When a baby passes away – Heartfelt Volunteer Photographers.

It’s your worst nightmare as a baby photographer. The email or call to tell you that your client’s baby has passed away.

I’ve been lucky. Over the past 7 years specialising in newborn photography, I counted my lucky stars that it had never happened to me. All that sadly came to an end this month when I received devastating news from not only one but TWO clients.

It’s difficult in situations such as these to know exactly what to say to people. What do you say? What can you say? I think the honest truth about this is that there really isn’t anything that you can possibly do or say to make your clients feel better.

As much as there is no consolation that you can give to families in these awful situations, it makes me feel good to know that there is a wonderful volunteer service that I can refer my clients to to help them at this difficult time – Heartfelt.

Heartfelt – Volunteer Photographers for families in devastating situations

Heartfelt is a wonderful group of photographers in Australia and New Zealand who volunteer their services to families who have experienced still/premature birth, or who have a child with a serious and terminal illness.

Heartfelt photographers are trained in working in difficult situations and with families who are grieving. They work discreetly and sympathetically to capture images of your baby or child such that you will have a photographic record to remember them.

For my clients who have experienced stillbirth, the call was put out to volunteers from Heartfelt who came to the hospital and took photographs of their baby and their family. They said that they found the experience a very positive one and that it has helped them grieve their baby. They have felt relieved at having images of their baby to look back on in the future and to remember their important member of the family.

Thank you to all the Heartfelt photographers out there who do such an important job for families.

If you’re a photographer who would like to volunteer with Heartfelt, or a family needing a photographer please visit heartfelt.org.au

If you are looking for more information about stillbirths visit The Stillbirth Foundation or Sands, an organisation supporting those experiencing miscarriages, stillbirths and newborn deaths. Sands has a 24 hour support line on 1300 072 637.

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    Top Tips for a Successful Baby Photo Session

    The key to a successful baby photo shoot is a happy, content baby. Over the past 7 years as a baby and newborn photographer, I’ve narrowed down the top things that parents can do to increase the chances of a smooth and successful baby session. I share most of these with my clients in my prep guide to help them prepare. Here are my top tips!

    Tip #1: Schedule the photo session for the best time of day

    Most parents will find that their baby is happiest in the mornings. (Usually after being up most of the night keeping their parents on their toes *wink*). The afternoon and evening is typically known as the “witching” time after a long day of being stimulated and winding down to bed time. This is why I always photograph newborns and older babies in the morning. My typical start time is 9:30am for newborns and around 10:30 for older babies (however this can be adjusted depending on your baby’s normal routine).

    For older babies 3+months:

    This is probably the number one golden rule – particularly for older babies 3 months+. By about 6-8 weeks, you’ll notice that your baby will start falling into a natural rhythm of wake times and nap times. Of course some days can go haywire (we’ve all been there Mums!), but for the most part you can start to get an idea of approximately when your baby will have his/her nap. If you’re having your older baby photographed, the absolute worst time of day to schedule a photo session is for when they want to be taking a nap. I usually suggest to my clients to schedule their session for around mid-morning. The best time being just after they would normally wake from their first nap of the day. I only photograph one baby per day so I can usually adjust my schedule and start time to accommodate when your baby would normally be waking from his/her sleep. I encourage parents to try to encourage their baby to have their sleep on the way to my studio in the car so that they wake up fresh and ready for their session when they arrive.

    (Please note that this tip doesn’t apply to newborns less than 2 months as babies are not normally in an established routine at this stage and have very little awake time)

    Tip #2: Be easy going

    Baby photo sessions should always be baby-led. Every baby is different. They have their own personality, likes/dislikes. They have good and bad days just like all of us. My number 2 tip is about setting your own expectations as a parent when you are going into a baby photo session. It’s helpful to have an open mind about the types of images that your photographer will be able to achieve with your baby. This is particularly important when it comes to posed newborn photography. There are some poses and positions that your baby may not like. If you have your heart set on very specific images you may be left feeling disappointed if your baby isn’t settled that day, or if he/she doesn’t like that particular pose. An experienced baby photographer will know how to make the most of your baby’s session regardless of whether your baby is unsettled on the day of the session.

    Tip #3: Be open to using a dummy/pacifier

    In rare cases, some babies may be very unsettled for the duration of the newborn session. I have a range of settling methods to help keep them calm and happy for their photos, but as a last resort (once they’ve been fed, changed, burped, wrapped, cuddled, rocked etc) a dummy can be a lifesaver in helping to get a good gallery of images of your baby. In cases such as these, I will always seek the parents’ permission to use one for the session. I encourage my clients to bring one along – even if they’re not planning on using one on a regular basis. Sucking is a natural reflex for babies and is a proven method for soothing fussy babies. I have some Avent Soothie brand dummies on hand in the studio which are freshly sterilised before use and only with your permission in case parents have not brought their own. Rest assured that using one for a few minutes at a time throughout your session will not cause any nipple or feeding confusion. If you would prefer not to use one that is totally fine and completely your choice.

    top tips for a successful baby photo session
    This precious baby boy was very unsettled throughout his photo session. All the normal settling techniques weren’t enough to keep him settled and calm for beautiful photos. In cases such as these I always ask for the parents’ permission to use a dummy (pacifier) to help keep their baby calm and settled. In this case, it was enough to keep him calm enough to get some beautiful photos for his parents! Thank you dummy!

    Tip #4: Bring Extra of Everything!

    Always bring extra of anything you may need for your baby (and yourselves). Extra nappies, wipes, extra bottles and formula if you are bottle feeding etc. It’s always a great idea to bring along a spare change of clothes for every member of the family. Sometimes babies will poo/wee during unwrapped shots – accidents happen! You don’t want to be going home covered in it 🙂

    Tip #5: Enjoy Your Baby’s Photo Session

    Having a baby – and particularly your first baby – is a very stressful time in your life. Nothing prepares you for the physical and emotional rollercoaster of the first few months. Sometimes I meet clients who arrive for their session feeling very anxious and worried about whether their baby will “behave” for their photo shoot. Please try to relax. It’s my aim for you to really enjoy your time at my studio. For the most part, I will take care of your baby for you (always within your sight, and I will always pass them back to you if they need you). For many parents this is the first time since their baby arrived that they don’t have to do anything. Many parents feel emotional and teary when given the opportunity to simply sit, relax and look at their baby and just how perfect they are. I really enjoy this aspect of my job as a baby photographer. In all the noise of the long “to do list” when you’re a new parents, it’s rare that you have the time to take it all in. My hope is that your baby’s photo session will give you the opportunity to do this. Please enjoy the ride! 🙂

    I hope these tips really help you prepare for your baby’s upcoming session. By following these and coming along to your session with a smile and an open mind (despite the exhaustion!) you’re sure to get some beautiful images for you to treasure forever!

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      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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