Questions & Answers
Going on from talking about choosing and selecting props and colors for a session, this next few days, I will pretty much do what I like, I'm gonna throw some stuff together, I think it's really exciting being able to play with some new props and things like that. I wasn't able to bring everything with me, but there's so many things over there I can't wait to use and test out, which is really cool, but, on the third day, when we have a family come in, I'm gonna ask them, I'm gonna get them to choose and talk about that process that I do with my clients in my studio. But the reason I do all of that, I've covered it lightly, is that when I'm putting the images into a gallery, so I actually do online selling, I don't do in-person sales, purely because of my home situation. Over nighttime, I can't have -- over nighttime, that's my time with my children, and I can't have clients come back to my house when I've got two six-year-olds running around that are hungry or playing or a nine-year-ol...
d that's practicing the piano or doing her homework, so I need to do what's right for me at the time. In-person sales are amazing if you can do them. They're excellent, but I am set up to do online sales and I can do that quite easily with them, so they know with the information that I send them when they very first contact me by email, I'm usually asked for my price list and what's usually involved in newborn sessions, so I will send them my price list and then a big list of information about the session, so it tells them how long the session goes for, where the session is held, it tells them a big -- yes?
No, no, this is great. I would love to have you walk through that sort of client experience with your clients in terms of you just started with how do people first contact you, what specifically is in that email that you send people? We have questions about when do you do the pre-consultation, so just kind of that flow.
When I do marketing, products, and pricing, I will show you the information that I send them. I'll just tell you now that when they do contact me, so the majority of the time, people contact me via the internet. I don't often get phone calls, probably because everyone is time limited these days, everyone has such busy lives, they work, they have families, so most people just send you a quick email asking a little bit about you and basically for your pricing. They find me via Google. I ask every single one of my clients how they found me, and it's always via the internet. We'll talk a little bit about that in marketing, products, and pricing in day two, but, when they email me, they ask for the pricing, I send them an email back. It has an attachment with session information. It tells them when they should book their newborn session, which is while they're pregnant, not after, because I have limited spaces available. It tells them the age that I prefer to photograph babies. It tells them I have a studio full of props to choose from, so they don't have to bring their own because I get asked that question believe it or not. People ask do they have to bring their own hats because they've seen the pictures and things. It tells them how long the session will go for, and it just gives them as much information about it as possible so that they're prepared for it. It tells them what to wear during their session. I like to keep everything very simple, and I tell them to dress comfortably and to wear something cool without any large patterns or logos on their shirts that can be distracting to the baby in the images. So yeah that's pretty much an overview of that information that I send them, and then they will contact me back with their due date, and say yeah, we would love to book you. I'll say great, I have a session fee, which is the deposit, and they pay that, which books their session. Occasionally, I will have -- I don't have on there that it's non-refundable because I think it's a little bit unfair if something happens to their baby, it's very unpredictable what's going to happen during pregnancy because, if they book me early on, you never know what can happen down the track. It's really hard to know all those things, so I can take a deposit for their session, which is their session fee, but, if something happens, I'm more than happy to give that back because I can fill those sessions and those spots quite easily. Then we book a tentative date, in my diary, I write in my diary their name and that they're due, and then I know that I'm going to be booking them in in the next sort of two weeks, hopefully, and it tells them to contact me as soon as they get home from the hospital. So some people contact me the day they've had their baby, very excited, oh my God, we just had a baby, and some people will wait until they get home and they've settled in. It all depends on them and their experience at the time because everyone is different in their birthing experience, experience is really different as well. So, yeah, once they've contacted me, I've got those spots available because I've already allocated that time, and I figure out what day is perfect for them, and it's always at 10 o'clock, but, I always say to them, don't rush, give or take because you never know what's going to happen when you're walking out the door and I don't want to rush them here, I don't want them to feel panicked, and I just encourage them the session is at 10 o'clock, but whenever you get there, and that way they're starting to feel a little bit more comfortable. We don't have to be there at 10 o'clock, so it's good. It's all about starting off that relationship with the client and making sure that you understand the situation they're in and that they feel comfortable as well and nice and relaxed because it helps with the session. So, yeah, then they arrive on their session day. We bring them into the studio like we were saying before, we talk about whether the baby has been fed or not, it's all really, really relaxed, and then we get started. If they have to feed their baby, that's when we will talk about the prop choice, the colors that we'll pick, and we'll start from there. If they're having trouble picking the props, I always start with the bean bag in my studio because it's something that it's quite big and I can get it out of there once we're finished using it and make enough room for everything else. If there's a toddler, I usually like to photograph them straight up at the beginning of the session because they lose interest pretty quickly, and then they can go and play, so they can play out in the hallway, they can play in my office with one of the parents. I have a TV set up, they can watch TV. A lot of them bring iPads and sit on the floor, which is great. I've even had parents bring two cars, so that once the toddler session has finished, then the dad and the toddler can leave. We can do those sibling shots, we can do the family shots at the beginning of the session, but a lot of the times, they will stay, and there's a park just around the corner that they can go to and things like that as well. So having options available for them is really important as well. Have I missed anything? (laughs)
We have so many questions.
