I have done this a few times before and have promised several newer photographers that I would answer their questions soon in a blog post. We are enjoying the last little bit of our vacation but enjoy this post that I put together and I will see you back next week with brand new little one pictures, some stunning maternity sessions and a face that is familiar to Fredericksburg area business owners!
I think that some of these questions are repeats but since they keep coming up, I will answer them again!
Q: I love the look of natural light. Why did you switch? What lighting equipment do you use?
A: I hear this a lot. Oddly, it is usually from other photographers and almost never from my clients, which makes me ask: why are you asking? What I have found is not that photographers necessarily prefer the look of one over the other, rather are afraid of studio lights. I certainly was! The real answer is that I love the look of studio lights, I loved the challenge of learning something new and I love that I am never dependent on mother nature. I find the look more polished and professional and it gives me a competitive edge in my market because most newborn photographers are not using strobe lighting. There ARE many photographers that use natural light beautifully but I also see many that have no idea how to use light at all, and without an understanding of light, you cannot understand photography. Once you understand light, light is light is light…whether studio or natural window light and understanding it will transform your art!
I use Alien Bee’s b400s and one westcott 50×50 softbox and one strip-box.
Q: Your prices have changed a lot in the last year. How did you do that and why did you do that? Aren’t you afraid of losing clients?
A: This is a HUGE discussion that would be really hard to sum up in a few lines. My prices do appear to have changed a lot, though they really did not. I used to charge $150 for a session and then all purchases had to be made apart from that fee. I now charge $295 and you receive $295 in product, your choice. I used to require a collection purchase before allowing a la carte purchase. Now, you can purchase as much or as little as you would like. Yes, the prices of individual items have risen, but my favorite and highest selling collection is actually less than it used to be and includes more product, at a smaller profit margin for my business. Why? Because I have transitioned from being a beginner photographer into one who is quite confident that if my work is beautifully displayed in your home, you will tell your friends how much you love it. So my goal has shifted from making my income when you arrive to my studio to earning my income based on your love of my work. The how is just as simple. How? I earned my raise. I dug my heels in and spent the last few years learning so very much. When I settled into this pricing, I truly believed that I had arrived at a point where my work was consistent and identifiable. I believe that my pricing will change very little in the coming years. I am very satisfied, I have received excellent feedback from my clients and I know that I am comfortable here. I also believe that I am still affordable. So, to answer the last piece: No, I am not afraid of losing clients. That is part of business and it happens and it can be so sad when you see their faces on someone else’s page. But, I can only make decisions that are best for Stephanie McFarland Photography and they have to make the best decisions for their families, as well 🙂
Q: I am interested in being a newborn photographer and am thinking about buying a nice camera. What else do I need?
A: Newborn photography is a tough business. Sessions are long, hot, challenging. They require a tremendous amount of patience, knowledge and the right equipment.
I could definitely make a very long list of “things” that will make your session easy but there is a lot more involved. I definitely recommend making a photographer friend and asking if they would be able to help you start. You will probably need to pay them for their time, but it is a worthy investment into your business.
Other than that: I recommend a newborn poser, soft and washable blankets and fabrics and wraps. A fast lens plus a macro lens. Space heaters. The proper editing software. And lots and lots of patience. Also, it is a MUST that you wash everything in hot and soapy water immediately after baby leaves. I have photographed 100+ newborns and of them, one had meningitis. That is transmitted through feces and could have easily been passed to another baby if I had not cleaned properly.
It is also imperative that you have an understanding of composites in photoshop and an appreciation for the fact that they are tiny, fragile people…not props.
Q: I know you talk about your studio, but is it in your home? Have you thought about getting a real studio?
A: I do have a real studio and yes, it is in my home. It is also 1200 square feet, has a meeting area, a large projector, a restroom and changing area and three unique set ups that I use for most sessions. It has taken me a couple of years to get everything just how I like it and I cannot imagine starting all over! At the end of the day, I am like every other working mother, trying to juggle my family’s needs with my business needs with my own needs. At this point, having a studio outside of my home just is not compatible with that juggling. If I felt that my client experience was lacking in any way, I would absolutely take the plunge but I don’t feel that way now and I have had so many growing pains in the last year that I am happy to not yet have this one 🙂
Q: Newborn photography is really competitive. How do you keep everyone from stealing your ideas? I hate when I see that someone has stolen one of my original ideas.
A: As photographers, I think we need to get one idea in our heads: there are no original ideas. I think as artists, our brains are constantly inspired by what is around us, even when we don’t realize it. A year ago, I thought that I had this super original idea for a newborn session. I totally believed it was MY idea, totally unique. HAHAHAHA. Welllllll not a week later, I saw it posted on someone’s page. They had done the exact same picture (almost) and I was FURIOUS. I clicked on the link and was shocked to find that they had re-shared a photo that they had taken two years ago. Somewhere, I must have seen theirs (or a similar) photo and my brain filed it away in it’s giant pinboard. Or we thought of the exact same set up. Either way: there are no original ideas any more and being grumpy only serves to shut down your own creativity. Not to mention, how much of a dork would I have looked like if I messaged her all in a huff?
So what if it was your idea? Someone feeling inspired by you is amazing, right? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, fo reals. But chances are, it has been done. Chances are, it was not your idea to begin with. That is OKAY! As artists, we need to spend less time comparing and more time feeding our inner creative soul. I think this upsets us so much because we are afraid that someone else will do “our” idea better than us. We need to let that insecurity empty out of us so that we can fill the empty space with love and creativity and joy.
Are there any questions you would like answered? Feel free to email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to answer the most popular ones soon!