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No, it's not ‘hard' to become a newborn photographer! Wherever you go online, you will always see the negative Nancys telling you how ‘hard' it is to become a newborn photographer, but that's not the truth at all.
I got booked as a newborn photographer multiple times despite being primarily a wedding photographer!
Despite not having a website proclaiming my love of newborns, showcasing cute lil pumpkins in baskets, or investing in presets specially designed for angelic sleeping babies, I still got booked for newborn shoots with ease.
So, in this post, I'm sharing how you can do it, too, and answering some of the most common questions I see about getting booked as a newborn photographer.
Let's get started by looking at who should specialize in newborn photography!
Whether to specialize in newborn photography is unsurprisingly not a straightforward question or answer! It depends on a multitude of factors. Let's get the basic ones out of the way –
They may not even actually like babies! Some photographers are just happy earning a living ‘doing photography,' whether photographing a building or a baby; they'll take whatever job comes their way.
(Read this post for more on whether or not you should specialize. It's about wedding photography, but the information in it will help you if you're deciding whether to go niche or stay broad and shoot multiple subjects).
If you want to become a newborn photographer, it helps if you like babies rather than see them as a way to earn more money in your photography business.
Because you're going to have to eat, sleep, and breathe cute little babes if you want to make this work well for you and earn tons of money doing it.
You can make more money as a specialist photographer than a generalist photographer. While you, sure, can make money shooting weddings and newborns and maternity shots and boudoir and anything else that comes your way, when you choose to specialize, what you're essentially doing is
a) branding yourself as a specialist in a core area, meaning YOU are the go-to person for that particular subject, and therefore you stand out in a sea of generic ‘I'll shoot anything, in any style' photographers and
b) you get to target a specific client in your marketing, which means that your marketing becomes much easier as you focus on the needs of a particular person rather than multiple clients with multiple needs. For example, a bride-to-be is hardly likely to be interested in ‘getting your baby to sleep 7 top tips' post, but your new or expectant mother client might be!
So, when you specialize in one particular thing, like Sweet Beginnings Photography, a Portland newborn photography company, it can make being in business much more accessible, allowing the money to flow much more efficiently.
Zip Recruiter states that the average salary of a newborn photographer is around $26,000, but that's an employed photographer working in someone else's studio. I did this for three years before setting up in business for myself, and I can tell you that if you run your business correctly, you'll make far more than that.
(Follow all the posts on this website by signing up below for updates because I'm sharing how to do that right here, and it's why I built the website)!
Think about it – if a studio owner can afford to pay you 26k, how much do you think they are making!? So be the studio owner vs. being employed to work for one 🙂
So to answer those initial questions, if you like newborns and want to create a financially viable business, yes, setting up in the industry as a newborn photographer could be a good option.
Forget those posts that tell you that you need massive umbrellas, reflectors, baskets and toys and wraps, and all other nonsense! (as if a baby and some decent window light aren't good enough on their own, precisely how God and nature intended)!
Of course, you can add those things in as you grow, but to get started, you need the items listed above.
Insurance is essential when handling equipment and babies, and my photography contract stated that all responsibility and liability were not mine, essentially. That the parents understood the risks involved.
You can use this one here as an excellent place to start, but I strongly advise getting it checked over by a solicitor or lawyer to ensure you are legally covered.
Yes, that's all you need to get started. Please don't hide behind ‘I have to hire a studio, I have to get a flash, I have to understand my light meter, I have to buy beanbags and baskets' before you get started!
We've already covered that one above. What's more critical than kit is your desire to learn to be good at newborn photography.
You're going to need to allow yourself time to learn about photography, lighting, and editing, time to learn about business and marketing, and the confidence to make mistakes.
Trust me; there will be lots of mistakes made. At the first wedding I ever shot, I lost all the images when my hard drive caught fire. It can't get any worse than that!
Remember this story to give you confidence when your baby doesn't lie still, open their eyes, or you have a brain freeze about poses during your session.
Mistakes help you learn and grow; it's normal to make mistakes, but when they happen, they make you feel like you're not a good enough photographer and like everyone else is better than you.
When you're starting, mistakes are normal!
And they will teach you what equipment you need! For example, photos coming out a bit dark, and no amount of changing the speed or aperture will lighten them up? You'll learn you need a reflector or some new presets!
Lol! The ubiquitous bean bag question. NEVER use a regular bean bag for baby photoshoots. If you take your eyes off the baby for a second, a baby can roll or shift around until the bean bag or surplus material covers its face. The baby can't wriggle out of it and can suffocate.
This is hugely rare, but you and the parents WILL take your eyes off the baby during the session. Even if you think you won't, you will! Especially if other siblings are involved in the shoot.
It's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to working with babies – buy a specific newborn beanbag like this one if you insist on using beanbags.
