Having a baby is one of the most exciting and terrifying times of your lives. There are so many new things to learn and so many options for everything… how do you sift through it all and ensure that you’re making the right choices? I remember trying to choose my OBGYN and pediatrician. I remember sifting through reviews and interviewing the ones that sounded like they would be a good match. I remember how hard it was to decide on even the simple things like ‘What type of swing should I buy? Do I even need one?’. Some decisions, however, are very easy – when finding someone to take care of you during your pregnancy and deliver your baby, you want someone who specializes in that. When choosing a doctor to take care of your newborn, you aren’t looking for someone who specializes in geriatric medicine, you’re looking for a pediatrician. This same principle should apply to anyone handling your baby, including choosing a newborn baby photographer. “Jack of all trades, master of none”. You don’t want to put your new baby in the hands of someone who doesn’t know the ins and outs of handling a newborn or isn’t familiar with the necessary precautions of even being around a newborn. If your sister was anxious to meet your new baby but her child had the flu or pink eye, would she come for a visit? Hopefully you can answer that with a resounding “NO WAY!”… however, many people do not understand just how fragile a newborn’s immune system is and some people don’t even consider that they can carry illness over to these sweet new babies even if they aren’t showing symptoms. There are so many precautions to take with newborns and you need people in your ‘village’ to help keep your baby safe.
So, how DO you go about choosing the right newborn baby photographer?
Of course you’ll want to find a newborn baby photographer whose work you like. Style and technical skill will always play an important role. There are many different styles – from lifestyle (candid) to lightly posed, to posed in impossible positions to fantasy composites and each of these subsets will have their own styles as well – colors, lighting, accessories, props, and to the overall feel of the images. Whatever your style preferences, please be sure to do your research before hiring your newborn baby photographer – aside from the number one priority of keeping your baby safe, your little one will change so quickly that there are no do-overs. It is also very important to understand that just because a wedding photographer takes amazing images of weddings, it does not mean that they will have the skillset to create the same kind of work with a newborn. I know – I WAS a wedding photographer. While both are very demanding and pretty much once in a lifetime events, the two require very different skills. When I decided to switch my focus to newborns it took me a while to learn the differences between the two genres. I took workshops, read a TON, practiced on dolls, talked to pediatricians and NICU nurses about health and safety precautions, made sure with my own doctor that I was up to date on all of my vaccinations (and found out when I would need new ones) and THEN I started to offer sessions for free to hone my new skills, even though I had been a successful professional photographer for many years.
Interview your newborn baby photographer
Once you’ve found a few newborn baby photographers whose style you like, you need to interview him or her just as you would your baby’s pediatrician. You need to make sure that you’re on the same page and you need to be sure that your personalities don’t clash and that you feel confident in them. This really needs to be either in person or over the phone – how can you really tell if you are a good match if you can’t hear their tone of voice? Hiring someone who is going to be handling your newborn baby should not be a quick and simple email conversation – it should be a more extensive process. A professional photographer should answer at least most of your questions before you even ask them. There is also no set standard for how to structure a photography business – each photographer runs their business the way they find works best for them and/or their clients. You need to know what to expect before you book your photographer – their procedures, policies, what you should anticipate spending, how long things will take, what they will help with and what they won’t. You need a clear picture (pardon the pun) of what the entire experience will be like. You want any surprises to be good ones.
*Disclaimer – as seen above, this image is a composite of multiple images together. This pose should not be attempted without an adult’s hands holding baby into position the entire time. This is not a go-to pose for me personally (and it’s much brighter in color than I typically do), but I have been trained to safely achieve it for the clients who request it.
Questions to ask your newborn baby photographer before you book
- Are you up to date on all of your vaccinations, including pertussis? (the answer should absolutely be yes!)
- What happens if you or someone in your household gets sick? (the answer of course should be that they reschedule for when everyone is well)
- Do you wash everything that my baby comes in contact with in baby friendly detergent before every session? (the answer should be yes, even if it wasn’t soiled!)
- Do you photograph more than one newborn per day? (If they say yes, ensure that they are not using the same items with both babies (no time to wash in between) and that they have allotted plenty of extra time between sessions in case one runs longer than anticipated)
- How do you ensure my baby’s safety with those cute poses and props? (the answer should be composites (merging two or more images together) or extensive retouching to remove adult hands from the image – certain poses should never be done without someone holding baby in position the entire time and others, such as baby in most props, should have an adult’s hands RIGHT next to baby (to be removed in post processing) just in case baby startles or a prop starts to tip – and props should always be weighted to be heavier than baby so they don’t tip!)
- I saw this cute pose and I HAVE to have it! Can you guarantee this pose? (your baby is in charge and each baby is different – the answer should be ‘I’ll do my best’ but no one should ever say that they can guarantee a certain pose. If baby is uncomfortable it should not be done)
- If baby will be naked (or partially naked) for any part of the session, how do you keep him or her comfortable? (it should be unpleasantly warm/hot to us to keep baby’s body temperature regulated and keep him or her comfortable – varying typically between around 80 and 85 degrees, depending on the baby – do not allow a photographer to put your baby onto a heating pad for warmth as it can cause burns! Warming the area first is fine but be sure they test the temperature before placing baby. Read the warning labels on heating pads and space heaters – they are there with good reason)
- If my son is being circumcised, do we need to wait on his session? (I advise waiting one week to let him heal so we don’t risk infection or making him uncomfortable)
- Are you insured? (this is a must!)
