Keep it Simple and Keep Your Sanity (and money!)

Eleanor R.

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When I first started photography, it wasn’t as popular as it is now. I couldn’t look to others for inspiration unless I sought it out and found it in print. I was just “winging” it and hoping to figure it out. I read “Photography for Dummies” and “Photoshop for Dummies”… seriously. Facebook was just starting to gain popularity and Instagram didn’t exist.  Pinterest didn’t exist. In this internet and social-media driven world we live in now, it’s so easy to see what other photographers are doing, buying, and photographing and easily become intimidated and think you have to buy it ALL to be successful.

It’s easy to feel like we aren’t as good or successful as the next photographer because we can readily see what everyone else is doing. It’s so easy to follow what others are doing rather than evaluating what you love and want YOUR style to be. It’s very easy to get caught up in buying all the things and the adorable new props thinking it will make your work stand out above the rest, instead of investing it in a way that will help grow your business. It’s easy to spend so much money on props and accessories that you have no sense of direction and are lost when it comes to planning out your session.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been there… I’ve done it… and I’m still guilty of it sometimes and I hear this same frustration from other photographers.  However, one of the BIGGEST things I have learned over the years is that the quality of the photograph matters SO much more than the props that are in it. Now don’t get me wrong… I have a lot of props and accessories I’ve collected over the years and I LOVE all of the beautiful items I have and use today; but I’ve come to learn that in general, props and accessories should complement the baby and your brand and just be an added touch rather than the focus of the photo. I’ve learned that finding my style and only purchasing items that match my style has saved me so much stress, confusion, and money! I’ve learned that asking the parents what they want keeps me from spending excess time wondering if they will like what I’m using for their photos. For the most part I stick to more simple, neutral, and timeless photos because that’s my “thing” and parents love them.  I know that those are the types of photos I cherish most as a mom. However, I sometimes use themed props when clients request something special:

I enjoy incorporating props that I know will be meaningful for the parents rather than just buying stuff and hoarding it “in case I need it someday.” Also, I find that doing something fun and different is a great way to beat the burnout and fuel my creativity so sometimes I’m a little “extra” on the props when I want to do something fun for myself…

Before my newborn sessions, I send out a questionnaire so that I can create photos that are a perfect fusion of my style and what my clients love. I ask the questions to help plan the perfect session and help take some of the “guesswork” out of the planning process. I always choose a neutral fabric for a portion of their session because I love the simplicity of those photos and that the focus is on the baby. I love that the fabrics and accessories accentuate the beautiful baby and aren’t distracting. I love that you can still see the babies and their tiny little features. If you’re starting out with newborn photography, invest in a few essentials; like neutral fabrics and a few simple coordinating headbands, hats, layers, and blankets. Don’t get too carried away with different colors at first. Keep it simple because simple can be perfectly beautiful.

( favorite2nl, MarrenNB-41, MarrenNB-47, MilaNB-91)

When it comes to prop photos, a bucket, a bowl, and maybe even a simple box is a great place to start.  I love it when the focus is on the baby and the props and accessories are the “icing” on the baby-cake. Props and accessories should always be that little something extra taking your photos to the next level. I love it when they are the perfect compliment to my photos and not distracting.

( bucketccs, ccs_6155, EmilaNB-41, samiraNB21)

I wanted to use this blog post to not only inspire you to follow your dreams, but to show you that you can create beautiful photographs without feeling like you have to buy everything you see. You can start with very little (as far as props and accessories) and invest your money in the things you truly need that will help grow your business and skills. Your prop collection can grow as you and your business do. I look at my large collection now and it represents progress and growth for me. Invest your money in education and the right things first so you don’t waste your money on things you don’t need. Ohhh if I had all of my money back from the things I didn’t need! You will never regret the choice to educate yourself. There weren’t educational opportunities when I started like there are now (like my online newborn workshop, wink, wink), so use that to your advantage. Learn and practice posing, lighting, and how to use your camera. That is what will make your photos stand out more than anything. Attending conferences like RESET not only educate you, but inspire you and introduce you to so many others who are living very similar lives and have many of the same goals and ambitions. 

When it comes to purchasing the essentials you need for newborn photography, it’s always a great idea to purchase from trusted vendors. In fact, a lot of vendors are photographers themselves! You’re more likely to spend your hard-earned money on a quality product that will also photograph well. Oh and one more thing…it’s never a bad idea to have a black fabric drop on hand.  One of the very first fabrics I purchased back when I started and used for years was black and I’ve never regretted it, not even once!

Amy Haehl is the owner of Coffee Creek Studio in Shelbyville, IN. She’s a mom of 3 littles and two bonus-sons and wife to her firefighter husband Mike. She’s a nurse and worked as an ER nurse for 11 years before completely dedicating herself to her photography business and family. She’s been in business for almost 11 years and has taught herself the art of newborn photography by starting with nothing but a white sheet, a camera, and a baby in my kitchen. When she started her journey as a photographer, teaching wasn’t available like it is now. She’s always dreamed of teaching other photographers in a way that she wishes would have been available to her when she started. She’s thankful for her journey though because it gave her the tools and experience she needed to be a great teacher and inspire others! She specializes in newborn and wedding photography and offers 1:1 mentoring and workshops. Amy loves ALL forms of candy, especially cotton. She loves Coke (a-cola) and carbs. She’s sarcastic and loves to laugh and loves to make others laugh. She loves making new friends because one can never have too many friends in your circle! You can follow Coffee Creek Studio online on Instagram & Facebook.

Eleanor R.
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