Local photographer welcomes national newborn photography safety standards

By Chew Valley Gazette in Local People

A new certification has been launched to improve newborn photography safety, with the first recipient of the award being a local woman.

In recent years baby photography, and in particular newborn photography, has seen a huge surge in popularity. But with the rise in demand there has been an increase in the number of photographers operating without any specialist knowledge. With no regulatory body or specific newborn photography qualification, newborn safety campaigners say, parents and babies were left vulnerable to unsafe practices, as photographers attempted to gain popular images of babies in plant pots, curled in unnatural positions or hanging in hammocks.

Amid growing safety concerns and calls from campaigners the leading qualification body for professional photographers has announced the launch of a new certification in newborn photography safety.

The Master Photographers Association’s (MPA) new Newborn Certificate which launched this March sets safety guidelines and standards for professionals photographing newborn babies.

Clare Louise, MPA CEO explained that “the MPA wants to ensure that parents not only receive beautifully crafted images of their baby but can also be confident that their most precious gift is in the safest of hands. Our Newborn Certificate will give this reassurance and peace of mind to parents and added credibility to photographers.”

Chew Valley based specialist newborn photographer Melanie East, who was the first recipient of the new certification, believes its creation is an important landmark in newborn safety.

“It’s critical to ensure that clients are confident that they have chosen a photographer who works with the wellbeing of the baby foremost in their mind,” Melanie commented. “There are a huge number of newborn photographers working very unsafely, balancing babies in tubs and buckets without having their heads supported.

“One day, a baby will die - because a newborn photographer has been negligent,” said Melanie, who gave up her career as a lawyer to become a professional photographer 12 years ago.

Campaigners and photographers like Melanie say the MPA Newborn Certificate will act as a quality assurance for parents, and indicate that those holding it have passed the MPA’s assessments.

Paul Cooper Hon FMPA Chairman, explained that "To achieve this certificate, members will be required to provide a detailed health and safety document that includes standard sections and additional sections such as studio temperature, sanitation, safe use of props and identification of circulation problems that can arise when posing a newborn for long periods of time.

“In addition to these documents, applying members will be required to submit five prints of newborn babies together with ‘before-and-after’ shots to illustrate the safe support of newborn throughout the session,” he continued. “This certification will demonstrate the commitment, skill and professionalism of all the members who achieve it, will distinguish them in a competitive market and is destined to become a benchmark that parents can use to identify responsible photographers."

The new certification is a result of the MPA’s ‘close working relationship’ with Bounty, the maternity advice service, which along with its free Bounty Packs to new mums also offers commercial photography services in maternity units across the country.

For the past four years Bounty’s presence in maternity units has been the subject of a Mumsnet campaign to have them barred. Following a significant number of complaints from new mums about the presence of Bounty staff on wards and their behaviour towards them Mumsnet launched an investigation and their subsequent campaign.

A Mumsnet survey of 1020 mums found 82% of them did not think hospitals should allow Bounty or other sales reps access to wards at all. The survey also found that 70% of the women surveyed had asked the Bounty representative to leave them alone when they visited them on the ward and the rep had refused.

Mumsnet went on to petition the then Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter, amassing over 27,000 signatures for their campaign. They also wrote to David Cameron asking him to review the practice and save ‘new mothers at their most vulnerable’ from the intrusions of Bounty.

By July 2014 several NHS trusts had announced they would be terminating their contracts with Bounty, whilst the Care Quality Commission (CCQ) were reviewing the company’s practises in hospitals.

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