- Do you have backup equipment in case something malfunctions during my session? (this is very important – if they don’t, you may have to come back once the equipment has been fixed or replaced or when they can borrow or rent something… which could be a very long time if they aren’t prepared)
- Do you guarantee availability for my baby’s session if he or she arrives early, late or needs to stay in the hospital a little longer?
- What if my baby or I need to stay in the hospital longer and we can’t get in before he or she is 2 weeks old? Will you still photograph him or her? If so, can I still get the same types of images as I would if he or she were under two weeks?
- What does my session include? Are there additional fees for anything that I should be aware of? (some photographers include all of the digital images for you to print when you get around to it, some charge a session fee for their time and then have packages to be purchased, some offer products a la carte, some don’t offer digital images at all, some charge extra for including parents or siblings, some charge extra for retouching – these are all things you should be aware of before booking.)
- I’ve never done this before – do you offer any assistance with things like clothing and color choices, preparation advice, choosing products, sizes and cropping photos, styling, etc?
- What should I expect before, during and after my session? (specifics below)
- How do I reserve my session? (I’d be leery about anyone who does not require a deposit to secure your session – how do you know that they’ll actually put you on their calendar?)
- Do you require a contract or agreement? (The answer should be yes – so both parties are clear on everything and there is binding proof that not only have you reserved your session but what is and is not included)
- How do I prepare for my session?
- How long should my session take and what should I expect to happen during that time? (Will you have a comfortable place to relax? Something to do? Cold drinks and snacks available? Will it be hot? How many poses/sets should you expect?)
- What if my baby is cranky and doesn’t cooperate? (an experienced newborn photographer can almost always get a baby to settle but there are some rare exceptions. In that case, you should absolutely be offered a reschedule date very soon after)
- What is your turnaround time for seeing my images? (2 weeks or less is ideal)
- How will I see my images?
- How will I choose my images and products?
- How long will I have to decide?
- How long for any products I purchase (or that are included) to be ready?
- If I have a problem with my image(s) or product(s), how is that handled?
- What if I don’t like my images? (you should be offered a free reshoot or full refund if you don’t like any of your images – however, if this happens you may miss out on those beautiful images that are typically only possible during those fleeting first weeks so choose wisely!)
- How long do you keep my images?
- How do you ensure that my images are safe? (multiple backups!)
- If I want to order more images in the future, can I?
- If my relatives want to order images, can they?
- What forms of payment do you accept and when are payments due? (industry standard is that the balance is due in full before your order is put into production as these are custom products, especially for you and cannot be resold to others so don’t be alarmed by that)
- If I receive digital images, how do I receive those and what if I have trouble? Do you help if I have questions on cropping, colors, etc? Do you offer any recommendations for printing labs? What if I print them and the color or quality looks different than how they looked on the computer? (Trouble with printing is an extremely common problem – even with many photographers – this one reason it is especially important to hire a professional who offers and is well versed in printed heirloom quality products)
- Do you guarantee your products? What if I order an album and a year later it starts to fall apart? (you should be getting a care guide for your products so that nothing happens to them due to unintentional mistreatment and they should be professional grade products – if a product doesn’t hold up when treated properly, it should be replaced at no charge)
There are also things to consider such as clean hands, trimmed nails, no jewelry or clothing that could scratch baby, no lotions, perfumes or air fresheners that could cause an allergic reaction, no pets allowed in the studio that you or baby could be allergic to, etc. Some new parents are religious about hand sanitizer, some would prefer that you just wash with soap and hot water and don’t touch baby after you’ve dumped sanitizer on your hands. This is personal preference and it should be your decision. I personally always wash with hot water and antibacterial soap and have hand sanitizer next to me to use throughout the session if parents prefer I use it.
While I believe that all of the things mentioned above should outweigh the actual price as this is one of the most rewarding investments you will make and you want it done safely and beautifully, we all have budgets and hey, babies are expensive. You should know the full pricing before you book your newborn baby photographer and the pricing from the time that you booked should be honored for at least a couple of weeks past your session even if the photographer’s pricing has gone up since you booked. You should know more than just a ‘starting at’ price. You should know if the 5×7 for grandma is going to run you $50 or $500. You should know if there are any policies in place such as minimum order requirements or if you have to lock into a specific package. You should know if you can substitute items in a package or if that package includes a certain number of poses. You need to know what forms of payment are accepted and if your photographer offers payment plans if you decide to go over your ‘right now’ budget.
Best wishes and happy hunting for your newborn baby photographer!
Autumn Photography LLC is located in the Hudson Valley in Cornwall, NY and has been in business since 2005. To get more information and book your consult and session, please visit autumn-photography.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-787-4492.