How to become a professional newborn photographer

Not for the faint of heart, newborn photography poses a challenge that can directly impact your work: You’re unable to communicate with your subject. Having said that, newborn photography can also be extremely rewarding. Capturing images that parents will cherish for a lifetime and nailing your craft is critical to your success as a newborn photographer. 

How much do newborn photographers make?

Setting yourself up for success as a newborn photographer means entering this field and knowing what to expect. You need to have a good idea of your salary so you’re able to properly allocate your funds to grow your business. Knowing your income potential will also help with scaling your business and more accurately predicting your growth. 

Newborn photographer salary. 

The salary potential for a newborn photographer can vary greatly depending on a few key considerations including experience, location, services offered, and whether or not you’re working as an employee versus working for yourself. 

In general, though, the average salary for a newborn photographer in the United States is $44,000/year. 

With that in mind, we’ve seen some reports with salaries for newborn photographers as low as $23,000, but also salaries as high as $85,000. 

Why is there such a wide spectrum of salaries in this space? This largely stems from the self-employed nature of photographers. 

While you certainly can be employed as a newborn photographer (i.e. A private photo studio or department store studio), for many parents, hiring a professional photographer who can work with you 1:1 to make your vision come to life is preferred, which generally costs more.  

In addition, if you’re working in this 1:1 capacity, your earning potential depends on how much you’re willing to work. Remember, when you’re self-employed, you can work as much or as little as you want, and unless you have a lot of experience, the more you work you do, the more money you will make. 

Demographic data from our industry survey. 

So who is most likely to start up a newborn photography business? In our books, anyone and everyone should feel welcome to test out the newborn photography vertical. The only requirement? You probably should enjoy spending time with babies if you’re going to revolve your business around them. 

In general, the split between male and female photographers is almost equal with the median age for a professional photographer being around 38. 

In newborn photography, the balance tips slightly, as a larger segment of photographers in this space are women. Parents, former Labor and Delivery/ NICU nurses, and newborn caregivers tend to excel working in this type of photography because they are not intimidated by newborns and they know how to soothe and position them easily. While you certainly don’t have to be a parent or a nurse to work in newborn photography, we do find that most photographers are more comfortable working with newborns if they have experience with them. A lot of a photographer’s success during a shoot comes from how they can interact with, and make their subject comfortable. This is true of adults, children, and of course, babies that are mere days old.

Newborn photography equipment. 

When you’re shooting a time in a person’s life that is so fleeting, you only have one opportunity to get it right. Having the proper equipment can dramatically help improve, not only the quality of your images but also your experience shooting the images. Don’t discount your equipment as a newborn photographer.

Best lens for newborn photography. 

As a newborn photographer, there are two lenses you absolutely need: your go-to lens and your macro lens. 

Your go-to lens will be that lens you use for the majority of your newborn portraits. For most newborn photographers, either a 50mm, or 85mm will be the lens of choice. Or, if you want more of the background in the image then you may opt for a 35mm lens. Your preferences and style will determine which lens is right for you. 

A macro lens is also necessary for capturing all those little special details that are so essential in newborn photography, so don’t skip out on this. 

Best camera for newborn photography.

First and foremost, you need to find a camera that you’re comfortable shooting with. With that in mind, there are a couple of key considerations to make when shopping for a camera that will be used primarily for newborn photography.

Here’s what we recommend looking out for: 

  • A camera that works well at higher ISOs (in case you want to avoid flash)
  • Full frame camera
  • In-body image stabilization in the camera body  
  • Silent shutter (popular with mirrorless cameras)
  • High resolution (12-megapixel minimum; 20+ best)

Newborn photography lighting. 

Lucky for you, newborn photography can largely depend on natural lighting, meaning if you don’t want to or don’t have the budget, you don’t need to purchase any lighting equipment. You can simply set the baby up by a window to ensure good lighting, and use your photography skills to capture the perfect shot. 

With that in mind, don’t forget that lighting can change not only from day to day but also from hour to hour. Because of this, having some studio lighting equipment at your disposal isn’t a bad idea. 

