dear aspiring newborn photography vendors | Rachel Vanoven Blog

dear aspiring newborn photography vendors

I hope this blog post is read with the understanding that I want to help those of you who are in the newborn photography vendor business. I receive an average of ten emails per week from hopeful vendors wanting to send me their products for free in return for the exposure they’ll gain by my sharing the images on my fan page. The women who are writing these emails are creative, talented individuals and I wish I could accept every single one of them as a new vendor and help them have more sales and (as many are mothers) help them provide for their families by working from home on projects that bring them joy.

So, this blog has been brewing in my brain for a while now. Some of the advice may be hard for you vendors to swallow. Some of it may be offensive to photographers who may choose to style their sessions differently from me. Please keep in mind that my word isn’t the Bible of newborn photography, just my opinion.

Alright, here we go….

1. Start with high quality materials

Just like in the photography world, we have to take out loans/save up for the best equipment, the best studios, the best props and therefore we show a quality of work that draws a clientele that can recognize talent mixed with skill. In the same way, if you are buying yarn from Wal-Mart and beads from Hobby Lobby, your newborn hats and headbands aren’t going to have the quality or uniqueness that comes from vendors who purchase yarn from fiber artists and locally crafted beads or materials from vintage finds. How to tell if you’re yarn is cheap: IT’S SHINY.

Along with high quality materials, the method of creating is super important. Knitting over crocheting is preferred by the majority of photographers. From what I understand, it’s more difficult to knit? Right? So more people crochet. There are (as with all of these tips) exceptions to this rule. High quality fibers with tight/intricate crocheting can be gorgeous. I own some bonnets like these!

Beautiful knit hat made from quality yarn from Tanya’s Tangles:

2. Size of hat or headband

A few years ago, chunky was IN. Big thick chunky beanies were all the rage. Now, the majority of photographers prefer hats that are snug fitting and either have stretch or are thinner knit material that fit well! You can have a pattern and follow it as much as you want, but if you aren’t testing it out on a variety of newborns to ensure it generally will fit a newborn head, and are using images on your shop page showing a baby wearing one of your hats with gaps on the side of baby’s head or strings everywhere, it’s going to deter a photographer from using your products! A perfect fitting newborn hat will be flush against baby’s cheeks like this one pictured below from Adorable Props:

(also notice how tightly knit the high quality yarn is!)

3. Tie-backs

Now, I realize I’m alone on this one, for the most part, but I really detest headbands with big dangly tie-backs. I much prefer headbands with a bit of stretchy elastic at the back…SO MUCH EASIER for photographers to get on a sleeping baby then having to tie some tickly strings around the head of a sleeping/posed baby. Love stretchy headbands like this one from Bitty Beads:

4. DETAILS. We are photographing these props so close up, that attention to detail is so very important. It’s also so important to understand how to work different textures together without making accessories look messy. Vintage or well made delicate lace, tiny dried flowers, and individually crafted fabric flowers help support the organic feelings that come from photographing these tiny fresh babies. Think that if you are going to use non-organic materials like in the image above, keep it SIMPLE. Shiny stones and metals can make an image feel heavy and garish, which is not what you think of with babies. Think DAINTY. When working with organic materials, there is a little wiggle room for size and textures, as seen in this tieback from My Darling Emma:

4. Take note of the photographer you are reaching out to:

I 99% of the time have my babies going to the right side of the frame. It’s partly due to the way my studio is set up, and partly due to preference on my part. So many times I have a hat sent to me that has the embellishment on the side that would be facing down and hidden, and I’ll forget until it’s time to put the hat or headband on, and when I realize it’s on the wrong side, I’m forced to either start over posing wise, or grab a different accessory.

Headband from MilkMoney:

5. Don’t expect images right away.

This is geared towards those of you are are either…

a) just starting out. At this point in the game, you can’t call the shots and the photographer you are hoping to work with may already have a stack of things they’ve either bought or had sent to them that they are needing/wanting to photograph. They may not have a newborn anytime soon, or they may have all boys. Or the parents may not like your accessory. Or the parents may not want the picture posted. Or the accessory might not fit the baby due to the baby having a very small or large head. There are so many reasons why hats/headbands may not be photographed right away.

b) sending a photographer something without asking first. For all of the reasons stated above, but adding that a photographer may not like what you send. It’s hard to hear, but so many vendors don’t pay attention to the photographers they are sending their products to. Instead they create headbands/hats in the color/styles that they prefer without noticing that this photographer has never photographed a mustard yellow piece of fabric ever, or black and purple together, etc.

