So you want to be a newborn photographer? 5 things to consider before jumping in.
Let's face it; babies are cute, adorable and easy to photograph, right? Well, they are cute and adorable, at times, however, photographing a subject you can’t communicate with as well as having their own ideas of how they are going to behave isn't as easy as you might think. And when working with newborns, you can't rely on your personality to get the shot. In order to be a successful newborn photographer, you need to develop skills in working with these tiny humans before you'll actually get a decent photograph and a saleable product for your clients. Below are five important considerations for anyone thinking of taking their career in this exciting and rewarding direction. But just remember, it’s no walk in the park!
1: Lighting – Natural or Studio
When it comes to lighting, the two main options when it comes to photographing newborns is studio or natural light. I'm a natural light photographer and adore the simplicity and results I can achieve using just a window with a sheer curtain to diffuse the light. Those who use studio light love it for its consistency and versatility. It can be used in any room, no matter the lighting, at any time, and in any weather. It also provides you with a significant degree of control.
2: Where – Studio or Location
Where will you shoot? You can lease an external studio or set one up in your home, if you have the space. Plenty of photographers have successful home studios without the overheads of a leasehold which is particularly important when starting out and trying to keep costs low. I have always photographed my clients in their homes, and it's not without its challenges. The lighting is unpredictable and inconsistent, and the space to work in can often be small and cramped. Planning the shoot beforehand is paramount so you know how much gear you need to bring. The good thing about shooting on location is that clients are relaxed in their own environment, and I don't have clients coming to my home, which I prefer.
3: Props – Basics to get started
You need to have a basic prop kit before you actually start. This will typically include soft props, such as bonnets, wraps, blankets, tiebacks, etc. and hard props such as a posing beanbag, bowls, and boxes to pose the babies in. Props can be purchased through newborn prop pages on Facebook, Etsy and Newborn Marketplace, as well as homewares and fabric retail stores. Choose these items carefully as they will determine your style of photography. Will you stick with a neutral colour palette or be bold and use colour? This decision will also determine which clients will be attracted to your work. My advice here is to choose what you are naturally drawn to and love. If you love it, your clients will love it and be drawn to you and your style of newborn photography.
4: Selling – In person or online galleries
Once you've completed your session, you need to work out how your clients with choose their images. You can choose to send them a link to an online gallery. These can be hosted on sites such as Zenfolio, Pixieset, and many others. To get started, you upload the images – usually watermarked – and send your clients a password to access their gallery so that they can choose their images. The advantage of this option is its convenience – you can upload the gallery and have another tick on your workflow board. However, the disadvantage is that you have no control over which images they choose, or how many images they buy. You have to cross your fingers and hope they buy your biggest package.
In person sales might sound intimidating and scary, but it really isn't. It's just helping your client in the next step of the process by educating them into making the right decisions. It's also wonderful to hear feedback from them, both the good and the bad, which you may not ever get the chance to hear if it's all done online. You are in business to make money, and you'll make more money doing it this way.
5: Education – Baby safety and duty of care
Babies are fragile. Part of becoming a newborn photographer is being aware of what new babies can and can't do, will and won’t do, and knowing when to cut your losses and try something different. Learning how to 'read' babies and the signals they are giving isn't easy, but with much practise you will learn. Practise is the key here, so practise often. Photograph as many friends’ babies as possible and try new things with each session. Purchasing educational videos online or taking part in a newborn photography workshop is also highly recommended. You'll gain knowledge, confidence, and also meet other like-minded photographers who are just starting out, and keen to learn. Baby safety is paramount: if in doubt, leave it out.
About Elise Gow
Australian Photographer Elise Gow has been photographing newborns for five years. She now teaches other photographers her skills through 1:1 mentoring, workshops and online learning videos. Elise is a keynote speaker at The Baby Summit in Tweed Heads which runs from 6 – 8 August 2016. She has spoken at The Prop Fair in Brisbane and Melbourne, and will be speaking and conducting more workshops at The Prop Fair Sydney in September 2016.