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I’m a new mom. That phrase didn’t faze me much until right after the first week of Felicity’s life. By that point, in the span of seven days, I’d had a total of eight hours of sleep. Now, that sounds pretty grueling, but what’s more grueling is the 160 remaining waking hours.
One hundred sixty hours of listening to crying—which used to be a form of torture to get prisoners of war to talk. One hundred sixty hours of attempting to clothe and change diapers on a baby that you honestly think you’re breaking every time you do it. One hundred sixty hours of very painful bodily happenings, from healing to nursing. And last but not least, 160 hours of hormones making you feel like you are not cut out for the job and that, for your baby’s sake, there should be some sort of return policy.
I remember when the thought of putting together my breast pump was an out-of-this-world task that really shouldn’t be tackled, ever. To even contemplate getting myself decent and sane enough to arrange and take newborn photos, needless to say, made Mount Everest look like a Sunday stroll. I had to do it, of course, unless I wanted to feel like an utter failure in mommyhood by day 10.
As a newborn photographer, you’re not really dealing with a newborn. Newborns are just a symptom of your genre of photography. You are dealing with Mom. Not just any mom—usually a new mom, definitely a tired mom, and certainly an emotional mom without a sense of logic. And I thought bridezillas were a nightmare! I’d like to publicly thank Jessica Morrisy (JessicaMorrisy.com) for dealing with my mom crazies and being an amazing friend and newborn photographer who provided these pretty photos of my little girl that you see spread throughout this article.
So what can you do to give that extra bit of customer service that Mom needs? That little something more that will get her comfortable with you and develop a trusting relationship that will convert into higher sales and a better customer experience? Here’s what I know would work for me.
- If you can, come to me
Leaving the house with a newborn is a huge chore. Your baby is bomb set to go off at any moment, because once you finish feeding and changing, and perhaps get it to sleep or stop crying, you usually have only 45 to 60 minutes before you have to feed it again. Forty-five minutes to get the baby (and your disheveled self) in the car and drive to the studio before screaming restarts isn’t much time—particularly if Mom doesn’t want to arrive in a bathrobe. Top that with the germ fears that most new parents have, and getting that baby out of the house is like trying to cut the correct wire on a ticking time bomb.
Obviously, having a baby in your studio where everything is set up is ideal. But if you can put together a “to go” newborn studio and offer that as a premium service to your clients (and charge appropriately for it), I guarantee you’ll have takers. I currently pay a premium to not leave my house for groceries, childcare and any other type of shopping that I can do online. Most moms who are financially able wouldn’t blink at spending more to bring the photography in house as well.
- Give me something extra
As a new mom, I don’t want an extra 8×10. I want sleep. I want relaxation. I want someone to take care of me an iota of the amount that I’m taking care of my baby. Throw something in your packages or overall service that lets me know you care about me too. Maybe a gift certificate for a massage, or cookies or other treats during the session. Double chocolate chip brownies on my nightstand got me through being awake all night for a week—I had to have something to look forward to!
Letting Mom know that she’ll be getting a little comfort for herself when she works with you just might be the thing that tips the scale toward her booking you. It’ll definitely be the thing she tells her new-mom friends about.
- Don’t leave with my baby
I’ve heard of practices where newborn photographers take the baby into the other room and don’t allow Mom to follow to watch the pictures happen. I get it. I used to photograph babies, and having Mom lean over my shoulder was absolutely detrimental to my work and attitude. But as a new mom, I typically won’t let the baby leave my side for anything. Not to sleep, not even to go to the bathroom. Allowing someone I don’t even personally know to take my baby away, even if it’s only in the other room, does not sit well with me.
If you want to create separation between you and the parents, make it optional. Some parents love this, and take the opportunity to pass out on your couch. But a lot of parents don’t like this, so make it optional. If they insist on being in the same room, establish ground rules for where they need to be and how they need to behave so you can do your thing.
- Tell me, “It happens all the time”
Fussing, crying, peeing, pooping, spitting up and, of course, mommy brain: all things parents profusely apologize for when it happens in front of anyone but family. Even if you tell us that it’s OK and it’s no big deal that the soft, white fluffy blanket now looks like it’s been dragged through the mud, telling us we’re not the first or the last will make us feel so much better about it (even if we think you’re lying to us). For some reason, some moms tend to feel like their child is the anomaly and every one else’s children are angels (maybe because we post only perfect, happy baby pictures on social media).
- Remind me there are more photos to be taken
Checking newborn photos off the to-do list is a huge achievement. So much so that it never even crossed my mind that we could do more pictures at three, six and nine months as well. If you remind me of these future photo opportunities in a way that doesn’t seem salesy, I’m going to be happy you did. Perhaps having an option in your newborn packages for a presell on a wall piece that holds a collection of my child’s images from her first year would do the trick. Or suggest starting a canvas cluster that I can easily add to as time goes by.
Whichever way it works, it’ll help me better document the rapidly changing first year—and help you get better sales.
Photo by Jessica Morrisy Photography