{'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