Newborn Photography Workflow Essentials with Lisa Rapp
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou hit the nail on the head with this quote. When we enter a session, we are not only taking pictures, we are creating memories that last a lifetime. Our clients will remember the variety of feelings they experienced while in our care. We need to make it a pleasurable one so they sing our praises to their friends and family. Good reviews travel fast, but bad reviews travel faster.
When a potential client contacts me for a session, the first thing they usually ask is my pricing. I send them a link to my website’s Investment page and congratulate them on their upcoming arrival. I ask them when they are due and if they would like me to mail them a contract to proceed with their booking process. Yes, I said mail. I worked for the Postal Service for 16 years and am old school as far as business goes, and I still prefer to have paper in hand, but I digress. I then offer to speak with them on the phone because I want to get a feel for what the client is looking for in their session. Some take me up on this offer and some don’t. The ball is in their court and I await their decision on whether or not to choose me as their newborn photographer.
If they choose me, I mail them a contract and receive a retainer. I add them to my calendar, get their phone number and begin to make a personal connection. When scheduling the session, I mark out five days before and after their estimated due date. I then make the call, touch base with my newest client and gather a few details.
“Is this your first child, second, third…seventh?” If they have other children, what are their names and ages? “Will we be doing sibling shots?” “Where will you be delivering?” “Who will be delivering?” “How have you been feeling?” “Have you given any thought to the color scheme of the session?” “If you were to hang an image in your home, what colors would go best with your home?” “What color is the baby’s nursery?” “What poses are your favorite?” “Would you like any prop shots?” “Which of my packages were you planning on going with?”
I cover the whole spectrum of the actual session now because after the baby is born, Mom is preoccupied and has her hands full. They are investing in me, so now I must invest in them. This is when you find out if your client is nervous, excited or uptight. I explain to them the optimum timeframe in which I prefer to photograph the baby, and why—the baby sleeps better, the baby is “curlier” or, if the baby is a boy and gets circumcised, we need to wait for it to heal.
I then ask them to keep me informed as they progress because there is a possibility of their going into labor early and surprising everyone. I want to make sure I am available in case this happens. Making a personal connection is vital to the experience. Making them feel valued and appreciated is important. How you make them feel during this entire process is what they will remember most.
I don’t schedule my newborn sessions until the baby arrives. Some babies decide to make an early entrance into the world and throw everyone’s plans out the window. Some babies wait until after their due date. This method has worked out very well for me. I have already established a connection with my newest client and have contacted them a few times to check in on them, so they feel comfortable calling or texting me when they go to the hospital.
Fast-forward to the client calling me to inform me they are home. In the past, I used to send my parent prep list with the contract, but this never worked out. It usually got misplaced or lost, so this is when I go over parent prep. I keep it short. I explain why (again) I am making these suggestions: to help them prepare for a successful session.
Parent Prep List for Newborn Sessions:
1) Bring the baby in a sleeper that zips or snaps up the front, with no onesie under (so I don’t have to pull anything over the baby’s head).
2) Keep the baby awake for an hour before you head to the studio (unless you live over an hour away, because she will sleep in the car anyway).
3) Either feed the baby right before you leave or right when you arrive at the studio. A full belly plus a tired baby usually means a sleeping baby.
4) I keep the studio between 75 and 80 degrees, so dress accordingly. Babies tend to sleep better when they are cozy warm.
5) The baby will more than likely pee and poo on everything. Don’t stress about this. It all comes out in the wash.
6) You just had a baby. Rest, and I will do all the work. Your job is to sit, watch and take a nap if you need to.
I prepare my setups the day before the session. This is when I go through all of my fabrics, furs, wraps, props, headbands and outfits and put everything together. I mix and match items by putting them all side by side to make sure the colors, textures and sets flow. I make a mental note of which wrap, headband, etc. goes with which pose. I check my light to make sure it is working properly (in case my trigger battery needs changed or bulbs need switched). I keep everything I will use during the session on a rolling cart so it is easily accessible and within reach.
Newborn Photography Necessities:
Receiving blankets/flour sack towels
Face masks (when requested)
Hand towel for messy accidents
During the session, check on Mom repeatedly and keep her hydrated. Ask her how she is doing and see if she needs a snack or drink (which I provide). I have a recliner and couch in the studio in case they need to relax. Remind her how beautiful her baby is and how well her baby is doing. I usually show her the back of the camera once to build anticipation and show her that the session is progressing nicely. Even if the baby is fussing and not cooperating, reassure her that this is how it goes and her sweet little bundle is doing just fine, even if you are crying inside too.
Before Mom leaves the studio, I remind her that I will post a sneak peek for her on Facebook or on my website and when she can expect her gallery to be done. This helps prevent the “When will the images be ready?” text two days after the session. Cut her some slack. She is excited to see her beautiful baby’s pictures and show them off to her friends and family.
When my editing is complete, I message the client and send them a link to their gallery. This is when they choose the images they want and order prints and other products. Then I give them their password for any downloads they have purchased. If they have ordered product, it comes to me so I can look at it to make sure it is what they ordered and it is packaged up, so they can either pick it up in studio or have me send it in the mail, in which case I include a personal thank-you note.
My clients become extended family members and I reach out to them to see how they are doing. Many of them come back to me for family and milestone sessions, and, in a short amount of time, they are bringing me their next little bundle of joy. If I have done my job well, they tell all their friends and family about their wonderful experience and beautiful memories I captured.
They sing my praises and do some of my best advertising by letting everyone know just how good I made them feel by trusting me with their entire world: their baby.