When I found out I was pregnant with my last baby, I knew I was interested in having a home birth (2020 will do that to you!). While looking for a midwife, I found myself doing internet searches for what questions I should be asking potential midwives before hiring one. I knew I wanted someone experienced and competent, but I didn’t even know enough to know what to ask! It made me wonder if the same applies to a lot of clients looking for a newborn photographer. It seems like more often than not, clients don’t consider anything beyond someone who is "affordable."
There can be a huge range of price and experience amongst photographers.
The first thing I recommend doing is checking out a photographer’s website to see their portfolio and taking time read through their information to see how they do things and if their personality is a good fit for you. Take a look at their social media pages as well, since those are often kept even more up to date with photos and videos from recent sessions. After that, fill out their contact form and arrange for a pre-session consultation. This will allow you to get to know the photographer and see their studio space before your little one arrives. This is the time to ask any questions you might have so that you know what to expect. Hopefully the questions that follow can put you in a better position to choose and hire a photographer that is the best fit for your needs!
1. What does your session fee include?
Professional photography is an investment. If receiving quality images is a priority to you, don’t choose your photographer based on price alone.
Plan in advance, save up, and choose a photographer WHOSE WORK YOU LOVE.
With most high quality photographers, expect your session fee to cost a couple hundred dollars at minimum, but remember that the session fee will NOT include photos. (Some photographers require a deposit, instead of a session fee, that is applied towards your package when you order your products.) Either way, your total investment will depend on which package or products you choose. Be aware that there is often a minimum amount to spend required and it’s likely you will want more than the bare minimum.
A professional photographer takes pride in her work and wants to create images that you will fall in love with!
I always say I’ve done my job correctly if my clients love ALL of their images and can’t narrow it down so it's a good idea to have some flexibility in your budget!
2. What precautions do you take to keep my baby safe and comfortable?
Your new baby is your whole world! Undoubtedly your baby’s safety and comfort is a top priority for you. You will not want to hand your brand new bundle over to just anyone. Not everyone advertising themselves as a “newborn photographer” has experience with posing and handling a newborn safely.
An experienced newborn photographer will know all of the tips and tricks to ensure your baby is content and safe.
You can often tell just by looking through their portfolio how well a photographer works with newborns: do the majority of their babies look comfortable and relaxed (peaceful faces and relaxed hands) or do they look awkward, tense, and uncomfortable (tightly clenched fists and furrowed brows)? Some babies just have a default grumpy face (my fourth child was this way…always a furrowed brow!), but, overall, the newborns in a photographer’s portfolio should look peaceful.
Safety precautions may include things like rescheduling when ill so that your newborn isn’t exposed to potentially dangerous germs and viruses, keeping linens washed and surfaces clean, having a spotter nearby when necessary, compositing images together to keep baby out of precarious situations, posing baby in a way that doesn’t strain joints or muscles, heating the space to keep baby warm, and more!
My clients often call me a "baby whisperer" because of my ability to soothe cranky babies and expertly pose them.
That comes from YEARS of experience and a studio environment that is geared towards keeping baby comfy and sleepy.
3. How do I prepare for the photoshoot?
Your photographer should communicate with you each step of the way so that you know what to expect. Individual photographers may do things differently, but here are some of my standard recommendations:
To get those adorable posed pictures, your baby will need to be sound asleep. This requires a comfortable baby with a FULL BELLY.
I always recommend my nursing moms avoid eating foods that upset newborn tummies and to also try keep their baby awake for one or two hours before arriving for their session if possible. Upon arriving, baby is undressed, changed if necessary, and then given a full feeding in my dim and cozy studio. Often, that is all that is needed to get a “milk drunk” baby that will relax into those sleepy poses. Sometimes it takes a little more effort to get baby comfortable and sleepy. Extra snuggles and/or feedings may be required. Tummy issues or latching problems (reflux, gassiness, tongue tie, etc.) can play a part as well so your photographer will work with baby to get him/her comfortable (and that can take some time).
It's not uncommon for a newborn session to last three to four hours. Feedings, soothing baby, and posing takes time!
During that time, you should be able to sit back and relax (and even take a much needed nap if you like) once baby is fed!
4. What if my baby won’t settle/sleep?
Please don’t stress about this! Babies pick up on emotions so it can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Stay relaxed and make sure you follow all the preparation instructions that your photographer has given you. Experienced newborn photographers are pros at soothing babies and newborns WILL sleep (eventually). A good photographer will patiently work with your baby and will not be in a rush. Sometimes it takes babies a while to settle and sleep and some babies are just more alert and touchy than others. Swaddling can be used to keep a cranky or alert baby cozy and secure for pictures. As a bonus, you’ll likely get some of those rare, wide-eyed shots of your brand new baby that are always a client favorite.
5. What should I bring?
If you plan to be photographed with your newborn, it’s always a good idea to bring a change of clothes. I always joke with my parents that babies like to save up their bodily fluids for when mom and dad are holding them without a diaper on! An experienced photographer knows to expect accidents. Soiled items will be washed after the session!
