I wrote this article back in July of 2011, that’s nearly 2.5 years ago, so I figured it was time for an updated version. The industry has changed A LOT in those short 2.5 years and the amount of “newborn photographers” who have gotten their first DSLR and have exploded on the scene has increased by probably 10000%. I’ve been in business since 2008 and I consider myself one of the “OG’s”, or oldies, in the world of modern, artfully posed newborn photography and have seen it all in regards to the ins and outs of this industry.
I’m also so fortunate to have a thriving business, I adore every single one of my clients and consistently stayed booked month in and month out. I am absolutely honored to cuddle & photograph every single baby who comes into my studio. I’ve also been able to educate hundreds of other photographers, have been published in magazines, my work has been on TV, and I am speaking an amazing photography conference in September. I’ve been around the block, in a good way (I hope!!). I truly enjoy educating people whether it be other photographers or potential clients and think it’s especially important people do their research before they hire their Newborn Photographer.
Before booking your Newborn Session, please do your research. I love it when my clients come to me after spending months researching, it means that they know what they want and are educated in Newborn Photography.
The newborn stage is so fleeting and magical, I can’t help but sigh when I think back to the first few days with both of my boys. Your baby will NEVER be this tiny, this sleepy, this curly, this perfect again so make sure you are hiring the right person to capture it. Here are a few tips to help you find the right professional while looking through their portfolio:
- Are their photos technically correct?
This is a BIG one! Look through all of their images on their website, blog and Facebook.
Are they blurry or out of focus? If the photographer can’t take a photo that’s in focus, it’s probably best to pass. You want to be able to see every detail of that perfect little face.
Are they too bright/overexposed? You want the images to be bright and airy but you don’t want them so bright that they look like blobs when they are printed out.
Are they too dark? There is an art to processing dark & moody and then there is just flat out underexposing an image.
You want a photographer who knows how to not only use their camera, but who also knows how to read a histogram to know if the image is exposed correctly or your images will NOT look nice when printed.
The same image done correctly.
Art IS subjective, but it’s also very technical and while someone might love “that bright and airy look” to photos, they might also be ruining the image’s ability to be printed nicely.
Ideally you want a photographer who has mastered their camera to the point that the images come out of it looking near perfect, and the photoshop they do is to simply polish them and turn them from a raw photograph into a finished portrait. I post a TON of before & afters on my Facebook page & blog for this reason. It takes a skilled photographer to produce art in the camera and not have to fix everything in photoshop.
Here’s an example of an image straight out of the camera & the edit.
Are they over-processed? I see this a lot as well, neon colors, “antique” actions thrown on the images, too much contrast, etc. You want the beautiful baby to speak for itself, not the crazy photoshopping that was done to it.
Side note: there are some photographers that are able to process in a way that makes the image look like fine art and they rock it, then there are the imitators who do it badly like this. Artsy as hell, but it’s overexposed, overcontrasted, and the baby looks nuclear!
Here’s one I see a lot, I call it “hey this baby has jaundice, let’s make it look even more jaundiced!!”.
or this one I see all the time, I call it the “omg, is that poor baby sunburned??!”
Every photographer has their own style, and that is awesome. Do I prefer my images to look clean and classic? Yes! But are there others who process images differently but do it beautifully? Yes. There are also a lot of photographers who really don’t grasp how to use Photoshop and spend hundreds on buying actions to edit their photos to the point it’s distracting from the subject in the image.
Also, do you want to remember your baby like that? Your sweet baby with creamy, beautiful skin that some photographer made to look neon pink or neon orange? I think naturally beautiful, creamy skin is one of my favorite features of newborns, that and the smell of the top of their head.
Ahhh, normal, pretty & natural.
- Do the babies look safe and peaceful?
