Viewing Babies

Baby Birthday Video with Joe Switzer

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

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Baby Birthday Video with Joe Switzer

 

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Not many photographers specialize in baby birthday sessions. This month we look at the five most important factors that go into shooting and editing a compelling birthday film.

 

We used my daughter Sloan’s first birthday to show you our process. The photos and video you see are from two separate days. One was from baby Sloan’s photo/video shoot, and the other was from the actual birthday party with family and friends. Photos were taken by Ashley Becker Photography and Leanna Rolla Photography. Switzerfilm (myself and Kristin) captured the video clips. The final video we created shows baby Sloan Switzer in a way that we will treasure forever.

 

#1 – Offer video.

 

Either press the record button yourself or find someone to work with you on your birthday shoots to capture these beautiful moments that don’t last long. Some of the most precious years with your kids are when they are babies, and birthdays are a perfect time to capture them.

 

Photography and video go hand in hand, and it’s time for you to start doing both. Your clients want both services, and if you make it easy for them, they will almost always buy both. Switzerfilm has about a 90 percent booking rate for both photo and video. It doesn’t take any more planning or time for clients, and that makes it easy for them to say yes.

 

A great way to start offering your video services for baby birthday parties is to do it for your own child. Share a short clip on Instagram or Facebook, and before you know it, everyone is going to want it. I see photos in my social feeds all the time, but rarely do I ever see video. This is an untapped market. If parents have spent all the time and money planning a birthday party and photo shoot, they might as well add video. It’s hard to offer this service if you don’t have any demos or samples to share, so either film a baby video of your own family or give a friend a good deal. Once your followers and friends see the possibilities of video, they will want the same for their kids.

 

#2 – Don’t do everything on your own.

 

Props, baby, photos, locations, themes, schedule, video, editing—so many moving parts. Delegate responsibilities. Baby Sloan Switzer’s birthday shoot was much easier with the divide-and-conquer approach. Sloan’s mom, Ashley Switzer, was in charge of the props, theme and locations. Ashley Becker, the photographer, was responsible for a backdrop and a few props. Kristin, Leanna and I just showed up and filmed separately at each shoot. All of us creatives are in different situations, so take care of yourself and balance the workload. You can’t do it all with one camera by yourself.

 

#3 – Film the in-between moments.

 

Keep that camera rolling. With photos, you’re always trying to get the most perfect moment. With video, you’re looking for the moving/motion/in-between moments. Examples are filming babies finishing getting dressed, cake being carried out to the party, props being set up and Mom picking up and comforting a crying baby.

 

A photo is all about the perfect shot. With video, our goal is to show the audience what’s happening and what it took to get to this point in time. Your video edit will have a great flow when you not only film the posed shoot but also capture the in-between moments.

 

#4 – Keep the edit short.

 

Even though this is the cutest baby ever, you don’t need a seven-minute video. Don’t be worried about audio or telling a story. Maybe you just want to make a slideshow with a few iPhone video clips as a fusion video. Your final product should be no longer than three or four minutes. We broke ours up into a 15-second Instagram and a three-minute video to post on Facebook.

 

Let your video clips and music dictate the length of the video. Most of our videos are synced with music, and it’s so important for the music to match the feeling of the birthday. The song is going to connect your video clips with your viewing audience, so take your time and choose wisely.

 

Photographers tell me they use the same song for slideshows all the time, and nobody is really watching them. Why? Maybe the photographer is using the same song over and over or just not choosing a fun song that matches the event. Remember, your social media fans want to see you being creative, always customizing and producing content that is unique and different. You should almost never use the same song in any video.

 

Ingrid Michaelson, One Republic and Colbie Caillat have amazing music I recommend for birthday videos. You are at a huge disadvantage if you’re not using SongFreedom.com for your edits. It’s the only music licensing company that has genres other than indie music. Keep your video clips short. Use a variety of wide, medium and close-up shots. Make sure your video clips are cut to the beat of the music. Your template for the edit you’re using is the song. Let it tell you what clips to use and when.

 

#5 – Streamline your workflow.

 

Babies are unpredictable. You might have two minutes or two hours with a birthday baby. You’ll want a tripod and a track. A baby is so small, you’ll need to get low angles, and a track allows you to do just that. For a cake smash, you can multitask and use both. Using two cameras, you can put one on a tripod and use a track for your other shots. Record with both of them so you don’t miss any moments.

 

If you don’t have two cameras, just use your iPhone for the wide shot, giving you more options with angles and moments. Keep your batteries fully charged and have formatted cards that can record for long periods of time. I found myself using a 90mm macro, an 85mm and a cropped 10–18mm. Those lenses give you all the variety you’ll need to get plenty of usable shots for a fantastic film.

 

Chances are you will be working with another photographer on the shoot. For the staged shoot with props and the birthday cake smash, set up your tripod next to the photographer so you don’t block their shot. Tell her she can go in front of the tripod if she has to because you’re shooting two angles. Your other angle is great for a track, and the 90mm macro to focus on close-ups.

 

I’m always changing lenses because the goal is video variety. If you have an outdoor venue for the actual birthday party like we did, you can get motion video shots, party details, and friends and family having fun. It is all about the baby, but when the final video is being edited, you will have a more interesting video when you see everything that happened and not just a cake smash.

 

Nothing can complement your photos better then video. Almost every shooter I meet offers only video or photography, but not both. If you don’t want the stress of wedding filmmaking, offering video services for babies and kids could be a fun and rewarding way for you to create special experiences that nobody in your market is offering.

 

Remember that people buy emotionally, and when you connect photo and video and moments, you have all the right ingredients for final deliverables that parents, friends and family will want to share and have forever.