An experienced newborn photographer will provide everything needed for your session.
This includes props, layers, posing fabrics, outfits, accessories, etc. so you will just need to provide a well-fed baby! Your photographer will consult with you to determine session colors and styling to suit your preferences. Be sure to look through their portfolio to see if their style is consistent with the look you’re wanting.
6. What age of baby is best for newborn sessions?
Even among experienced newborn photographers there are varying preferences when it comes to specific ages to work with. Some prefer babies under two weeks old while others prefer working with newborns at three or four weeks old. I personally recommend clients bring in their babies within the first two weeks after birth.
In my experience, babies become more and more alert and awake as time goes by...
BUT I have posed much older babies like newborns, so I also say that you should not worry if your baby is a few weeks old by the time you’re able to have pictures done.
You’ll want to be sure you know what your photographer’s preference is so that you can plan accordingly. If your baby arrives early that can affect the session scheduling since an extended hospital stay may be involved. Other things to consider are C-sections and circumcisions…mom and baby will need a week to heal after those procedures before a session can take place. Most newborn photographers limit the amount of clients they take on each month to allow for flexibility for unpredictable birth dates or special circumstances. Be sure to understand how your photographer handles early/late deliveries, extended NICU stays, and ask if they are comfortable working with premies.
7. How long will it take to see my final images?
It can easily take more than thirty hours of work to present a client with their images (consultations, setup, session time, editing, creating slideshows, etc.). Photography is a process and final edits and product production take time. Once you have seen your gallery and finalized your purchases, print products (wall art, heirloom albums, birth announcements, etc.) can take four or five weeks to arrive.
The turnaround time amongst photographers can vary greatly so be sure that you are aware of a photographer’s timeline so that your expectations are aligned with their policies.
I personally do a soft proof edit of my clients’ images within a few days of the session. At that time I schedule a gallery reveal and ordering session with them so that they can select their favorite images from their gallery and order their albums and wall art. I have their images fully edited and products ordered within two weeks of their session.
8. Do you offer albums, prints, and wall art?
Some photographers only offer digital images, some offer a combination of prints/albums/wall art/digitals, while some offer only prints/albums/wall art (no digitals). Be sure you choose a photographer that offers the products you are interested in.
I love providing gorgeous printed goods for my clients so I know that they are receiving a quality product and getting the most out of their investment.
Hiring a full service photographer takes the burden of creating albums and ordering wall art off of your plate. You will already have your hands full with caring for a newborn…you likely won't want to have to deal with designing and ordering albums and wall art too.
9. Can parents and siblings be included in the session?
Some photographers prefer to focus on the newborn only. Some include the cost of photographing immediate family with the newborn while others may charge extra for each additional person. It’s always a good idea to clarify with your newborn photographer who you wish to be photographed during the session and to ask about any additional fees that may incur.
10. What forms of payment do you accept? Do you offer payment plans?
This will vary from person to person but many photographers do offer a payment plan if needed. Keep in mind that you will not receive your images until your package has been paid for in full so it's a great idea to plan well in advance and start saving up BEFORE your session so that you can receive your images sooner. Most photographers have variety of accepted payment methods as well. Don’t forget to ask your photographer and check the contract details for any late or rescheduling fees and extra charges.
It never hurts to ask about cash discounts!
Credit card services, PayPal, etc. take a fee from all transactions so your photographer may be willing to offer you a discount for cash payments, saving you some money!
11. Are you licensed and insured? Do you have a contract?
You are trusting someone with your brand new baby! This is definitely not the time to try to save money by hiring a hobbyist or amateur.
It's important to make sure your photographer is experienced, insured, and operating a legal business for your protection and peace of mind.
Contracts protect you and the photographer and let you know what to expect (fees, rescheduling, reshoots, archive, and include all of the important terms and details).
12. Do you offer milestone sessions?
When you choose the right photographer, you are going to LOVE your newborn images and will want to come back for future milestone sessions. Some photographers photograph ONLY newborns. Some photograph only babies and children. Some do it all! You don't want to hire a newborn photographer, planning to return for future sessions with your baby, only to find out they ONLY photograph newborns!
It is a good idea to stick with the same photographer for your newborn and baby's first year photo shoots so that you will have a consistency of style when you display your images on your walls.
I was recently ordering photo blocks for my own family photos. I had images I had taken and images taken by two other photographers. When I tried to mix the three together, there was a total lack of color and style consistency. We all have very different editing styles. I ended up having to stick with just the images I had taken because they were all photographed and edited in the same style.
Ask your photographer if they offer a "grow with me" package. You may be able to bundle all of your baby's first year photo sessions and save some money by booking them all together.
Hopefully these questions will help guide you towards the newborn photographer of your dreams!
If you are expecting or have just welcomed a new baby into this world and are located in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here at Bella Rose Portraits to see if I am a good fit for your baby’s photos!
Bella Rose Portraits