Professional Photographer or Friend: What to Choose?
As a professional photographer specializing in newborn photos, it would be wonderful to connect with all pregnant mamas and offer them my once in a lifetime services to capture their little once baby arrives. Sometimes, I don’t meet these new mamas who love photography and cherish their babe until long after that baby is born. Because of that, of not knowing what was available, I hear stories of regret in which there are disappointed either with not having photos created at all, or in the way their newborn photos turned out – that they aren’t anything like they envisioned.
It kills me that I can’t go back in time for them and make it right. It can be so tempting to take up someone on an offer to take free or low-cost photos of your baby whether it be from an amateur a hobbyist or even a professional in another area of Photography that happens to be a good friend.
I recently worked with a mom who came to me after having that friend take photos. She came to me the same day of the other session, so luckily we were able to schedule her for later that week and create beautiful images of her daughter. I also had the opportunity to talk to her about the two experiences so that maybe what she learned could be beneficial to future moms who find themselves in the same situation.
So what is the difference between having a good friend take photos for you, and hiring a professional newborn photographer?
As a photographer specializing in newborn photography, over 75% of my clients book newborn sessions. This means that I make sure to have all of the tools and set ups specifically designed for newborn babies. I keep their safety in mind every step of the way and I have done extensive research and training on how to pose babies safely and comfortably and more importantly how to soothe babies so that those safe and comfortable poses can be achieved. This is not to say that your wedding photographer friend is not amazing when it comes to operating a camera and creating beautiful images of couples but there is so much more to creating images of babies then knowing your camera.
When I talked to this new mom (and I’ll refer to her as Bella), I asked her for details about the session to get an idea of what did not go as planned, and why. The first session Bella had for her baby took place in her home, and the photographer was a good friend who offered to do photos for her. Bella explained to me that her friend had photographed the couple before, for their engagement session, and is a hobbyist photographer with a good skill set for capturing great images, but not a lot of experience with newborn photos.
What happened during photo session 1?
At the beginning of the session, Bella says she started the session be feeding the baby. I ask moms to do the same in the studio. “But we had started out with the pictures with her naked so she was like constantly pooping on the blanket and we had to like change the blanket. I’d wipe her off and it would stimulate her to want to eat again and we went to that like 6 times.”
She tells me that the session started late in the day. The photographer arrived about 1pm, but by the time Bella finished feeding her daughter, it was nearly 3pm. This was in part from the lack of comfort Baby was feeling being naked, pooping, and being cleaned up. More than hunger, she needed comfort, and mom was right to provide that.
About the photographer comforting the baby, Bella says “I don’t know if I gave her a chance to, to be honest because every time she fussed I swooped in.”
She adds, “It was really nice to be able to hand the baby off to you and you wrapped her and soothed and it was so much smoother and way more professional than me having the baby wrapped in a pee pad as we’re trying to soothe her so we can stick her back on the blanket.”
What do I do differently in my sessions?
Typically I will take the baby post feed (freshly diapered right before the feed) and immediately wrap her up into a cozy swaddle. As many know, a full feed makes a new baby VERY sleepy, so supporting that need to sleep with a warm womb-like environment, is key to getting baby into a deeper sleep.
Working with transitions to ease the baby into different looks and different poses is the key to success in my studio. I make every effort to disturb Baby as little as possible. After all, the goal is a sleeping peaceful baby, so why wake her?
Dad chimed in recalling the two experiences as well: “I could tell they were getting stressed out there and not getting all the pictures, but here just watching you with the rhythm… we were here for like 4 hours but it all like flew by because you were wrapping her and shushing her, doing pictures and there was a process and it was less stressful.”
And Bella agreed, “at the end of the first one I was exhausted that’s why I was just like ‘I don’t want to do anymore I’m tired,’ we were taking like 3 hours for one picture!”
But your friends do mean well!
Bella’s friend offered something very kind and there is no discounting that. She gave her time and captured some photos that will be appreciated. Bella even explained to me that she didn’t realize how much she wanted true professional newborn photos until after her initial experience. But now she understands why this profession and specialty exists: newborn photographers spend countless hours dedicated to honing their skill sets for creating images of a particularly special subject: YOUR BABY!
Bella’s daughter was never put into any danger, because mom was helping the whole time, and her friend had the best of intentions and everyone’s best interests at heart. But even though I was close to stranger status, she trusted me completely to do everything that was needed to keep her daughter safe, warm, happy, and well posed during our session. And that trust comes from knowing my experience with thousands of other babies.
The biggest takeaway Mama learned from this? Bella tells me she realized she wanted “really good newborn photos” and that hiring a professional would make the whole process a lot less stressful. “I thought [my friend] was going to direct it more and we had not really discussed that and I had no idea what to do” Bella says as she explained that she had to do the posing, and things weren’t looking how she envisioned.
But I had to chuckle at Bella’s biggest stress for our time together: “I was just afraid she was going to spit up all over your stuff!” It is a totally valid worry, but they ALL do it and it’s why my washer is just a few feet away!
See more images from professional photographer Jennifer McNeil on YouTube.