From Weddings to Maternity with Vanessa Joy


From Weddings to Maternity with Vanessa Joy

Among the list of irritating comments that I got while pregnant, one was “Oh, you’re going to start photographing babies now!” Um, no. Why? Maybe it was the hormones, but I still don’t see why just because something is present in my life I will have the immediate passion to photograph it in other people’s lives. I mean, I don’t photograph dogs or birthday parties, and I have plenty of those around me. Or maybe it was the photographer in me trying to teach others that different genres of photography are different art forms that need additional skills and time to master. Whatever it is, I’m not photographing babies—I even have someone else photograph mine.

But there has been a slight expansion in my business, and I’ve grown to enjoy it. Over the years, I have photographed a maternity session here and there for a former bride, but I’ve normally referred clients who ask for portrait sessions to other photographers. It may be because I was pregnant, so now I see more of the beauty in pregnant women and understand how to photograph them better. I think it’s more about convenience, though. I found a few factors that made it easy for me to add maternity sessions to my repertoire, which has been beneficial in more ways than one.

Here’s a quick how-to from my thought process and how I started getting my maternity work off the ground.

Take Baby Steps

Maternity photography isn’t a far stretch from weddings because the focus of the shoot is still a woman. I could do without the groom and have a field day just photographing the bride in all her bridal beauty. Photographing women has always been something I love. I love making women feel beautiful, and out of all women who need to feel beautiful, it’s the ones who are creating another human being (but more on that later). So it wasn’t a far stretch from photographing brides to photographing that next stage in their lives.

Moving from weddings to maternity photography is only natural, and makes marketing easy because I already have the clientele. It’s akin to starting a wedding photography business when all of your friends are getting married. Weddings are happening all around you, so word of mouth is easy to spark. One of the first things I did was send a short email to my past clients letting them know about my new venture. That task alone brought in quite a few leads immediately. I started booking gigs, built up my relationship with current clients and expanded my brand. All the hard work that you’ve done marketing your wedding business is going to pay off double if you target that same group of people for maternity photography.

Be Conscious of Your Lifestyle

Here’s the kicker: I can do my maternity photography during the week so that I can continue to focus on weddings on the weekends—or (gasp) take a weekend off. Having a new baby in the house, I can’t help but wonder what it will be like when she is five or six and wants me to come to her soccer games on the weekends, but I can’t because I have to work. It’s not that I have any plans to stop wedding photography at this point, but if I did, I’d want to know that I ready have one foot in the door. It’s smart to have an exit strategy or backup plan.

Price Yourself Right

Portrait pricing isn’t something that I’m wildly experienced in, but since I began after-sales a couple of years ago, I definitely have a better idea where to start. I took a look at my engagement session packages (you’re welcome to view them at, and based my portrait packages off of that. I also did my due diligence in talking with different portrait photographers in the area to make sure my pricing was comparable. I didn’t want to be that photographer who was undercutting the industry. At the same time, because I have a higher-end brand and price point for weddings, my portrait offerings needed to reflect that.

I had to decide whether to give away or sell the digital files. While I do give away digital files in my higher packages or à la carte for my weddings, I knew that it wasn’t something I wanted to do for portraits. Portraits are supposed to be hung, put in a book or given out as gifts. If I just offered my clients digital files alone as an option, they would choose that and the photos would never see the light of day.

Just like with wedding photography, it can be very hard to compare apples to apples, and it seems everyone simply does whatever suits them—which is great. But the same concepts apply to portrait pricing as they do to any other kind of pricing. You have to first figure out your sales figures and how much you want to make per hour. Do the math to figure out what you need to charge to make what you need to sustain your business and your lifestyle. (If you want to learn more about that, there’s a short video that explains the math behind it here:

Seek advice from other photographers in your area. There are also so many groups on Facebook and other amazing online photography communities (like this one) where you can go for advice from experienced portrait photographers. Construct your packages similarly to your wedding packages. This will be an added benefit for your past clients since they are already familiar with your package structure.

I’m excited to dive into the world of portrait photography. I know so many photographers who make a beautiful living photographing portraits and nothing else. It is a lucrative way to apply your skill set and photography in many ways to ensure a continual flow of business. And if you’re already photographing weddings, it’s that much easier.

Not a girl or never been pregnant? Then you may not know that women, especially pregnant women, can have a completely disillusioned self-image that photographers get to bear the brunt of (i.e., “Can you Photoshop that double chin?” “Um, what double chin?”).

Check out this video, in which I give you a few tips on the body parts typical pregnant women like you to discreetly hide, plus a quick how-to to ensure that your clients look at the pictures you take of them and love the way they look.

Get the full story

To read the full article, launch the digital version of the October 2015 magazine.

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