The "Secret" Trick Behind All Those Crazy-Impossible Newborn Baby Photos

Do you ever see a professional newborn photo and debate whether or not you should call Child Protective Services because it looks so dangerously captured while simultaneously adding it to your Pinterest board in the hopes that you'll be able to frame a similar snap of your own baby?

That's how I've often felt when spying those portraits of a sleeping, days-old baby hanging from a tree branch or being held high into the air by only the palm of a very precarious hand. Or curled up in a pile of ice-cold snow. Or nestled next to the belly of a resting mama deer.

How do these babies do it?!

Well, Australian photographer Tracey Smith is letting POPSUGAR readers in on a little secret: they don't.

Through clever camera tricks and Photoshop techniques that don't sacrifice a newborn's safety for a single second, Smith has created breathtaking images of babies in extraordinary poses.

But she is now sharing her behind-the-scenes process after seeing other photographers — and parents themselves — putting their tiny subjects in actual danger in an attempt to replicate those Instagram-famous shots.

"I'm saddened to see babies being placed into glass bowls, hung from branches without any safety measures, or being propped into buckets or baskets with no one nearby," Smith, who was a neonatal nurse for 20 years before becoming an accredited professional photographer, told POPSUGAR. "All of these scenarios scare me, that new photographers who haven't been adequately trained are putting babies at risk unnecessarily simply because they just don't know!"

She implores new parents not to seek out the cheapest photographer, or one that hasn't been properly vetted, in place of one who makes safety paramount: "You wouldn't just ask a friend's friend for someone to deliver your baby just because they've had one themselves, nor would you ask your neighbor's cousin's sister to cut your hair because they own a pair of scissors."

So, how do you ensure your newborn photographer is going to keep your bundle of joy safe? Ask if they do "composites," Smith recommends.

Here, she explains just what those are with five different awe-inspiring examples:

The "Froggy" Composite

The "Froggy" Composite

"Compositing is a technique used in Photoshop where we 'stitch' two or more photographs together," Smith explained on her blog. She shows the technique at work with the most-requested pose from parents, the Froggy. "It's that classic one where the baby is laying on a blanket with their hands under their chin, up on their elbows, with their two little feet straddled on either side."


With a hand on the baby's wrists and elbows, she takes the first shot.


With the help of an assistant or parent, the second shot is taken when they "use their other hand to hold the baby's head, and slowly the hand holding the wrists is removed."


Then comes Photoshop. "One half of the baby without hands is then transposed over the top of the other shot, hiding the hands of the assistant," Smith wrote.


Finally, the small portion of the hand holding the baby is erased away.


See for yourself how it all came together.

The "Hanging Branch" Composite
Emily Black Photography

The "Hanging Branch" Composite

Similarly, to capture the popular shot of a newborn hanging in a sack on a branch, Smith first snaps a photo of the baby on a bean bag, "safely lying on their back with someone holding the top of the wrap."

Emily Black Photography

Then the branch is photographed with the blanked tied around it.

Emily Black Photography

The final image, provided to Smith by Emily Black Photography, shows how the two images are stitched together in Photoshop. "The baby was always very safely lying on the comfort of a big padded bean bag and never hung or balanced," Smith said.

The "Sitting Up Already!" Composite

The "Sitting Up Already!" Composite

This potato sack pose is great to do while the baby is awake, but as Smith noted, "This means extra safety as babies wiggle more when wakeful." Here, she uses a cloning technique to remove the parent's support hand and fill the space with the plush blanket.

The "Dream Catcher" Composite

The "Dream Catcher" Composite

Another before-and-after look at how two images are stitched together to create an eye-catching effect.

The "Lion King" Composite
Beloved Photography

The "Lion King" Composite

"Many unsuspecting parents and untrained baby photographers believe this baby is being held in the air by a parent," Smith wrote.

Beloved Photography

In actuality, this pose — provided by Caroline Bowen of Beloved Photography — is achieved with the baby lying on a bean bag with hands never lifting or leaving the baby's body.