Brand New: The Business of Newborn Portraits with Lori Nordstrom
Whether you are currently a newborn photographer, have considered photographing newborns, or the thought of photographing a baby freaks you out—you have more than likely been asked to photograph a newborn session at one point or another. Even if you never want to specialize in photographing newborns, if you are a portrait photographer, it is a great skill to add to your bag.
When you photograph a brand-new baby, you have the opportunity to create a client for life. For many portrait photographers, this is the goal. We want to be thought of any time our clients think about photography, whether it’s of their little ones, their whole family as they grow, senior portraits, or engagement portraits and weddings, and it begins again.
My first choice of subject is always kids. But many years ago, I realized that if I didn’t get babies into the studio, I may miss the opportunity to photograph them as they grow. If a mom chose another photographer for her new baby, she may very well get tied into a first-year plan with them and then continue to use them for year two, three and so on. The answer for me at the time was to create a new division of my company that specialized in newborns. I suggest this to anyone who is looking to add a new product line into their marketing mix.
By creating different divisions for newborns, portrait parties and events, high school seniors and weddings, I can be very specific in our marketing and communication with each of those clients and their interests. It allowed me to bring on additional photographers and plug them into one division, giving them their own specialty. Because my studio name is my own name, it would be difficult to have other photographers comfortably shooting under the Lori Nordstrom brand. By creating divisions for different product lines, I am able to give them that division’s name and niche. Our newborn division is simply called Brand New. We communicate the brand to our clients by focusing on all of those brand-new moments and milestones that their babies will go through during the first year. By asking questions and engaging parents in telling their baby’s story, we are able to talk about and capture those memories for them.
Once you’ve decided that you want to photograph newborns, you need to make a few decisions. What products will you sell to the parents? How will you set up and present your pricing? How will you market and get in front of parents to be? Videos and tutorials on how to photograph newborns abound on the Internet, so we will stick to the business side of your newborn division.
What Products Will You Sell?
Most photographers ask themselves the question: “What are parents buying these days from their newborn sessions?” Your clients don’t know what they want to buy until you tell them. You get to decide what it is you want your clients to own, what products will best show off your work and what products they will most enjoy for years to come. The products that I want to sell are wall portraits and albums. Parents buy gift prints for family, and they buy birth announcements and thank-you cards. Those are add-ons, things that I don’t need to get them excited about. But I do need to communicate with them the value of a beautiful wall portrait for their baby’s nursery as well as an heirloom album that will be a treasured keepsake.
During baby’s first year, I recommend ages and stages to be photographed while talking about all of the milestones we’ll be capturing during the session and how they’ll want to remember those stages. I recommend a full-length sleeping baby portrait from the newborn session. My most popular size is a 20×30 because it looks really nice above the changing table. From the four-month session, I recommend our Expressions Collection, which is a 20×20 0r 30×30 with nine images in it.
Babies are very expressive at four months, and I can quickly get many looks. At eight months, babies are on all fours and sitting up well. I suggest a 10×30 storyboard of three images that show off exactly what the baby is doing at this stage. At the one-year session, I photograph a formal first-birthday portrait to be hung in a living area of the home, and then we do a birthday cake session. I suggest a collage of images from the birthday cake smash, with 20×24 being the most popular size. By recommending these different pieces from each stage of the baby’s first year, I can ensure good sales throughout each of the sessions from the first year. I also suggest a four-volume album collection, one album from each session. That makes the full-year album look that much more affordable. I don’t sell the four-volume set often, but I do sell the first-year album almost every time.
How Will You Set Up and Present Your Pricing?
Once you’ve determined what products you’d like to offer, you’ll want to set up your pricing for those products. Take into account all of the costs included in each product. You’ll want to add the costs to print, mount and texture your portraits, frame costs, packaging, credit card fees and anything else it takes to create those products. You also need to consider the time needed to create the product, and add that value to each one. I normally suggest taking yourself out of the equation when thinking about a time value. After you add up the costs, multiply that figure by four for a 25 percent cost of sale (COS), and multiply by five for a 20 percent COS. The lower you can get your COS, the higher your profit will be on that product.
Now you need to decide how you will set up your pricing and how you present it to your clients. You can set up your pricing with an à la carte menu, with packages or with a build-your-own-collection model. I prefer the last, especially if you are new to in-person sales. A build-your-own menu gives you the opportunity to walk your client through the pricing, telling them exactly what you want them to buy. They will be rewarded with a discount or with a complimentary additional product for purchasing something from each step of your build-your-own menu.
I also highly recommend creating a PDF of your pricing that you can email to your clients once a session is booked and you’ve talked through some of the details. By working with a PDF, you’ll never have unwanted pricing pieces stacked up or laying around. It also won’t end up in the hands of someone you haven’t been able to communicate with. Another thing that I like about working with a PDF instead of printed pricing is that I can change it anytime. I haven’t printed hundreds of menus that I feel tied to.
How Will You Market to New Clients?
There are many ways to market to new mommies and moms to be, but over the years, networking has remained the best way to get in front of targeted, qualified clients. Networking with and through past clients is always my go-to place to begin. If I am starting something new, I make personal phone calls to a select number of clients. I tell them what’s new and ask them to keep me in mind when they hear of a friend, neighbor or coworker who might be interested in our studio experience.
I make up gift cards and enclose them in a nice card that can be personalized, and give each of my interested clients five to 10 of these cards to give to anyone they feel would be a good fit.
I work with other business owners in much the same way. Once a relationship has been established, I offer gift cards to the business owner to hand out to their best clients. Again, I supply the gift cards and stationery, and ask that they gift the cards to anyone they feel would enjoy my style of photography, wall portraits and albums. Partnering up with other businesses and well-connected people takes time and effort, but I’ve found that it brings me the most qualified new clients.
Enjoy your tiny clients. Be patient, and ask a lot of questions—moms love to talk about all the new experiences, whether it’s her first child or her fifth. This is a great way to not only bond and show you care, but to refer to those memories and milestones as things you’ll be capturing. They’ll be able to experience each stage only once. What better way to remember it all than with beautiful portraits?