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Beginner Newborn Photography

So here is where I start to get into that photography business I was talking about, Jessica Rae Photography. And just as you would guess, if I start up again it will be Hudson & Blake photography, just to be confusing and inconsistent. I know that it is bad business marketing but that’s ok. I’m in my early 20’s and am still finding where I stand. Like me, there are many of you creative types trying to find your outlet and are thinking, “Hmm, I could do photography.” Let me be the first to tell you, YES! Yes you can. I just beg of you, do your research. For the most part it is easy, you learn how to use the camera, piece of cake. Spend a lot of money on lenses, props, backdrops and packaging materials, hurts the bank account but is super fun to purchase.

Your first few shoots will end up being of your family and friends and that’s great. What better way to practice and work out the kinks? You have a few people, gorgeous light outside, you shoot for an hour or two and then you go home and edit for hours while drinking a glass of wine. Sounds like a good night to me! Then you are ready to deliver your product and they stroke you a cheque. How are more people not doing this?! Then you advertise a little bit, put it up on your Facebook page and let people know that this is what you are into now, post a couple ads, do a little discount at first to build up practice and clients and voila! Requests will start rolling in, weddings, couples, newborns, pets, and hopefully nothing weird and provocative. But have you planned and researched enough to be prepared? Probably not. I sure didn’t.

What if it starts raining right before your scheduled session that this family has paid a deposit on? What if you have to travel to a new area and don’t know where any good spots are? What if your client says, “I don’t know how to pose, you have to tell me what to do.” What if your newborn has colic and won’t stop screaming? What if the day of the wedding it turns brutally cold and is -30 degrees out? What if you just aren’t ready? You won’t be able to be prepared for everything that comes your way, and that’s ok, if you can think on your feet. Whether you realize it or not, as the photographer, you run the show. People are going to be looking at you when these situations arise and you have to be able to direct them. Maybe you packed enough matching umbrellas for everyone and saved the day. Maybe you gathered a bunch of poses and photos you want to recreate with your clients and brought a printout of them to show. A back up plan, maybe even two, are a good way to start with each session.

I have personally experienced every single one of these events. It was stressful. I stuttered and had to take time to think about what we were going to do. I prayed that an amazing idea would come to mind and save the day. I fully support anyone who is trying to or thinking about starting a photography business, because it can be difficult. I’m going to share with you some of these experiences in a series of posts and yes, we are going to rip apart my photos. And I hope that you will learn from my mistakes. Heck, I hope I learn from my mistakes when I try to start this photography stuff up again.

We are going to start with my very first newborn session. I had done her maternity and at the hospital shoots and they went fine so I wasn’t feeling super nervous. I had the studio set up and I had practiced changing backdrops and used stuffed dog toys as my fake baby to practice wrapping and posing and tested the lighting with my camera hundreds of times over, I was ready.

Babies cry, a lot. Especially if they have colic. I don’t have kids so I’m not exactly a professional when it comes to soothing a baby. I knew that a newborn session would take longer, like maybe 3 hours. In between feedings, changes, and soothing, 6.5 hours. That’s a long time for everyone involved. It was just me and the mother, huge tip right here: Have an assistant! Pay a friend or family member to help you. They would be useful for helping changing the backdrop quickly before baby starts screaming again, to hand over towels to prop up from underneath, to wipe up the drool or spit up. The other thing I didn’t think about beforehand, it’s gonna get hot. To keep the baby warm you have to have space heaters and heating pads on all the time or they are going to get cold and cranky and that is not good. Bending and crouching and sweating in a heat box, I’ve never done hot yoga before because quite frankly it sounds horrendous, but that’s what I assume I experienced.

Here is my official Newborn Session Checklist

  • Camera
  • 50mm lens
  • White sheet – diffuser/backdrop
  • Flash
  • Extra charged battery
  • Extra memory card
  • Big, fluffy, textured blankets
  • Wraps, hats, headbands
  • Baby wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Juice and water to stay hydrated
  • Baby brush
  • Pillows
  • Cloths and small towels to prop underneath drape
  • Strong clamps to hold blanket tight
  • Heater and heating pad, place the warm heating pad in the blanket to warm it up before placing baby on it
  • Noise maker for soothing white noise
  • Props, bowls, crates, wagon, scrabble tiles, glasses, PARENTS WEDDING RINGS, tutu, stuffed toys, books
  • Wear loose, breathable clothing
  • Waterproof mattress pad
  • Weights for inside the bowl, box, etc. to keep it sturdy and in place

Keep everything within arms-reach for quick and easy access.

I didn’t have a lot of these things and by then end I was dying. Let’s see how I did.

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Not awful, I mean babies are adorable so it’s hard to have all bad photos. But it is apparent that I had no idea how to swaddle a baby. I wish that I had practiced that more and had help doing it. I also was nervous and wasn’t paying attention to my camera and was having an issue with the setting which slowed down my shutter, which made me miss when her eyes were open all the way. There are a lot of things I wish I had done differently, right down to not taking my time to edit. There is still quite a reddish tinge to some photos. And the mom wanted to get them printed herself, against my advice and got them done at Walmart and well, her baby is orange in the photos she had printed and sent out to everyone.

I also didn’t get paid for this until 4 months later, which is when I learned another valuable lesson. Take a deposit and make sure they know that full payment is due when services are rendered.

But we are going to have these mistakes and all we can do is learn from them and hope it goes better next time.

Take care and don’t forget to share your photos with me! I love to see the creative work of others.

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