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Tips & Tricks

What to Expect When You’re an Expecting Photographer – The Ultimate Guide Part 1: Pregnancy Through Delivery

By Michelle Ford on January 27th 2014

Five years ago, I found myself pregnant and wondering what the impact of this news would be to my fledgling wedding photography business. I hunted through the Internet for answers, reached out to the few people I knew who might have some experience and I found very little. Of course, in 2008, Facebook wasn’t yet what it is today and my circle of photography friends was much smaller and filled with single people more than experienced parents. I was lost and worried.

I’ve had a rash of photographer friends who have either had babies or have just announced pregnancy recently and I’m seeing the same questions pop up on the Internet on what they should expect. Having been through this twice now, I started to put together a list of tips, information and experience that I’ve gathered these last few years and it was quite long.

So, we’ll be breaking up this guide, “What to Expect When You’re an Expecting Photographer,” up into two parts. Part 1 will start off with 7 things to consider  from Pregnancy through Delivery and Part 2 will cover life after baby arrives.

3rdSHOOTER-1Part 1: Pregnancy Through Delivery

1. Timing Your Pregnancy

If you can time your pregnancy, then that would be awesome. But for most people, even those not in the photography world, nature doesn’t always work with our agendas. But, ideally, you would like to have your 8th month land within your business’s slow season, whatever time of year that may be for you. The reality is, for those that are trying, timing the pregnancy is near impossible. We’re just blessed if and when it happens.

Pregnant Photographer

Image by Michelle Ford

2. Announcing Your Pregnancy

Because we can’t always plan the timing of our pregnancies, it means that we may have  some bookings that land within the ‘blackout zones’ (which I’ll explain in further detail below). This is where brides get really nervous. When you make your announcement, you better believe that your brides will be working out your due dates and wondering if their carefully planned day will be affected by your announcement. Two notes:

  1. If you have weddings close to or within the ‘blackout zones,’ I advise holding off of public announcements until you are past the first trimester. For obvious reasons, you want to make sure that your pregnancy is well underway before contacting the affected parties.
  2. I highly advise contacting your brides BEFORE you make your public announcement. It’s a professional courtesy that you should extend to them since they are the affected parties. For the ones that are close to the ‘blackout zone,’ you can assure them that you will be working up until XX date and that you have plans for contingencies. And for those that are within the ‘blackout zones,’ you should be prepared to offer a proposed solution with apologies.

Cindy Lowe of Orange Turtle Photography courageously shared her tragedy with me regarding a miscarriage.  With her permission, I share her story with you:

With our first pregnancy, we were so excited that we began to announcing it as early as 8 weeks. We started to stop taking bookings around that time as well. Little did we know that I would miscarry the baby at 13 weeks. It was emotionally hard for us and we also suffered the loss of income around the baby’s due date. We probably have turned away 3-4 weddings because of it.

Photographer Pregnancy

Image by Michelle Ford

3. ‘Weddings in the Blackout Zone’

All the questions and answers in this article are tough, but none are as much of an eggshell walk as this one. With my second pregnancy, I was part of a photography company that worked weddings as a team and our brides were fully aware that any one of us could shoot their weddings. I was somewhat in the clear, but not everyone has this advantage. One solution would be to find a suitable replacement and pay that person to shoot in your place. You could still take on all the other tasks like editing and album design of course. The challenge would be to present this solution to your bride and hope she’s ok with it. My friend Emily Ivey of Fresh Ivey Photography had a situation where her client had paid a higher premium for Emily herself to shoot. Her clients were unhappy with her announcement and found the proposed solution unacceptable. Realistically, we have to be prepared to lose that client.

Of course I sent in wonderful replacement shooters but the couple was very displeased and refused to pay their balance in full. They wanted ME, had squeezed extra out of their budget for ME. It was the first time I realized that our marketing can backfire. We stress so hard why we are worth more money to our clients because we bring an irreplaceable element to their day–our person, our vision, our expertise–that they fall in love with that idea and are just so disappointed when we send someone else, regardless of how talented that other photographer may be.

4. The First Trimester

I’m sure you’ve heard of women whose first trimester was a nightmare. Weeks 3-7 for me were extremely challenging and battling nausea during wedding shoot days was horrid. When I found out I was pregnant, I knew that it would affect my workload before and after my due date, but I never considered the impact it would have earlier in the pregnancy timeline. The problem extended to at-home tasks as well. Most of the time my body would shut down and I needed to sleep or lay down which impacted my workflow for editing and album designs. What really helped me was having a solid, fluid workflow in place that cut down my time spent in front of the computer.

