photographers involved should be ashamed.

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