We do, I have
Please, fire away.
I have one here regarding the scheduling since you covered when you generally schedule with the parents, but what happens about rescheduling, if they need to reschedule, or if you need to reschedule, or do you reschedule if one of your own children at home is sick?
Yes, and I have had to do that because it's important not to have a sick child at home who's contagious and have a family with say a toddler and a newborn come into that environment. And it actually says that in my session information that if your child is unwell at all, please let me know because it is best to reschedule. So, yes, I will, and, in those situations, I may be forced to photograph babies when they're a little bit older, but that's okay, you go with what -- you have to go with the flow. When it comes to my children being sick, usually it's a cold or a tummy bug or something like that, and because I don't book every day that week, I'd have those other days available, which are good to reschedule them into, so I try to reschedule as quickly as possible, but, if my children are sick, I would definitely not have a family with a baby come into my home.
And that tends to go well with the parents, they understand that of course?
Yes, yes, and making sure that, and I ring them, and on occasions I have been sick, and I've had to ring them and say look, I'm so sorry and I feel absolutely terrible, but I would feel worse if I was to pass on something that I have to you and your baby, and they really appreciate that.
We have a question in the audience.
I actually have two questions.
Go for it.
About your curtain that you diffuse the light with, on a very dark and cloudy day, do you ever open them?
Yeah, definitely, yeah, so they can just be pushed to the side.
Okay, and the other question: your space is so small like what lens do you shoot with?
Oh, good question because I forgot to cover that before. So, I shoot with a Canon marked -- 5D mark III, I said it wrong again (laughs), Canon's gonna hate me and they're not even sponsoring me. But a lot of newborn photographers will shoot with a 50 mil lens. I actually shoot with a 24 to 70, which gives me a really good focal range. For safety reasons, as well as size, but I always try to shoot, especially if I'm on an angle to the baby when it's on the bag or something like that, around 50 mil because I'm not gonna distort anything. The wider I go to say 24, 35 mil, I'm gonna start distorting what's close to the camera, so I will try and keep it around 50 mil, but if I'm shooting on a level focal plane, so if I'm shooting down on a baby in a prop, I will zoom right out so I can fit that whole prop in, but it's level, I'm not gonna distort anything too much if I'm directly above it. I'm nice and tall as well, which is good, but it gives me that convenience of being able to shoot in a smaller space, and when I'm shooting a prop on say the timber background, I finish with the bag, so I can bring that out, and I can get back up against that wall, and it's perfect. And I've shot so many things in there. I've shot families of five in there, which is amazing, and I will just bring things out of my studio. Yes, having the 24 to 70 gives me the ability to also get in, zoom in really close to get those beautiful eyelash shots, the little fine details, the fingers, the toes, all of those things that the parents want to remember. So I love that lens, it's my go-to lens for pretty much everything. It's a 2.8 lens, so it allows me to shoot really wide open to get that beautiful, soft background, but to focus right on that eye line, which is nice.
Kelly, we have, again, so many questions coming in, but wanted to talk a little bit more about lighting and then about props because props, people want to know. So, we have several people who are talking about they live in a dark area, dark, stormy area, weather can be variable, but they also want to do natural light shootings, so what else?
