Hiring a newborn photographer is not something to be taken lightly, this person will be holding your newborn baby and spending a few hours with you during some of the most emotional and important days of your life. However, finding the good fit for your family shouldn’t be that complicated. In this article, I am going to tell you how to easily (and quickly) find what the right person/service for your needs and wants and understand what goes into creating different types of newborn images to have realistic expectations for your budget.
These are a few considerations you must take into account before reaching out to your local professionals:
1. NEWBORN SAFETY.
I can never emphasize enough how important this is. It doesn’t matter what type of newborn photography style you are after, if a photographer does not have at least a basic understanding of safety practices that will protect you and your newborn, PLEASE DON’T DO IT! Unfortunately, there are no current regulations or requirements to become a newborn photographer, this means that someone with no photography or newborn handling experience could set shop at any moment.
WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT? As a new mom, even I had no idea of how fragile a baby could be, so let’s reflect on it for a moment:
- Newborns can’t regulate their own body temperature so posing them naked by themselves on whatever space is NOT gonna work, but also they can be easily overheated and dehydrated if the temperature isn’t being monitored.
- Infants are at higher risk of SIDS, suffocation, or injury if they are not properly handled or posed.
- They can’t hold their head or bodies on their own so posing without proper support can be very dangerous.
- Their immune systems are as new and they rely on breastmilk to get most of their defenses from pathogens.
- Babies are also are very temperamental little humans that, unlike us, can’t express what bothers them.
- And last but absolutely not least, you just gave birth! You are probably going to be hormonal, emotional, and tired.
Things will go a lot smoother and easier if you hire a trained professional that has worked with newborn families before and has a good sense of the new family’s needs, but most important is that whoever you hire must be aware of his or her limitations or expertise when it comes to working with newborns. It does not matter if you hire a beginner newborn photographer or a well seasoned experienced one, if they are serious about their business, they need to be well studied on safe newborn handling practices.
2. NEWBORN PORTFOLIO AND STYLE
When looking at your local photographer’s work, you want to make sure that their style speaks to you. It does not matter how many inspiration boards you create on Pinterest, if you try to make a photographer recreate something that is not in aesthetic accordance to their style, you might not be as happy with the end result.
In my personal experience, this has been incredibly important as a newborn photographer. I still remember when I just started my newborn photography business, I’d get a good amount of families providing inspiration from higher-end and experienced photographers. This was a big challenge as I didn’t have the experience needed to create such images, I didn’t have the equipment, props, or even a workflow to get the end product they wanted. I was a lot cheaper back then, so I would often have to refuse posing newborns to recreate other photographer’s images. I used to encourage simple posing and would stick only to the poses I had studied and/or practiced previously.
3. SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUR BUDGET AND STYLE PREFERENCES
Let’s be realistic, most people expecting a baby aren’t exactly on an endless budget. Babies represent a huge expense, so setting aside a big budget for newborn photos can’t be a priority after all the birth expenses, the new house you just had to get to start your family, all the new baby gadgets, etc.
Lots of photographers that specialize in maternity and newborns have packages or discounts to accommodate both the belly photos and the newborn photos, so hiring the same person to do both is always a good idea.
Being on a small budget doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t hire a higher-end photographer but you must plan ahead of time. If you are pregnant and you know you want to work with an experienced newborn photographer, finding the right fit for your family shouldn’t be a challenge or disappointment. Most higher end photographers have payment plans that allow you to make modest monthly payments, but keep in mind that those photographers get booked far in advance so planning in advance is key.
If your budget is firm and you can’t afford to stretch it over the course of your pregnancy, or if you simply didn’t think of hiring a newborn photographer until the baby was born, it’s ok, don’t panic. All you need to do is to have realistic expectations and your newborn family photos will still turn out great. However, you have to understand what the different types of newborn photography are and what it takes to achieve certain style in order to set your budget:
Custom newborn photography
If you like images of peaceful sleeping babies with their hands tucked under their chin, floating in space on their dad’s arms, or laying on their tummies with their naked bumps up in the air, then custom newborn photography is what you are looking for. While everyone does business differently and has different styles, custom or boutique newborn photographers will have all the qualifications necessary to create EXACTLY what you want and need, they’ll have a big portfolio, years of experience, appropriate and safe newborn equipment and will prioritize newborn safety and your comfort above anything and everything.