Pregnant Photographer

Image by Megan Kennedy of Rogue Heart Media

[REWIND: Lightroom Organization and Workflow Workshop v5]

5. Shooting While Pregnant

Know your limits and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Hire an assistant to carry your gear. Definitely hire a second shooter if you don’t already use one and if you need a third shooter and can afford it, by all means, do it. Major bonus points if the second shooter you have can play the role of prime if necessary.

What To Expect When You're an Expecting Photographer

Image by Christopher Becker

It should go without saying, but take care of your health. Stay hydrated and nourished. Make your assistant be your food and water carrier. Keep your feet in comfortable shoes and lessen the weight you carry on your shoulders. The farther along you get, the more tired you’ll be. Your shoulders and your back will love you more if you are aware of your limits.

6. The ‘Blackout Zone’ – Before Your Due Date

Determining the cut off before your due date is different for everyone. With my first pregnancy, I shot my last wedding while I was eight months pregnant. I felt fine and I had a blast. At one point, I was at the church ceremony, saw the shot I wanted down the aisle and without thinking twice, got down on my knees to take the shot. It was only when I had to stand up that I realized my mistake. I literally had to crawl to the nearest pew to help myself up to my feet. (Ok, that might have been silly and dangerous). By the 9th month, I was getting tired more easily and shooting long hours would have been a chore, but hour long portrait sessions were a breeze. I kept those up until I gave birth (two weeks past my due date). My second pregnancy was definitely not the same experience. I had sciatic issues that manifested by the 6th month and shooting weddings was impossible. I would get hit at odd times with a crippling shooting pain that I couldn’t get rid of for a half hour or more. The point is there is no real way to plan it out. Hopefully, your pregnancy is easy and normal. Discuss your situation with your doctor but also be aware of your body and know your limits. Don’t try to be a superhero, there’s plenty of time for that later when the baby is out.

What about destination weddings? Again, consult with your doctor and know that some airlines have restrictions and requirements regarding flying when pregnant.

[REWIND: Maternity Photography Ideas and Tips] 

Think the due date concern is only for the female photographers in our community? Guess again. Mike of Mike Arick Photography says that he’s blocked off the two weeks before and after his wife’s estimated due date (which is coming up this April), but he still had couples insist on his services.

I’ve told all my inquiring couples about the due date and really tried not to book any weddings within a 2 week window before or after our due date. I still had a couple book with me two days from the due date. I have a 2nd and 3rd photographer for that wedding. Both are leads for their own biz and I designated one to take over in the event I’m not there. The couple is ok with this since I laid it all out beforehand.

7. The ‘Blackout Zone’- After Delivery

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that wedding photography can be physically exhausting. It’s a long day of repetitive motion and physical activity. That said, you should definitely discuss your active return date with your doctor. They usually require a postpartum checkup four weeks after delivery, and I can guarantee they will NOT be ok with moms returning to work before that. If you have a normal delivery, your doctor may give you a green light after five weeks, but if you have a C-section, it might take longer. I know someone that was against a rock and a hard-place and had no choice but to shoot 2.5 weeks postpartum. Needless to say, it was not a pretty picture and she definitely advises against it.

[PRODUCT HIGHLIGHT: Learn how to take photos of your new little munchkin with the Newborn Photography Workshop DVD]

Gentlemen, if you’re leaving your wives to go shoot a wedding within that first month, I would highly suggest arranging for some kind of help for her especially if it’s a C-section delivery. If she insists that she’ll be fine, you should ignore her and get help anyway. Take my advice and thank me for the bonus points I just earned you.

I hope I haven’t scared everyone off yet. Please know that my two children are my most precious blessings (after my ever supportive husband). I love my family dearly and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I just wish I knew half of what I know now as far as expectations. It’s always better to be prepared.

Don’t forget, there’s a ‘Part 2′ to all this where I’ll be discussing life after delivery and some real world stories on the impact parenting makes to your small business. I’m ever so grateful to all the friends that have contributed their own stories to the creation of this article.

Feel free to comment below with your own questions and experiences.  We would love for this to become an ongoing discussion for those of you that are just about to get on this fun road and for those that have been through the process.