Yeah, I've actually thought because, Brisbon is meant to be this sunny, beautiful city. We live in Queensland, it's called Sunny Queensland, but it's been raining so much, it's flooded twice in the past few years, and it just seems to rain all the time. Every weekend, my husband comes home from work, it's raining, and I think he secretly likes it so he doesn't have to mow the lawn, but, anyway, so I have been stuck in situations where I can't light my studio the way I want to, and I really have to bump up my ISO, which is not ideal, but my camera can handle it, so that's good, but not everybody has a camera that can handle that situation, and I have been thinking about investing in a daylight light. So it's a continuous light a bit like what's above us now, that a daylight camera is -- sorry, lights, and you can have those say in a corner of your studio, like a window, and you can position your baby and everything towards that light, and you can diffuse it with a box, everything, so I've actually been considering investing in a daylight light, and I know there's a company in Australia called Dragon Image, and they actually sell them, and they will come with four bars or eight bars, I think, but there's two different types, and they're around $400, which is a great investment for your business really, to have that light source because it's really important.
Yeah, absolutely, let's move on to props because we have so many questions about props. Let's start with Sandra, who wants to know how do you choose your fabrics and your blankets, and are there any particular kinds of fabrics that you would lean toward or stay away from?
Okay, anything that's scratchy and itchy, I wouldn't use. (laughs) But, I go for -- All of the backdrops that I use on my beanbag and my backdrop stand, they're actually throws that you can buy in a homeware store, like throw rugs that you'd put on your lounge and things like that, and I find they have the greatest variety of colors and textures and knits and things like that. There are some amazing online stores that sell backdrop fabrics, purposely for what we do, which is great. I find some of them quite expensive. I actually went to a shop down the road here two days ago, and I bought three new blankets in great colors, and they're beautiful and soft and they're just simple, and they were $24 each, so that's pretty cheap for a backdrop that I can use over and over again and wash on a gentle cycle, so I think going to fabric stores and finding nice, textured fabrics in colors is a good idea, you can buy it by the meter that way, so it's big enough to go over your bag and have as a backdrop, but when it comes to choosing the patterns and the textures, I probably don't go overboard. I'm a bit of a less is best, I don't like a lot of bright colors, I love natural colors and tones and things like that. I do like to throw a little bit of color in there, but not an over amount, but everyone's style is different, and everyone's eyes are attracted to different things. I tend to go with what appeals to me most, not what someone else has, and I think that's why my business works so well. When I go into a shop, I'm not gonna buy that or I'm not gonna order something online just because someone else has it. I'm gonna go into a shop and I go oh, I love that color, I love that texture, it's so soft, that would look great with a baby on it. I'm gonna buy it because I like it and it fits my style, but anything with large things stuck on it, I think can be distracting to the baby because it's all about the baby. The parents don't want a photograph of their baby on a massive blanket that has all these patterns and distracting elements to it, so, unless it's something they brought with them to the session and want it included or they love, so yeah, it's all about finding out what they want and yeah.
Further on that --
Oh, I didn't answer the prop bit, like the actual props that you put the baby in.
Oh sure, yeah, talk about that.
So, when I choose things like everything that's on those shelves over there, I look for items that are obviously large enough to put the baby in, that are solid, that are not gonna break, and that fit with my style, so I've obviously got a very sort of vintage-y thing going on in my studio, so everyone tells me. I love antique props, anything that looks used or damaged in some way but is still solid enough to put a baby in, and the important thing when you are choosing a prop for a baby is that obviously, for the safety reasons, the sturdiness of it and the size of it, so yeah, I always look at the size. I would never buy something too small and try and force a baby into it. I do have a couple of smaller props at home, and while I look at it and go wow, I'd love to put a baby in it like this, a baby's never going to fit in it like that, so I have to use it in another way. So it would all depend on the way you position the baby in the prop as well.
And we saw that yesterday in one of the pre-shoots with, I was asking about why you chose the certain basket, the sizes of the baskets, and we have so many beautiful baskets that we'll be seeing you interact with all these props based upon difference of the babies.
Definitely, and I chose that basket as well, which I didn't say yesterday is because we had the two-year-old, it was something he could sit next to, and it was at the same height as him when he was sitting because I wanted that photo, I wanted his face to be close to the baby's face, so choosing and keeping that in mind is really important as well.
We have another question about props. How do you handle parents who come with props of their own? Does that happen a lot?
