Top 4 Myths About Having a Photography Studio

For the first 6 years of my baby photography business, I worked out of my living room. I lived in a small 2 bedroom semi in Sydney’s Inner West. I had 2 very young children. I was only working 1 to 2 days per week. The idea of having my own separate photography studio space seemed a lifetime away. Back in mid-2018 my dream became a reality! I moved into my beautiful studio space in Balmain. I love it! It’s a gorgeous Victorian shopfront with large bay windows and lots of space for my clients to sit and relax, and for me to store all of my photography props and equipment. No more spending hours the night before a session setting up and packing away! But is it all good news? Unfortunately no…

Here is a list of the Top 4 Myths About Having A Photography Studio.

Myth # 1: You’ll get so many more customers

If you’re considering taking the leap to a commercial studio space and this is your reasoning – I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you really can’t rely on a large or consistent increase in the number of clients you will have. Sure, I have had more clients say they heard about me by walking past my studio. But in the grand scheme of things, the small number of these clients doesn’t cover the high cost of renting a professional studio space. In my area (Balmain a suburb in the inner west of Sydney, Australia about 3km from the CBD) commercial rents are notoriously high. We have had many of our local shops and boutique stores close down over the last few years simply due to the high cost of rent in the local area. Businesses that rely on foot-traffic are really struggling to make enough to justify the cost of their rent. So, before you take the plunge and sign up for the commitment of a commercial studio space, please do your numbers on your current earnings and have a clear understanding of how this will impact on you financially. If you’re able to use a space in your home or garage this would be much better. If you must lease a commercial space, try finding someone to share the rent with.

sydney inner west baby photography studio

My beautiful baby photography studio in the Sydney Inner West suburb of Balmain. I moved into this space in July 2018 after 6 years of working out of my small living room space.

Myth #2: You need a studio to be a professional photographer

Some of the best baby photographers I know don’t work out of a commercial studio space. In fact, I’d say that the vast majority work out of home with a spare room or garage converted into a studio space. Don’t feel like you’re not a “proper” photographer if you don’t have a studio. I worked out of my small living room for the first 6 years of my business. The hardest part about this was that I would have to pack all of my props and equipment away after each session, and set it all up again the night before a client was coming. In my home there was no other alternative space for me to use so this was the best that I could do. It had its’ positives though! I had everything at my fingertips for my clients – including my laundry and washing machine so I could put all my fabrics straight into the wash (I now have to lug them home which is a bit annoying). If you’re a good photographer, you can make pretty much any sort of space work for your clients. I’ll guarantee that you won’t be able to tell the difference in my photos. If you have the room to have your studio at home, it can make a lot more sense financially. I definitely would have kept doing this had we had more room in our home.

Myth #3: You need a large studio space

Having a larger studio space is really handy. Now, I have plenty of room for all of my props and equipment as well as a beautiful area with a lounge and changing table for my clients to relax. But this wasn’t always the case. Back in the day when I was working out of my living room, I had a working space of around 16 m2. This included a lounge for my clients to sit on, a beanbag for newborn poses, my large softbox, and a blank wall for family and parent photos. It was difficult and I used to find myself feeling like I had to apologise to my clients. Honestly though? You don’t need a lot of space to make a photoshoot successful. Being photographers, we are the masters of illusion and if you have a look at the behind the scenes of your favourite photographers, you’ll be surprised at where and how they are achieving these images.

newborn photography studio
My first studio space AKA my living room! This small space wasn’t very easy to work in but I made it work for over 6 years. There are lots of benefits to working from home so if this is an option for you, you should take it!

Myth #4: You need to rent a commercial studio space at all

Did you know that there are lots of great cost-effective ways to rent a commercial studio space (and often some of the equipment you’ll need for the shoot) without having to sign up for a commercial lease? If you do a quick online search in your area you might be suprised at what options there are out there available to you. If you only need to use a studio for several hours a week, you may be able to negotiate special rates on an ongoing basis.

I hope that all these myths really help you if you’re contemplating leasing a commercial photography studio! I’d love to hear from you and whether these tips have helped you.