I’ve seen some scary set ups/newborn images around the internet, babies hanging from branches, shoved in bowls, baby in a glass jar full of gum balls, on the cold ground, etc. If the baby looks unhappy & uncomfortable, it probably is. Posing a baby correctly and safely takes years of training and experience and chances are the person who just picked up their camera last week probably won’t know how to do it correctly. I wrote an article on Newborn Photography safety over on Learn Shoot Inspire, it’s definitely worth reading!!
A lot of the popular poses are achieved through the magic of Photoshop. This is one of them, there are hands on the baby the entire time. Babies do not do this naturally and sometimes even if they hold the pose for a split second, it’s still important to have hands on them because it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Are they charging professional prices?
This is kind of a touchy subject, but it’s important. Real professional photographers aren’t charging “an arm and a leg” because we are greedy, we are running a legitimate business. Charging $10 for an 8×10 and $200 for a CD of all of the edited images is not ever going to make a business profitable, it’s just not possible. In fact, I’m going to say that once taxes (if they are even paying them) and expenses are taken out, they are not even going to make minimum wage or cover the gas getting to the session. I covered why digital files are expensive here, since this the most popular item I sell. I also contributed to the Design Aglow Pricing Guide with Kristina Young Photography, if you are a photographer you NEED this guide before you even think about setting up your prices.
Running a business is expensive, as professional newborn photographers, we pay:
- taxes (federal and state, that’s about 30-40% of our sales right there)
- rent (if you have a studio space)
- insurance – if the photographer doesn’t have insurance I’d run away, because it means they aren’t taking their business seriously.
- equipment – having the right cameras & lenses and keeping them in top shape is not cheap!
- props – I spend thousands on backdrops, baskets, chairs, wraps, headbands, hats a year so that my clients have a lot to choose from when we photograph their newborn.
- packaging & shipping
- professional organizations
- accounting fees – I have a CPA who does all of my books and taxes. Lots of photographers are getting audited by the IRS these days, do it right.
- daycare – my business is a full time job so I need care for my kids while I’m working, it’s not cheap!
These photos are going to last a lifetime while that designer handbag you bought will be out of style in one year, good photography is WORTH the investment.
- Are they running a real business?
I have a degree in Marketing/Management from Virginia Tech, while I love photography, I love running a business even more. Having a photography business is 80% business and 20% photography and if someone doesn’t know how to run a business, they won’t last in this industry.
I have had many clients come to me after having had a horrible experience with other photographers. Photographers who take forever to get them their galleries or orders, aren’t safe with their babies, or just plain don’t know what they are doing. You want newborn photos for cheap? That’s great, but just know, you get what you pay for. YOU CAN NOT REDO YOUR NEWBORN SESSION. Once you get the photos back from your photographer, your newborn will be out of that sleepy/bendy/squishy stage you want to capture. Make the right choice out of the gate.
- Is their work consistent?
This is SUPER important!! When you look at a photographers portfolio online, you are seeing the best of their best. Make sure they are able to produce those type of images day in and day out. Make sure that their style doesn’t change monthly, you want the images you get from your family photographer to look the same from when you have your first baby, to when you come back to have your 3rd newborn photographed. Go back and look through their entire blog & Facebook page through the years and make sure they don’t flip flop in their style/processing. Are they all over the map? That’s not a good sign. Obviously photographers get better & improve through the years, but you want someone who is consistent.
Here’s an example, while my skills with posing, lighting & composition have improved, my work has stayed pretty consistent!
- Ask to see a full gallery!
As a client, you have every right to ask to see what a full session of images from that photographer looks like. You want someone who can produce a VARIETY of beautiful images, after all this is an investment, you want to get the best bang for your buck. Here’s what a typical gallery from a newborn session with me looks like:
As a client you have every right to ask questions to your potential newborn photographer. Ask if they are insured, ask if they are licensed, ask to see their shooting space, ask to see sample products & galleries, ask QUESTIONS! Don’t just hire someone because they are cheap and have a few photos on their website that are good. Make sure that your investment is a good one, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to capture these first moments.
Not in my area? I’m more than happy to direct you to a fantastic newborn photographer in your area!