I owned and operated commercial studios for 10 years. There are good points and bad points to studio ownership.
- Beautiful space, lovely and brought a sense of pride to the business.
- All props and supplies were always on hand.
- Consistency with lighting, backgrounds, etc.
- Could schedule more clients in a day.
- Babies spent too long in the car sleeping so sessions took longer when we woke them and they were ready to stay awake.
- Older siblings would get frustrated and antsy and bored during the shoots (as they should!). I know some photographers turn the children away with another parent or nanny to go somewhere else during most of the shoot, but I couldn’t do that. My studios were “destination” locations and were not adjacent to shopping or parks.
- Clients would often be late which ran time into other sessions. It was assumed I was always open.
- The rent and expenses associated with studio overhead was absolute insanity in the Greater Baltimore area.
It’s really a toss up. When the industry sank, I wanted to lose the overhead expenses and really take my prices to where I could find that bridge between pricing and professional work for the new post-recession market. This decision was a good decision for MY business practices, everyone will have different views based on their experiences. Who knows, maybe one day I will decide on a studio again, but I’m not shooting the big commercial productions I once did, so I don’t know… may never be worth it for me personally again… may be…. that’s why business is constantly evolving.
On Location Newborn Photo Sessions
So off I went, on location again. I found that babies just do better when the parents had them ready when I arrive. I can keep a schedule better being that I show up at the designated time. My creative juices flow because every home is different, every location has different lighting, and I love this challenge. It really stimulates my ADHD brain.
The Prop Dilemma: First, let’s get this out of the way. My style of photography is more about the baby and parents/siblings and their relationship, not about props. I focus in on who my clients are and do what they want, their style. I’m out to please my client first and foremost. I mesh my style in with theirs and create the best I can that reflects them. I do shoot with some props here and there but they mostly come from my clients. I’d rather incorporate something that my client owns or has interest in then show up with props that have no deep meaning to them. That’s just me. So going back on location was easy for me. I don’t carry around props.
I use both natural and studio lighting. I go on location and evaluate the situation, number of subjects, and their available natural light. I then make a decision as to whether to bring the lighting equipment in.
I often find myself parking and walking in the middle of Baltimore City or DC to get to my clients’ homes. I wanted to pack up so I only had to make one trip from car to home. I actually prefer to make two trips so I can evaluate the lighting, but if that’s inconvenient, I like to know one trip will suffice.
I pack everything in a rolling suitcase (heater, blankets, wraps). If I need the lights, I attach one light (and diffuser – I use the 50x50 westcott as it folds up like an umbrella so no speed ring or poles to stumble around with), and I attach one light stand to the rolling suitcase. My camera bag is a backpack. My only hangup — that darn beanbag.
I contemplated for quite a while, what on earth am I going to use? I searched and searched. There are so many contraptions that photographers have come up with. I didn’t want to pay $100+ for something gigantic and cumbersome, and I didn’t want to buy into the PVC pipe frame that had to be assembled and disassembled.
I settled on THIS OVERSIZED MOON CHAIR. What? You think I’m crazy, right? I took it to my first session and it was EXACTLY what I needed.
- Folds up – can be carried with one arm or even strapped to the rolling bag.
- Lightweight – it’s made of aluminum. How nice is that!
- I can stuff other blankets or support inside the zipper under baby to get the right firmness.
- The cover can be tossed in with the laundry.
- Causes less back strain than being bent over the beanbag.
- Sits at perfect level for studio light.
- It’s very inexpensive.
A side note – did you all see my back? This was from the first 7 years of being a newborn photographer. Bending over babies is horrible for your back. It caused my L5-S1 to break down to the point that it was so weak, all it took was an accident on horseback where I tried to pick my daughter up to get her out of the road when her foot/leg was broke in eight places, and I herniated it. I have to tell you, kneeling down on the floor with this “posing chair” doesn’t put the strain on my back that I used to have. Another win!
At any rate, it is super nice to only bring this, and this only with me when I travel for newborn sessions.
I understand that this does not work for every photographer, but this has worked wonderfully for me. I can pose any which way I need to….
I have had a few people ask me about the other bags. I use the following bags…
and the heater….
Lasko Pro (Safety Note: Never leave directly on baby. It creates a wonderful white noise sound that babies love but the idea is to create a pocket of heat around baby, not directly on baby – always monitor)