What to Expect as an Expecting Photographer: How I Grow My Family and Book Clients in Advance

Fun fact: I have shot over half of my weddings pregnant. And, since I've had babies in October and November, I'm usually shooting pretty far into my second and third trimester, and typically in South Dakota heat. While it's not super ideal (it's CRAZY what a toll wedding days take on your body, even when you're not pregnant!), it's also the reality of life right now as we grow our family. 

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With Simon, since I was pregnant with him before I started booking weddings for that year, I was able to pick and choose a bit more and didn't take any weddings after about a month before his due date. However, with Veda I was in full-blown wedding booking mode. While we knew we wanted to try for a second baby, you never now how quickly or not-quickly it will happen. It's just life! Because of that, I ended up with a wedding 6 days before my due date - whoops! I also had quite a few August and September sessions and weddings, which meant I was shooting at the very end of my pregnancy. 

I'm a firm believer that you can plan your business around your life, and you shouldn't have to plan your life around your business. How sad would it be if we said, No babies for 5-10 years because I'm shooting weddings! For us, that's just not realistic. And I don't think it has to be anyone's reality! Here's what I would suggest doing to ensure that you can grow your family and your business, even if that means a little bit of unknown. 

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1. Work with a contract lawyer

I started using contracts pretty early on in my business, and I am a HUGE BELIEVER in the power of a good, professional contract. I honestly think the basis for the great relationships that I have with my clients goes clear back to my contract. The contract sets clear expectations so everyone is on the same page, and it’s a giant life saver.

When clients decide to work with me in whatever capacity, I am basically asking them to invest in me. That is a huge responsibility! I not only want to make sure their expectations are met, but I want to make sure they know that I don’t take their investment lightly, and that their dollars are protected.

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Yes, my contract protects me, but it also protects my clients. Anyone working with me knows the standards I hold myself to, and they know that in case the absolute worst happens (in this case, if I were to go into labor on their wedding day and can’t perform services as expected), I am still obligated to fulfill my end of the bargain, and my clients aren’t left high and dry. I'll talk more about this below, but basically it means it's my responsibility to have a solid back up plan and think about every "just in case" well before a wedding day.

2. Be totally transparent with your clients

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When I found out I was pregnant this time around, I told my husband, our immediate families, and my clients that could potentially be affected–in that order! I highly recommend making it a priority to make sure that any of your clients who could be affected find out the big news directly from you, and not your cute Facebook announcement. I wanted to get in front of them early and let them know that while this could potentially affect their wedding photography, I had a plan! 

3. Have a solid back-up plan…and a back-up back-up plan

I can’t tell you how many wide-eyed looks I got when I told people that my last wedding was a week before my due date. I know, it’s a little crazy, but even with all the planning in the world, babies still come when they want to come. While trying to plan for a specific due date is great when you can do that, often the universe has other plans. In my opinion, as long as you’ve got a killer back up plan, there’s nothing to worry about. 

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Your back up plan really depends on what you and your clients are comfortable with. In my case, I had someone second shooting the wedding with me who is typically the primary photographer for their own business. I’m fully aware of the aches, pains, and just overall limitations that come with the final stretch of pregnancy; by having a plan like this, I know that I am fully supported by another, full time and fully capable photographer in the case there are things I can’t do.

I also know that if I go into labor early or am put on bed rest and can’t photograph the wedding as planned, my second shooter is fully capable and ready to roll! She was kept in the loop as I had every planning conversation with the bride, and we worked together on the timeline to make sure there were no loose ends. 

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We also had an assistant with us on the wedding day. An assistant’s job is simply to make sure that equipment is transported and ready to go so the primary and secondary photographers can just focus on shooting; however, in this case, the assistant was also able to work as a second photographer in the case that the second photographer needs to become the primary photographer. Is your head spinning yet?!

4. Teamwork! 

There’s a saying that ‘Teamwork makes the dream work,’ and if there’s anything that’s made me believe that’s true, it’s this season of life. I am so dang lucky to be surrounded by so many local photographers who have voluntarily stepped up and said they’d be on stand-by if I needed help at any wedding or session during my pregnancy.

Me, one million years pregnant, and one of my very best friends, Jess, who saved me on this wedding day! She was a rock star!

Me, one million years pregnant, and one of my very best friends, Jess, who saved me on this wedding day! She was a rock star!

The Sioux Falls photography community is something special, and I really hope there are other communities out there like it. The fact that I have friends who literally have holds on their calendars to not take any of their own projects so they can instead help me is truly, truly humbling. I have a lot of amazing people to repay some day! 

If you’re lucky enough to have a community or tribe like mine, AWESOME; but even if you’re not, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Now is not the time to try and prove a point. Just because you can (maybe?) do a solo wedding at 39 weeks pregnant, doesn’t mean you should! Ask your husband, wife, mom, sister…whoever!…for an extra hand. Your future self and your clients will be happy you did.

A huge thank you to my friend, Jess of Jessica Bonestroo Photography, and my wonderful assistant Ashley for making this wedding day possible AND so fun! All photos in this post were taken by Jessica.