There are some moments in life that can never be recreated. Never recaptured. Some moments are too fleeting to risk. You just have to get them right and once upon a time I didn’t. I was making this point just the other day in conversation with my sister who is about to have her first child (Hi Ladina!).
You see this ^ is a photo of my eldest son Zachary (no I didn’t smash it, it’s just for illustration I promise!) It’s devoid of any happy emotion, it’s grainy, over exposed, over contrasted and awkward and it is one of the main reasons I now do what I do. To say I’m ‘sad’ about this photo is an understatement. I had his newborn photos ‘done’ via a cheap gift deal at a random studio and it went down as one of the worst service level experiences of my life, where prices were hidden and I was made to feel rushed and like an inadequate mother who couldn’t settle her baby. I won’t bore you with all the details… ( the studio has since closed down) I just want you to know that it was a defining moment and a huge reason why I now help parents put happy memories behind their photographs.
As a newborn and child photographer, I help my families capture that magical time when your baby is new. It’s a privilege and a joy to do it because I know, when you look back on those moments in years to come, you’ll want to see your baby as you remember them in your mind’s eye.
But not all photographers know what they’re doing and a lot of parents end up booking someone who sounds great on a Facebook but who doesn’t cut it in reality. The window is narrow. You have a few months before your new baby isn’t a new baby anymore and if the photographer screws up you don’t get a second shot. So when I see families with newborn shoots that are just, well, not special enough – I get how they feel and I want to help them.
I know I can’t be everyone’s photographer, but the least I can do with my knowledge and passion is help everyone who reads this to minimise their risk of having a bad photo shoot. So here goes…
Before the shoot – choosing a photographer and getting ready for the day
These are my top tips for choosing a photographer and getting ready for your shoot.
Consistency is key. They say even a stopped clock is right twice a day. The same goes for photographers. Don’t buy based on a few pretty photos. Make sure you check out their portfolio and any blogs they’ve written about their style and approach. Anyone can capture a great shot when the light is just right and the surroundings are amazing. But what if the house is cluttered and dark or your baby doesn’t feel like co-operating that day? The only way to make sure your photographer can deal with anything that comes their way is to look for consistency and lots, and lots, and lots of great pictures in different circumstances.
Find a specialist. It’s easy for me to say, as a specialist in baby and child shoots, but you shouldn’t settle for a Jack of all trades. A newborn shoot is different from a wedding shoot, or landscapes, or pets. So if the photographer you’re looking at seems to specialise in everything, well, they either have years of proven experience and they are actually amazing or you’re just getting a have a go Harry with a good camera.
- Who are they? What else do they do? Is this their life or just a side hustle?
- Are they dedicated and committed?
- Do they also ‘specialise’ in 10 other things?
- Have a look at their social media presence, look for comments and feedback and how they conduct themselves.
A safe shoot, is a happy shoot. You’ll be entrusting your precious baby to the photographer, so it’s critical to find someone who knows what they’re doing and won’t be ‘trying out’ poses that they are not capable of or that your baby is not comfortable with. A photographer who lacks confidence will cause stress for you and stress for your baby. So if you don’t trust them 100%, don’t book them. Make sure they know what they’re doing and how to properly care for a baby. Your peace of mind and your baby’s safety are too important.
- No photographer should ever force your baby into positions which make them uncomfortable or put them in danger. Do they use an assistant? Do they use photoshop composites? If it feels risky, it is risky.
- No baby should ever be expected to support the weight of its own head or body, be suspended from a height or put in an unweighted basket or box. Yes, it shouldn’t need to be said, but sadly it does.
- The baby should be relaxed and comfortable at all times, and 100% safe.
On the day – magical memories come from magical experiences.
I love my shoots and my families tell me that they have a great time too. But there are a lot of ways a great day can be ruined. Here’s how to avoid that!
There shouldn’t be any surprises – If it comes to the day of your shoot and you’re not sure what to expect, then your photographer hasn’t done their job right. Uncertainty causes stress, especially when it comes to you and your new baby, so a good baby photographer should be keeping you in the loop all the way to shoot day and ideally have a preparation guide to put you at ease.
Ask lots of questions and if you’re not satisfied with the answers walk away.