 

What a way to make a living, filming precious babies eating cake, crying, giggling, in the cutest outfits and settings with so much love. You have the greatest job in the world, and it’s time to capitalize on it with video.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

The First 28 Days: How to Pose Newborns with Ana Brandt

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

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The First 28 Days: How to Pose Newborns with Ana Brandt

 

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The newborn stage is defined as the first 28 days of life, after which humans are referred to as infants for up to three months. In our studio, we consider newborns to be as old as six weeks, as most babies are born earlier than the 40-week cycle. A baby is considered premature when it is born at least three weeks before the due date—in other words, before the start of the 37th week.

 

When I started shooting newborns in 1999, it was common to photograph a newborn anywhere from four to six weeks. Now, most photographers want to shoot them at under two weeks.

 

Newborns can be photographed during any part of the newborn stages if the photographer is prepared and knows the methods of soothing and caring for the baby. With that being said, there are times where a newborn is not having a very good day and is so fussy that capturing a single image is impossible. A number of factors can explain why, and I do not believe in forcing a session. If a baby cannot be properly soothed and cared for, it’s okay to reschedule with parents.

 

Parents and photographers always ask me when the perfect time is to photograph a newborn. I find it easiest to shoot babies between 10 and 14 days. I’ve also photographed babies between 15 and 20 days with no issues at all. It is important to find out if Mom wants sleepy-baby photos or awake photos. As they move along in their progression, they will be more awake and alert, but photographing them in this stage is often harder. Keeping a baby wrapped, warm, settled and well fed can reveal some amazing wide-awake images.

 

Note that brand-new babies may have peely, flaky skin as they shed their first layer. Around two to three weeks, they can develop acne. Trying to create the perfect session between peely skin and acne is a big guessing game, but just the right amount of retouching can cure either.

 

We suggest that our clients call or leave us a message within 24 to 48 hours of giving birth. If they are scheduled for a C-section, we preschedule their session and then follow up to make sure everything went as planned.

 

Other factors besides the age of the baby are very important, such as weight. If a client calls me to photograph her baby at one week and her baby is less than six pounds, I often suggest she wait a little longer to make sure the baby is gaining weight and eating well. Whereas if a mother calls me with a 9-pound baby, I may suggest we get that baby in sooner—perhaps around the eighth or ninth day.

 

Key Factors in Shooting Newborns

 

Delivery

 

Was delivery on time and as planned? Was there any trauma to the baby? Injuries? Difficulties with breathing? Jaundice? Circumcision?

 

Over the years, I have heard about and seen just about everything. From bruised heads, to heart conditions, to painful circumcisions—the list goes on an on. This is an extremely sensitive time for family and baby. Make sure delivery went as planned, and that baby is healthy and Momma is recovering well. If anything has gone wrong and requires home rest or more doctor visits, the newborn session will just have to wait.

 

I have received too many calls from stressed-out parents who have been told their one-month newborn is too old for a photography session. Who is telling them this? Photographers. Will it be more of a challenge? Maybe. This depends on the expectations of the client and the skill of the photographer. It gets harder and harder to achieve a curled-up newborn in a sleepy womb position each week as the baby grows and the bones develop.

 

While newborns are very sleepy during the first 14 days of life, they are often wide-awake and alert for longer at 28 or 34 days. Before the session, set parents’ expectations of what poses can be achieved. Photographers should also never “guarantee” any poses at any age. Newborns are human beings—and, while they’re tiny and are unable to say how they are feeling, they will let you know pretty quickly if a pose is uncomfortable. Never force poses, and always make safety your first priority.

 

Time of day

 

Newborns are generally best photographed in the morning. They are often up most of the night and then fall into a deep sleep in the early morning. Midday usually works well as long as the baby is fed right before the session. Late afternoon is not ideal, especially for newborns with toddler siblings. An afternoon session can head into the dinner hour, which is often a cranky time for everyone involved. We tell parents that we understand they are exhausted, but if they can come to us first thing in the morning and feed their baby before their session, they can relax for the first hour as we focus on baby. By focusing on the baby first, parents have time to get dressed and have coffee before family pictures begin.

 

Baby feeding

 

Newborns generally eat every two to three hours, depending on how well they are latching or handling a bottle. Ask the parents how long their feeding schedule is. The length of their feeding schedule determines how much time I have to work.

 

If the baby feeds every two to three hours, I suggest that Mom feed baby a full feeding right before the scheduled session. If the session starts at 10:00, then I am hoping for a 9:30 feeding, which means the baby probably has not fed since 7:00 or 7:30. In this example, Mom comes with a baby ready to feed. The baby feeds and then often lets gas out and will have bathroom time, all while being wrapped up and secured.

 

If I can work well in my newborn session workflow, then I can get through an entire newborn session before the next feeding. This often makes the difference between a two-hour and a four-hour newborn session. Once you go into the next feeding cycle, it delays the session for another 30 to 45 minutes of feeding and soothing, and often extends through the length of time set aside.

 

Each baby is different. We tell our parents—especially those traveling a long distance—that if their baby is hungry, feed her. Most babies feed on demand and have no real schedule in the first few days of life. Some babies latch really well, and others need to be fed with a syringe. Discuss feeding habits before the session to ensure a smooth shoot.

 

Heat

 

Most newborns are swaddled for the first two weeks of life, if not longer. They are kept very warm since the womb in which they were raised was about 99.86 degrees, which is the same as a woman’s body temperature. A baby’s temperature averages around 96.8 degrees. Babies cannot regulate their own temperature since they can’t shiver or sweat. Newborns’ body temperature is regulated by their body fat. This is why a 9-pound baby often does very well naked, while a 6-pound baby won’t settle well if not properly wrapped.

 

I don’t use heating pads because I can’t regulate how much heat is hitting the baby’s body. Instead, we use portable heaters at a safe distance from the baby to warm the room. We start most newborn sessions with the baby wrapped well, and slowly unwrap her as she adjusts to the room temperature. We then slowly work with various poses as the baby allows. Heavier babies (9 or 10 pounds) often feel very warm, and we don’t keep the wraps on as long for them.