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    Top 5 Myths About Being a Baby Photographer

    As a baby photographer for the last 7 years, I’ve come across quite a few myths about being a professional photographer.  There seem to be some common ideas out there which aren’t quite accurate so I thought I’d put together a blog post to dispel some of the most common myths I’ve heard.  Here are my top 5!  I hope they help you better understand what being a photographer is really like.

    Baby Photography Myth #1 – “You make a fortune!”

    Many people see the relatively expensive price tag of quality professional newborn photography (or most types of photography for that matter!) and assume that we’re raking it in.  Of all the myths, this is the one I wish were true!  Sadly, once you factor in the high cost of doing business (camera, lenses, studios, lighting equipment, insurance, professional memberships, education, software, products… the list goes on an on!), and the large amount of time not only photographing, but also editing and delivering those images to your clients, the result is not as pretty as the number you started with.  The tricky thing about photography is that our clients only see a small window into the image making process.  The actual taking of the images and clicking the shutter is the easy part.

    Baby Photography Myth #2 – “You spend all your time photographing babies”

    Sure, the actual part of my job where I get to photograph sweet little babies is my favourite part. But is it what I spend most of my time doing? Alas, no. A few years back I came across this hilarious graph posted by another photographer friend of mine on Facebook. I think it just about sums it up. In addition to being a photographer, most of us are a one-stop-shop. We are business owners, we do our own admin and marketing, taxes and ordering. We wear many hats. As a result, the actual percentage of our work day actually spent taking pictures is far less than most people might assume. (I still wouldn’t mind a bit more Travelling to Exotic Locations and Partying Like A Rockstar though! haha)

    I first saw this graph on social media a few years back. It sure made me chuckle and isn’t really far from the truth. Being a photographer sure isn’t as glamorous as it may appear!

    Baby Photography Myth #3 – “Photographing Babies Must Be So Relaxing”

    As much as I love babies, and I adore photographing them. It’s no walk in the park! A lot of the session (particularly for newborn sessions) is spent getting the baby happy – fed, content, changed, and hopefully asleep. Sometimes for the average 3 hour newborn session, we spent 2/3 of the time rocking, shushing, feeding just to get baby happy for long enough to get enough photos to make up the gallery. I’m not going to lie. It’s sometimes a stressful job. Babies do what they want to do on their own timeline. It’s physically and mentally demanding and as much as I love my job, there’s no way I’d call it relaxing! Ask any client of mine and they will tell you, when we get baby happy I tend to go into a “zone” where I am so focused on what I’m doing and achieving the best photos I can I stop chatting. No relaxation here!

    I love my job. Photographing newborns and babies is an honour. Is it relaxing though? Errrrm no. 😉

    Baby Photography Myth #4 – “Your studio always looks immaculate”

    Don’t let my beautiful studio interior with it’s white walls and pristine presentation fool you. Though it may start out this way at the beginning of every session, by the end of all newborn and baby photography sessions it always looks like a tornado has been through there. I’m talking laundry. Lots and lots of laundry. Blankets and wraps with baby poo. Me sweating like I’ve been running a marathon (often also covered in all sorts of baby fluids). My bin overflowing with nappies, wipes, coffee cups and more. Though the photos I display for the world to see are pretty. The behind the scenes definitely isn’t!

    Baby Photography Myth #5 – “You must just have a really good camera”

    Of all the myths that I hear. This one is probably the most frustrating for any professional photographer to hear. The idea that the only difference between someone who has spent years learning and perfecting their craft, and the complete novice walking down the street is how good a camera they have. Honestly? It’s pretty offensive. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve heard comments like these over the years. Yes, having a good professional-grade camera and lenses does help… but being a good photographer is more about the person behind the camera and their experience than anything. A story one of my first photography teachers told years ago really brought this home to me:

    About 20 years ago this lady was commissioned by Qantas to photograph the Taj Mahal for promotional and marketing images. On the train on the way to the Taj Mahal she had fallen asleep, and when she woke up she realised she had been robbed. All her equipment had been stolen. She was on a tight deadline for these images and had no way to source a new camera in time. What did she do? She bought one of those old instant film cameras. The result? Qantas were thrilled with her image. It graced the covers of many travel magazines and was exhibited. All this from an instant film camera.

