FAQ V6 | Northern Virginia Newborn & Baby Photographer

I started doing these “frequently asked questions” posts on a whim 4 years ago and they are still some of my most popular posts! I’m so glad I can be of help to other photographers and enjoy sharing my experiences with others. I got some great questions this go round so let’s do this!

1. As a newborn photographer, this is my biggest issue- clients bringing along their ipad to a newborn session and every minutes asking if I “can get this shot?” This is especially tough if it’s not my style or overly “proppy”. 

Ah yes, we all love Pinterest don’t we?! Here’s where you have to kind of tread gently, you want your clients to be happy with their images but you also do not want to copy someone else’s work or misrepresent yourself as an artist.

I always welcome my clients to bring props they want to incorporate and I’ve had a lot of amazing things brought into my studio! I love using these things because they mean something special to my clients, like a handmade quilt:

Or an antique Navajo Cradleboard:

or a fire helmet:

I’m always happy to try to use anything they bring in that’s special to them but if they come with me with an idea that’s completely not mine that would be copying someone else, I will not do it. Some of the cheesier stuff I see out there, I just do not have in my studio so unless they bring it, I won’t do it. Lets be honest, we are shooting for our CLIENTS who are PAYING us, not always ourselves. As long as it does not compromise my artistic integrity or someone else’s I will take images that make my client happy. I will say though, that most of my clients come to me for MY work and want what they see on my website & blog.

2) What camera settings is your camera set to? (metering, focus mode, etc):

I spot meter, use one shot focus, custom or kelvin white balance (custom outside the studio, kelvin in my studio), and I toggle my focus points.:-)

3) Do you have any advice for when your a natural light photographer shooting newborn at a clients house and they have NO good light?!

Get creative! Scope out the entire house and find the best window that is LOWEST to the ground. Sliding glass doors are ideal because there is usually a good amount of space right by them. You can also put the beanbag on top of a bed and use a window right by the bed. I used to jam myself and my beanbag in the tiniest spaces to get the good light. You want to get as close as possible to the light source too!

Here’s a natural light pullback:

4) What do you do when your newborns refuse to be posed! No matter how long you spend trying to position them, nothing seems to work??

Sometimes you are going to catch a baby on a “bad” day, they aren’t happy, don’t want to sleep, pose, are cranky, etc. It’s tough but there are a few things to try to avoid it:
- make sure they are between the ages 6-12 days, not too young that they are still starving because mom’s milk hasn’t come in and not too old that they are alert.
- Make sure the room is hot.
- Full belly.
- White noise.

If they are still unhappy and you need to get shots, do the safe shots! Swaddled, swaddled in props, in mom’s arms, in dad’s arms, etc. You can’t pose a baby that’s not asleep, it’s just not possible  or safe IMO so instead of forcing it, try other things while they are awake as long as they are not screaming.

Here are some of my go-to awake baby shots:

If all else fails, call it a day and try again another day.

5) I would love to know how do you process your images.

The key to this is to get your shots as perfect as possible Straight Out Of the Camera (SOOC). Make sure you have nice lighting, good white balance and exposure and you won’t have to do much to process your images.

Here are a few before & afters, the SOOC (before) shot is on top:

For my processing I start in ACR where I usually edit in “neutral”, then I just adjust exposure, blacks, fill light and the tint/temp slider to my liking. Once in photoshop I bump the midtones with a curves adjustment, do a levels adjustment, add contrast, take out a little red in a selective color layer and the run Portraiture and reduce the opacity down to 30-40% and erase back the eyes, mouth and hairline.

6) I started my business (unintentionally) a few years ago and while I have the business side down pat I am discouraged at the quality in my work
and really want to improve.

I think the best thing you can do for your business is produce consistent work for your clients, they want to know exactly what they are getting from looking at your website. If you feel like you need to improve the quality of your work, it’s time to take a step back from charging and go back to learning and building your portfolio and finding yourself. Figure out the area you need the most work in and study it, ask other photographers whom you admire (very nicely) for help. Most importantly, ask for constructive criticism on your work! Join a Photography Forum (Clickin Moms & Learn Shoot Inspire are two that are amazing) and take advantage of all of the information that is out there for you!

7) Have you ever had conflicts with friends when it came to pricing or discounts? I am struggling with that right now – while my prices have steadily increased, along with demand, I feel like my friends that I originally did portfolio building sessions and no longer can afford my prices may feel like I’m price gouging them!

I offer close friends my Friends & Family pricing but other than that, you are going to lose clients when you increase your prices no matter what but they will understand you need to do what you need to do to run your business and make a living. I don’t go to my friends offices asking for a discount or free stuff, so they do the same for me. You could also offer mini sessions just for them once a year at a discounted price. It’s tough, but you run a business not a charity.

8. Have you ever taken any online or in person workshops? What do you feel has been the greatest investment in your business? My guess is your gorgeous studio!

I have never taken a workshop, I’m 100% self taught but do have a Marketing Management degree from Virginia Tech. I do, however, teach workshops both in person and online. Online I offer a Break-Out Online Workshop at Clickin Moms:

That workshop is open to anyone and then I offer in-person workshops at my studio open to those outside of the DC Metro area.

The greatest investment in my business so far (besides my equipment) has been my studio. I’m able to work more often but much more efficiently and having a studio just works for my business model. I would not recommend it for all business models though. Plus, it’s pretty.:-)

9. I’ve seen a lot of photographers offer maybe up to 30 proofs and that seems like so much to me from just one newborn session. I wonder if they have 30 different poses or if there are several pictures of each pose, so that several pictures are almost identical except for maybe a slightly different facial expression? The last session I did, I ended up with somewhere around 15 proofs that I really loved, but that’s because I only chose about 1 photo from each pose/backdrop. Should I be offering multiple photos of each pose we do? Or should I be spending more time changing backdrops, headbands, poses, etc to get more photos?

Yes! You should definitely be showing more than that! I promise my clients 25-35 images and typically show 35-40. I aim to shoot on 3 different blankets, 2 different props, family shots, sibling shots and shots with each parent. On each blanket you should try to get a few different poses out of it and different angles. Just move yourself instead of the baby, stand up, get on your knees, etc. Here’s a quick example of the same pose but moving yourself so you get 3 different shots:

10) I wondered about your outdoor photos… Do you ever use fill flash or any type of flash outdoors? Do you only shoot at sunset? I find that I get a lot of colour casts in my outdoor photos if I’m not careful, and I think that using those two things might help.

Ideally I’d always shoot outside at sunset because the lighting at that time is just divine!

That is not always possible though! I shoot a lot of younger kids and babies and evening hours can be their witching hour. The 2nd best time? Early in the morning! The sun is still nice and low between 7-8 am so you can still get some pretty backlighting then like this:

I do not use any flash outside, I’m shooting with the sun behind or to the side of my subjects or in open shade if the sun is too high in the sky mid-day.

Hope that helps!!

Kori - This is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing!

Andrea - THANK YOU A TON!!! I have been following you for a long time. You are by far one of my favorites! Thank you for your generosity with your knowledge :)

Courtney McIver - thank you for sharing all your info! I love reading your FAQs & blog. Your images are so beautiful & I just love your consistency–even with your outdoor shots, you can tell they are yours!

Nicole - Thank you so much for answering my question! That really helps me a lot. I really appreciate you taking the time to help new photographers out. You make it look so easy!

Newborn Photography - […] can’t believe it’s been over a year since I’ve done a FAQ post! Now that I’m home and resting from back surgery, I actually have time to tackle this and do […]

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