 

A note on twins

 

Twins often arrive early and are smaller. Learn their weight and prematurity stage before scheduling. We photograph twins around two to three weeks.

 

So what are the best poses for each week of those 28 days? See the images below for some ideas.

 

Newborn Photographer’s Checklist

 

Baby shusher/white noise

Hand sanitizer

Baby posing beanbags

Posing beanbag

Cloth diapers

Chucks

Spare diapers

Spare pacifiers

Aquaphor

Wipes

Heating source

Weights for props

 

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Outdoor Newborns with Blair Phillips

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

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Outdoor Newborns with Blair Phillips

 

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I can only imagine the amount of pain and emotional stress involved in giving birth. We should cater to new mothers any chance we can. It is a lot to ask of a woman who just gave birth to traipse around outdoors for a two-hour newborn session. Keeping Mom comfortable and stress-free during the session is just as important as creating great images.

 

I always have cool bottled water, light snacks and something sweet on hand for the new mother. Standing around in the bright sun is not generally exciting to someone who just gave birth. Keep an umbrella around to shade her. You want her to have a memorable experience so she will share it with friends. She is likely to remember the many comforts you provided during the session.

 

Women experience a sea of emotions throughout a pregnancy. Somewhere in all those thoughts, unique newborn images come into play. Bringing a child into this world begins the biggest responsibility of one’s life. A newborn photographer should pull out all the stops. This happens only one time.

 

I’ve enjoyed creating newborn images for nearly 12 years. While each shoot is similar, the approach is different for each. I spent a large portion of my career photographing newborns indoors. They’re so delicate. They must remain indoors in a controlled environment, goes the common wisdom. One afternoon several years ago, I decided to stop listening to that and created a whole new style for my newborn clients. I ventured outdoors with a newborn and discovered a new world.

 

A 4-foot by 6-foot scrim is my favorite tool for these images. I use different layers of diffusion panels, depending on the sun. The more direct the sun, the stronger my diffusion panel. The scrim attaches to a light stand, and is easily adjustable. A sandbag holds everything in place, allowing me to work without an assistant.

 

No matter where you are photographing newborns, you are very limited on time, so I have all my props and locations put together and ready. This way, I can place the baby, make adjustments, capture the image and move on.

 

Generally, the more people you include in a newborn session, the more opportunities you have to sell images. When I photograph newborns solely indoors, I find it challenging to get the family interested in participating—mostly due to the chaos they just endured, I imagine. Offering a more casual outdoor opportunity seems to be a little more inviting for me these days. Casually adding groupings of children and families is much more inviting and less stressful when shooting outdoors. New parents are sometimes on edge when they have to bring their other children along when it is indoors. Being outdoors is less stressful to parents with rowdy children.

 

Newborns are quick to let you know when they are uncomfortable or the least bit unhappy. A screaming, irritable baby makes for a tough sale. It is your job to bring whatever’s needed to ensure their comfort. A portable battery pack is a very important tool for an outdoor newborn shoot. I plug in a heating pad and place it underneath the baby if it’s cool or windy. On hot summer days, a portable fan can be a savior. Babies tolerate heat well, but they can also overheat easily.

 

Depending on your location, noise could be a factor. Consistent and constant noise is a must when photographing newborns. An old hairdryer set to blow cold air is one of the loudest, cheapest and most effective noise machines.

 

Over the years, a lot of my newborn clients have been small business owners. Anytime you can incorporate a newborn with a business or profession, you have a guaranteed moneymaker. This is one of the many reasons you ask a series of questions when someone calls to book a session. It is all in the way you market these sessions. Show sample images of how you tie in professions with newborn images.

 

Half the battle is getting clients’ minds wandering and imagining. People often don’t know what they want until they see it. I always ask the families to bring heirlooms. Heirlooms are one of the best ways to add instant emotion to a newborn image. The more emotion you bring to the table, the more money you put into your account.

 

Hobbies are another way to tack on high numbers to an outdoor newborn session. For sports-loving dads, incorporate sports equipment into the session. It’s best to use the items in a way that puts them in both the foreground and background of your images. It looks cheesy when you simply put them behind the baby.

 

Newborn photography can be one of the most challenging and rewarding forms of photography. There will always be a market for indoor newborn images, but parents are going to continue to want more creativity than what’s offered by studio images. Things are forever changing in our industry. You can make adjustments to remain current or do the same things year after year, and become a memory.

 

Photographing newborns outdoors is a guaranteed way to get people talking about your work. Bear in mind that not everyone is open to taking their new babe outdoors. Those clients who want my outdoor work are generally more open, creative and hungry for images that are less ordinary.

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Newborns and Neutrals in No Time—Retouching in Lightroom CC with Dustin Lucas

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

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Newborns and Neutrals in No Time—Retouching in Lightroom CC with Dustin Lucas

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

Photographing newborns in an ideal setting can be difficult when you are working on location. We rush to the window light and make due with the nursery (for character) or living room (for that wide-open spacing). I try to find neutral tones and bare walls, and slightly overexpose in-camera to get the image close to how I want it delivered to the client.

Whether I am close or not in camera, it’s Lightroom to the rescue. Why Lightroom and not Photoshop? Time is of the essence. Moms want those images practically same day. My wife wants them even sooner.

You can do heavy research and purchase presets for newborns in Lightroom. Do not let me stop you from using the click-and-go technique as a starting point. I happily encourage presets, and use them to shift my untouched Raw files before retouching. Let’s build some together, and then move into adjustment brushes for the fine tuning of the image.

