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All professional photography involves a multitude of skills and newborn photography is no different, with one very important exception. It is the only area of photography that involves the photographer being completely responsible for the safety and welfare of the subject – the baby. As a newborn photographer you will hold, comfort, soothe, pose, wrap, and often even feed and clean up after your subject, even with the parents present.
It is because of this difference that it is so specialized, and requires the right set of skills. Not having those skills is about more than the risk of poor images – someone’s safety is at stake.
So having decided it’s for you, you’ll have a huge number of questions. Here I aim to answer some of the biggest, and most important ones.
The short answer is yes. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are at photography, because the skills required to be safe and of a good standard as a newborn photographer are really very different than anything you have done before. If you decide to become a wedding photographer with no training, the worst that may happen is you let down a couple on their big day. As bad as that could be, no one will get hurt.
Newborns are delicate and must be handled correctly. They can suffer circulation problems, are poor at regulating their temperature, and cannot tell you when they are feeling uncomfortable, which means they are relying on you to take care of them at all times. The correct training will teach you safe handling techniques, how to spot signs of baby not being happy for many reasons, as well as general safety and other important areas.
The average session is 3-4 hours, and you will soon realize why when you have done a couple of your own. The session is taken up by everything BUT taking photos. When I do a session my camera is in my hand for less than ten minutes the entire time. The session will involve settling, cuddling, reading baby, soothing for sleep, and gentle posing. They baby runs the show, of that there is little question, and as each baby is different, so is each session. Try to rush it and clock watch, and you’ll put yourself under huge pressure, and babies pick up on stress, which could cause you to have an unsettled baby on your hands. As a general rule, most newborn specialists will do just one session a day.
If you have children, you may well remember that newborns sleep a lot, at least through the day, and seem able to sleep through pretty much anything too. But that changes really quickly, and by week three babies are waking more easily, and spending more time awake each day. You cannot pose a baby that is awake, so a sleeping newborn is what you need, meaning you need to aim for under two weeks, and under ten days is even better.
Sleep isn’t the only issue that dictates though. Newborns are gorgeously squishy, floppy and bendy under ten days old, which, coupled with being sound asleep, makes them perfect for gently posing into those adorable positions parents love. Much after two weeks and they begin to gain muscle tone, which means they lose the flexibility that makes such posing possible.
So that covers not doing a session too late, but you need to know why doing it too early isn’t good either. Newborns don’t usually look their best after birth, and it can take time for their faces to settle. Also, feeding needs to be established because until a baby is feeding well, he won’t sleep well. My advice would be don’t do a session under 5 days of age.
You are selling emotions. That is really the bottom line with newborns. The parents are melting with wonder and love at their new baby, and emotions are running their lives completely. If you can build a relationship with your clients that taps into their emotions, and leaves them feeling that you can truly relate to them and their baby, they will be more inclined to not only book you, but trust you.
Talk in a way that shows their baby means almost as much to you as he does them. Ask them lots of questions about their baby, and life since his arrival. New parents can talk all day about their baby, so showing he interests you will really endear you to them. Use emotive language on your site and Facebook page. Rather than saying “I like doing baby shoots” say “I simply adore capturing images of beautiful, squishy babies!”
Look after the parents when they are with you. Provide drinks and snacks, and comfortable seating. Mum will be sore and they are both likely to be exhausted.
Word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools in this genre. Mums talk, and will recommend you if they came away feeling that their baby was safe, respected and adored. The testimonials that will get you more bookings will not be the ones where mum says the pictures are good, but rather the ones where she gushes about how lovely the experience was while with you.
Keep it simple. Training will show you the basic equipment you’ll need, like beanbag and backdrop stand, as well as a small selection of throws, hats, headbands, and wraps. The most important area for your development as a newborn photographer will be developing safe handling of the baby in your early months. The confidence in posing takes time, and that is where your focus should be, not on having all the props and the biggest selection of hats. What will set you apart as a top newborn photographer will never be the amazing set up you design – it will be how good your posing is, and how comfortable your baby looks in the images.
So in summary, I would suggest you take your time setting up as a newborn photographer. Research good training, and consider that in this area especially, you get what you pay for.
For more on newborn photography and business see these articles:
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