There’s no such thing as a free newborn shoot
I am absolutely flippin’ steaming!
I am angry beyond measure… but I’ll try to get this down legibly and sensibly because, really, this is something that needs to be talked about.
A friend of mine posted some photos up on Facebook recently, images of her son taken when he was just a few weeks old. I clicked on the images because, hey, I’m a photographer and that’s just what I do! And I was more than a little bit mortified about what I saw. Overexposed, blown out images, lots of flash and some pretty awful editing made up quite possibly some of the poorest newborn photographs I’ve ever seen. But hey, don’t take my word for it, here are a few of the images so you can judge for yourselves (shared with permission of little ones Mum, names withheld).
There is nothing worse, as a photographer, than to see friends professional photographs that look… well… naff, to put it bluntly. There’s always that moment where I think to myself, should I say something? Or am I just going to come across as being a bit of a bitch? For the most part, I keep my mouth shut because most of them aren’t that bad and clearly I am a photography snob. *Totally not ashamed to admit that fact* But there are times when I can’t help myself and so I messaged this little one’s Mum, jokingly saying, “I hope you didn’t pay for those photos!”. When she messaged back, that’s when the anger kicked in.
She proceeded to tell me that she had been given a voucher at the hospital when little ‘un was born, from a large, well-known photography company with studios all over the UK. The voucher promised a free photo shoot for all newborns along with a free image from the shoot. “A-ha!” You might be thinking, “Well if it was a free shoot then nothing doing, you get what you pay for, right?” Well, here’s where it gets worse. When my friend went back to the studio to view the images and choose her free one, she was hit with the seriously-hard-sell with the seller in question attempting to coerce her into spending nearly £4000! This is money she simply didn’t have and, in the end, desperate to leave, she agreed to spend £600 which she slapped onto a credit card.
Hubby and I have been party to something similar (long before I had set up my little photography business and knew any better) and we ended up spending around £500 for 8 prints (not even digital files, oh no! To buy the disc we would have been looking at more than 3 grand!). I still wince every time I think about how much we spent but at least the images are actually pretty nice and well captured. Unfortunately not so for my friend. I’m sorry to say it, but I would go so far as to say that the “photographer” who took these images really had no clue what they were doing. My friend has taken, and will continue to take, better images on her phone.
Now, I’m not a specialist in newborn photography. There’s a reason I stick to lifestyle photography, photographing newborns and their families the way I do. You need training to work with newborns. You need to learn how to pose them, how to light them, how to comfort them when they won’t settle. Just take a look at the super-amazing Laura Rhian and you’ll see what I mean. Her work is exceptional and she works incredibly hard to create beautiful photographs while also keeping baby 100% safe at all times. I take a more lifestyle approach simply because I don’t have that training, which you really should have if you’re posing babies in a studio setting.
So, going forward, what advice can I offer?
Well, first and foremost, please don’t be tempted by the words “Free Session” or “Free Print”.
I think most of us are adult enough and grown up enough to realise that you don’t get anything totally free in this life, that you’ll rarely get something for nothing. And big studios commonly offer free sessions with the premise of making a big sale afterwards. Most small businesses will likely charge a booking or session fee mostly to ensure that the booking slot doesn’t get cancelled at the last minute, but also the common practise is to put that fee towards your final purchase amount so it effectively is a free session anyway!
My other key piece of advice is this, if you are tempted to try one of these free sessions, then be prepared to deal with the hard sell afterwards.
If you can be strong enough to say no and to walk away with none of the images because of the costs that are charged, then go for it.
I asked Laura if she might be able to offer any words of advice too. She advised when looking for a newborn photographer, you should check out their reviews on their Facebook pages and look through their work to make sure what they are producing is consistent. She also suggested it would be a good idea to request a full price list prior to booking in, so you have a good idea of the amount you’re likely to be spending beforehand. Thanks for those great tips, Laura!
If you’d like to book a studio newborn session and don’t know where to look, please do get in touch and I’d be more than happy to recommend some photographers to you.