How to Shoot Weddings While Pregnant

shooting while pregantOne of our PhotoMint readers recently asked for some advice on how to shoot while pregnant, so I talked to a number of photographers who have been there and done that, so I can report back. If you're thinking about a pregnancy now or in the near future, there are probably a million questions running through your mind:

What do I tell my clients? How to make it work financially? How long can I shoot for? How long after the birth before I should plan to shoot again? How do I nurse at weddings? We'll get to all those questions and more.

Planning

One of the biggest misconceptions of wedding photographers planning a pregnancy is the belief that they can control when they get pregnant, and schedule their baby during the perfect time of year-off season, of course. Many wedding photographers choose December /January as the perfect time for their baby to be born, thinking they can safely get through the end of wedding season and then have several winter and spring months on maternity leave, so to speak. It turns out that people can't schedule their pregnancies quite so perfectly.

“I wanted to have a baby in December, so that I wasn't too pregnant for my Fall weddings but would still have a couple of months off before my Spring season started up. So my husband and I started “trying” in earnest around March of that year. March became April, April became May, May became June and still no baby.” –Chenin Boutwell, Boutwell Studio.

Not to say you don't want to have a target date in mind, but just know that things don't always work the way you plan.

Another photographer, Jennifer Skog of Jennifer Skog Photographers, had a completely different experience. Thrilled beyond belief at her luck in getting pregnant right away, she immediately began to turn work down during the 10-12 week window she expected to be in her last stages of pregnancy. And then she miscarried. Not only did she have to deal with this devastating emotional loss, she had to deal with a financial loss as well. After a series of several miscarriages, she chose not to start officially planning until she was much farther along.

Jen's tips for planning your pregnancy while balancing your studio schedule-get as many albums done as you can while you are pregnant. This way you won't have such a backlog waiting for you when you return to full time status.


pregnant momHow Long Can You Shoot for?

That's impossible to say. Every pregnancy is different, and you really can't know how yours will go until you get there. Portraits are easier as you don't have to be on your feet for 8 or more hours, and you can reschedule if needed. Many pregnant photographers are able to shoot weddings up through their seventh month, but there are no guarantees.

In order to make sure your studio and weddings are able to run smoothly as the date gets nearer, you should have a backup plan and a lead photographer who is prepared to shoot your weddings for you should you You'll want to put together a backup plan and a support team, so that you can smoothly deal with changes as they come up.

The other thing that may impact your shooting is morning sickness. Some people experience morning sickness all day long, and there's nothing to do but shoot through it, and hope the adrenaline kicks in.

With a little planning, most photographers are able to shoot throughout most of their pregnancies, as long as they make some adjustments in their approach.

When and How to Let Your Clients Know

How and when you let your clients know is up to you. Some people prefer to keep it to themselves, while others enjoy sharing their news on the blog, and therefore with the world. You are not obligated to tell everyone, the choice is up to you.

Chenin Boutwell shares that she chose only to tell clients that would possibly be directly affected. “I considered my pregnancy as a private health issue and my decision to work through my pregnancy as a personal issue. Other than those few clients, I did not feel the need to discuss my pregnancy with my other couples.”

Jen Skog took to her blog to share the happy news, and also shared her journey and trials in getting pregnant. Unlike the first time, however, she waited until she was 4 months along before sharing with anyone or making business plans.

Whatever you are comfortable with, you'll still want to let clients know that may be directly affected. Weddings happening during the 8 week window before and after your due date are most likely to be impacted. Most photographers choose to offer clients within that 8 week window the opportunity to cancel without repercussions if the client is uncomfortable with the situation, but it may not be technically required, depending on the terms of your contract.

When informing your clients of your situation, it's best to present them with your backup plans at the same time, so they know you have it covered and they don't have to worry about it.

Financials

One of the biggest impacts your pregnancy will have on your business is on the finances. Some things to keep in mind:

Jen chose to book as many shoots as possible leading up to her due date. She knew that she would need that financial cushion to help deal with some of the expenses and loss of business when you have to turn away business.

Chenin recommends that you have enough business savings to offer refunds to those clients who might choose to cancel their contract and book another photographer.

What about insurance? If your spouse has good insurance coverage, this is likely something you don't need to worry about. But if not, you'll want to make sure your medical insurance covers pregnancy or upgrade your insurance before you get plan to pregnant. Remember that besides pregnancy medical costs, you may also incur additional costs due to fertility issues as Jen did.

After Baby is Born

You should plan to give yourself a minimum of five weeks off prior to any shooting engagements. If you have a cesarean, your healing time could keep you from shooting for up to eight weeks, but every situation is different. Jen was able to shoot her first wedding 5 weeks after a cesarean, but it wasn’t easy.