For a beginner just starting their newborn photography business, light is far more critical to your image than any prop or backdrop.
It depends on how you like to work and the result you want. For me, I work primarily with natural daylight.
After years of working with substantial professional lighting setups while shooting newborns (think three giant umbrellas, huge stand-alone flashes, softboxes, ring flashes, and lights, plus an entire room full of props and outfits), I just wanted to strip it all back and photograph babies in their perfect, natural state.
I grew to hate putting a sleeping baby in a flowerpot with a fake sunflower on its head! A baby is gorgeous on its own; no accessories are required. I wanted to concentrate on atmosphere, emotion, and relationships not staged setups.
So for me, natural light bounced was always going to win. I would make sure the baby I was photographing was positioned as close to a window as possible, that I photographed babies in the lightest and brightest room in the house, and that a parent or assistant or willing piece of furniture would assist in maximizing the available light by using a reflector.
Even on the darkest and stormiest of days (lots of those in the UK)! I would still insist on natural daylight in the oldest and darkest of houses!
So what lighting setup you need depends on how you like to work and the final image result you'd like to create.
You definitely wouldn't want to use an on-camera flash for photographing newborns – even in dark places and spaces. If the baby is asleep, it might wake it up, and if it's awake, it could trigger shock. Nobody wants a screaming, red-faced newborn for their photography session!
If you are a fan of more studio-looking work and want to ensure control over your lighting, you can use an external flash with either a diffuser, softbox, or bounced off the ceiling or nearby wall to add more light into your scene.
If you want to go all out right from the beginning, invest in a lighting setup. But what I'm saying is, you don't need it to get started.
Remember, ‘a poor workman always blames her tools ‘. Your equipment shouldn't limit the gorgeous work you can create with vision and a bit of light and imagination!
Ok, so you know what you need to get going with your newborn photography business. What else is useful?
You'll want to know how to get your first client, you'll want to know what to charge, and you'll need to have some basic photography business plans for newborn photographers.
Getting your first client as a newborn photographer is surprisingly easy. Here's what I recommend to start with; although this will be controversial to all the ‘old-timers' out there, I'll explain why in just a minute! First is the process.
I mean, like $50. Or even free. Yep, I said it. FREE. The goal is not to profit from this shoot; it's to give you confidence in your work and add to or start your portfolio.
Charging a low rate to get started as a newborn photographer gives you the freedom to make mistakes and try new things without worrying about the significant amount your client has invested. It also potentially gets you future work via referrals if you do a good job.
So, for example, you decide you're going to shoot three newborn clients for $50. This means that people will be motivated to take action on your offer as they are inspired by limited availability and don't want to miss out.
And it means you'll be able to increase your rates without feeling ‘bad' that the other clients have to pay more than your previous ones did. It's a simple business decision. How many will lower price point sessions give you the foundations of a solid portfolio? Please choose because now your job is to tell people about it.
you know, and tell them that you've just decided to go ‘pro' with your newborn photography. This lets people know you're a serious photographer and most likely good at what you're doing, but at the same time helps them understand you're still new – which is why you're running your offer (your low rate from step one).
You then tell them about your offer.
Ideally, the people you message will either be pregnant or have a newborn. You know that they know someone who is likely to have a baby soon OR is in their early stage of pregnancy (before they can book a maternity / newborn photographer)!
Let them know there are only three sessions available at that price point, so they have to book it soon if they want one.
If you haven't got those first three sessions booked yet, message five more people and share your offer on your personal social media pages. This will help move things along!
A newborn is best photographed when they are under seven days of age. You can push it up to 14 days, but ideally, before seven is best – they sleep a lot and barely move. This means you get beautiful, sleepy newborn images and perhaps some of Mama feeding.
An excellent time to begin your session is right after a feed, as long as the newborn doesn't have colic. Most babies don't get colic until a little later, though, so you'll most likely have a baby who is happy and sleepy with its warm belly full of milk 🙂 perfect for photographing.
Some newborn photographers arrange their sessions to take between 3-4 hours, which is far too much for both baby and Mama (who is most likely still in the healing phase after giving birth)!
My sessions used to take between an hour and an hour 45 minutes, which gave me more than enough time to get 30-40 beautiful newborn images.
I was able to take less time during my sessions and do what I felt was best for Mama and baby because I gave my clients some newborn photography tips before the session!
I would email them with links to helpful blog posts that I had written. I had written them for SEO purposes and to give my clients helpful newborn photography tips; yay, double win!
Some of the tips I would give to my newborn photography clients who will be included in the newborn shoot would be
Preparing your newborn photography clients beforehand with brilliant tips ensure you're fully prepared on the day will help ensure you get beautiful shots quickly!
Are you just starting as a newborn photographer? What questions do you have? Leave them below, and we'll add them to our post!
A post by Charlie
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