So this is a post I have had going round in my head for about 3 years and I thought it was about time I tried to get it onto paper and make some sense of the jumbled idea that is spinning in there!
This evening, as on many evenings I was really lucky to be tagged in a thread on a local group, someone was asking for Newborn photography recommendations, and 5 of my previous clients had been totally amazing and put me forwards, AWESOME! I glanced at the considerable list of photographers and hadn’t heard of several of them and being nosey went and had a peek, that is what prompted my post now. You see this isn’t at all a post that is going to tell you to book me and not someone else, it isn’t about bragging rights or claiming to be the best newborn photographer in Norfolk, it’s just not really me. What I want, is to help anyone who is looking for a baby photographer, to work out what on earth is going on with all the different businesses and prices they see. I HATE that people go to a photographer and can feel that they got the hard sell, that they ended up with bad low quality products or that something they thought was free or cheap, turned out to cost them thousands of £s and got them into debt.
So here goes… quite simply, there are (very) broadly speaking 3 types of photography business you will come across, you simply have to decide which one’s business model suits you best, what is most important to you? Price/experience/quality etc. Of course it also helps if you love their style and their work!
First up there is Jane*. Jane is new to the photography business, it is a hobby but earns her some money for treats. Many of us started where Jane is and “Janes” hold a good proportion of the market of photographers out there. Jane doesn’t charge much, perhaps £50 for all the images edited on a disc and the session. Now, Jane might not have had any training yet, as just the newborn posing & safety courses themselves start at about £350+,then there are editing courses and lighting ones etc etc. She might not have insurance yet as that is also a few £££. She probably travels to your home which can be a bonus for some with a newborn baby in those first few days. It does mean she only has a basic kit that can travel with her, let me tell you, once you have a large beanbag in a Toyota Aygo there isnt much room for anything else!! Jane is a great option if money and cheap is your driving factor in choosing the photographer. Jane is great if price is your choice over quality and sadly sometimes safety so check a few things out before handing over your precious new baby for that nice pose in a bucket.
Next there is Claire* (& her team). Claire runs a great funky photo studio on the high street. It’s bright, it’s awesome and they do FREE sessions! Or perhaps sometimes you can get a voucher for a session and a free print for £10. BARGAIN!! You see the thing is, there is no way on earth Claire can rent her studio, pay her staff and pay for those nice glossy leaflets by charging you £10 or running a free session. You need to be prepared for a sales session. Again, a totally valid business model and works for lots of photographers out there. All I am saying is go in with your eyes open, again it appears cheap but it just can’t be so. Unlike with Jane you are probably getting good quality & experience, backed by insurances etc, just remember Claire HAS to make money to keep her business going after all, it is well, a business! You are going to be expected to pay out a lot more than £10, one of Claire’s studios needs an average spend of £2000 per client to make any money, and when you see the stunning images you will want them all!- I know I did!! So be prepared, the products won’t be free or giveaway prices, if you just want the free print you are going to have to be hard and stick it out! With newborns, again check on the experience and safety. A lot of Claire’s employees have great experience working with children and families but haven’t done any research on safely handling newborns and how to do poses safely, always check!
Finally, there is Victoria*. Victoria started out like Jane a few years back but realised she loved it so much she wanted to ditch her other horrible job and to make this work full time as a business. Like all Janes eventually, Victoria had to get training, insurance, equipment and a studio. These things all cost money and Victoria has to feed her family and pay the bills, this is her job now! Victoria can’t charge £50 for everything on a disc anymore because she has to cover those overheads. She has some experience and the quality of her work now easily rivals that of Claire and her team. Victoria once went to Claire’s studio a few years ago and came away feeling like she had been robbed, she loved all her images but couldn’t afford any of them, something she didn’t realize until the viewing session when she got the price list.
Victoria wants to run her business and pay her bills, she wants to do a good job for her clients and provide them with a quality experience and product, but she doesn’t want them to feel robbed. She is honest and up front, she charges a fee for sessions which covers the minimum business overheads and she tells her customers the prices of all products upfront so that they can decided for themselves if they want to go ahead. She relies heavily on her clients spreading word of mouth to friends as she has no big marketing budget like Claire, she can’t afford glossy or radio ads. Her product prices are carefully worked out like Claire’s to ensure she can make a profit, her overheads are lower than Claire’s so the products are cheaper, the trouble is Claire’s clients don’t know this until they have already been for the session so they think they are getting a bargain experience till it is too late!
The moral of the tale? I don’t mind who YOU choose for your newborn session but please put safety of the baby first, then when price is a factor go in with open eyes and know what you are paying for and what the actual true cost is going to be, no nasty surprises. Finally, always look at the work quality and style of the person you are choosing too, this Victoria for example, probably isn’t your best choice if you love lots of dress up costumes and fairy wings etc, it’s just not her style.
* ALL NAMES AND SITUATIONS ARE TOTALLY FICTITIOUS AND DO NOT RELATE TO ANY REAL OR LIVING PERSON, WELL EXCEPT MAYBE THAT LAST ONE 😉