Social Distancing and Newborn Photography

Fresh 48

March 8, 2020

*** Edited to Add: This blog post was published before being deemed a nonessential business. Once Governor Hogan closed nonessential businesses and mandated social distancing, all my photo sessions were rescheduled or canceled. My heart has been broken for all the mommas who had to let go of their dreams for their maternity session or their Fresh 48 or their newborn session or ALL THREE. This has been a really disappointing, confusing, frustrating time for all of us. This isn’t just a Maryland thing or a U.S. thing. It’s a global thing and we all get it.

So here we are, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and none of us knows whether we’re coming or going. I started out being aggravated by the hype and the panic rather than being concerned, as I do not fit the criteria for being “at risk”. I am neither very old nor very young, I do not have an immunocompromised system, I do not regularly work outside of the home and, being homeschoolers, we’ve practiced some version of “social distancing” since this past September. However, as the days have passed and information has come out, I have jumped on the bandwagon and see this monster for the very real threat that it is. I may not personally be at risk but I share a home with two people who do fall in the older/possibly immunocompromised column. Also, I’m a newborn photographer. I routinely come into contact with brand new, fresh human beings who do not have solid immune systems yet.

These reasons, plus the warnings that if we do not take social distancing seriously, our hospitals will quickly become overwhelmed and we will not be able to care for the numbers of sick people that will flood into the system, have made me drastically re-evaluate my thinking. I’m now concerned that my husband, who is going to work everyday, should probably launder his clothing at the door and shower before entering the main household. ***While I still plan to hold maternity and family sessions (in remote locations while practicing the prescribed social distancing), I’m starting to re-evaluate the newborn sessions I have pending. The in-home lifestyle sessions don’t concern me as much…I will simply refrain from handling the baby, I will bring longer lenses that don’t require me to approach my clients and, as always, I will wash my hands before starting the session. The posed studio sessions have me more concerned. In studio sessions, I’m required to handle the baby extensively and in close quarters. Our home has a state-of-the-art virus and bacteria-killing component attached to our HVAC system so any bugs that might be floating around are immediately zapped by the UV lights that treat our air so I feel a certain degree of protection from that – but the fact remains that I periodically have to leave my house to go to the grocery store (again, practicing social-distancing and hand washing but none of that is fool-proof) and my husband is still out there every day and home every night. I could potentially be an asymptomatic carrier and not even know it.

So what’s a newborn photographer supposed to do in social distancing times such as these? The easy answer is – Stay Home and Cancel Sessions. The harder answer is Stay Home and Cancel Sessions. Newborn photography isn’t like family photography. Newborns are only newborns for a short period of time. Parents elect to get newborn photos done to freeze that developmental stage in time and it defeats the purpose if you “postpone” newborn photos, right? So while I think we can all agree that it’s a far better idea to be safe than sorry, it’s also not so easy to tell parents that you will be unavailable to document this precious time in their lives that they will never get back.

Look. I’m a registered nurse. If anyone respects the advice of healthcare officials, it’s me. I’m also a human and a mother. A documenter of memories. I know what the right answer is here but it’s not the same as the heart answer. And that’s where my hesitation deposits me.

And here’s where my Christian faith and belief and trust in God picks me up. I believe with my whole heart that everything happens for a reason. This January and February were unprecedented for me in terms of photography inquiries and bookings. Between January 17th and March 10th, I had thirty inquiries. THIRTY. I’ve had “busy” months before but I’ve never before fielded an-inquiry-a-day for a week straight. What those inquiries have left me with is a March, April and May full of bookings. And my bookings aren’t simply one and done. One booking could mean anywhere from one session for a single client (a newborn session) all the way to five sessions for that one client (maternity, Fresh 48, newborn, sitter and 12 month milestone sessions) or more (if they became regular clients with yearly family sessions). And because so many of these new clients contacted me early on in their pregnancies (#thankyouforplanningahead), the sessions I’m looking at shooting in the next month are mostly the maternity sessions that I feel comfortable shooting (thank you remote areas and long lenses that support social distancing) and that my clients feel comfortable with not canceling. They feel comfortable because they trust me already – and they’ve never even met me. They trust me because we’ve spoken extensively on the phone and through email/text. They trust me because of my status as a registered nurse who has a long history of caring for postpartum moms and newborn babies in the hospital. They trust me because I have shown up every time I said I would, because I’ve responded within minutes or, at most, hours to every email or text and because I’ve been on time or early to every meeting. Dependability and accountability are important to me in my personal life as well as my business. These people are entrusting me with the care of their most precious gift, their tiny newborn baby and that matters to me. And because they trust me, they are willing to wait with me to see what the state of the world will be when it comes time for me to photograph their hearts.

In the meantime, here are some Fresh 48 images from a session I did at the very beginning of our (the United State’s) awareness that Covid-19 was a thing. When I arrived at the hospital, I was asked whether I had recently traveled out of the country or if I had a fever – I’m used to being asked for my ID but these questions were brand new. After passing the “test”, I made my way up to meet Oliver and his parents and got some great Fresh 48 images for them. Enjoy!

P.S. If you’d like to peek at Oliver’s lifestyle newborn session, which I shot about 2 weeks later, you can find that blog post here.

Liz Viernes Photography is based in Silver Spring, Maryland, and specializes in maternity, fresh 48, posed and lifestyle newborns and first year milestone portraits.

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