    It’s not the camera… Cameras these days are all amazing. It’s the photographer. So please… stop saying it’s “just the good camera”. Photographers all around will rejoice!

    Did I miss any other top baby photography myths? I’d love to hear more! Comment below 🙂

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    • MelissaYES!  I hear a lot of these so often.  The worst one is when people admire your photo and then say “you must have a great camera”.  So frustrating.  Love your blog posts

    When is the best time to photograph my baby?

    As a newborn photographer, I get a lot of questions from parents about when is the best time to photograph their baby. The truth is – it really depends on what type of photographs you’re after. The age of your baby will really dictate what types of images you are able to achieve during your photo session.

    Sleepy posed newborn photos

    The most popular type of images, and the ones most people think of when they consider getting baby photographs of their new baby, are the beautiful posed images of baby curled up. There are lots of these sorts of images that are popular. Baby curled up asleep in Dad’s hands, curled up in a wrap, sleeping peacefully curled up in a bowl.

    These types of images are only really achievable when your baby is very young. The optimal time is about one to two weeks after birth (for babies who arrive around their due date). Once babies pass this early phase, they tend to be more wakeful, less flexible and curly, and much more difficult to pose. So… if the sleepy, posed photos are what you’re after, get in early! Most Mums book while they are still pregnant to ensure that their preferred newborn photographer has availability for them. The earlier you can book, the better!

    Sleepy photographs of newborns are the most popular images to capture. But don’t be fooled! Newborns are typically only able to be photographed like this for a very short window of time. To ensure you capture your baby during this special time, be sure to book while you are pregnant.

    Interactive photos of my baby awake and calm

    You can capture images like these at any stage. But perhaps the most typical time that you will capture a lot of these type of images is when your baby is about 3 months of age. At the 3 month stage, babies are typically alert and starting to engage with faces and smiles. As babies of this age aren’t able to sit, they are typically placed on their back on a variety of fabric types and colours for variation. If you’re lucky you might even get one of those cheeky first smiles during your photo shoot!

    3 month olds are at a beautiful age to capture babies. Typically they are alert and just starting to smile more often. If you’re lucky, your baby might even smile for the camera!

    Photos of my baby sitting up and smiling

    One of the best times to capture your baby sitting and smiling is when they have just mastered sitting on their own. Every baby is different but most babies reach this milestone at about 8 months of age. It is a wonderful stage for photos as they are usually very pleased with themselves and their new ability to sit. They are usually happy to sit and pose for the camera and play peek-a-boo with me. This stage is also the best one for capturing smiley photos as babies are generally not yet mobile (crawling/walking) at this stage. I find that once babies are mobile (or are no longer content with just sitting and want to explore, even if their little bodies aren’t quite coordinated enough to be mobile) they are much harder to photograph and keep content and happy. So.. if a sitting, happy and content baby photo session is on your wish list, aim to bring your baby in at about the 8 month mark 🙂

    baby photographer
    Sitter sessions are full of cheeky smiles and lots of personality! It’s the best time to capture your baby sitting and happy.

    For more information on my baby photography sessions in Sydney’s Inner West be sure to get in touch!

    Amy xx

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      Certified Newborn Photographers

      Until recently, there hasn’t been a specific course or certification for newborn photographers. When I heard about the new Certificate in Newborn Photography by the Academy of Newborn Photography, I jumped at the chance to complete it – to receive a certification for my 7+ years of newborn photography experience and training, and perhaps learn something new to help keep my newborn clients safe.

      Why is a certification in newborn photography so important?

      Newborn photography is an unregulated industry in Australia. This means that anyone can pick up a camera and start advertising their services as a baby photographer. To me, this is incredibly scary. There is no requirement to have any basic first aid training, no training on how to safely pose newborns, no requirement for photographers to be vaccinated, no need for photographers to have insurances.