 

Michelle is a Southern California Portrait and Wedding Photographer. When she’s not geeking out with a camera she’s nerding out in her IT world. All other moments in the day are spent with her two wonderful children.

See her work on The COCO Gallery
check out her blog at frexNgrin

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    awesome

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  2. Krissy

    Ha! The timing is so true – great if you can manage it!! I built my business after the birth of child no 1 and was lucky enough to time child no 2 in my slow season from being a wedding photographer – I live in the tropics so not only is wedding shooting the regular kind of grueling, add 33 degrees C and high humidity to that whilst pregnant! You really have to look after yourself if you plan on shooting throughout the last trimester, that’s for sure. Can’t wait to see what part 2 says – I sometimes feel I can’t get anything done, despite having lots of domestic help!

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  3. Rachel

    I love that you wrote this! I did weddings up to two weeks before my last baby and although extremely tiring, they weren’t horrible. What was horrible was I did an all day wedding 8 weeks after my c-section. I actually brought my baby with me along with a sitter because I was nursing (I cleared it with the couple a head of time). I was do busy all day I don’t think I drank more than a couple sips of water. The next morning I woke up with mastitis due to lack of water, lack of food, being in the cold most of the day, and pushing my body to fast and too hard. The other thing if love for you to address is editing post baby. Before I had it streamlined, but since it’s taken 5 months to get back onto any kind of editing schedule. It’s been rough for sure.

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    • Krissy

      Oh no! I’m not taking any weddings until baby is 6 months and partially weaned. You poor thing having to shoot 8 weeks post partum while nursing! I bet you would not have done it in hindsight?

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  4. Megan

    Thanks for this post Michelle! So helpful for those of us trying to plan the best way to handle this when the time comes!

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  5. Jill Kelly

    Thank you for writing this article! I’m only a few weeks along, but I’m already planning for the black-out dates. I love the idea of talking about the due date and other photographers filling your shoes if it’s needed. Definitely some solid advice. Thanks!

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  6. Tanya Smith

    Oh, man, I’m a total mess when pregnant. The first 4 months I basically spend on the couch or head in toilet. Last trimester I can barely walk. Plus, I have had emergency c-sections, baby in the NICU, baby needing surgery 4 days after birth, no family available to come help after the birth, etc. It’s different for everyone, though and every pregnancy is different, too. I would just say, be prepared for anything. My photography business has grown very slowly because I started it in the middle of having three kids. And I’m ok with that. I have the luxury of being a mom first and photographer second.

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    • Michelle Ford

      holy cow tanya! surgery 4 days after birth?! and no family available? three kids?!? i’m so impressed at your sanity. truly. in awe of you.

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  7. Kit Logan

    Useful, but I’d like to point out it’s not just the mother that having children affects. The father depending on how supporting they are is also affected and in my case I’m also the main carer of our two little ‘uns and the photographer. I’ve been known to have to cancel a shoot just as I was taking a client to the shoot location because I was needed. Thankfully they were very okay with it as they were forewarned about Tini’s (my partner) state.

    For me the fun bit really started after the births and juggling time for running the business and looking after family. I still haven’t got that bit right yet, but you have to make a choice and for me family is priority. I know it doesn’t apply to you as you now have the experience, but for those who are potentially planning children, don’t think you can easily take your child with you on a photoshoot or even meetings with clients. A lot depends on the child, but even with the best natured baby, they can be quite fractious at the most inopportune moment.

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    • Tanya Smith

      This is sooooo true. I’ve had several clients and family members who are like, “just bring the kids with you” and it’s impossible for me to be professional or even shoot at all with the kids along. They cry, they cling to your leg, they want your attention. Not happening!

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    • Michelle Ford

      i truly agree on all accounts. my company up until last year consisted of myself and 3 men. all of us had pregnancies that were happening within a few weeks of each other. by that of course i meant their wives and i had timed pregnancies lol. but their work lives were very much impacted by everything.

      on taking kids to meetings, i know i couldn’t do it. no matter how quiet my kid was i found that either myself or my client would have our attention diverted to the child for one reason or another and it would mess with the flow of the conversation. for some though, the cuteness factor plays in quite well. the frenzels actually said that at networking events the babies made for good ice breakers.

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  8. Kristin Smetona

    Thank you so much for writing this, Michelle!!! As my husband and I are trying to figure out building our family with our business we have been thinking about some if these concerns.

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    • Michelle Ford

      oh kristin! i’m so glad i could help. i totally remember being right where you are.

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