Getting Pregnant Isn't the End of Your Photography Career

Getting Pregnant Isn't the End of Your Photography Career

At the time I was a 31-year-old N.J. and N.Y.C. luxury wedding photographer that had been married for 5 years and had over 6 years of stable business ownership. You’d think getting pregnant would’ve been no big deal — but it was for me.

As fate would have it, I wrote an article before I was pregnant called “The 4 Ways I Was Convinced Being Pregnancy Would Destroy My Life,” and it was published in a N.J. newspaper just a few weeks after I found out I was expecting. The article mainly addressed my career and how even the remote possibility of my having children negatively affected my business well before I was even thinking about it. I had seen horrible behavior not only towards me, but also towards other wedding colleagues who dared to start a family. It wasn’t anything I wanted to experience for myself. It's hard enough fighting the mom-tographer name when you're a natural light shooter (even though I shoot with the Canon 1DX), much less when you're actually a mom who definitely categories cameras like this one as super cute.

Photo by Natalie Licini of www.JeRevele.com

I've talked to endless photographers about this and 99 percent of women photographers have the same fear: Getting pregnant is going to kill my photography business. My brides will hate me and likely fire me from their weddings. I'll never be able to be a mom and run a business. No one will want to hire me ever again. After all, we know that we can’t miss a wedding we’re booked for no matter what happens, short of a terrorist attack (and even that is covered in my contract). There are no sick days, no calling out and, as far as a lot of people are concerned, no birthing days either.

So where does that leave us working women wedding photographers? Childless? No. It calls us to be more informed and ready than most women have to be when thinking about having a child. It also means that having your friend (or hubby) capture the birth with a GoPro is totally normal. It is, right?

My decision on how to handle the baby announcement was a bit off the beaten path. You can read about the “6 Reasons I Hid My Pregnancy for 8 Months” on my blog. It was later published on Yahoo News, USA Today Networks, The Bump, and Parent Magazine to name a few. I think business owners, particularly females, will find the reasoning for keeping the baby announcement off social media to be interesting and applicable to their own lives and businesses. Perhaps this will work for you in your own business, perhaps not. Here’s the best advice I can give to anyone looking to have a family and a career.

Photo by Natalie Licini of www.JeRevele.com

Think More About The After

You know a lot of couples make the mistake of thinking about and planning for the wedding more than they do the marriage. It’s the same thing with babies. So many women think more about the pregnancy and delivery more than bringing the baby home and caring for it. It’s only natural however, because the gravity of what it takes to care for a child is beyond a non-parent’s imagination. Think of it this way: There are no sick days — every day, all day and night is a wedding day.

You might not have the luxury or luck to plan your childbirth around your wedding schedule. What you can plan for is for the two months following your due date to be pretty much non-existent. Sure, you may hear about the hero-moms that shoot a wedding two days after giving birth, but they are the exception, not the rule.

The rule is even if everything goes swimmingly you will need at least one month, preferably two, in order to get to your new definition of normal. We don’t have enough space in the article for why, but what I can tell you is you have to plan on getting an extraordinary amount of help for the first two months after you have a baby. I can also tell you the idea of cozying up to your Mac with your baby in one hand isn't the most realistic picture in the world.

This means if you’re not outsourcing everything you possibly can in your business then now’s the time to start putting that into practice. I know having 17Hats basically running my leads, appointments, client communication, and bookkeeping is key to when I have my second child. This also means that you should get a family member or friend to start a Take Them A Meal account for you so you can get help at home too. If people want to come see the baby, let them, but have them help you out while they’re there.

Photo by Natalie Licini of www.JeRevele.com

Have a Plan

After the craziness of the first two months happens, you’ll get into what your normal routine should look like. I do have bad news for you non-routine creatives: You’re going to develop some sort of routine. Your routine might not look like a color-coded calendar, but a child needs to eat and sleep on a regulated schedule, so like it or not, some kind of routine is going to happen.

What you can do now is think about what you want that routine to look like. Don’t think about the daily routine yet, that’ll come once you learn how your kid operates and how you operate with them. Think about what your weekly routine will look like. How many days a week do you plan on working for five or so consecutive hours? You’ll need to figure out child care for those days and times. Do you plan on only working during your child’s naps and bedtime? Learn all about sleep training now so you can get them sleeping on a predictable schedule. You will be too tired and busy to attempt to read a book and learn all of that after the baby arrives. I used “Twelve Hours' Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old” and it worked like a charm.

Stay in Shape

There are some circumstances in pregnancy that you cannot avoid, and there are others that you can. You can do your best to eat healthy and exercise while pregnant within your doctor’s guidelines. Though you’ll want to, being pregnant is not the excuse to let it all go. It’s in fact the opposite.

Being pregnant is training for a marathon. You’re about to do the most difficult and miraculous thing a human being can do with their body, and typically it’s not a sprint to the finish. Labor lasts for hours and hours, so being in good shape is a really nice way to help that along as well as help you shoot weddings late into your pregnancy. Again, stay within your pregnancy capabilities and your doctor’s limitations, but be active through your pregnancy as much as possible.