Build Presets

The initial investment for purchasing or building presets pays off in the time you will save. To build some, let’s review the Develop panels in Lightroom and begin dividing them into global versus specialized tools. Most commonly used is the Basic panel, a great starting point to apply globally. We can pull down some contrast for a softer look overall by lifting shadows, reducing highlights, making subtle adjustments to the black-and-white point sliders and lowering the contrast slider into the negatives. (1)

This is our starting preset. Save these settings by holding Shift + Command + N. Create a new folder to begin organizing the presets. Select all the sliders we adjusted, and click Create. (2)

If you like to globally apply Noise Reduction and Sharpening, these can also be added to the starting point preset. Use Lens Correction, and leave it at the default settings. We can make separate presets for these so you have a little more flexibility. (3)

Exposure, Tone Curve and HSL are additional presets for selective editing. I generally make a few for Exposure in 25% increments. (4) You can do the same for the other tone adjustments in the basic panel, but I like to move a little quicker. (5) Tone Curve can be used for a lot of selective tonal settings. I usually create a few midtones and flatten black tone presets. (6)

HSL works great for removing blue casts from white and neutral tones. (7) Pull down red and green saturation, and remember to lift red luminance to brighten skin color. These are great options for creating presets, but remember that HSL works globally—to be more selective, we need to use local brush adjustments. (8)

Target Adjustment Tools

Once we’ve applied some presets and begun editing the subject, the background can start to look discolored and distracting. When working with white balance, I find it best to edit for the subject’s skin tone and then remove the unwanted casts on their clothing and the surroundings. Making this image neutral overall with only white balance is not working. Target adjustment tools can help.

We can choose between Hue, Saturation and Luminance to target the colors that will be affected. I generally use Saturation the most, and occasionally mess with Luminance. (9) Hold Shift + Alt + Command + S to begin adjusting the saturation. Click and drag down to lower and up to raise the saturation. (10) Sliders move based on where you click. Notice that your subject may become affected when you drag out the yellow from the background. (11)

Using Luminance, you can brighten the red and orange skin tones and darken the background. (12) For neutral tones, you have to be mindful that adjusting the background can severely flatten the contrast when dragging Luminance down. (13) It is adjusting the white and light gray tones in my image. Not to mention that the color of the skin varies from warmer on the face to soft red tones on the arms and legs. We need to work more selectively in this case.

Local Adjustment Brushes

Now we are ready to begin retouching this image and getting it ready to export. First, I remove the reddish, cool skin tone on the arms, legs, hands and feet. Activate the Adjustment Brush by striking the “K” key and then click the effects presets at the top of the drop-down menu. (14) I have previously made a red skin removal preset, so let’s select that and begin painting on the effect. You can see the difference immediately. We can now darken and warm the skin as well. (15)

Once we have the mask made for the arms, legs, hands and feet, we can adjust the sliders accordingly for the color and brightness. This starts to make the image look much more consistent overall. (16ab) Next, we smooth the skin by subtly lowering the clarity and noise sliders. Since we have a good mask made, let’s duplicate this edit mask and paint over the face. To do this, right-click on the edit pin and choose Duplicate. Mask out the eyes and mouth by holding Option while painting. (17)

Since his eyes are open, we can enhance the iris and whiten the eyes. Normally we are stuck dealing with the reds in the eyelids, but this will be more of a general portrait enhancement. (18) Automask works well with these edge-specific areas; try this when there is a crisp edge you are masking out of an area. (19) We want to dodge some of these shadows as well, but remember that shadows give depth and are not always distractions from the subject. (20ab)

Burning down the background is executed with the Graduated Filter. Strike the “M” key to activate this tool, and choose Burn From the Effects Presets. (21) You can quickly mask out the subject by holding Shift + T, and then hold Option while masking out an area. (22) We can drop the saturation to neutralize the white balance. (23)

The Results

Once the groundwork is laid with presets, you can move a lot faster through an edit. Of course, with presets we can only shift an image globally and will need to do some local adjustments in the end.

Retouching has never been a click-and-go process, but in Lightroom you can do quite a lot of processing with these retouching-brush presets. Take some time to build your own workflow and stylized presets so you can retouch with no time wasted. When you’re editing an entire newborn session, saving a minute per edit really adds up.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

Brand New: The Business of Newborn Portraits with Lori Nordstrom

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

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Brand New: The Business of Newborn Portraits with Lori Nordstrom

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

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?

 

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Top 10 Newborn Session Tips with Lisa Rapp

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

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Top 10 Newborn Session Tips with Lisa Rapp

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

When people ask me what I do for a living, I say, “I shoot babies!”—which sounds a little harsh, but it’s what I do. Newborn photographers are a rare breed. I am one of the few professionals who literally gets shit on at my job, and I love every second of it. We are given the purest form of human life, entrusted to keep it content and safe, all the while trying to keep calm, cool and collected ourselves. Here are a few things I have picked up over the years during my newborn sessions.

 

  1. Know that you are not in control of the session—baby is!

 

You can’t force babies to do anything they don’t want to do. If a baby isn’t comfortable doing a certain pose, they just won’t do it. Persistently trying to force a baby into position will only make them cry, which in turn will make Mom uncomfortable and stressed, and make you look clueless. Content babies sleep. Comfortable babies hold positions and poses, and then you look like a baby whisperer. A warm environment, full belly and some white noise may also help keep a baby happy.

I try to get the baby into a pose a few times, and if it isn’t working, I move on. I may try again later if I feel they are more relaxed or sleeping better. Just go with the flow.

 

  1. Get it right in camera—wrinkles are bad, bad, bad.

 

For the love of your sanity, don’t say, “I can get rid of that in post.” Straighten out the wrinkles before you even press the shutter. Post-processing is a time suck. You don’t have to fix it if it isn’t there in the first place. Take a few extra minutes on these details to save you a lot of editing time. Smooth, nontextured blankets are easy to fix in post. Textured blankets are a nightmare.

  1. Let’s talk newborn safety—don’t drop the baby!

 

Baby’s safety and well-being are priority one.

I’m not going to rant or preach here. Use common sense. These babies are not toys. They need to be handled with care. Remember, you have someone’s precious little bundle of joy in your hands.

Babies’ heads are very heavy, and they have no muscle control. Always support the neck and head when handling a baby.

I prefer to do composites. While some photographers don’t do composites, I have to trust that they know how to handle babies safely and responsibly.