It happens. (laughs) I had a lady come with a very large pram, (laughs) and she set it up in my house, and we did photograph the baby in that. It looked very small, but it was very important to her, and she bought that image, so, again, it's what the clients want to do. She did actually bring a lot of other things. I think she made about four our five trips to her car, but they're gonna bring -- and I have people that bring clothes. I don't necessarily photograph babies in clothes. I use wraps, and there are some lovely mitted little outfits that are going around on the internet now you can buy for newborn sessions, which are absolutely adorable, but, when it comes to photographing babies in the clothing that they're wearing or when they bring in special outfits, that's something they can do. If someone has knitted or sewn an outfit for their baby, it's not really something I do, and I tell them that. And it actually says in my session information about the clothing situation, that I do photograph babies without their clothes because I want them to see what their baby looks like from the minute it was born, it was naked. I want them to see all those little wrinkles, everything that's so cute about a baby, all the little details. I don't want to cover
All the little habits that change.
Exactly, change so fast, a two-week-old baby does not look like a one-day-old baby, they change so fast, and, when you're putting them in clothes, you're covering up all those details, and very rarely do outfits fit babies properly.
But that all comes back to, like you said earlier, that pre-consultation, educating the clients,
Giving them everything they need to know.
Knowing what to expect, especially if it's their first baby, they don't know.
So, let's get to some little practical things. Vale Fucci, hey, Vale, and Cassandra are both asking about washing the props. So, do you wash the props between sessions, after they've been used, but haven't been soiled, and do you tell your clients that so they know that everything is clean?
Yup, and that usually comes out during the session, so, if the baby actually is being inside a prop or something like that and decides to go to the toilet at that time, it's alright, I wash all of these at the end of every session. I tell them that, so I'm always talking to them about that. My white cloth nappies, if they are not used and still folded in the corner, they stay there. But, anything I used in that session that the baby is on top of, I will wash. I wash them on a gentle cycle with a wool wash or I can use a stain remover if I need to, but, as for the little hats and headbands and things like that, unless they have been soiled, I don't tend to wash those because they're on only for a couple of seconds on their head and things like that.
Do you have one particular prop that you find clients go to again and again and again and it's one of your biggest hits?
Yes, it's a nest, and everyone asks me where I got it from, and my girlfriend made it. She's so clever, she made it, but there are some companies online that do sell newborn nests. If you go to Etsy, which is an amazing place to find props and bits and pieces for anything, but especially newborn photographers, and just type in newborn nest, it will come up with quite a few varieties of nests, there's so many different ones, but you'll find one that you like.
Speaking of Etsy, we actually are going to be using -- is it on the third day that we're going to be using a prop?
We're gonna be using this amazing little boat. So this is something that has been generously given to us by Mr. And Mrs. And Co. It's an Etsy store online, and I can't wait to use it. We're gonna set that out with a little baby boy on day three, and we're also giving it away to someone online, (laughs) so yes.
I mean Etsy is an amazing place for resources.
I'm blown away by the generosity of some people, it's amazing.
Are we going to see you use, in the next segment, beanbags? We have a lot of people asking about where you get them, how that works.
Okay, so I have two bean bags here with me, so I can use both. I normally only have one set up in my studio. The brown one there you can find at a company called ShootBaby.com, and they're also on Facebook, so jump on because she also does, on her Facebook page, she promotes other photographers. It's a great place for some inspiration and ways to use that bag as well. And there is a company in the UK called The Newborn Posing, Posing Pod I think it is, and they also sell them, but, yeah, if you just google newborn posing bag, bean bag, and things like that, you'll come up with a good variety of places to purchase them from, but I started out with a normal bean bag that you would have in your lounge room, and it's a teardrop shape, so what I used to do is get -- push all the beans to the bottom and twist the top of it and clamp it, turn it upside down, and I'd have a nice, flat surface to pose the baby on, so that's a great option if you're not able to get one of these bags straightaway, but the flat surface on it is what I love about it because it's a nice, even surface to put the baby on, and it's safe.
And how many setups do you generally do, we have a question about that, with the props? How many times do you change them out throughout the shoot, or does it vary depending on the baby?
