Motherhood Portraits: Thinking Beyond Newborn with Karen Bagley
Newborn portraits just go hand in hand with Maternity portraiture. However, if you are like me you probably love photographing Maternity portraits… but when it comes to newborn, eh, not so much. Now don’t get me wrong, I love newborns. They are absolutely precious and it is one of the most significant times in a family’s life. When it comes to the photography and business side though, I have always struggled. I am by no means a baby whisperer and I have never been very into the props. I mean, there are so many newborn photographers who have the newborn portraits in the bag. I am not one of them. I was in a constant battle with myself trying so hard to force myself into liking newborn portraits. I was shooting myself in the foot from the amount of money I would lose from not marketing and photographing newborn sessions. So, I spent almost all of last year really paying attention to what it was that had me so uninspired and not wanting to photograph newborn portraits. What I discovered may help you if you are in the same boat I was in!
In my self-discovery with newborn portraits, if you will, I realized I was photographing newborns how I had seen everyone else photograph them. Mistake #1. The one thing I am always encouraging other photographers to do is to find your groove, find your style. I was guilty of not doing this myself. I know… me! Can you believe it?!?! I mean, my rule of thumb is to create what you want… how you envision it, and then you market so the right people can find you for exactly what you do. We don’t shoot like others because we think that’s what our clients want. Because we all already know most of the time clients have no idea what they want. We educate them because we are the professional and we have a style.
I realized I was never excited about the props or wraps I purchased (no matter how cute they were) because deep down I didn’t really even want to use them. In my own eyes, my own work was becoming something I didn’t even want to create. I had to nip that in the bud immediately! In a sense I started from scratch in this area. I got some models and kicked everything I knew about newborn portraits out of my head and started creating. I was going to flip typical newborn portraits on their head and turn them into something I wanted to create. Instead of following what’s expected, I was going to shoot what I love, and how it was in my head, how I envisioned it could be done. I fell in love! It was suddenly like someone lit a fire beneath my butt and I was rejuvenated.
I didn’t stop there… I dug even deeper. What is it exactly about what I photograph mainly (maternity portraits) that I love so dearly? Well it’s personal for me. I got pregnant very young and becoming a mother at that age made a profound impact on me. I love being a mother and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I love motherhood! I love every moment from pregnancy, to newborn, to the toddler stage, to pre-teen and teen years. I started thinking… why is it just maternity and newborn? Or newborn through the first year? I want to document it all!!! I want to document the beauty and fierceness, the amazing journey motherhood truly is, and in a way that fits me and my style. Boom, there it was. I needed to think bigger! This whole time I have been losing money not photographing something that goes hand in hand with what I already shoot. So many times—no, most of the time—we lose money because of ourselves. We can’t get out of our own way. We can’t look at ourselves and say, “This is stupid. I need to figure out why such and such is the way it is.” We need to think past what is right in front of us, the bare minimum if you will.
This led me to think back on all of the people who reached out to me for newborn portraits but I turned them away because they didn’t book their maternity session with me. You see, I used to only take on newborn clients if they were already a client of mine in the maternity field. I know, I know, that is absolutely crazy—but it is 100% true. I just dreaded doing newborn photos that bad.
So, as I am thinking back on all of the money lost because I just didn’t want to do those newborn sessions, I am now reaching back out to them all. It doesn’t matter that they no longer have a newborn because every age of our littles should be documented. I no longer have put a cap on myself or my business as to the clients I bring in. I feel free. I also feel like I have something to offer. You see, before, I was not in love with what I was doing and I have no one to blame but myself. It wasn’t my gear’s fault, or my light’s fault. It was mine. It was how I was photographing. I was being unoriginal and just photographing things because they asked, not because I truly wanted to. I went into every preview session knowing I wouldn’t sell as much as my maternity portraits, and what’s worse is, I didn’t blame them! Clients can tell when your passion is not there. The truth is, we will not have blinding passion for every session we do but if we do not really love what we do you will absolutely get burned out. I was burned out and I didn’t even photograph that many newborns. I had to face facts and fix the problem. To do that I had to be honest with myself and change what I needed to.
If you are or ever have been in a similar boat, now is the time to examine yourself and your business and find the weak links. While of course we do what we love because we love it… We also want to make money. If you are missing out on huge money opportunities, you need to ask yourself why. This can also go in the other direction. If you are a newborn photographer but do not photograph maternity, why? Are you thinking only about the obvious opportunities right in front of you or are you going to create a whole new opportunity? I am a creator. I will always be on the lookout for creating opportunities that will better my business and quite honestly my life.
As a result of me thinking bigger, thinking beyond newborn portraits… I have had the best first quarter I have ever had in my business. I am booking motherhood sessions months out, filling my schedule. Even with the horrible pandemic plaguing the entire planet, I have a whole new audience to reach and I am so excited! I am just scratching the surface with what I want to create. It is only just the beginning! Remember, while this article is sharing my personal business growth and story in regards to maternity and newborn portraits, it applies to every business regardless of what you shoot.
So, I ask: are you thinking beyond newborn portraits?