Family First

I saved this for last and I did it because not only do I want to leave you with this, but I know it’s the one thing that’s really pressing in your mind right now: “How can I make sure I won’t miss a wedding?”

The truth is that you can’t. You can plan around what you’ve given but you can’t plan what you’re given. If God breathes life into you that’ll come mid-wedding season then that’s what you get. If you need to go on bed rest or have a longer than normal postpartum recovery, then that’s what will happen. You just might, through no doing of your own, miss a wedding. You know what? That’s OK.

That’s OK because you have (or should have) in your contract what you do if you can’t be at a wedding and need a replacement and your clients have signed off on it. That’s OK because you’ll still be there hand-holding your clients before and after the wedding. But most importantly, that’s OK because you already know in your heart that no wedding will ever be as important as the incredible gift of your beautiful child.

Photo by Natalie Licini of www.JeRevele.com

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16 Comments

Anonymous's picture

Now I can only speak from the male perspective so my view is admittedly limited. When I was 24 my wife became pregnant with our first son. Fresh out of college with my film degree and still feeling the financial pangs that come with it, I was convinced that my ability to be successful in film (which has since transformed into photography) was effectively trashed. Chubby son was born, I started work as a freelancer, and being a father quickly became my absolute most favorite thing. And somehow, in spite of what I originally believed, I found that I accomplished more than I ever had before. Now a professional commercial photographer, financial worries are a complete thing of the past. Now I find that the most useful thing about being what I am isn't even the job itself; it's that I get to create a personal pictorial history of my family in sharp, glorious detail. You have no idea how much I appreciate it when focus is placed where it always should be. On the family. Thank you for writing this up.

Vanessa Joy's picture

look at that little munchkin! where were you guys? Mountains look amazing.

Anonymous's picture

It's seriously hard to not adore him (and his little brother's arriving any day now). But I'm based out of Salt Lake City and up just beyond Park City is a place called Heber, UT where they have a Polar Express train ride every December. I had never been there but the mountains were gorgeous, even by typical Wasatch standards. Just one of the countless incredibly enjoyable experiences you don't know you're missing until you have kids.

Michael Kormos's picture

There used to be a time when having children was seen as part of life. It's unfortunate so many women these days see it as an "interruption" to their career or other ambitions. I can't imagine my life without our kids. They've changed absolutely everything. The way I look at life, the way I function as a person and a family, and certainly the way I observe the little things in life as a photographer. In fact, it was eight years ago that I've picked up my camera - which - at the time - was nothing but a hobby tool, and started a photography business with my wife. Strangely enough, it's our kids that have given birth to our photography career, which has led us to become one of NYC's most in-demand baby, maternity, newborn, and family portrait studios. http://www.michaelkormos.com

By the way, love your SEO keyword plug in the opening sentence :-). Keep 'em coming!

Vanessa Joy's picture

Haha - so glad you caught that. Relevant linking is the best! Gotta make my writing time worth it, right? :-)

I love how you say that it's your kids that gave birth to your photography career!

David Bengtsson's picture

I agree that its unfortunate that a lot of people think having a child will stop their career or ruin it. Personally I think that having a kid or at least being around them gets you an important view on life.

I'm only 17 so I personally don't want any kid anytime soon, but later in life I'm almost certain. I have had summer works where I have worked with kids though and really that is some of the most fun work you can do. And it gives you a very different perspective on life imo while you also learn to take care of others and not only think of yourself.

And the kids born now are the ones to rule the world when we get old so we better educate them well.

gabe s's picture

Going to be facing this myself. Wife is due at the end of Feb, and it seems like my photography is finally gaining traction.

At many levels this article touches on the challenges but as someone who just had their baby released from the NICU after months I would recommend that you be prepared for things to go seriously wrong too. Make the plans and hope you don't need them. If you do need them you will be grateful because you won't have time to ponder when life comes at you fast.

Dass Ala's picture

Like MJ Kreyzer said,

I speak as male, Photography is what I love to do, and my first son came when I quit my job and decide to run my own photography business, shooting racing cars on the Baja Desert, and was a shock and a blessing being father, I just was 23 and I said to my wife all its going to be ok, same year my brother arrive with no job and looking for something, and I introduce him on the photo business, same year I have and accident a broken hip and femur luxation, 9 months in bed and no chance to walk again. My new baby boy, wife, brother and photography push me out of the bed to start walking at the end on that year we open a new photo location inside of one of the largest sailing catamarans in the world, and I just shoot people and wildlife, selling those images to tourist, all was skyrocket, we open another boat, hotel, and shooting for multiple areas of photography, and now no more worries.
If photography is your passion go beyond limits and conquer those fears and became a better person doing what you love to do and believe in yourself.
Read this article make me remember those days!

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