Their style will be versatile and capable of creating a good mix of posed and candid images. They’ll have a vast newborn wardrobe and props galore, you won’t need to do much other than to make sure you communicate what your color preferences and expectations are. Some photographers have their own studio, which means that you will need to travel to them but most likely they will be ready to start the shoot almost as soon as you get there, while others travel to your home and will take a bit of time setting up a newborn studio in your living room. Some photographers have assistants so you will probably have to do little to nothing, while others prefer to request the parents’ assistance if needed, for which they should be able to guide you on how to help to keep your baby supported and safe.
This sounds great, but why are some newborn photographers so expensive? I hear you! you find a photographer whose work you LOVE, but she does not seem within your budget. It is paramount to first understand how custom newborn photographers work in order to establish a budget so here is a brief description of what will go down before you get those adorable smooth rosy cheeks on print:
- Newborn photoshoots aren’t exactly easy or short, these are new humans that need a lot of soothing and LOTS of patience.
- It can take up to 4 hours (depending on each particular baby) to get a gallery of 20-30 pictures and that does not even include the editing or product building time.
- These photographers will have the experience, they’ve received the proper education, are insured(of course! they are handling your newborn!), and if they travel to you they will bring lots of equipment for which you won’t have to lift a finger.
- Besides the time they spend with your family and your baby, they work a good amount of hours “behind the scenes” making sure they understand what you want, buying props (yup, newborn photography props are not cheap and need to be replaced VERY often, you only need to imagine why…), they will spend hours culling and editing your photos and most likely they’ll offer high quality printed products as part of their packages,
- They have to constantly maintain or upgrade their equipment or purchase editing softwares, it adds up!
Lifestyle photography can be an amazing way to document those newborn days without so much of the time requirement and high expense. Please note: I ‘am NOT saying that lifestyle photographers are necessarily cheap, but their cost of doing business will likely be less. Back when I just started as a newborn photographer in the Santa Cruz area, I already had years of professional photography experience so my images were pretty good on their own; however, I did not have the experience or confidence handling newborns so for the most part, I limited myself to these type of sessions and would allow the parents to be more in charge.
Now, let me be clear, hiring a photographer to do a lifestyle newborn session doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality, telling a story through a camera lens isn’t easy, it also requires experience and talent. Lifestyle family photography is simply a different form of photography. During a lifestyle session, the photographer will not intervene as much, he or she will be an observant trying to document what life looks like for you at that special moment of your life. For the most part, lifestyle sessions will take place at your home and will focus on portraying your family interactions with each other and with the newcomer, so the images will be mostly candid and not posed.
A lifestyle photography session is the best option if you like images that will portray your life with the baby and don’t care that much about posed baby photos. This type of photography would be shorter and doesn’t require as much equipment or editing as the custom newborn photography style.
Photographers looking to build their portfolio.
Of course, every professional photographer has to start somewhere, so hiring a beginner photographer doesn’t mean that you’ll get bad quality photos, it simply means you are giving someone (it might be a friend, or a model call) the opportunity to grow in their new profession. One thing you have to keep in mind is that these are people aiming to become professionals so, for the most part, they will be dedicated, however, they might have some limitations. Since new photographers just began their journey, they might not have safety training, experience handling newborns, or the resources to purchase all those Etsy newborn props, they might not know how to use them yet even if you buy them, they might not have lighting equipment so the quality of the light at the location you choose will be paramount. I am all for giving new photographers a chance, I was one once! But I would steer away from trying to recreate newborn poses from more experienced photographers.
The best way to find a photographer giving away sessions or charging considerably less while they are building their portfolio is to look for model calls, a lot of these photographers might already have the education and skills and all they might need is the experience so give them a chance!
As you can see, a lot can go into each finished newborn digital or print. But not all photographers are equal. Make sure to do your research and prioritize what you want before setting a realistic budget for what you actually want.
Whatever path you decide to take, always make sure to communicate your expectations and any concerns you have regarding newborn safety with your photographer. I have had a couple of clients hiring me after having a failed newborn photography session from a photography service outsourcing photographers. These services can be very good, but it is very important you get to see examples of the work created by the actual photographer that will come to your home, remember, sometimes the “affordable” way can end up costing more, so being in control of these little details can save you a lot of time, money, and hassle.
Finally, whoever you hire, pay extra careful attention to their “newborn safety” or “sickness” policies for rescheduling. You NEVER want to have someone with a bug holding your baby or have to take your baby out for a photoshoot when you’ve had a couple bad nights. Newborn photographers, in my opinion, should be very sympathetic to the emotional needs and implications of becoming a parent and if you don’t anticipate that as one of your priorities, it can be easy to hire the wrong person.