Mistakes Make Magic

How to Prepare for Maternity Leave as a Wedding Photographer

How I'm Prepping for Maternity Leave

March 8, 2023

I’m Catherine.
A New Orleans based wedding photographer and educator. We are excited you are here and cannot wait to connect with you!.
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How I'm Prepping for Maternity Leave

In the years leading up to my first child, I had a LOT of anxiety about how to plan and prepare for maternity leave. I’m currently expecting my second, so I wanted to explain step by step how I’m preparing for my maternity leave.

If you’re planning for maternity leave as a photographer and feeling that anxiety, I’m here for you! I want to empower you to progress in motherhood AND in your career. Here are the steps I’m taking to prepare for maternity leave. If there’s anything you want to know that I didn’t cover, please feel free to ask questions in the comments!

Take Your Time

The first thing I want you to do when you prepare for maternity leave is… pause. 🤚🏼

Don’t rush into planning. Don’t feel like you need to reach out to your clients right away. Both for this baby and our first one, we waited until the end of the first trimester to reach out to our clients and other photographers. I don’t regret waiting that long at all!

Reach out to Photographers

After taking time, the first step I took was reaching out to photographers who could fill in for me during my maternity leave, and shortly before the delivery. Those photographers were the first people I reached out to.

When I called these photographers initially, I didn’t dig into too many of the details of my leave yet. I just wanted to see if they were available first.

Reach out to the Planner

After speaking to photographers to fill in for me, I reached out to the wedding planner. Oftentimes, when we’re working with a luxury client, that planner was the one who referred us… so I felt I owed it to them to reach out and let them know the plan. I highly recommend you do this if you work with a planner!
I told them the plan and who would fill in for me, and made sure they were okay with that (they need to be comfortable with the new photographer!). Ultimately, we’re documenting the wedding, but we’re also documenting the other design details for the other vendor partners, including the planner.

Confirm with the Photographers

Once I confirmed with the planners, I circled back to the photographers and confirmed those dates. That conversation looked a lot more in-depth. We talked about:

  • Location
  • The client
  • The Pricing Arrangement
  • And more!

Everyone’s pricing will be a little different as an associate photographer. I recommend you ask the photographer for two different pricings:

  1. Their price to join you for the wedding (for the weddings very close to the due date)
  2. Their price to replace you at the wedding

Note: I wouldn’t consider only money in this situation. Rather, you want to think about prioritizing your clients, the wedding planners, and your vendor partners. That’s going to reflect well on you and give you peace of mind. But obviously, we’re only calling very qualified photographers who we trust!

With my first child, we did miss a wedding. I had her on the day of the event, and we had two photographers lined up just in case. We utilized both of these photographers the day my daughter was born, and they did an amazing job! Having these plans in place allowed me to focus on the labor (which I needed for an unmedicated delivery!).

Use a Contract and Retainer Payment

Once you’ve received the photographer’s pricing and agreed to that, be sure to send them an associate photographer contract and retainer payment. 

We structure the retainer payment in the same way we structure it for a client: we remitted a retainer payment when we signed the contract. Then, 30 days prior to the event, we paid them in full. 

I highly recommend this process – it’ll give you peace of mind knowing everything is in place while you’re focused on being a mom! 🤱🏼

In the contract, of course you want to make sure you include the basics (phone number, email, address, etc.). But in addition to that, you want to include: 

  • payment schedules
  • What happens if they don’t show up or the images are lost (in the same way you’d outline in a wedding contract – we have templates if you need one!)
  • What happens regarding images:
    • Will they photograph on their cards or yours? 
    • Will they photograph on their gear or yours?
    • How and when will the images be delivered?
    • Will they be recognized regarding photo credit on social media or in publications?

If you’re interested in seeing what we use for our associate photographer contract, please feel free to reach out about it! We’re not selling this template publicly yet, but I’d be happy to sell it individually if there’s an interest!

Reach out to the Client

We’ve talked about reaching out to photographers, then the planner, and then circling back to photographers. Now, it’s time to talk to the client.

I feel this is the heaviest part of the process. When the clients book us, they’ve been thinking about who they want to hire as their photographer for a very long time. It’s just a tough conversation to have.

BUT what gives me comfort is remembering this is a very exciting part of life. This is how we all got here – someone gave birth to us at some point! 😉 I think at the end of the day, we need to approach it with empathy. However, in my experience, people do understand. 

Additionally, it’s helpful to remember emergencies can happen at any time. I’ve personally stepped in for a photographer who got sick the day before a wedding. Life is crazy, and we never know what’s going to happen. Take comfort knowing that this is a beautiful part of life, and you’re doing everything you can to be prepared for your client. You’ve done everything you can do!

