How to choose a newborn photographer
1) MOST IMPORTANT: Parents, NEVER, EVER attempt the poses that you see professionally. They are all very specific poses that are taught to professionals in a step by step manner. Attempting them on your own could have severe consequences.
2) This post is NOT meant to discourage aspiring photographers, just to educate new moms! The sample images I use in this blog are some of my first sessions. They were, however, photographed AFTER I took my first newborn safety posing course 5 years ago.
Why this is an important decision
Remember when you started the search for your wedding photographer? Think of it this way: You may be able to take a chance with your yearly family session, but like wedding photography, newborn photography is highly specialized. Like weddings, it’s a one-shot deal. The newborn window between 5 and 14 days of life is gone forever in the blink of an eye, along with the chance for professional newborn pictures, so when you choose, you want to make sure that you choose wisely. Newborn photography is time consuming and very expensive for a photographer to train for which should always be reflected both in the portfolio and in the investment for the experience (you simply cannot teach yourself many of the techniques safely, and the industry knows that). The number of photographers out there, most including in their intro/bio/portfolio that they do offer newborn sessions can be absolutely overwhelming! Above all, you want your baby to be SAFE, and you don’t want anyone who hasn’t been trained ‘practicing’ on your fragile child (practicing is different than portfolio building—all photographers do this regularly to keep their portfolios fresh, and individuals who are building portfolios presumably have already gone through the necessary workshops to achieve safe posing) In addition to the obvious (a website, reviews, general professionalism ) Individuals will have a special manner about the way they work that makes for a calm, sleepy baby, and a high level of comfort and trust in the parents, so that they feel they can relax throughout the session…Baby Whispering, some like to call it :)
Are they lifestyle (also called photo journalistic) or portrait (posed)?
Or do they do both? Many photographers choose one or the other, but some do a hybrid of both, or offer them as a separate type of session. Either way, this is definitely something that should be reviewed and discussed before booking a session.
This is a Lifestyle image
This is a portrait image
Does this photographer specialize?
You want to make sure that the artist specializes in newborn/baby photography. This may not be the only thing that they specialize in, but keep in mind that a photographer that claims to ‘specialize’ in Newborns, Families, Corporate, Weddings, and everything else under the sun may be a “Jack of all trades, but a master of none.” Trust me on this--been there, done that! Newborn Photography is highly a highly specialized art.
Do you like their overall style from posing and lighting to post processing?
Every photographer has a different style. As artists, it’s impossible to have the exact same style from one photographer to the next. Tiny differences in posing, lighting, and post processing can make one photographer drastically different from the next
Do you include family and sibling shots?
This varies from photographer to photographer. Some photographers include siblings and family, some charge extra, and some do not do them at all. It’s purely a matter of preference, but it certainly needs to be addressed!
Do they do online orders or in-person orders? Ask them why they choose to do ordering the way that they do.
Are they included, available to purchase within a package, or do they not include them at all? Photographers with higher session fees typically include a few images as digital negatives with reproduction rights. Photographers with lower priced session fees typically provide negatives within a package or as a backup for prints, or sometimes not at all. Regardless, consider what you want to do with the images after they are taken—Album? Wall Art? Lots of small prints and gifts? A good photographer will be able to talk you through all of this so that you are confident going into the session and placing your orders.
What are they charging for their session ?
If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. This is a biggie, and I will not quote an actual session price, since your location is going to play a big role in the specifics, but generally pretty much anywhere in the US, Parents hiring high quality newborn photographers plan to spend about $500 at the very least, if they only want some items/negatives, but the majority spend between $600-$800 (this is including some products as well) and many locations even have average spending $2000-$4000 (which is still less than many would spend for a wedding photographer!). Price is highly dependent on location as well (for example, a session in Washington DC or New York is going to be on that higher end). If you encounter a photographer who is not charging much and is including a ton of digital negatives, do some digging into their profile, full sessions, and experience, as this can be a red flag. In order to be licensed, insured, trained, and to have all the proper equipment and props, a photographer MUST charge a certain price.
Do they have a studio or do they come to you?
Both work great and it’s a matter of preference! Photographers that come to you like to get the family involved while photographers in a studio often use an assistant. There is no right or wrong way and there are pros and cons to each—you just need to make sure you are comfortable!
