So, you want to have a gorgeous image of your new little.
Congrats! Totally agree. The first year of your baby's life goes by way too quickly, and those sweet cheeks don't stay around forever. But there are a few things to think about before you take the leap:
1. DO RESEARCH.
If you are like me, you were following #babiesofinstagram before you were even pregnant. Search around on the 'gram on local hashtags (for me, #longislandphotographer #babyportraits #longislandbabyphotographer) and see if anyone is posting images you like. If the photographer is savvy enough, they may have content across social media channels - so don't just think Instagram. Maybe look on your Google Maps and see who shows up. And check out Pinterest!
2. CREATE A MOOD BOARD
Search for your favorite images on Pinterest, and create a Mood Board. It will be that much easier to see if you're a good fit with your prospective photographer if you have images already in mind. Remember, we are visual learners. If the work you find yourself pinning aligns with work your photographer does, or wants to do, voila! Match made in heaven. But if you find the images you consistently pin don't add up to the people you are reaching out to, consider refining your search.
3. STUDIO vs LIFESTYLE
Consider the mood of your mood board: are you drawn to darker, moodier images, or bright, colorful ones? Do you feel drawn to the indoors, posed, propped, colorful studio images? Great! Look for photographers with studio work. Maybe you feel drawn to the less-posed, candid images that look like they belong in a magazine spread - then look into lifestyle photographers.
STUDIO photographers work in a controlled environment with a consistent look. Depending on the photographer, they either have a storefront or home studio for clients to travel to, or they have a smaller travel kit that they take to their clients. Which do value more - the convenience of not having to leave the house (preferable for teeny babies) or having the full studio experience, and feeling pampered at the professional studio? Some photographers do both (with a travel fee), so don't rule out ones that may not disclose they travel!
LIFESTYLE photographers choose spaces that are meaningful to the client. My favorite thing to do with clients is discover the little everyday rituals come to life in their images. Think about the park where you spend your afternoons, or walking the dog, or heading to the beach. The closer the connection to your everyday life, the easier the emotions will flow when the photographer joins you. You won't have to push for a smile - it's just another Wednesday.
Both studio and lifestyle photographers sometimes book out months in advance, so think about at what age you want to capture your little. Not only time of year, but time of day: if you want fall images, consider the weather, and when it gets dark. Your photographer will have plenty to say about when you will be able to get the best images, whether in studio or in your own home. Consider what days of the week work for best for you: many photographers have better availability during the week, as weekends get booked up first. Weekdays you won't be fighting against crowds (both passersby or other studio clients), so consider taking some time during the week to get your portraits done. I always recommend weekdays, since it is more relaxing and a great way to pamper yourself on a day off.
Get comfortable. Wear your favorite jeans, or a dress that makes you feel gorgeous. If you can't get comfortable in what you're wearing, it comes across on camera. The images will be of your little and the connections between you, and you don't want an ill-fitting shirt to distract you from what's really important.
Part of refining your search comes down to investment. Some photographers have their rates on their websites, and some save that information for those who are interested. Don't feel put off if you don't find packages directly on their website: make sure you are searching for people and studios whose work you admire, not whose price tag looks lowest. The worst thing you can do is choose based on price: for $150, you may end up with no images you want to hang on your mantle (or even post to your Facebook), but for $700 you will have incredible, priceless images for generations, and probably high-quality framework.
Understand that investment goes a long way with the right photographer. But, most photographers are used to working with payment plans, and most never ask for all of the money at once. Don't feel overwhelmed or embarrassed - great photography is a luxury product, and I know that price tag comes certain expectations. However, a high-quality photographer gets there by working with their customers and understanding their needs - and how to bring that luxury feeling to anyone who is willing to invest in it.
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If you find a photographer whose work you love, research what to expect (in time, money, and #memories), there is no reason not to go for it. I promise, having a gorgeously-framed, professionally-shot image that reflects the love you have for your family is worth a million dollars and more. It's a world of difference.