Headband from Cattura Imagery

6. If a photographer has purchased hats/headbands from you, and you want to use one of their images to post on your page, make sure you ASK first. And if they agree, I strongly suggest sending them a “thank you” goodie as they just essentially PAID you for you to advertise with their image.

One of my favorite colors, yellow! Bonnet from Lil Luxe

7. DON’T COPY.

This is the quickest way to get blacklisted in this industry. There is nothing most photographers hate more than being ripped off themselves, so if I have a vendor I love email me to let me know that another vendor has blatantly copied their exact headband styling, I’ll put that new vendor on my “DO NOT USE” list. This industry is supposed to be full of people who are continually creating unique pieces of art. Whether it’s us photographers or you vendors. This advice goes for both sides: If you are constantly trying to model your look exactly after another, you will never break off as a big name yourself. A creation by one of my favorite very unique vendors, Mo Jackson:

Another unique creation by another favorite vendor – the giant fluffy goodness nest from Pure Knits:

Above all, don’t give up. The majority of well known photographers and vendors didn’t pop up overnight. We’ve been working our tails of for years, honing our crafts and figuring out trends and styles that work for this profession. We ALL start somewhere!

  1. mel says:

    Great advice! Oh my I totally love the sparkly Bow from Bitty Beads. I think I need one for my shoots. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚ Mel

  2. jen says:

    Sounds more like personal preferences to me.

  3. savanna says:

    I understand that your trying to help and you have some annoyances that sounds like you needed off your chest about vendors..but like a lot have said..this can come off pretty condescending. Im a new vendor and all I could have afforded at first was “cheap” yarn from Joannes. I started doing this to help my husband but not leave my 9 month old daughter in the care of someone else. I had always wanted to try photo props and thankfully a local AMAZING photographer asked me to make her some mohair bonnets. Which I crocheted. Which takes me about an hour and a half each newborn sized bonnet. So, I do want to encourage you that crochet can look beautiful, delicate, and timeless. There are just more difficult stitches that you have to learn in order to get those looks. Idk who you are, personally, but it sounds like your pretty known which would be understandable from your photos here. They are beautiful. πŸ™‚ I actually typed in “what do people think of newborn props” and this is what came up. Lol. Anyways, I do want to encourage vendors that she may have some truth to what she is saying even if majority of it is wrong. She may have made some mistakes in her blog but we should give her the benefit of the doubt. I know, personally, I probably wouldn’t have become a vendor after reading this two months ago, lol. But I have received a lot of love and encouragement from well known vendors and photographers. I ASKED them for feedback. πŸ˜‰ If you are someone who is just starting out as a vendor don’t let this discourage you. If you like the style that she is against, that’s ok because there are photographers who will like it. Some photographers like tiebacks (I make them πŸ™‚ ). If you want that delicate, knit look when you crochet..I encourage you to start watching youtube videos of lace stitches. You can say no to photographers if they want you to send a free product. I have, so far, been a little put off by photogs wanting free products in return of pictures. For example, I will lose $20 on my mohair bonnet that I sell and a hour and a half sending my product to a photog who wants a free product. I simply cannot afford the money or time to do that. I can’t. So, when a vendor denies you, photogs, don’t take it personally..it’s most likely because the vendor can’t afford it. I now use higher quality yarn because I can somewhat afford it but I can’t afford to give free products away yet. I give discounts now. Anyways, I don’t condone the bashing of Rachel’s personal life at all. I don’t agree with some of what she said but I think we as vendors and photographers can all learn from some of it. Rachel, I encourage you to put yourself in our shoes. We have annoyances, too, but, I try my hardest to just shrug it off and let it go. We should all be in this together. We all love the same thing! Babies, families, photography, art, and handmade props. πŸ™‚ <3

  4. jen says:

    One thing you should know about the difference between crochet and knit is that all knits can be made on a machine in China. Crochet cannot be reproduced with a machine. Crochet can be just as fine as knitting…chunky is just a different style of crocheting. There are many more textured and intricate stitches with crocheting but knitting produces much of the same stitch. True a lot of beginners take up crocheting but once crochet and knit both reach an advanced level they both look awesome, so please don’t compare beginner crochet to advanced knitting. I am another person who does not appreciate your post and finds it condescending to vendors, like you are the master of this industry and vendors are working for you? What is disappointing to me though is that you are commenting on things that you are obviously not very educated on…like the use of fibers and techniques. Further, you do it in a way of saying that this is how all photogs think but it is really just your own personal opinion and preference…and is incredibly uninformed. Women should empower other women and when we don’t, especially to other mothers trying to stay home with children and support themselves, then it gets really sad. I would hate for any vendors to get discouraged with this very bleak and opinionated post.