Email the Plan

When contacting the client, I always make the first contact via email. I want to give them time to process the news on their own. This is before I share publicly and on social media – the clients come first!

I email all of my clients, and I customize every email to each client.  If the email is to someone I’m just sharing the news with because they’re a client, I’ll let them know it won’t affect their wedding. 

But if it’s a client whose wedding is close to your due date, that’s when you come in with a plan. I let them know in the email that we’re very excited that I’m pregnant, but I also know my due date is around their wedding date.

Example: “We’re so excited to share that I’m pregnant and due on x date! I know this is around your wedding date. I hope to be there and will be there if I can, but if I’m not, this is the plan I have in place.”

When you dive into the details of your replacement, be sure to include the following:

  • First and last name
  • A link to their website and/or social media
  • A full wedding gallery of theirs (or at least have it on hand in case the client requests it)

When you give them this information, let them know you’re happy to hop on a phone call with them in case they have any questions. Let them know they can also talk to the new photographer if they’d like (get the photographer’s permission, of course!).

Plan to Have Help

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is how long I photographed weddings for.

In my first pregnancy, my last wedding was at 37 weeks. I missed a wedding at 40 weeks to have my daughter. I will say that, for me personally, things got really hard physically after 35 weeks. 

Later in pregnancy, the physical aspects of the job – bending over, picking up gear, and moving as quickly as you need to – get super challenging. I highly recommend having help starting at 35 weeks, even if it’s just someone to help move things around. 

Maybe even consider having an associate photographer come at 37 or 38 weeks and step in to take over if you need it!

Know Every Child is Different

Another question I get often is how quickly I came back to work after having my daughter. 

Note: Every child is different. You don’t want to compare yourself to others. You really don’t know how your body is going to heal, and it even varies between births if you’ll be the one delivering.

That being said, I did have a natural, unmedicated birth so I was moving around again pretty quickly. However, I was in pain for several weeks. 

My first session back was at 6 weeks, and it was fine. My first wedding back was at 8 weeks postpartum. Mentally? It felt quick. But physically? It was great. This time, I’ll have a 10 week maternity leave, which I’m super excited about! 

My biggest advice here is to be proactive in planning for the postpartum period. I’ve been proactive about reaching out to people about sessions this time around. If you have engagements or bridals booked in your offerings, reach out far in advance and get those scheduled so you don’t have to worry about coming back from your maternity leave too soon.

Plan for Breastfeeding and Pumping

This is another common question I got concerning how to prepare for maternity leave! I breastfed following the birth of my daughter, and pumped through 6 months postpartum.

For me, that looked like investing in the Willow breast pump. It’s wireless and something I could wear while taking photos. I didn’t have to stop or leave the wedding to pump, so I brought a bag with me with the cleaning supplies and an ice chest. I’d pump:

  • Right before I started photographing
  • 2-3 hours after starting (usually around formal photos)
  • After the formal events
  • At the end of the night

I wore a big scarf around my neck, and I can’t tell you the number of times people I was standing close to said they had NO idea I was pumping in that moment! 😆

Breastfeeding was really important to me and something I wanted to experience, and the Willow pump helped me have that opportunity. I’m not sure how I’d have done it otherwise!

I will say that you DO need to use the bags. The containers will leak; the bags are the only system that are leak-free. You can lean forward when you’re styling, lay on your back, or whatever! Truly, the Willow is a worthwhile investment.

Plan for Destination Weddings

Regarding destination events, I did my first out-of-state event at 4 months postpartum.

I think it was hard mentally and tough to keep my breastfeeding supply up while away, but the wedding was great and I was very proud of myself for doing that. I was gone for 3 days total, and had a lot of anxiety about it beforehand… but it all went beautifully and I was grateful for the trip.

Trust Yourself

Ultimately, I want to emphasize how important it is to trust yourself and trust your body. Understand that everyone is different. The way I’ve done things might be different from what works for you. I want this to be helpful – don’t think you have to do the same exact thing as me or anyone else!

Trust your gut and trust your body. Know that you’re a strong woman, mother, and business owner. Everything will be okay.

I had so much fear and anxiety around the journey of motherhood, and I hope to take that away for you. I’m here to tell you it’s all going to work out, and it’ll all be okay. 🤍

Be Confident in Your Pricing

Part of trusting yourself as a business owner is knowing the WHY behind all of your business decisions. One of the first business decisions you make is how much to charge for your services. Are YOU confident in your pricing?

Do you ever struggle to price your products? Do you use other people’s pricing without really being sure WHY or if those prices are right for you? 😓

I created my Pricing Guide to help you: 

  • Understand the WHY behind your base prices 
  • Decide what to charge for your photography 
  • Cover your expenses to remain profitable and sustainable 

Check it out below ⤵️

Get the pricing guide!
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