I always have someone sitting next to the bag or prop within arm’s reach. I tell whoever is helping me, whether it be Mom, Dad or my studio wife, “Your only job is to watch the baby. Don’t watch me, don’t turn to look at your spouse, keep your eyes on the baby. If baby stretches her legs out, she can jump like a frog and startle everyone.” I explain that the baby is on a huge beanbag that isn’t going anywhere, but that we just don’t need that kind of excitement during the session.

I don’t put a baby in/on a prop unless he is sound asleep and out cold. Fidgety babies move, and nobody’s got time for that.

 

  1. Check on Mom—she just had a baby, for heaven’s sake.

 

Childbirth is stressful on the body, and Mom is a hothouse of female emotions. Her body is sore and tired, even though she might not realize it. If she comes alone and my studio wife isn’t there, Mom will be the one assisting me. I ask her several times during the session if she needs a break, snack or drink.

If Mom is assisting, I help her up if she is sitting on the floor next to the bag. I never let her get up unassisted or while holding the baby. The question “Are you doing okay?” is short but sweet, and right to the point. This should be a pleasant experience. They will remember your genuine concern. Mommies have mommy friends—i.e., potential new clients.

For breastfeeding moms, I have a trifold screen for privacy. So if the mailman pops in, she feels secure.

 

  1. Patience, patience and more patience.

 

Every newborn is as unique as a diamond. Every newborn photographer knows that some babies are more tolerant to being handled than others. There are no “bad” babies; there are just some who are less tolerant to being handled.

This is where your inner Zen master comes into play. I don’t give up easily, and I tell my parents this up front. I take my time and don’t rush. I know when a baby isn’t going to cooperate, and I move on. Not every baby will do every pose, and that is okay. This is something I have difficulty with. I want every single pose to happen, and I want it to be perfect. This is when I have to revisit Tip No. 1 and remember that I am not in control here.

 

  1. All tied up.

 

Wrapping newborns is not easy when they are awake. We all have met that one newborn we call the Master Escape Artist. This is the baby that can kick, punch and squirm out of every wrap possible. My best advice is to wrap that little burrito tight. (Not too tight!)

Don’t be scared to experiment with different wrapping methods. Most babies like to be swaddled, and this is also a good way to settle some of them down.

When wrapping babies, keep a close eye on them, because you don’t want them to get too warm.

When unwrapping, don’t just yank it off. Unwrap with care so you don’t catch the umbilical stump and accidentally pull it off. Some boys who have been circumcised have a “bell,” and you need to use extra caution in this area. I have had them fall off during a session, and it isn’t a big deal, but be careful not to accidentally get it caught in the wrap.

 

  1. Shit happens.

 

Reassure parents that babies will pee and poop on everything, including you. They will stress and apologize repeatedly—just remind them that everything comes out in the wash.

I keep puppy training pads handy. These are a staple in the studio. When babies aren’t on the posing bag, they are wrapped up in a puppy pad. They have saved me so many times from being soiled.

It doesn’t hurt to keep a few extra t-shirts handy in case the baby has a huge explosion on Mom or Dad. That way, they don’t have to sit there covered in poo during the session.

 

  1. Know your limitations.

 

If you are just starting out, keep it simple. Get comfortable posing newborns before you dive into the harder poses. Discuss what the parents are expecting in the session. If they want poses that are beyond your experience level, you need to be honest with them and discuss their expectations. Honesty is always the best policy with newborns. The baby’s safety is more important than any shot, especially any shot that you don’t know how to accomplish safely.

Invest in your education. Continue to learn and grow. Learn something new with every session.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t know, ask. There are many photographers out there who are not willing to help, but there are just as many who are willing to give you advice and encouragement. Go find them.

 

  1. Presession tips.

 

I ask Mom to loosen the diaper a couple of hours before the session. This is to help eliminate marks on the baby for editing purposes. This is a purely selfish request—I hate editing.

I keep the studio at 80 degrees, and warn parents so they can dress accordingly. I am a hot sweaty mess during a session, and it isn’t pretty.

I ask Mom to dress the baby in a sleeper, with no onesie. The sleeper should either zip or snap up the front. This prevents me from having to pull anything over the baby’s head when they arrive.

I ask Mom to either feed the baby right before they head to the studio (if they live within a half an hour from me) or to hold off feeding the baby until they get here (for those who travel more than an hour for their session). This is not set in stone. It’s just to ensure the baby has a full belly. If it doesn’t work out this way, I tell Mom it’s okay, and explain why I am making this suggestion. Babies’ needs come first, obviously.

I photograph just one baby a day. This ensures I am not rushed in case the baby needs a little extra time, if parents are a smidge late due to poop explosions or anything else that may pop up.

I tell parents that I have everything that is needed for the session. This prevents them from bringing outfits that are not my style. But if they have something special that someone made them, I am more than happy to photograph it. I do tell them if they have a lot of things they want to bring, they should choose one or two of their favorites for me to shoot.

 

  1. Appreciate this honor.

 

Always remember what a blessing and honor you are being given. These parents are handing you their world. Treat the experience with the respect it deserves. You are capturing this newborn at its most vulnerable and purest, and you shouldn’t take that lightly.

What isn’t a perfect pose in your eyes will be the most perfect shot in the eyes of the parents. This family is now your extended family, and will remember the wonderful experience they had with you. You are being given access to the beginning of a wonderful relationship with this family. Don’t underestimate the power in this new connection.

 

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How to Have a Baby When You’re a Wedding Photographer with Vanessa Joy

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

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How to Have a Baby When You’re a Wedding Photographer with Vanessa Joy

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

It’s impossible. At least that’s what most of us women think. After all, we know that we can’t miss a wedding we’re booked for no matter what happens, short of a terrorist attack (and even that is covered in my contract). There are no sick days, no calling out and, as far as a lot of people are concerned, no birthing days either.

