Jessica Washburn loves newborns. She has four of her own children with another girl on the way! What we love is that Jessica is down to earth and loves her clients. When we had a chance to ask Jessica a few questions she gave us all the details on how she started with film photography classes and ended up running a successful newborn portrait business. Along the way there was a lot of sweat, tears and poop! But, as a newborn photographer, she loves every minute of it.
So, how did No Small Moments begin? What’s the story?
Shortly after graduating from college with a degree in Art History, I took a film photography class that was just so much fun. I spent a few years taking somewhat better-than-average snapshots with my SLR camera, never thinking photography was something I could pursue until my kids were all grown and I could go back to school.
Now we’re in the digital age, and I have a wealth of online training and information available to me, the aspiring photographer.
It was taking pictures of a friend’s newborn for the first time that really spoke to me. It was the most disastrous “session” ever. My posing was trite and awkward at best, the baby had broken out in a horrible pox-like rash the day before so proofing was a nightmare, and I loved every minute of it. After continuing to take photos of friends’ babies, I opened for business in early 2009. It was a huge decision for me because I loved being a stay-at-home mom to my kids with no distractions, but this business has brought so much joy and so many blessings into my life.
What is one of your favorite client stories?
I just love when you can feel the love in a family—when you see that dad-to-be look at his pregnant wife with awe, when new parents can’t help but exclaim, “Oh my gosh, honey, look at her, she’s so cute!” The funniest session experiences with newborns usually lead to extra laundry for me:).
We’ve heard that timing is everything with newborns. When do you know that the baby is coming? How many days do you wait after birth before you schedule the shoot?
I let a client know when she books (usually sometime during their second trimester or early in the third trimester) that I have penciled in her due date and I check in a about a week before that date.
Most clients call or email me from the hospital or the day they get home. Sessions are usually held when the baby is 5-10 days old, which is perfect for new dads’ work schedules and for making sure we get the session in when the baby is still sleepy, fresh, and curly.
What was the toughest part about finding clients when you first started?
For me, the hardest thing was being patient and having faith that things would get going. I was a full-time mom to 3 (now to 4.5 kids) when I opened for business, so I wasn’t looking to shoot every day of the week. It took a while to find clients who really understand and value the experience that custom photography is, but word has spread through online search engines, Facebook, and, of course, word-of-mouth referrals. I love meeting new clients who are friends with past clients.
What is the one tip/words of wisdom that you could share with an aspiring newborn photographer?
It seems like newborn photography has just taken off in the past year or so. Leading newborn photographers have been featured on national news and entertainment television programs and magazines, and that has really spread awareness of this amazing pocket of time to have your child photographed. I have seen a HUGE influx of new photographers specializing in newborn work, and I definitely understand the appeal. Newborns don’t run away or pull funny faces like a toddler or an older child. You can shoot in a controlled environment and, with the aid of studio lighting, shoot sessions year-round at the time of day that is convenient for you, the photographer.
I would just caution new photographers to please, please remember that these tiny little subjects are real people. They are delicate, they have feelings, they are not a part of the newest fad set-up–they are someone’s most precious gift. Treat every baby with love and respect with the utmost attention to safety. Be patient with them. Just love them.
You pose newborns so perfectly, how do you do it? How did you learn how to hang a baby safely?
Carrie Sandoval and Brittany Woodall, who I consider to be the very best newborn photographers in the country, have taught me so much. They definitely opened my eyes to all the little details to consider when posing newborns. They also taught me how to use Photoshop to create composite images of some more difficult poses, such as the hanging branch shot. It has just been a lot of practice, patience with each baby, and then a meticulous review of the images after the session.
I try to pay attention to the details, but then also step back, look, and think, “Does she look comfortable? Am I letting his innate cuteness come out in this pose?” I never come away from a session without thinking, “Okay, that was good, but next time I am going to try to…”
I think I am also learning to recognize how each baby likes to be posed. Every baby is unique and no two sessions will ever look the same. It’s been fun learning how to pose a longer baby vs. a shorter baby, how a breech baby likes to be positioned differently, etc.
Where is a good place to find cute props?
There is certainly no shortage of places to find props for newborn and baby sessions! I buy a lot of my hand-knit hats and wraps and baby headbands from etsy. I have not found a great place to find inexpensive antiques in this area (if anyone knows a great spot, please let me know!), but I do like going to seasonal flea markets to find vintage items. There’s just something fun about a brand new baby against natural textures that I love.
What is the best perk of being a professional photographer?
Honestly, getting my baby fix for a few hours and then getting to sleep through the night. Second best, walking into a client’s home, seeing my work on the walls and thinking, “I did that. Because of me, because I do this, this family has this memory captured forever.”
In less than 5 words, what can you say about being a newborn photographer?
Patience, love and laundry.
If you weren’t a newborn photographer, what would you be doing right now?
I would still be a full-time mom to my children 100% of the time.
We hear that you are going to add to the family again soon. When are you due?
I am due with my fourth girl (we have one little boy as well) in early September. I think she’ll come in August, though.