Newborn baby boy floating on white background, peeing into the air

Behind the Scenes | Peeing Baby | Commercial Photography

Publishers hire commercial photographers to make images for various types of books. I am not and never had been, a baby photographer. But in 2003 when Random House bought my idea for, “Baby: An Owner’s Manual,” I decided to take all of the photos myself. I’m a product and people photographer, and since babies are products of people, I figured I could handle it. So, for about a year, I was, “a baby photographer.”

The book was a humorous baby care manual for new parents. I had two little boys of my own and knew how overwhelming becoming a new parent could be. One day, while installing a washer and dryer I was going through the owners manuals. As I was reading through them I thought, “How funny would it be if you just exchange the words washer or dryer, with baby?” When I got to the section titled, “What to do if you smell gas,” I knew I had an idea that would stick.

I was able to quickly find an agent who in turn, quickly found a publisher that loved the concept. I brought in a good friend and incredible author, Julie Long, to partner with me and help write the book. Now I just needed great photos of babies to illustrate the manual.

One of the first photos that I needed was an image of a baby boy for a diagram to illustrate the various parts. A friend and his wife had just recently had a baby so I turned to them to provide a model for the photo shoot. I arrived at their home and started setting up my lighting equipment. The mom removed her baby’s diaper and was gently placing the sleeping newborn on a padded white surface for the photo – just like a stylist would carefully place the hero in a commercial product photography shoot. As I was preparing my Nikon to capture the images of this sleeping baby I heard the mother scream. It was part laughter, but mostly scream. As I turned to see what was happening, I saw a stream of pee shooting straight up from our little model. Without even looking through the viewfinder, I swung my camera around and started shooting, relying on Nikon’s auto-focus system to pull through for me.

The image popped-up on the back of the camera and I was totally surprised. I got the shot, and it was better than I had even hoped for. Not only did I get an image for the, “parts,” illustration, but it was an action shot that I thought for sure would land on the cover of the book. The photo became known as, “The Peeing Baby.”

Unfortunately, the photo didn’t make the cover. There were some editors who were not parents and were completely, “grossed out,” by the photo. But it did still make the full-page parts illustration. While I still don’t consider myself a baby photographer I do have to admit, some products are really, really cute.

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