With the beanbag, when I start with that, I will do probably two different blanket, I will use two different blankets, so I will change that halfway through, and then, with the props, I will say use the three different props, but I, when I'm working with the bag, I have a bit of a flow, so I don't often go into a session with a massive plan, like I'm gonna use this, this, and this, and this because obviously I'll need to discuss that with my clients, but, when I'm using the bag, I always start with the baby, which I'll show you in the next segment, on its back, and then I will flow, and this is how I keep them settled without having to move them too much and overstimulate them, I will move them from their back onto their side and then onto their tummy, and then bring them around to the front, so I'm getting four really good different poses with minimal movements, and I can shoot each of those setups from at least three different angles, and I could fill a gallery just with those four different poses, and they're all different images, and that's what I want to do. I don't want to fill my client's gallery with a heap of images that look the same because they're gonna get confused. I fill their gallery with 20 images from my session, possibly more, but I aim for 20 images in a session, and 20 different, amazing images that they need to buy. So being able to have a good variety in what you're doing but keeping in mind you don't want to overstimulate the baby, you don't want to upset them by moving them too much. I can make, like you'll see how I flow through that without having to disturb the baby too much.
I'm really excited to see that, and, by the way, we have a mom feeding right now, and the baby is getting ready, so we're excited for after the break for shooting, but I think that that was, for me, when I first started, I don't think -- I didn't understand that flow, and how important is it to do certain poses first, in order to get that baby -- is that something that you are primarily focused on?
I'm more focused on keeping that baby as settled as possible, so that's what I need to do is keep the baby nice and comfortable and settled throughout the session without having to do one setup on the bag and put it then into a prop and then put it back onto the bag. I want to get that flow and get the most out of that beanbag while the baby is on there in minimal amount of time. In a session at home, I would move quite quickly with the beanbag section if the baby is nice and settled because once that baby is asleep, I will go so fast, and I'm still talking to the clients. In a workshop environment and in an environment like this, I'm gonna be talking so the process will seem quite slow, but it's only because I'm explaining everything I'm doing and showing you how I do it. But, in my session, it would move very quickly.
And I think we saw that yesterday when, once it was ready to go, you took your shots, and we're done, it was very amazing.
It really was. We also saw yesterday there was another child there in the session, an older sibling. But we have a question here about managing expectations of the rest of the family, whether it's the parents or other siblings being photographed as well. How do you generally approach that and then manage their expectations if it's not quite what you generally do.
So I think I understand what they're asking about the parents wanting those images with the children. Yesterday, our bonus material, what I was kinda hoping was that the toddler wouldn't cooperate. He actually did, and I was going to show that there are situations where the toddler doesn't want to be anywhere near me and my big, black camera because they don't know what it is, and they're not necessarily interested in that new baby that's come in and taken over all the attention, so we have to be careful in those situations because those parents want an image of their children together, so what I was planning on doing yesterday, if the toddler wasn't interested in being in the shot, was taking an image of the baby in the basket, and then I would take the baby out of that basket, and then I would perhaps put a toy inside the basket. I would get him, I would encourage him just gradually and carefully to come and sit next to that basket, take a shot of him with the basket. I could put those two photos together in Photoshop, so there's always a way around a situation, but to move slowly with the children and not to be too much in their face because they're in a new environment, and a two-year-old in a new environment, they think it's a massive playground, like they're excited to be there, but they can also be very withdrawn and shy. So it's important to read them and not push too much with that. With the parent shots, if I finish the toddler shot, if I'm doing that at the time and that child is still interested in what I'm doing and not wanting to cry or run off or play or be distracted in some other way, I'll get the parent shot or the family shot of them all together right there and then while that child is still interested. If we attempt it and they don't want to be a part of it, it's alright, we'll come back to that. Let's move on, let's not waste time trying to get that shot when they don't want to be a part of it, so I'll move on to the next thing because if the baby's sleeping while the toddler is running around and not wanting to be a part of it, I want to focus on that baby and get as much out of that baby while it's asleep. And we'll come back to that baby, the toddler. (laughs)
Fantastic, well, I'm getting reports. I love that when, here on CreativeLive we like to crash websites, and so, when you mention something, everybody goes and finds that website, so the Shoot Baby and Dragon Images is apparently being overloaded, so thanks everyone, congratulations.
Well I should also mention that if you're going to Dragon Image to find a light, my backdrop stand is also from Dragon Image, and I'll talk a little bit about my choice of backdrop stand in the next session when we're setting up, but that's also from Dragon Image, and it's called a LightPro, I think around 250 Australian dollars.