A Newborn Photographer is Born

Guest Blog Post by Whitney Schloss of Whitney Mara Photography

Newborn photography

We’ve all been there. Friends and family tell us how ‘great’ our photos are. That we’re a natural behind the camera. We’re creative and whimsical and we should be a photographer. At least, that’s what they told me. And, we’ve all had similar reactions; ‘You’re just being kind’, ‘Oh don’t be silly’ and my favorite ‘Thanks, but you’re nuts’.

But sometimes, these compliments and comments get in to our heads and stay there. And if you’re anything like me, it’s almost as if there’s a challenge being presented and you can’t help but accept it.

And so I did. Right after my second child was born I had a ‘Newborn Photographer’ that was just starting to build his portfolio come to my house to take photos of my daughter. At the time I thought it was the best thing in the world. It also looked like the easiest thing in the world. Between that experience and the constant push from family to ‘just do it’. I launched my website www.whitneymaraphotography.com and started portfolio building of my own.

The great thing about having kids is you have models whenever you need them. My daughter was a little over a month old but I didn’t care; I still did a baby shoot with her. I went back and looked at my auto/JPEG photos and edited them with a few little vignette touches in Lightroom and voila, instant portfolio. I then started reaching out to friends and offering free shoots for more portfolio building.

I remember heading to my first ever newborn shoot and thinking THIS IS IT! This is going to be what I do with the rest of my life. And I couldn’t have been happier. I left that shoot, 6 long hours later, feeling like a deflated balloon. I swore up, down and sideways that I would NEVER do a newborn shoot again!

I couldn’t get the baby to fall asleep. Tensions were high so mom was on edge. Set up was a nightmare because I was using make shift equipment [read: PVC pipes as a backdrop stand and a heavy blanket I picked up in Kohl’s] and the only rule I knew about lighting was to keep it behind you!

Shortly thereafter another friend reached out to me. She had gone to a commercial studio to have some newborn shots done and they weren’t good at all, so she wanted me to come and take some shots. She sought me out so I figured, OK, I’ll try this one more time.

That photo-shoot went considerably well. I had done some research before the shoot, read some blogs and articles online and watched a few YouTube videos for demo and the one thing I took away from all of them was that the most important things to have for a newborn shoot are a space heater and some sort of white noise app for the background. Off I went with both of those things in hand and let me tell you what a world of difference it made. The warmth and music put the baby right to sleep. He let me move him around, pose him and put him in props. On my way home that day I thought, now I can be a newborn photographer. I can do this.

Fast forward to today. Just 16 short months since that newborn shoot and I can honestly tell you that newborns are probably my favorite subject matter to shoot. I have no ‘professional’ training in it. Unless you consider the endless hours of research and study I put in to it on my own time, of my own accord. The World Wide Web is a plethora of information. From blogs, to YouTube, to forums and workshops and not surprisingly, photographers willing to help, it’s ALL out there! You just have to want to find it.

Invest a little money in some online workshops and tutorials. Follow your favorite photographers and don’t be ashamed or shy to reach out to them and say “I love your work, got any helpful hints for a rookie like myself?” What’s the worst that can happen, they don’t respond? OK, move on. There are e-books, and videos. Even just photos; behind the scenes shots and before and after’s helped me along the way [and still do].

Immerse yourself in learning. And pay it forward. I had photographers giving me advice left and right when I reached out to them. They didn’t ask for money, it was simply out of the goodness of their hearts. They wanted to see me succeed. And never in a million years would I have thought anyone would reach out to me, but 16 months later, someone DID. I have mentored this person from day one and am completely humbled and touched that she came to ME! And let me tell you, I am still mentored myself. I still reach out to other photographers. I ask them about lighting set up suggestions, about equipment suggestions and best camera settings. They are all wonderful and I would be nothing without them.

It’s all possible. You just have to want it. No matter what. So forget your first newborn shoot, forget your second and third, put everything down, back up a little and do everything you can to LEARN! And most importantly, don’t forget your space heater and white noise app! :)

*Just to show what a little time and effort put in to learning things can do, here is a shot from one of my very first sessions and a shot from one of my most recent sessions. WOW, what a difference!




Whitney Schloss

Whitney Mara Photography, LLC (New York)





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