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.
Part 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.