Rock a bye baby on the tree top, when the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all.
For some bizarre reason, I was recently singing this song with my 9 year old son. He very astutely asked why someone would put a baby up in a tree, anyway.
In photography, the answer is they would put the baby in a tree to take a photo. Maybe the baby wouldn’t be in an *actual* tree, but a click through websites these days will show a large number of images of babies suspended in little hammocks of fabric, attached to a branch or similar item that’s been brought to a photographer’s studio. It sure is cute. These are the kinds of images that elicit big sighs and make the ovaries of women everywhere a little bit twitchy. So beautiful. So peaceful.
But is it safe?
The answer is: yes and no. It all depends on how the shot is actually created.
As a general rule, Professional Photographers believe that you should get the shot right in camera. Photoshop should be a tool to make an image better, but you do most of the work before you ever press the shutter button. But if we used that concept to create images of babies hanging from branches with all this open air underneath, then we’d be relying on a slim branch and a swatch of gauzy fabric to keep a precious little newborn from falling several feet. I’m certainly not going to do this with a real baby, but for illustration purposes, it would look sort of like this:
….to get an image that looks something like this (excuse the hamster stand-in, turns out we don’t have any tiny little baby dolls around here) :
Yikes. As you can see from the caption on the picture, this is BAD. But do you know what? That’s exactly how some fauxtographers set up these shots. They put a beanbag underneath where the baby is suspended, so that if she fell, she’d fall onto the beanbag. WHAT?? I don’t want my baby falling four feet, beanbag or not.
This is a situation where Photoshop skill can be put to good use. Instead of hanging a baby several feet off the ground, a Professional Photographer can simply make it look like that’s how the shot was done by creating a composite of several images. It takes thoughtful planning and extra time on the computer to pull it off, but Professional Photographers believe that the safety of their tiniest clients is worth the effort.
So how is an image like this produced safely? Michelle Haley, owner of Michelle Haley Photography in Atlanta, GA, shared the following before/after images. You can clearly see that the baby is supported by a parent’s arms when the shot was taken – at no time does the fabric and/or tree branch actually support the baby’s weight.
Example #1: Using a basketball as a stand-in for the baby, this first shot let Michelle get the branch and the fabric set up as she wanted them. In the second shot, you can clearly see Dad’s arms holding the baby. The two images were then combined in Photoshop, and Dad’s arms carefully and painstakingly removed, to create the final image.
Thank you, Michelle, for sharing these images!
Parents – if you want images like these of your newborn, please make sure to discuss it in advance with your Professional Photographer. Not every photographer has the Photoshop skills to create these images, and your photographer may need to outsource this to someone who can create the composite. The safety of your child is well worth the extra effort.