If you have weddings booked for after the baby comes, the biggest factor to consider is if you are nursing, how to do that on a wedding day. Most new mommy photographers say this is one of the hardest parts of shooting a wedding. Your body knows it should be nursing about every 3 hours or so (every time your baby needs to eat) but it's next to impossible to find the time to pump every three hours at a wedding. Jen says she was able to pump right before the wedding coverage began, during the dinner break and then at the end.

Be prepared to be uncomfortable, but you should be able to get through it. Chenin highly recommends using a Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump with On the Go Tote so that you can save time and pump both breasts at once.

In the day to day studio operations, one of the best things you can do is take advantage of a system like Shootq or Tave to help your studio run smoothly. Jen says one of the most helpful things she has done is set up email templates.

Obviously, having a baby is going to affect everything in your business. If you run a full time studio, you'll need daycare. If you meet with clients in your home, this becomes tricky-it's harder to keep the client areas clean, and a crying baby in the background does not exactly help bookings. But how do you kick your baby out of the house for every consult? This is why Jen is now looking for a studio space, as it has become more challenging to maintain her business in her home.

The point is, you can make it work with some careful planning. Hopefully this gives you some ideas and things to consider. Many, many photographers have done it, and so can you. It's not a piece of cake, so the more you can plan and be prepared, the better off you and your family will be.


Facebook comments:

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Echo April 18, 2012 at 7:25 am

Trying to plan a baby for off season back fired for me and we ended up pregnant and due in August. Although a surprise that it didn’t take long for me to get pregnant, I chose to inform my clients. I did give them the opportunity to find someone else and all of my couples chose to stay knowing I had it in my contract that I would find backup for them if such a case like this arose.

I ended up having a fabulous pregnancy with no morning sickness! So I continued to keep my body working as it had been doing before I was pregnant. I photographed my last wedding at 39 weeks and felt great minus the heat that august has to offer. I can tell you that it kept my body in shape and definitely helped out in the delivery room. Even the nurses complemented me on my abs! So it worked out getting up and down bending and using my body 🙂

After my son was born I took 6 weeks off before my next wedding. I missed two contracted dates that I had a lead fill in for me and it went good. At my first wedding back it was difficult to stand for long periods of time even though I had a natural birth. My clients knew that I would need to take time to pump and I was able to do it within 10 minutes with the Medela pump mentioned by Chenin. It works great!

Be encouraged that clients who love you understand. It’s nerve racking when it’s unexpected but it’s just something that can’t always be controlled. You can do it and your body can handle it all :). Good luck!

Reply

Jamie April 17, 2012 at 6:12 am

Thanks so much for writing this article, I think it was written just for me! My husband and I have been discussing starting a family, but I am very concerned our wedding photography business will be effected. We will be *attempting* to time it out for a January delivery, as we live in VT and don’t have too many winter weddings. I hadn’t even thought about the breast pumping dilemma, glad I never shoot a wedding alone! Thanks for the advice!

Reply

Lara White April 17, 2012 at 7:31 am

Jamie,

glad it’s helpful for you, but just remember, with pregnancies, you can never count on being able to shoot weddings for any length of time.

Reply

Tanya Malott April 15, 2012 at 8:34 am

Funny, that is when I started shooting kids! I remember being 7 months pregnant and chasing two boys up a sand dune and thinking “this is not a smart idea”. But I had a ton of fun, and it launched what is now over a third of my business revenue….family portraits.

It is not a smart or healthy idea to be shooting weddings when you are very pregnant. Your feet are swollen, you need a lot of water, and you need to go to the bathroom a lot. You need more rest than usual, you need more food, and the stress of shooting a wedding is hard enough even when you aren’t pregnant. If you have never been pregnant before, and don’t know how it will go for you, just forget about shooting weddings for a while. I also think ‘hiding’ the issue could be a huge problem. What if you faint or pass out? (This almost happened to me once at a very hot, humid wedding when I wasn’t pregnant. I was severely dehydrated)

I also passed on a great job when I was nursing because I couldn’t be away from my son for long enough to shoot a whole wedding (I only breast fed, no pumping or bottles). I found the bride an alternate, but since we were also friends, and I wanted to be there for her in some way, I did show up briefly at the bride’s hotel room while she was dressing, and I went with her to the church, shot a few images before she walked down the aisle and left. Two or three of those shots ended up in Vera Wang’s wedding book. Not bad for an hour’s work!

