So you find out you are expecting a sweet little bundle and would just love some beautiful images of your new baby once he or she arrives just like the ones you’ve seen online, and the family too! You start the search for a photographer and find many in your area and with a variety of styles and of course, you guessed it, prices!
Some low, some high, some not listed at all but require you to contact the photographer for this information. You narrow your choices down by style and taste, possibly remove the options you can’t immediately find a price for and you’re faced with the realities of what you are looking for.
Professional photographers, and I don’t mean anyone with a free facebook page, but the ones that truly invest into their business and are legal – licensed, insured and pay taxes, tend to start at around $250-$500 depending on your area. Many include all the images which you might find totally reasonable for the cost or may still think to yourself, that much for JUST pictures? However, you might also find these are just sitting fees and you think to yourself, how do photographers charge that much before any photos are delivered? All they do is snap some shots with a nice camera right?
Wrong. Let me share with you the absolute naked truth behind newborn photography pricing.
Professional photographers invest daily into their business, and they do so for many years before they get to where they are today as you are finding them. They invest countless hours of time and money into their education and training, their equipment, studios and props if they have one and this is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ve seen those images on google of the above and below view of an iceberg as it sits in a body of water, the top is quite small compared to the below water view. This is very true about how much goes into not only a legitimate business, but specifically newborn photography.
I get it, we are in a money driven world and a good chunk of the time our search stops at the price but here are some other factors to consider when choosing your newborn photographer, or your photographer in general. How much training and hands on experience does the photographer have? Your new baby is literally THE most precious thing you have and you are about to entrust this gift into someone’s hands. Do you want to know that your baby is 100% safe in those hands?
Newborn posing is quite sweet isn’t it? You just love the peaceful look on a baby’s face as their tiny hands curl around their cheek, their tiny toes tucked in and for a moment you think there is nothing more amazing than the life of a newborn baby. This is one of your biggest milestones you will experience in life. You want this time documented to cherish for years to come. Posing a newborn baby is not as simple as it may look. When your photographer is posing your baby, there are many things running through their head, things they must consider, things they must never do, is your baby safe, is your baby comfortable and somewhere in there they too are thinking as you are, how sweet that baby is but those poses are more than cute, they take years of perfecting and can come with consequences if not done appropriately and safely.
Along with safety, newborn sessions are all about time and patience and you might find yourself thinking, I only need a few photos, why does the photographer need 3 hours? A good session will take a minimum of 2-4 hours and if you’re thinking, wow that’s a lot of photos, it’s not all spent on snapping pictures. One single pose can take 20 minutes to not only set up and perform safely, but the photographer is working with a breathing, moving baby that can and often do wiggle, kick and frequently move to find their comfortable position. The images you see online and in calendars might look perfect but it was not necessarily easy or fast to achieve it.
Newborn babies do sleep a lot, but not on cue and do not always sleep solidly throughout or at all during their session and this can result in challenges. They feed frequently, need cleaning and sometimes just need calming. I often tell my clients that in a three hour session, typically only one hour of it, maybe under, maybe just over, is actual shooting time, and that is complied over the full session time. We may achieve one pose and when changing to a new one or different set up, it might take another half hour before we can get to that.
Newborn photography, among all forms of photography, is an art and like any and all art, is a talent, requiring skills that have been learned and perfected and never overnight. You cannot put a price on the creativity and talent of your photographer, much of what each does is unique and a true testament to their imagination and adaptability.
Professional photographers don’t get to this point without many hours of training. This can be in the form of online courses or hands on learning but either way, professional photographers invest thousands of dollars into their education and this is ongoing. In this business, there is always something new to learn and master, we can never learn it all and say we have nothing further we need.
Professional photographers have professional level equipment which runs well into the thousands for most and many don’t just have one camera, but often a back up in case something were to happen and these do need to be upgraded. We also need high functioning computers that are able to handle the editing software we use. I have a few programs but my software costs are around $250-$300 a year. This category of equipment does not just stop at the camera or computer, but also everything else we use for our sessions. If a photographer has a studio, it’s not likely an empty room but filled with props and accessories. This is also not a one time purchase as we often do and need to add to our selections to keep each session fresh and different as well as replacement due to wear and tear.
To be a legal business, one needs to be licensed if their city/town requires it, as well as pay taxes on the income, just like any other profession. In most areas, once someone creates a name for their business and starts advertising, they have now created an entity for their business which then requires a business license as they are now operating as such. For myself, and this is not covering anything other than to just simply exist as an entity, and it runs $175 a year. To exist so that people find me and my work, my website runs $372 a year.
Businesses also require insurance not only on the equipment but also liability which is huge! Afterall, most newborn photographers that have a studio are having clients come to them, and many have home based studios. We need to protect ourselves and our clients and this does come at a cost. It does vary but for myself my insurance is around $600 a year. Many photographers also travel to their clients, not all have studios or they just offer additional services like in home sessions. Not only is this additional time for the photographer depending on where they’re going, but they often have to carry additional insurance on their vehicles for business use and carrying equipment. Not to mention fuel!
So we’ve covered just a small amount of the before and up to, but what happens AFTER your session? With newborn sessions, most people don’t think about the clean up afterwards and as you will likely find during yours, newborns do not save their messes for when the diaper is on! All items used are generally hand washed after the session due to their delicate nature, but yes our sessions do come with laundry, as well as prop clean up.
Ahhh the beauty of a finished image! That’s what you see when you’re viewing numerous portfolios, all the down and dirty work has been completed behind the scenes. It will vary with each photographer, but for myself I spend an average of 6-10 hours on a full newborn session on top of the pre-session preparation and session itself, so roughly 10-14 hours overall. Once the editing is complete, then comes delivery of your images to you. The methods vary with photographers but in today’s day with everything being online, most including myself use private online galleries. Though it may seem easy to just upload and send, these services do not come free to us and they do take time to put together. For myself, the service I use is $170 a year. Of course we don’t just delete your session after you have it, we then place the images into storage on an external hard drive for safe keeping or online system. Hard drives will run around $80-$300 or more each and do fill up which requires purchase of another, and online systems often require upgrading for additional storage.
When we are not shooting or editing, we are often spending countless hours on other areas of business such as websites and other marketing. This is how our clients find us, so it takes regular updating and the newest of technologies to keep up with the online world! Costs involved with these will vary among photographers but I myself do put out paid advertising on Facebook every now and then.
So now that you have a general idea of the time and costs involved just to make your session happen and deliver the images you are wanting, lets touch base on the fact that this is not a hobby for which professional photographers do just for fun, although photography is a lot of fun and very rewarding. It is a job, and often our chosen career for which we do to earn an income, and not just to put right back into the business but also to earn a liveable wage to take care of ourselves, our families, homes and other important needs that every person has.
I hope that this gives you more insight as to the reasoning behind professional photography pricing as it is not what meets the eye and most, if not all, professionals do this because they love it and want to give you a one of a kind, quality experience that is not “Just pictures”