How to Become a Baby Photographer
Anyone interested in becoming a professional baby photographer has a number of reasons for this desire — they have a knack for photography, they want to run their own small business, and they love babies and the joy that comes when a family takes a portrait of the new addition to their family. They are usually also “artistic” in the sense that they understand composition, color, presentation, and the little nuances of photography that only a true artist understands. A “professional” baby photographer is easy to define — any person who makes the majority of their income from taking photographs of babies and young families is probably a professional baby photographer. These are not people with passing interests in photography, they are driven artistic professionals with a passion for photographing families and children.
Being an established professional photographer doesn’t mean your work is necessarily greater than that of an amateur photographer — the term professional simply means you make your living taking photographs.
How can I get started as a professional baby photographer?
There are two basic ways to get started as a photographer — many photographers are self-taught, especially the old-school photographers that we all try to emulate. While photography and art programs are now in colleges all over the country, at one time the art of photography was basically a self taught thing. Many people who end up taking photos professionally buy their first simple cameras at a young age because of a love for something else — sports, cars, art, etc. The camera begins as a simple extension of their love for their hobby, a way to take graphic evidence of a passion or a pursuit. A person with a camera and a little desire can easily get an assignment taking photos for a high school or even junior high newspaper, photographing sports events and other school related happenings. Self taught photographers then begin shopping their photos around to the local newspaper or even art galleries — these are courageous self starters with a knack for photography who have the guts to ask people to model for photographs. Eventually, this person will have a natural portfolio from photos published in local rags or competitions.
The other understood method of entry into the world of photography is an education from an institute of higher learning. Journalism departments commonly have photojournalism schools attached, and art departments are full of potential photographers learning their trade from a book, usually combined with hands on experience through an internship.
What can I do right now to prepare for a career as a baby photographer?
The biggest thing you can do to advance your career in family and baby photography is to work with someone taking these kinds of pictures. Part-time work at a photography studio is great, as is an “apprenticeship” or internship with a photography studio, or even a photo lab. Since there are now “family photo” outlets at big box stores around the country, finding this kind of work isn’t difficult.
If you want to teach yourself the art of photography, you’ll need to make a bit of a financial investment. Even though most of the world of photography is digital, go ahead and spend about $1,000 on basic film equipment. You don’t need the flashy expensive camera setups just yet, but buying a $100 camera with a couple of standard lenses and spending the balance of your $1,000 on developing equipment is the best way to get started learning hot to take pictures. Start taking photos — take thousands of photographs and show them around. Invite criticism from people in the know. Take your photos to photographers you’ve met, bosses at your internship, or art teachers you know, and ask them for help. This will help you develop a thick skin, a important part of your photographer education.
How can I find a professional photographer to work with me?
Professional photographers need interns. They become “assistant photographers”, and usually work for free or very little compensation. The job of a photo assistant is anything but glamorous, and you’ll spend long hours performing monotonous tasks, but trust me, this is great training for wannabe baby photographers. You can learn more about the art and science (and the business) of photography from an internship like this than you can learn in eight years of earning your Master’s degree.
How much money do baby photographers make?
The money you make is directly tied to the amount of work you do as a baby photographer, whether you own your own studio or take photos in someone else’s workspace, and your skill level and marketing abilities. A successful baby photographer who has the market cornered in a small town often makes a lot more money than a baby photographer in a big market that hasn’t carved out their own chunk of the industry. It is not uncommon for successful baby photographers who own a studio to make six figure salaries, while those just starting out snapping photos in retail stores may earn a decent living, around $30 – 40,000 for a year’s work. It all depends on your business abilities, and the kind of investment you’re willing to make in your own career.
Many photographers just starting out in the business will be forced to hold down a “day job”, and take on their photography clients as they can. You may do lots of free work at first, to get your name out and to have photos for your portfolio. Even many established professional baby and family photographers are beginning to give up on their dreams of owning their own studio, in favor of taking photos out of their house or at the client’s house and working without a staff. That’s why taking business courses can be a big boon for the baby photographer just getting started — by focusing on taking photos of babies, you’re already setting yourself up with a unique proposition, or a “nice” market that you can tackle head on.
Any final advice for future baby photographers?
Develop your own style. Specializing in baby photography is great, but you should find an even smaller niche to market yourself with. Maybe you can specialize in taking photos of newborns, or artistic portraits of mother and child. Whatever it is, having a category in which to define yourself will help you launch your business.
Remember that you should constantly be marketing yourself as a baby photographer. A professional photographer making a good living taking photos of babies and families is not just an artist, they are also a skilled photographer, a marketing whiz, and a successful businessman.