Bottom line: if anything went wrong with your pregnancy (or the wedding photos) as a result of your choice to shoot while pregnant, you would never forgive yourself. Also, how can you accept a wedding booking for a date that happens in say your fifth or sixth month….not knowing if your doctor will put you on complete bed rest before that time. I would say this is irresponsible as a photographer, and as a future mother. Do everyone a favor, and subcontract the shooting parts. The bride will thank you. Your baby will thank you. I’m guessing your husband will thank you.

Managing the office isn’t nearly as taxing. That part, you probably can almost do from bed. Edit, color correct, design albums…delegate. These are all good jobs to do while pregnant. Better to get used to the idea early that you simply will not be able to do as much as you did before. Not only that, you won’t want to. Someone else is going to be a lot more important in your life than any bride will ever be.

I also suggest pregnant photographers seriously think about expanding your business to pregnant moms and babies and children. Reach out to past brides. Take classes that put you in contact with moms and moms to be. Expand your client base. You will find you have more in common with them now any way. You can make good money for less time and less challenging work. You can re-schedule bookings if necessary (unlike a wedding), and you will end up with a lot of new friends and clients that come back to you year after year.

Reply

Cynthi April 13, 2012 at 7:04 pm

I totally lucked out last year with a baby born in December (perfect timing). I was able to push through the busy fall season without much trouble. I was just a little extra tired, and had to carry water with me everywhere. I wouldn’t say it ever hindered my business at all. If anything, it’s a great ice breaker with the families I photographed! I chose to not book anything for the 4 weeks prior to my due date so that I had a little bit of a cushion and could focus on getting my home and family ready for the new baby. Oh, and be prepared to also need to take more bathroom breaks! 🙂

Reply

Meg April 13, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Great post! I wish you would have written this last year. Shooting weddings during the summer while pregnant was super hard. I shot my last one at 38w and went into labor at 38w5d. Talk about cutting it close. 🙂 I will agree that the hardest thing to shoot as a new mom is weddings – pumping is super hard and most of the time I don’t ever get the chance. A pump is a good thing to have, though, in case the opportunity does present itself! The hardest part is finding an empty/private room with an electric outlet to keep to yourself for 15-20 minutes!

Reply

Lara White April 13, 2012 at 3:29 pm

wow Meg!!! One of the things Chenin recommends is the pump that runs on batteries which allows you to pump in the restroom 🙁 if need be.

Reply

Ailsa April 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm

ha! can’t believe this was an actual post, how useful! I did a wedding when I was 7 months pregnant but I only told the people it might have directly affected like you said. I suppose I was pretty tired by the end of the day but I always am on a wedding day anyway, I think the adrenaline just gets you through, as well as snacks! I think the only thing it affected was that I didn’t clib a ladder onto a balcony that pictures are sometimes taken from at the venue, which I probably would do now! The first wedding I did after the birth was at 6 weeks after – I told the couple my due date and told them I understood if they wanted to book someone else – I mean you never know what complications may occur, like caesarean like you mentioned – they said they still wanted me which was great and it all worked out fine except for my aching bosoms by about 4pm but I quickly expressed when I could.

fab post x

Reply

Lara White April 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm

thanks Alisa!

Reply

Jena Leigh April 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm

I wish I would have had this a year ago!

But, everything you said is almost exactly what I did for my pregnancy. One great thing about our job is how active it keeps us and therefore I had a very healthy pregnancy. I stayed in shape and did not swell. I was able to do my last wedding 6 weeks before my due date and my last photo shoot 4 weeks before, little did I know she would come 3 weeks early however. 🙂 She was a Christmas baby so I had a lot of shipments to tend to after we got home but with a few days of Grandma visiting I was able to get them all sent and to clients in time for Christmas.

Several things that helped me in the last few months while working:

Dresses, tights and “fancy” crocs-they do exist! I am usually not one to work in a dress but it kept me comfortable and with tights I was still able to bend and move like I needed. And comfortable shoes were a must. I tried compression hose but they seemed to hurt me more than they helped although I never swelled so maybe they did work after all! I also wore a compression tank top, it did the job of holding up my belly like a maternity belt but did not leave me with unsightly bulges like the belts tend to do.

Always keep water and a granola bar with you, one or two assistants and take every opportunity to sit. Most people, especially mothers of the bride and groom, were very concerned about me and made sure I did not over do anything.

It benefits everyone to take care of yourself!

Reply

Lara White April 13, 2012 at 3:25 pm

thanks for jumping in with your experience Jena Leigh! I have heard from others that being in shape is key because you need that strength to get through the long days and carrying the gear and so forth. But it makes sense that this would just add to keeping you healthy and therefore able to work longer through the pregnancy, hopefully!

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: