About 34 weeks along here in my pregnancy with Will. The belly makes a good tripod!
Pregnant Wedding Photographer
I think I’m becoming a bit of an expert on this topic as this is my second wedding season in a row where I have been pregnant. Now I’m seeing a lot of my photographer friends also announcing their pregnancies so I thought it would be a good time to share some tips! Let me start by saying every person’s pregnancy is different so what worked for me may not work for you. I think the first lesson every soon to be mom learns is flexibility and going with the flow. It’s preparing you for motherhood where a lot of times you are just along for the ride!
When I found out I was pregnant with Will last year I realized that I was due during one of the busiest wedding months there is in Virginia, October! I also already had 3 weddings booked that were within weeks of my due date. Not really an ideal maternity leave situation! This time we planned things a bit better and I’m due in the off season with one wedding booked about a month before my due date. If you are trying to plan your pregnancy to fit around wedding season then you want to be “trying” between April and July. That puts your due date between December and March. You know your area and the busy season best so if you are booked solid in Nov/Dec then you might want to try closer to July. Of course remember that all that planning is with a grain of salt because life will deliver what it thinks is best :). It took 8 months to get pregnant with Will and with the new baby we hit a homerun on the first try :).
When to Announce
So you’ve peed on the stick and if your like me you got the one even a monkey could figure out, it said pregnant! Now you have to decide how long you want to wait to share the news. This is completely personal preference. David and I each had one person we were allowed to tell as soon as we found out but they were sworn to secrecy until we announced. Then we had to balance telling both our families in person when they are in two different states. Plus swearing them to secrecy till I told my clients and then announced to the world. Yeah it was a balancing act! We choose to wait till the first ultrasound before telling families and then clients. Some disagree with this and believe you owe it to your clients to notify them as soon as possible in case they want to hire another photographer. Our reason for waiting was simple, we had miscarried the year before and it was very hard to tell everyone we had lost the baby. The hardest part was good news travels fast and bad news takes a lot longer so months after it happened I was still having to tell people we were no longer pregnant. So with our last two pregnancies after the ultrasound confirmed everything was good we told family then clients and then announced to everyone!
Back up plans
Once I found out I was pregnant and before we announced I sat down and came up with a backup plan. I had no idea if these would be easy pregnancies or would i end up on bed rest for months on end. Last year I had a steady second shooter that I knew could step up and take over by the end of the season if anything happened. I spent the first half of the season training her to shoot like I do just in case. It was reassuring to have that steady person there every week. Next I made a list of local photographers I had worked with before and knew I could trust. Those became my backups, if something happened and I could not shoot a wedding I had a list of 5 photographers that could step in for me. When it came time for the three weddings right around my due date I used a couple of those backups to come along as 3rd shooters.
When it comes to shooting weddings a backup plan is a MUST. Not only for your clients but to protect your business reputation. I see crazy “photographer backed out last minute” posts all the time on Facebook and you will destroy your business if you do that. Trust me photographers are nosy and we will find out who you are, so not only will you have clients giving you bad reviews but other photographers too. My standard backup plan is my second shooter and then a list of photographers I trust to step in as second shooter. Either of those people can become primary shooter with no issues. So I said I brought 2 extra shooters to my weddings last year and looking back it was a bit overkill. This year I will bring my second shooter as usual and for the wedding closest to my due date I will bring an assistant that can become a second shooter if necessary. The assistant can carry my bags and grab my gear and if I go into labor can call the ambulance, set me by the door and grab a camera and get to work! It’s kind of like the Luv’s commercial of first time mom vs second time around :). Google it, it’s hilarious! When choosing photographers to back you up look for those that shoot similar to you even if their editing is different.
Now no matter who ends up shooting the wedding I will still do the editing. The client has hired Melissa Arlena Photography for my style and my finished product. By choosing photographers that have a simillar shooting style I can blend their images seamlessly with mine.
So now that you have figured out a rock solid plan it’s time to tell your clients. This is scary and you need to realize you may lose some weddings. You need to decide now if you want to fight a client who wants to cancel their contract or if you will allow them. Personally I decided if they wanted to cancel I would offer a full refund. There is no point trying to hold onto a client who wants to hire someone else, it just becomes more stressful for you. I did not offer to refund anyone in my email, my thought was if someone was that upset they would email me and ask. I didn’t want to put the offer out there to tempt them though, my business is my livelihood so I needed those weddings. I was blessed to keep all of my clients and I think it is because they trusted me to give them the very best images even if I wasn’t there myself. When I emailed them I kept it happy and upbeat letting them know we had some great news to share. I outlined my plan for shooting their weddings and I reassured them that their wedding was very important to me. None of that was a lie, their wedding photos were very important to me, they are a reflection of my business. I care greatly about my business and therefore had put a lot of time, energy and thought into making sure their day would be covered no matter what with photographers who would do an amazing job. If I half assed it and then they had bad wedding photos I might not recover my business from the reputation loss I would suffer. As I said though I believe my clients recognized that I was prepared and would provide them wedding images in line with my portfolio. I did find it kind of ironic that in a time where photographers put a lot of emphasis on being buddies with our clients and making them want us and no one else none of my clients blinked an eye that I personally might not be the photographer. That really at the end of the day I was a business they hired.
So the lesson here I want to pass along is put together a rock solid backup plan, you owe it to your clients and most of all to your business. Next week I’ll talk about shooting while pregnant!