      Having the Certificate in Newborn Photography is a wonderful way to ensure that newborn photographers have the necessary knowledge they need to help keep their clients safe. The certification program helps parents choose a qualified newborn photographer.

      What topics does the Certificate in Newborn Photography cover?

      The Certificate of Newborn Photography covers 19 modules as well as face-to-face CPR and First Aid training. The course has been written in consultation with experts in the fields of neonatal health, physiology and OHS.

      Qualified Newborn Photography

      I was excited to be one of the first newborn photographers in Australia to complete the Certificate in Newborn Photography (and one of only 3 so far in NSW). I am really excited to receive this qualification and for the step ahead that it will give our industry. If you’re looking for a newborn photographer, be sure to look for this symbol for the assurance you need that your potential photographer is a qualified professional newborn photographer:

      Accredited newborn photographer
      When looking for a baby photographer, always look for this symbol to ensure that your photographer is a qualified professional.
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        Compositing for Newborn Photography

        Have you ever looked at newborn photography images and wondered how on earth they’ve managed to get a baby in a complex position? Chances are they’ve used a Photoshop technique called compositing – where 2 or more images are stitched together to make one image.

        Why is compositing important in newborn photography?

        The most important reason all baby photographers should be using compositing is simple – NEWBORN SAFETY! The safety of the little people you are photographing should always be your number one priority. Some popular images look very cute, but they’re not at all realistic (or safe!) to capture as they appear.

        compositing for newborn photography
        Complex images in newborn photography should always be done using compositing. This ensures that the baby is always in a safe position. The above image was created by using 2 images stitched together in Photoshop. (Image taken by me – Amy Tong Photography).

        Compositing for beginners

        With some fairly basic Photoshop skills, it’s quite easy to use compositing to create a beautiful image. The most important element for success comes at the time of taking the images. You need to ensure that you keep your camera positioned at the same angle for each of the separate images you will be compositing.

        The number one element to compositing success is to ensure that you stay as still as possible when taking the images. This will reduce the amount of time required to make the image look realistic. Getting it right in camera is always preferable and makes for an overall better result. (Image taken by me: Amy Tong Photography)

        Photoshop for Composites

        The skill required in Photoshopping a composite image might not be as complex as you might think. With only a basic level of Photoshop experience you can quite easily achieve a good composite image.

        Step 1: Open the files up in Photoshop. You may have 2 or perhaps more images that you are wanting to use. Select which image is going to be your primary image (the image that already has the most detail you’re wanting to keep. In the above example, I used the image on the left as it was mostly what I was wanting to create for the final image).

        Step 2: Using the lassoo tool, circle the area that you wish to overlay into the primary image. (Tip: select more than you perhaps are wanting to use in the final image. It is far easier to erase off extra image than to add it back in later). Copy the selection (Ctrl – C on PC or Command – C on Mac). Go back to the primary image and paste the selection (Ctrl – V / Command -V). The extra piece of the other image will now be added for you as another layer.

        Using the lassoo tool, select the part of the secondary image that you want to incorporate into the primary image. In this case I took the top part of baby’s head and pasted it into the primary image so that the Dad’s hands were no longer visible in the final image, but so that the baby was safely supported at all times during the photoshoot.

        Step 3: Line up the new layer on to the primary image as closely as you can. (Tip: The best way to do this is to reduce the layer opacity to about 30% so that you can see the new layer as well as the primary image underneath). Once you are happy with the positioning of the new layer, use a layer mask and a soft black brush to paint off the layer around the edges to give it a soft blend into the primary image.


        Did this tip about how to composite images help you? I’d love to hear about it!

        Best wishes for 2019!

        Amy xx

        Amy Tong has been specialising in newborn photography since 2012.  She’s based in the Sydney Inner West and is a member of the AIPP and the Academy of Newborn Photographers (ANP).

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        • MelissaThanks Amy!  I’ve always wondered about photos like these.