 

I have witnessed horrible behavior not only toward me, but also wedding colleagues who dared to start a family. It wasn’t anything I wanted to experience for myself. Like so many others, I thought pregnancy would ruin my life. I once had a mother of the bride call me a month before the wedding, and the first thing she said to me was, “You’re not pregnant, are you? Because the hair lady and florist both are, and it’s ruining everything.”

 

It gets better. I once had a potential bride sit down for a consultation with me who said, “We love your work and would love to hire you, but we’re a little concerned that you’ll be starting a family soon.” Wow. I tried to convince her that I wasn’t, but she still didn’t hire me.

 

So where does that leave us workingwoman wedding photographers? Childless? No. It means we have to be more informed and ready than most women who are thinking about having a child. Countless women have asked me about this topic ever since I wrote “6 Reasons Why I Hid My Pregnancy for 8 Months” on my blog (http://vanessajoyphotographyblog.com/2014/04/6-reasons-why-i-hid-my-pregnancy-for-8-months). Here’s the best advice I can give to anyone looking to have a family and a career.

 

Think More About What Comes After

 

A lot of couples make the mistake of thinking about and planning for the wedding more than they do the marriage. It’s the same thing with babies. So many women think more about the pregnancy and delivery more than bringing the baby home and caring for it. It’s only natural, because what it takes to care for a child is beyond a nonparent’s imagination. Think of it this way: There are no sick days—you have responsibilities all day, every day.

 

You might not have the luxury to plan your childbirth around your wedding schedule, but at the very least, you need to plan for one to two months away from work after the birth. Sure, you may hear about the hero moms who shoot a wedding two days after giving birth, but they are the exception, not the rule.

 

Even if everything goes swimmingly, you will need at least one month, preferably two, in order to get to your new definition of normal. You’ll need an extraordinary amount of help for the first two months. If you’re not already outsourcing everything you possibly can, now’s the time to start putting that into practice. Get a family member or friend to start a TakeThemAMeal.com account for you so you can get help at home too. If people want to come see the baby, let them, but have them help you out while they’re there.

 

Have a Plan

 

After the craziness of the first two months, you’ll get into what your normal routine should look like. Even nonroutine people are going to develop some sort of routine. Your routine might not look like a color-coded calendar, but a child needs to eat and sleep on a regular schedule.

 

Now think about what you want that routine to look like. Don’t think about the daily routine yet—that’ll come once you learn how your kid operates and how you operate with them. How many days a week do you plan on working for five or so consecutive hours a day? You’ll need to figure out childcare for those days and times. Do you plan to work only during your child’s naps and bedtimes? Learn all about sleep training now so you can get them sleeping on a predictable schedule. You will be too tired and busy to read a book on the subject after the baby arrives. I used Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old, and it worked like a charm.

 

Stay in Shape

 

There are some circumstances in pregnancy that you cannot avoid, and others that you can. Do your best to eat healthy and exercise while pregnant within your doctor’s guidelines. Though you’ll want to, being pregnant is not an excuse to let it all go. Being pregnant is training for a marathon.

 

You’re about to do the most difficult and miraculous thing a human being can do, and typically it’s not a sprint to the finish. Labor lasts hours and hours, so being in good shape is a really nice way to help that along as well as help you shoot weddings late into your pregnancy. Stay within your pregnancy capabilities and your doctor’s limitations, but be active through your pregnancy as much as possible.

 

Family First

 

I saved this for last because it’s probably the biggest thing on your mind right now: How can I make sure I don’t miss a wedding?

 

As hard as you try, life happens. If your precious event happens at an inconvenient time, if you need more bed rest than you expected, if your postpartum recovery is harder than you’d reckoned, you just might miss a wedding. That’s okay.

 

Your contract should specify what will happen if you can’t be at a wedding and need a replacement. Your clients will have signed off on it, so, although they will be disappointed, you’ll save yourself with that contract. But you’ll still be there handholding your clients before and after the wedding. But most importantly, it’s okay because you already know in your heart that no wedding will ever be as important as the incredible gift of your beautiful child.

 

Watch this video for the life-saving baby tools I used with my daughter Felicity.

 

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Building A “Baby Brand”: Enter a New Genre by Sub-Branding with Phillip Blume

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

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Building A “Baby Brand”: Enter a New Genre by Sub-Branding with Phillip Blume

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

The world doesn’t need my next brand or small business. I feel almost guilty entertaining such a pessimistic thought. But it’s an honest concern. Standing on the edge of an ocean can make anyone feel small. Today, though, I’m looking across the endless black water and broken sea ice of Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk. The first glow of dawn is just beginning to reveal the vast bleakness of this landscape.

 

I’m at 40,000 feet, my wife and our two young daughters asleep beside me on the airplane. We’re embarking on the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced as a family: on our way to China for the culmination of our adoption process. My wife, Eileen, and I can no longer travel and shoot exotic weddings together as often as we’re used to. We need to be home more to give our kids some sense of stability. The elephant in the room is a simple question: Can our business survive this drastic change?

 

The answer, we believe, lies in “sub-branding.” We’re building a newborn business we can run from home.

 

Ultimately, a good sub-brand is a powerful illusion. Similar to a magical illusion, a well-crafted brand inspires wonder in your target audience—something exciting for them to believe in. As a branding magician, then, you’ll want to consider pulling a sub-brand out of your hat whenever you need to conjure a more specific “feeling” for a new client base. The feeling is crucial. After all, no matter what some of us would rather believe about our cold and rational intellects, the neurological fact remains: Our purchasing decisions are made not in our rational brains, but rather in our emotional brains. Feelings sell.

 

Are you ready to do the legwork? Be warned: You’ll have to push. Upstart success means mastering the tricks of marketing every time you launch a new brand. As the saying goes, perception is reality. Yes, like a baby, your new sub-brand will continue to change and grow for as long as it lives. You don’t have to plan out its entire life. But before you deliver your new sub-brand to the world, you want it to be as well developed as possible.