Know what you’re getting – Too often I hear from my clients about how they have friends who have not been entirely happy with their photos. However I think if you know in advance what to expect then they shouldn’t be any surprises or let downs.
Not every photographer is an amazing one and just as there are fast food chains and fine dining restaurants there are different levels of photographers. We all start out somewhere and the beauty about this art form is that there is no end to how much you can keep improving. So, before you book, ensure that you fully understand the photographers capabilities make sure you are comfortable with them recording these once in a life time memories for you with the skills they have.
The camera doesn’t see the way you do. That’s why some things that look lovely in reality just don’t work on film. Colours, patterns, light and dark, movement – all these things can change when you point a camera at them. Which makes dressing for a shoot a specialist skill.
Your photographer should be on hand to help you choose the right clothes for your shoot, because where you are having your shoot makes a big difference to what you wear. They should talk to you about locations. Whether you choose a studio, to be at home, or someplace surrounded by nature, what you wear has to fit with where you are.
In a way half of my job happens before I’ve even grabbed my camera bag. Getting my families feeling and looking great helps them to relax and makes the end photos have that lovely ‘ahhh’ factor. I consider it a part of my job to provide this service as standard as I want my clients to be the best versions of themselves, at that moment in time for their photos.
The shoot is done, now it’s time to get all misty over those beautiful pictures.
Physical products – Be sure to understand what you are buying. For example, do they offer printed products and is there a minimum spend? How much are the digital images? And when it comes to prints, remember they aren’t all equal.
I always like my families to have something they can touch and hold so I’ve researched the best museum quality products on the market to ensure your memories don’t fade.
Finally, remember that digital media ages too. Just like VHS tapes are now defunct whats to say that those collection of DVDs and USB Sticks won’t become obsolete too? Give me my family in an album, photo block or framed print over a USB stick any day.
Here’s a list of questions to consider when booking your newborn photographer …
- Who are they are? What else do they do? Is this their life, their bread and butter or just a side hustle?
- Are they dedicated and committed? Do they truly ‘specialise’?
- Are they consistant? Do they have a strong portfolio? What experience do they have?
- Check out their social media, comments, feedback and how they conduct themselves.
- What is their style, (do they know?) How much will they pose baby? How much will they pose you?
- Are there any time constraints on the shoot length? Is there another client directly before or after your session?
- If at a studio, Is there a place to feed your little one? Is the parking accessible? Can you bring your own props or clothes?
- Are they skilled at settling babies or will they expect you to? Do they rely on dummies (pacifiers) to settle your newborn?
- Are siblings allowed in the room or studio? Can they be included?
- Do they have a terms and conditions contract for you to sign?
- Do they offer full print release with digital copies.
- What is the pricing structure? Is the photoshoot too cheap? Why?
- Is there a minimum spend?
- When will you receive your gallery to view? How will they be viewed? Online? In person?
- Do they offer a full service that includes help with styling, preparation, and then creating art work?
- Do they hold more than one date for your baby? How do they manage their calendar? Will they be able to fit you in?
- Do you like them? Do they value your custom? Are they emotionally invested in achieving good photographs for you?
A word on awards
The Uk photography industry is unregulated one. There are dozens of awards and professional bodies that try to make it easier to choose a good photographer. And while it’s great to have some of these, remember that they’re no guarantee of quality or training. So look for body of work, experience, and happy customers before you worry about awards or certificates. They are a darn site harder to get, and mean a great deal more.
What type’ of photographer should I choose?
I was going to include a section in here about choosing the right style of photographer for you, but the more I wrote the more I realised that it needed a post of its own. However in essence (and until i do a dedicated blog on it!) It’s vital that you think about how you’ll want to look back on these photographs, how you’ll display them, and the emotion you want to capture. The style of shoot you choose can make a big difference not only now for you, but for your families next generation too.
For me photographs are about recording emotions and authentic moments in real environments. One of the reasons I do what I do is my passion to put parents back into the photographs, not just for themselves, but also for their children.
I don’t want any mother or father to feel like they’ve robbed themselves and their children kids of being in the photograph. Because, at the end of the day when you are old and grey, your children will cherish a photograph WITH YOU more than a photograph taken by you. They’ll prefer reminiscing on the story and the setting than a generic background. These photos are for them as much as they are for you so choose wisely.
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