Five Years as a Phoenix AZ Newborn Photographer
I’ve been meaning to sit down and type what it’s been like in my five years of being a Phoenix AZ newborn photographer for some time now, but time keeps escaping me and I’m constantly trying to keep up with business, and my personal life so this post has had a pretty cozy spot on the back burner. But, since this month is my fifth ‘bus’iversary I figured it was a good time to give it a shot.
I had no idea what I was getting into when I first started my business as a Phoenix AZ newborn photographer. Just like everyone else, I thought you take some pictures, slap a filter on it, and call it a day. But that is so far from what actually goes into the business; and I hate to say it, but taking pictures is the smallest part of this business.
When I first got started I didn’t know how to even price my sessions. You’re supposed to calculate your CODB (cost of doing business) and price yourself accordingly to those numbers. I’ll be completely honest with you, my cost was very minimal, so I didn’t think I needed to charge much, wrong.
I used a bootlegged version of photoshop, which I don’t recommend. Creative cloud is $10 a month for beginners and you get photoshop, Lightroom, bridge, and ACR. Plus, you get all the updates for free. I couldn’t update mine at all, and I missed out on some really cool things that would have made editing much easier. So, take my word, yes free is cool, but just pay the monthly subscription. It’s way better.
For my questionnaires and contracts I used jotform. It’s free for 5 forms and that’s all I needed (birth, newborn, maternity/family, cake smash, and milestones). My questionnaire and contract were combined into one form for each session type, and I changed the submission settings to automatically direct them to my square page to pay the retainer.
For scheduling and invoicing I used square, again it’s free and it did everything I needed. I actually used this whole setup until just this year. I have nothing negative to say about it whatsoever, and sometimes I still think about switching back. My business has grown so much over the past year that I needed something to keep all my inquiries and projects organized. So, I switched to HoneyBook and it’s been a lifesaver. It was a learning curve at first, but overall I really enjoy it and it keeps me much more organized! It’s a steep cost when you’re first starting out, but it’s totally worth it to help keep everything in one spot so you don’t lose track of your inquiries and projects!
My galleries I’ve always used Shootproof, it’s only $10/month and I can deliver all of my galleries through it. My clients can place print orders, and order additional images if they want. It’s pretty great. You can send contracts and invoices through it too if you’re looking to keep all of your stuff in one spot for a low cost. Also, when you sign up with HoneyBook, there’s a coupon from them for Shootproof, win win!
I worked out of a home studio for over four years before I took a leap into a commercial space, and if you can, I totally recommend doing the same. Traveling session to session as a newborn photographer is exhausting. If you have your own little space you can organize it to encourage a smooth workflow. You don’t need an extravagant space! In my experience, clients care more about the finished product than what your studio is like. Yes a commercial space is a game changer, but it’s 1000% not necessary. My home studio was 100sf, every space was optimized for maximum use. It worked just fine.
So at the beginning I was like cool, I’m only paying like $10-$20 a month, but I wasn’t factoring in my gear or my time. Now my CODB is so much different than what it was when I first started. I have studio rent, website subscription, photoshop subscription, gallery subscription, double the gear (at like quadrupole the price), etc. and that’s why photographers raise their prices over time. All of the software, gear, and experience plays a huge role in all of that.
Let’s talk workshops. I get asked a lot if I’m self taught or how I learned everything. When I first got started I took an online newborn course through Rachel Vanoven. This didn’t make me a professional over night. I strictly used this to give me a general idea of what I was doing, but most importantly the safety precautions I needed to take. I’ve done an online workshop through Charlotte Gamache as well; and I’ve hosted a few other group workshops for photographers through Angie Knutson, Dewdrops Photography, and Krystal Sandefur.
For myself, I’ve found that hosting group workshops is more of a way to hang out and shoot with other photographers. I don’t use those as a way to learn my craft, I’m more of a hands on learner. I’ve never actually attended a 1:1 workshop though. Everything I know has primarily been done through trial and error. Once you lock in your “style” it makes it much easier to know what you want your final images to look like. But, it took me at least 3-3.5 years to figure out my style completely.
Want to know my very least favorite part of owning a photography business? Website and SEO. I loathe it. And yes, I could easily hire someone to do it all for me, but I’m stubborn and continue to force myself to do it. SEO is so important. And I’ll be honest, it made no sense to me for a very long time. As time has gone on I’ve developed a better understanding for it, (and my entire website being erased by the server with no backup made me understand it even a little more). *sigh* So now I try to put in some decent effort on website content so google doesn’t forget about me, and it’s worked pretty well over the last year.
This whole business as a Phoenix AZ newborn photographer was so much harder than I expected. I had no idea it took so much time and effort to get up and going, but now that I’m so deep in it I finally feel like I have a good groove and I don’t have to spend as much time with the small details. My automated workflow helps save time and gets my clients the information the need prior to booking, and my editing process helps gets their images over quicker. It’s all about setting yourself up for success in the long run, all the time and energy you have to invest makes it worth it.
If you’re a new photographer and have any questions, or you’re a client and ready to set up your session with us – feel free to take a look at our package list and contact us!
If you’re searching for a photographer within the Phoenix area, please contact me to schedule your session today. All newborn sessions take place at my commercial studio located in North Phoenix (85027). I have a variety of props, all of which are available to use in your session.