 

Here are five tips to help birth your first sub-brand, while strengthening your parent brand.

 

Give it a loving home. Step one should be clear, but in the exciting anticipation of all that’s to come, it’s easy to forget: Create a nurturing environment for your brand—online. Don’t announce your new arrival to the whole world the moment you conceive the idea. Instead, prepare quietly. Your sub-brand needs this time to gestate and turn into what it’s going to be, before the pressure of the world’s expectations are placed on it. So find and purchase that perfect domain name before anyone else does.

 

Next, create an email account for your sub-brand. You can always forward email to one inbox if you wish. But a unique email furthers the separation between your brand identities, creating a more focused feel for each. You need that unique email for all the social media accounts you’re about to open up. Save your sub-brand as a username everywhere you can get it, even if you don’t plan to use a particular account right away. Blume Babies has its own Instagram account, even though Eileen strategically posts her newborn work on her personal Instagram account, @eileen_blume, instead.

 

Heck, I even create accounts for ideas that may never fly. The important thing is that no one else “borrows” your brand names and ideas, potentially watering them down or, worse, misrepresenting them. Sometimes it is this small first step that gives your baby brand the confidence it needs to start walking—then running as it gets its legs under it.

 

Choose your style. What will your “parenting style” be? Everyone has an opinion about how you should do your job, including you. The same is true in steering your business. You’ve been influenced by your history, and it feels all too easy to imitate what you’ve seen before, to apply the style of your parent brand to the subject matter of your sub-brand. Resist this knee-jerk reaction.

 

As the parent of a darling new sub-brand, give serious thought to the artistic message you want to convey through it. A sub-brand is an exciting opportunity to stretch your creative muscles and try new things that suit the sub-genre. For years, Eileen has photographed weddings and portraits using natural light almost exclusively. Without the burden of accessory lighting, she felt better able to capture candid moments and honest environments that complemented Blume Photography’s photojournalistic style.

 

But for Blume Babies, she wanted to create a polished, luxury studio feeling. Decision one was to use a “you come to us” studio model, instead of offering on-location portraits at families’ homes. She traveled for newborn portraits on the side for years. But now our priority is to stay home with our kids, especially now that we have our newly adopted son.

 

With that decided, she set her focus on mastering studio light for the first time. Now she’s able to deliver consistently shaped lighting and an uncluttered aesthetic to her newborn portraits, which stands apart from the environment-driven energy of our wedding work. Not coincidentally, the new style perfectly suits our studio’s minimalistic vibe and construction from reclaimed materials. Eileen could have gone in another direction using colorful baby props, humorous headpieces, elaborate studio setups—but that wasn’t the niche she chose to fill. To prevent her sub-brand from being all over the place, she limited herself to a consistent style that her clients experience when they visit the website, and on through their first visit to the studio.

 

Prove your competence. Now you’ve got your baby brand home and have settled into the routines of feeding (marketing) and diaper-changing (day-to-day business). So why does your mother-in-law keep popping in to offer unsolicited advice?

 

You don’t want to remain in a place where your clients are constantly asking for customizations or wondering, “Why doesn’t she offer the same products and services as the photographer across the street?” You’ve thought carefully about how you do things, and you know you can’t please everybody. So kindly ask your mother-in-law to take a hike. Your goal should be to find the right clients who value what you do, not to cater to just anyone.

 

Young brands are often tempted to make exceptions in order to boost business early on. But doing so undermines the brand in the long-term. The best way to set healthy boundaries and attract the right clients is by building credibility. Prove to the world you’re competent at what you do, that you’re an expert. You can gift newborn sessions to friends or friends of friends who fit your preferred demographic. Reel them in with a gorgeous gift certificate, then give them the best experience possible so they become your ambassadors to friends who can afford you.

 

On the public relations front, ask yourself: How can I project myself as an expert in my market? Perhaps offer a small workshop for mothers interested in learning photography, or partner with a baby boutique to photograph their clothes on their favorite “model” clients. In these scenarios, everyone wins. You are marketing by serving your market as an expert, which is infinitely different than putting your business cards out, essentially begging for business.

 

Schedule doctor appointments. I’ve been using the term baby brand generically to refer to any young sub-brand, no matter the genre. (You could be starting a senior brand, glamour, headshots, whatever.) But let me speak now about a literal baby brand, which is what Eileen set up when she created Blume Babies as a sub-brand of Blume Photography. When it comes to newborns, the typical vendor relationships that are the bedrock of our wedding brand don’t exist. There aren’t many event planners who specialize in newborn showers.

 

So what professional gets closest to an expectant mother before she delivers your next newborn subject? Of course the answer is her OB/GYN, as well as the mother-baby unit at the hospital where she delivers.

 

This is where legwork is critical. An email or phone call won’t cut it. For Blume Babies, I scheduled a day and made the rounds. I drove to a few OB/GYN offices, where I asked to speak with the person in charge of marketing and public relations. Not every office was receptive. So we created a program and promoted it to just one OB/GYN and one hospital mother-baby unit as exclusive to them. We created luxurious gift certificates for our newborn sessions that the offices can use to improve patients’ experience.

 

You see, photographers aren’t the only businesses looking to give their customers an “experience.” It’s important to all businesses, and you’re making it easy for them.

 

Additionally, we did a promotion for Blume Babies’ launch in which we smartly combined a newborn workshop for photographers with the opportunity for patients to get a free newborn session at our studio. Because the babies had to be born at the right time for the workshop, we needed to print a lot of promotional pieces, which the hospital gladly provided to all its patients due near those dates in return for offering our photo to the hospital’s marketing department.

 

Welcome community. The promotional plan above can be used by anyone. But I didn’t mention an additional layer of excitement we used to create buzz. Thanks to real friendships and the community we’ve fostered in the industry over the years, the one and only Julia Kelleher of California, one of the top names in newborn photography, called looking for a place to host a workshop in Atlanta.