Continuous lights tend to work well for newborns since newborns don’t move around much. You will also need a stand for convenience and a modifier (i.e. parabolic umbrella) to help reduce the harshness of the light.  

Props for newborn photography. 

Using the right props will help bring together the overall aesthetic of the shoot, which usually means that the parents want to get involved. We recommend having a variety of props, as well as communicating your vision with the parents so you can get the look right. 

Colors might change depending on the shoot, but blankets are almost always a must in newborn photography. Whether it be to swaddle the baby or help prop them up, you’ll need blankets, but be sure to coordinate with the parents here. For instance, know what color the baby will be dressed in before picking out blankets. 

You will also need something for the baby to be in or on. For instance, a wicker basket, a bassinet, or a pile of blankets. A bean bag is also a good prop to have for placement because of the soft, moldable surface. 

Convenient accessories we also recommend keeping on hand include heating pads, space heaters, a white noise machine, baby wipes, and hand sanitizer. Some parents might show up with these things, or if you’re shooting in the home you might have them available to you, but it’s always best to be over-prepared, especially when working with fussy babies. 

How to start a newborn photography business. 

As with any photography business, having a plan is crucial to your success. A plan helps you map out your goals, come up with your vision, and carefully structure your business so you reach all those goals. 

Growing a successful newborn photography business takes care, time, and patience but in general, there are three steps you’ll go through as you work on your business: planning, growing, and maintaining. 

In the planning phase, you’ll lay out the foundation for your business. This means setting up a website with a portfolio for future clients to check out, pricing your services, determining your target market, and obtaining all the photography equipment you’ll require to execute. 

Next, you’ll move into the growth phase. Here, you’ll be actively working with clients to hopefully build up your portfolio and testimonials. You will also want to be actively marketing your services. While word of mouth can be highly effective, we also recommend implementing marketing tactics like Facebook ads, Instagram marketing, email newsletters, and possibly even content marketing (i.e. blogs). 

And lastly, once you’ve grown your business and you feel confident with your clientele, you’ll need to maintain your reputation by providing superior services and stunning photography.

If you want to start a newborn photography business, follow this checklist to help you get your business up and running: 

  • Identify your target market: Who is looking for your services? Who should you create your marketing materials for? 
  • Set up a website: Your website should have your portfolio featured, as well as an easy-to-book functionality to encourage clients to work with you. 
  • Set our prices: Look at your experience and set your prices accordingly. You can also offer different packages to fit different price points. In addition, you can drive your prices up by creating packages that encourage clients to book again with you (i.e. maybe you also offer family photography).
  • Seek out clients: Clients aren’t just going to magically roll in. You need to go out and find them. In the beginning, we recommend working with friends, family, and word of mouth. This will help you build your portfolio. 
  • Implement marketing tactics: You need to be active with your client acquisition, especially if you want to grow your business. While word of mouth can be helpful, it will only get you so far. We recommend looking into things like social media, email, content, and Google ads. 
  • Maintain client load: Once you’re happy with how your business has grown, it is your job to keep up with it. Continue to produce high-quality images, while also offering superior customer service.  

How to take professional newborn photos. 

We’ve alluded to this already, but it’s important to remember that when you’re working with newborns, there are always parents eagerly awaiting photos that they can cherish for a lifetime. This means you need to be on top of your game not only because you want to please the parents with your work, but also need to remember that this newborn stage is fleeting. A newborn is only a newborn for so long, and you want to capture this special time with your professional touch. 

Here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind when photographing newborns: 

  • Utilize natural lighting as much as possible (avoid harsh light and strong shadows)
  • Keep the baby happy (keep the room warm, play soothing music, and have the parents present to soothe the baby) 
  • Use your macro lens to capture those special details that make the baby unique 
  • Play with different angles and perspectives 
  • Remind parents to keep the baby awake before the session so they sleep during the session 
  • Learn how to swaddle a baby 
  • Position the baby with confidence (if you’re not comfortable with babies, this might not be the job for you)

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