December 12, 2018
We all know birth photography is very different than other genres of photography. It’s that on-call life.
You could be called out any time of the day.
You could have a family trip planned, or a family reunion.
Or you could get sick.
There are so many things that could happen that could unexpectedly keep you from going to a birth.
Life happens, and we need to be prepared for our clients. We need to have a list of reliable backups. It creates peace of mind for you as the photographer, and it creates peace of mind for your clients. They know that if something comes up, they’re taken care of.
I make a point to talk about that in my consultations with my clients. I say, “Hey, if something should happen and I can’t be at your birth—if I have an emergency or if I’m out of town when you go into labor—you’re going to get one of my backups.” And I have solid backups in place who I know will do a good quality job for me while I’m gone.
So first of all, you want to look for a photographer that has a style and level of quality similar to you. Ask yourself:
Think about things that you do at a birth that you’d want to make sure your backup birth photographer does as well.
Also, look for someone that has a similar experience level to you. If you’re just starting out, you might look for a newer birth photographer backup. If you’re a little bit more experienced then you’ll want to look for an experienced backup photographer.
It’s super important to discuss all of the “what ifs” with this backup photographer before the birth. In fact, I would recommend having a meeting with this person and going over things like the following:
If I know that I’m going to be gone all day on Saturday for some event and I have my backup on call for me, and she doesn’t go to the birth for me, but she’s on call, am I paying her for her time? Yes or no? That’s something that you and the backup need to work out together.
My backups and I don’t pay each other for on-call time just because we work together so frequently. We don’t pay each other for backup time, but that’s definitely a thing people do, so consider that.
This is something that needs to be discussed ahead of time.
Obviously, I would recommend you shoot in RAW, but that’s something that only seems obvious and still needs to be discussed with the backup before they shoot a birth for you.
(Of course, with mom’s permission, as always.) That’s something that needs to be discussed.
This is something I get asked all the time.
Are they getting paid a flat fee? “You’re getting paid $500 if you go to a birth no matter how long you’re there. If you’re there for 2 hours you get $500. If you’re there for 20 hours you still get $500.”
Or are you paying them per hour? “X number of dollars per hour.”
There’s no right or wrong there. The way I do it with my backups is, we pay each other a flat fee which is about 40% of my overall fee. Because shooting, of course, is a big part of it. But there’s also the on-call time, there’s the client work before and the client work after, so they don’t get my full fee.
All of these “what ifs” need to be discussed beforehand.
The way I found my backups was honestly just sort of stumbling upon them. I live in Oklahoma City—which is, you know, like a million population, so it was not difficult to find my birth photographer backups. If you don’t already have a backup (or more than one), I suggest:
Now, if you’re in a small town or an area with a lower population, it might take a little bit more effort. It’s not going to be ‘one post and you find everybody’. It might mean following up with people, emailing them, maybe even picking up the phone and calling them if they have a business address.
I know that some people in the Facebook group were talking about maybe feeling like these photographers they’re reaching out to look at them as competition and do not want to help them. If you’re running into that, keep trying. I actually wrote a script for you guys to send to people who you’re reaching out to.
Basically what I want you to say is:
“Hey! I’m a birth photographer in (X city) and I’m looking to find a backup photographer in case I can’t make it to a birth. I’ve photographed (X number) births and I’ve attached my portfolio. Are you looking for a backup photographer or do you need an extra photographer? I would love to discuss more details if you’re interested.”
That’s it. Maybe include a personal touch. Maybe go check out their website, but just send that to them. Use their contact form, email them, or pick up the phone and call them. If they’re not interested, the worst they can say is they’re not interested, but chances are that if you reach out in that way of just sort of helping each other, they’ll reach back out to you.
I know it’s scary to get out of your comfort zone. But I’ve made great connections in my business by getting out of my comfort zone a little bit and going to some local photographer meetups, Rising Tide meetups, and birth worker meetups. Check for those kinds of things happening in your city. You can use Google, look under the events tab on Facebook, or search Facebook groups. Those are great ways to connect with people, and there might be some people in those groups who you can use as backups.
I know it can be frustrating if you’re trying to find a backup, and it’s difficult to know where to look. Hopefully these ideas are helpful. Keep going and keep trying.
Like we talked about, it’s so important to have a solid backup. You’re looking in Facebook groups, all the different ones we talked about. You’re searching on Google. You have that script which you are welcome to use, and if they don’t respond, ask them. Just follow up and say, “Hey, I’m just checking to see if you got this message. I’m looking for a backup birth photographer.”
Yes! It really was big for my business and I talk about that a lot with my mastermind students. A birth worker meetup was the first place I found a non-friend, non-family-member client because I met up with these birth workers and they suggested me.
Meeting with people face-to-face is something that most photographers and probably online business people in general are afraid to do, but it’s huge. If you’re set on having a long-term sustainable business, it’s super important because those face-to-face connections are fewer and fewer these days.
I would just point you back to all the different ways you can find birth photographers in your area and how to reach out to them. It sounds like you may have just talked to a couple of established photographers who might already have backups in place, so I would encourage you to do the Facebook groups, the Google searches, and the in-person meetups to find these people.
It’s important to have a birth photography backup, so if you have one that isn’t perfect (as in style or skill level) I would put them on your list and keep looking because it is important to have somebody.
I would go back through all the things we just talked about and try to find people who are interested in birth photography. Even posting on a group and saying, “Hey! Who’s interested in birth photography? I’m a birth photographer and I’m just looking to connect with other birth photographers.”
Chances are you’re going to be able to connect with somebody on your level, because if you’re a new birth photographer, chances are there’s another newer birth photographer out there looking.
It doesn’t matter. I pay what I pay to my backups and we talk about that beforehand. So that goes back to all the “what ifs” and what to talk about beforehand, and pricing and how to pay all goes into that.
I get paid the same as my backups, but if you feel like they’re worth more than you or vice versa, that’s something you guys can talk about. You can say, “I know that you’ve done 100 births and I’ve only done 10, but we’re the only 2 birth photographers around here, so how should we work this out?” If the more experienced photographer wants to be compensated more, that’s something the two of you should talk about.
I think communication is key here, and really figuring out who is out there is the starting point. Really just get a good big list going of who is out there and then just start reaching out to people.
It depends—for me personally, I edit the photos and I deliver them the client. The backup just shoots the birth and gets me the RAW images and I edit them and deliver them to the client as if I shot their birth.
That’s how I do things. I think that’s how most people do things. I think if someone is hiring, they probably like your editing style, so it makes sense to do it that way.
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