 

We ended up hosting an official Julia Kelleher workshop at Blume Photography Studios. Partnering with such a strong name made it easy to create buzz, build our studio’s reputation for newborn photography and earn confidence in the eyes of hospitals and clients. Plus, it was a wonderful experience getting to know and learning from Julia. You’re never done learning. We continue to learn and look up to photographers like her, even as we market ourselves as experts. In the end, it all comes down to community.

 

Change is why many businesses buckle. Not us. We adapt. We grow. Through the power of sub-branding, Eileen and I have created a newborn business she can run from home, which serves our values and goals. To customers, huge changes to your business structure can look like panic, an attempt to survive when your winning formula runs out. Through sub-branding, you can create just the opposite impression.

 

“Are we close to Santa’s workshop?” asks a tiny voice beside me in the airplane. My older daughter, five years old, is awake from her nap. She rests her baby-soft cheek against mine, and together we press our noses against the cold oval window. We watch spellbound as the rising sun sparkles across the endless ice 40,000 feet below us. I can almost imagine spying that white and red striped pole in the distant snow. But we aren’t stopping off at the North Pole to spend a holiday. Soon we’ll be in China, and we’ll return home as a family of five.

 

The outlook is brighter now. In the light, it’s easier to remember where my work and I fit into the world. Our brands put food on the table for our kids. Our businesses allowed us to bring home an orphaned boy to his forever family. Maybe our brands do matter to the world after all.

 

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

 

Oh Baby, Watch Them Grow with Blair Phillips

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

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Oh, Baby, Watch Them Grow with Blair Phillips

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the February issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

The more times you can convince clients to let you photograph them, the more moneymaking potential you have. If we are photographing newborn babies only one time, never to see them again, we are going about it all wrong.

Newborn babies yield the highest average across the board with the vast array of clientele I service. I want as many of these sessions as I can get, and I’ve figured out a way to keep the ball rolling. We created several baby plans. Our plans are a way to get clients to pay in advance for a product that may take several sittings throughout the first year of a baby’s life. The few quick images from each session contribute to the prepaid final product. It’s also a platform through which I can sell them images from each visit.

Plan 1: Grow Baby Grow

Grow Baby Grow is the name of the first plan we offered several years ago. It begins with a newborn session. Then we photograph the child each month until she reaches her first birthday. During that first year, the subject is photographed in the exact same place, using the same props, outfits or heirloom pieces. I like to do this outdoors so we can show a complete year of seasonal changes.

Along the way, we show parents the images each month and give them a very small purchasing window. After that year is complete, we present parents with a 2-foot by 5-foot canvas with an image from each month that neatly shows age progression. The parent pays for this upfront. If they did not, they would likely get too busy and skip a month here or there. This conditions them to always want pictures. It also gives me a full year to develop a relationship with the client and baby. This pretty much guarantees me an amazing retention rate for my girls.

Plan 2: Crib Companion

Another baby plan we have is called Crib Companion. We photograph the baby as a newborn, then at four months, eight months and one year. This is all prepaid to keep them interested and motivated for the final product. We photograph them on four completely different sets with different looks. This product is designed with the intention of it going above the crib. The final pieces are four vertical canvases. There are a certain number of letters on each of the canvases that make up the child’s name.

Since these four really short sessions are on a different set with completely different looks, we have the client come back to the studio for an order appointment where we sell them on additional images. This helps generate a healthy bit of revenue that I would not have without a baby plan.

Plan 3: Baby Platinum

Never assume your clients will not spend a large sum of money. You should always have products available for those who are not afraid to drop the cash on you. We have an additional baby plan that is priced very similar to a wedding. Baby Platinum requires four full sessions throughout the first year of life.

I photograph the baby at birth, five months, eight months and one year. Each session lasts around an hour and a half, and includes as much variety as the child will tolerate. As with our other plans, there’s a final product the client receives at the end. The client gets a 12×12 premium leather album, with every page showing a custom design. It is a lot of work, but the payday makes it worth it.

This is marketed to fathers as a great gift to their expecting spouse. When a mother shares this album with friends who don’t have kids yet, they remember it when they are expecting their first child. We also market it as a group gift that several people can go in on together.

Offer Your Client What Your Client Will Buy

If you get frustrated that clients are not spending the kind of money you want them to, it could be because you’re not offering the right packages or products. If you want a client to spend $2,000, you have to offer something they perceive to be worth that amount. If you have products that clients have not bought in a year or more, get rid of them. Your sales will continue to grow each year only if you know your margins and present your clients only with products that you want them to buy.

It is really difficult for clients to come in with their baby once a month, or even once every four months. If you offer any type of baby plan, collect the money upfront. I learned this when we allowed people to pay as we went through the first year. If they do not pay upfront, they are very unlikely to bring the child in as needed to create the final product. When they pay in advance, they will show up. If they do not show up, it does not hurt you as much since you have already been paid. You will also find that you do your best work when you know you are getting paid to do it.

Deep, Lasting Relationships

I highly value the relationships I foster during these baby plans—even more than the money. It’s a deeply shared experience. After the first year, we know a lot about each other. A client who allows you the opportunity to build that kind of a relationship is highly unlikely to go anywhere else. During that first year, I am constantly conditioning them on the importance of pictures while their child grows. I am telling them about other projects I am working on, about upcoming changes to the studio, and reminding them just how appreciative I am to have them.

Think about what it would take for you to be happier with your business. It does not matter what type of plan you put together—find one that gets your clients in the door more often. You can spend your entire career searching for more and more clients, only to learn they have been in front of you the whole time. Eighty percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clientele. Condition, use and truly appreciate the client base you already have. Think quality above quantity.

Whether or not you are good at marketing and sales, you have to do it to make it in the photography world. Now that we have a taste of success through our baby plans, we are looking into ways to create plans for other areas. When you find success with something, use that as motivation to find more. You never know when that success may run out.

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