Photographing newborns is one thing, but photographing children requires a whole lot of knowledge about child development, bribery, and cognitive behavior. I have been photographing children since I became an aunt 26 years ago. I remember when I first started observing my nieces and nephews, I was in love with their every move. I could quietly photograph them and it seemed so easy. I wasn’t their “parent” or their “paid photographer”—just Aunt Ana with a camera.
Maternity photography intimidates many. Feeling foreign in the approach, whether it is in the posing, sales structure, or client interactions, is enough to prevent people from taking hold of the huge advantages that offering maternity services could provide. And really, for most wedding shooters, family photographers, or even seasoned high school senior photographers, maternity is not that far of a leap. And even if you are just starting out brand new as a portrait photographer, there is no need to be overwhelmed or scared to shoot maternity. I am going to lay out 3 key elements for you to follow that will take you from a beginner maternity photographer to a master in no time.
Whether you specialize in baby photography or you just book the occasional newborn client, you’ve probably experienced one of the most frustrating parts of the job: newborns who don’t want to sleep. It probably doesn’t sound like an issue at first. So what? Just pose them awake! Except that awake newborns don’t always equal content newborns, and it’s a lot harder than it seems to pose a wiggly, arm-flailing, cross-eyed, screaming baby. We’ve had our share of super-alert newborns. We’re going to share how we approach those sessions without getting frustrated and still get the variety needed to fill a gallery in 3 hours or less.
Here is the reality: as I write this almost 30 million Americans are unemployed. Will they get their jobs back? Time will tell, but I'm sure we can agree that 30 million people will not go back to work immediately. Some businesses will never recover. There will be long-term unemployment. That news alone is concerning to any business owner. If your customers are unemployed, how will they afford your products or services? Fair question. So, that leads us right back to the headline. Is professional photography dead?
Magazine publishers will have you know that print as a medium is changing: there are more localized and niche magazines than ever. If you are paying close attention to your market, you'll see that while the industry has changed to accommodate the growth of online journalism and other publications, it isn't gone! Don't give up on the possibility of being published, but also don't discount highly-popular blogs, online magazines, and other publications. They vary in their reach and shelf life, but there’s no reason to ignore the power of print.
Because I loved the magic and storytelling of child portraits, I decided to focus on that genre as a specialty. I began to focus on creating a story within my images, and I quickly realized that the more I focused on building that story by supplying the wardrobe, building a set, and focusing on a theme, the more interest I received for my sessions. This was a win-win for me! I was able to create what I wanted to for my creative soul, all the while having parents pay top dollar for it.
When it comes to portraits of children, we all struggle to balance capturing their energy and personality while getting in-focus images. Not to mention ones with kids with eyes open, looking and smiling at the camera. Of course, the parents are going to love almost every image, and this makes the photographer’s job easy, right? Well, you need to get the safe image they expect with their kids somewhat facing the camera, eyes open, and smiling. That moment isn’t easy to capture in one shot, so what we are going to create is the perfect portrait by swapping heads in Photoshop. Doing a bit of Photoshop does not mean you aren’t a good photographer. We can only control so much and are still required to deliver a somewhat perfect portrait.
At the start of my journey, I stumbled and made mistakes as we all do… but those mistakes were all part of a steep learning curve. For the first 10 years of my career, I exclusively did private portrait commissions. That experience was invaluable in that it taught me how to deal with children of all ages. It’s difficult at the best of times to connect with a child who considers you a stranger, and to draw out the uniqueness in each child within a very limited time puts huge extra pressure on that connection.
Not so long ago I was paralyzed by limiting beliefs about my talent, my abilities, and my business as a portrait photographer. I made excuses as to why x photographer was successful, consistently booked, had a greater following, and why I did not. Always finding comfort by filling in the blanks with which obstacles (finances, equipment, knowledge, time restraints, or life circumstances) were holding me back from being the artist, creator, and business owner my heart longed for.
Out of nowhere, our country was hit with the largest pandemic in over 100 years. The state of California ordered nonessential businesses to shut down, all while encouraging us to maintain our staff. As we went through late March and early April, weddings on our calendar began to eviscerate. Concerned couples started postponing their weddings or canceling altogether. We were prepared for a record year, and a record year is what we are going to get. However, this is likely going to be a record low as opposed to the record high. So with that being said, how does a business immediately shift gears? We have had to deal with ups and downs before, but never a down that was so severe that it literally prohibited the main service that we provide to our clients.