Plans and Packages?
Ask about packages and plans—I cannot stress this enough consider what you want to get from this session and make sure that you budget accordingly. Consider not only the session an images themselves, but also what you want to do with the images--the final product of any portrait session is always prints, albums, wall art and products--not just the digital negatives, and this is true regardless of whether you are getting them printed at a consumer location, or ordering from the photographer's professional lab. Are you looking for quantity or quality in that final product? A good photographer will help you get what you want yet stay within your budget through a selection of plans. Another thing to consider: does your photographer only do newborn sessions or will they be able to photograph your baby at 6, 9, 12 months? Do they do Maternity sessions?
When do they book sessions?
Sessions should take place in the first 2 weeks of life for the majority of the popular poses that you see. If your child is older, your photographer should tell you explicitly that some of those poses may not be possible. Why? Attempting some of those poses on more mature ligaments can cause injury. Don’t worry, if you missed the window, you can still get some cute awake pictures and a few of the sleepy poses still work!
It’s ok and it’s your right to ask whether your photographer has had the flu vaccine and the whooping cough vaccine. These two disease are severe for a newborn, and these two vaccines are paramount for anyone who works with newborn babies, including healthcare, daycare, and photographers.
Are they legal
This is a no brainer, and also always your right to ask. A true professional is both licensed as a business and insured as a business. Posing as a photography business without a license is illegal, and working without insurance is dangerous for everyone involved. They should have no problem producing proof of both.
How long have they worked with newborns?
This should really be phrased ‘how many newborn sessions have you done’ A photographer may do just 5-6 over a period of 5 years, or 40-50 over the period of 2 years—it all comes down to the photographers experience, and also how comfortable you feel with the number of times they’ve done this.
Do they meet with you beforehand?
This is a professional courtesy. You should either meet the photographer, or at least have a phone conversation with them prior to your session. Also, they should remain in contact with you up until the baby’s birth and the session.
Are they experienced with a camera? (do they know what they are doing technically)
This is another biggie. When a photographer shares pictures on their website within their portfolio or on their blog, or if they share picture on their Facebook page, they are sharing their very best work. If that work is blurry, badly lit (under/overexposed), framed improperly, overprocessed, ect., what does that say about the rest of their work? what you don’t see? Ask to see an entire session! A professional photographer will have NONE of these very basic errors in a final portfolio.
Are the babies safe?
Composite shots, Counterweights, spotter, hyperextension,
Are the babies comfortable?
Take a look at the online portfolio and Facebook pictures. Are the expressions soft and sleepy, or are their little faces contorted or grumpy looking? Are their arms and legs bent at awkward angles instead of natural womb-like positions? Do their hands look relaxed and open or loose, or are the hands mostly closed into tight fists underneath their heads and bodies? Are they grabbing their skin and cheeks too tightly? Now look at their faces, can you see both cheeks in all of the pictures or are their faces just smooshed into the blanket? Last but not least, if you see any ‘bits and pieces’ of their manhood or womanhood, that is a red flag—an experienced photographer will make sure that not only every showcased picture is decent, but every picture you receive as well. Baby bottoms are ok—and super adorable, I might add!
Is the posing ‘neat’?
Do they bother with set design and color planning? Final images, especially those shared on a website or social media will look purposeful. Colors will complement one another, and the posing will be tidy. Here of some examples of what I mean by that:
Now here's an awkward pose (This was one of my very first newborn sessions--even after training. yeesh)
1) Face smooshed into blanket
2) Hand awkwardly crumpled under chin
3) blanket is lumpy and disorganized
And here is a comfy baby:
1) Colors and textures are purposeful
2) Hands relaxed
3) Lips and cheeks visible
Another pose that's not quite right (another early session of mine)
1) Hand blocking face
2) Face smooshed into lumpy blanket
3) Legs and feet unposed and out of focus
1)Purposeful sharpness and softness in focus
2) Hands relaxed
3) Face and limbs relaxed and visible
To be completely honest, in the end I really hope you choose me (of course!) but if you decide to go with another photographer, of if you don't live nearby, then use these guidelines and tips to find an experienced individual to work with during this once-in-a-lifetime experience! HERE is a printable list of question to ask your potential newborn photographer!