  5. marge says:

    I really appreciate this post, I have been making some props for my daughter (who has been to one of your workshops) and she has also been very helpful with suggestions. I do love making the props but I am struggling to get a wider audience, maybe the goods are not to peoples liking? So I have refined my designs and hopefully made them more appealing, just need a few more customers now! Any takers?? p.s. Rachel liked one of my pics on IG! I was so excited! Lol!

  6. erica says:

    I agree with the points you are trying to make, but I agree with others that your tone is very condescending. Your advice is also wrong in that prop vendors can do very well making shiny knit, glitzy, humongous flowery props. There are a lot of photographers (and parents) who love the look of giant headbands and crocheted hats. I am like you, though, and that’s not my style. I am a photographer, not a vendor, but I do make almost all my own props. But I am on many prop selling boards and the vendors who sell that stuff you are talking about do very well. Vendors do not need to cater to your specific style to be successful. As for crocheting vs. knitting, I know how to do both. I find knitting to be a lot easier. It’s harder to mess up. However, crocheting is much much faster and I think that’s why that stuff is cheaper. You can bang out a newborn hat in about 30 minutes, but when I knit one it takes about 2-3 hours. Since I learned how to knit, I stopped crochet completely because like you, I don’t like the look of it. It looks bulky and distracting to me. You make good points, but just remember that there are tons of vendors who do the exact opposite of what you say and still do very, very well.

  7. Sarah says:

    LOVE love your work as well Rachel … The personal attacks on hear sicken me. Rachel has taken time to write up a list of ‘how to’ for vendors to get there work photographraphed by her and you attack her and her family for it. We dont need to agree with ppl in order to respect them xoxo

  8. Melissa says:

    Love love love your work Rachel! This is great, thank you so much for writing this! your so inspiring!

  9. vendorABC says:

    As a vendor I did not find this bad in any way. It is helpful and gives a lot of tips….the only people who are getting defensive over this are probably ones who buy supplies based on lowest price versus quality ( I am a firm believer you get what you pay for), cant get their sizing right, dont care to put extra time into details and are reaching out to the wrong photographers to showcase their work… This is helpful, as a vendor its nice to know qualities that are looked for. If you dont like what is posted here then clearly Rachel is not the photographer for you, your styles clear are not a match and guess what?! that is OK, that is nothing to be angry about…there are thousands of photographers to reach out to… As for the photographers- clearly you follow her work, at least majority of you commenting here. Therefore, in a sense, you like her style. So to get all angry and down right mean over this is hypocritical!!!! Its her opinion and I am sure many agree to disagree but if you follow someone and then bash them then maybe you should not follow…. I have seen so many posts that are pure evil!!! To turn a post about props into telling someone how to raise their children deserves a slap in the face!! It comes off as pure jealousy! Congratulations on proving that under the veil of your anonymity.

  10. vendor says:

    one thing to remember Rachel, you really don’t know about materials used and their cost if you aren’t out there finding them and making them. you have an opinion yes, but that’s all it is. we can’t tell you what equipment you should be using. and you are the one turning out the beautiful images with whatever you are using, I’m suspecting that you could produce something gorgeous even on cheaper equipment than someone else with less talent could on THE nicest camera out there. when someone has talent they have talent and they can turn almost anything into art. with that said, I scour and hunt for the most amazing vintage lace and materials at yard sales, goodwill, antique shops, grandma’s attics. that’s where you find the bargains and the unique products. I have also used lovely wool yarn from Walmart. that is NOT shiny, that is super soft and is 100% wool. you made good points….little confused on your tiebacks comment, but other than that, I think you’re a little unexperienced on the materials department.

  11. christie says:

    Wow—I think everyone got on the bandwagon to slam Rachel over this post. Isn’t the false bravery we feel and use to be rude to others over the anonymous web disgusting? I hate reading slamming comments anywhere. How ugly to be a wahm trying to make a living for your family and spending time slamming another wahm for how SHE spends her time all the while you are making Rachel feel like crap. Don’t like her post? Suddenly after years of following her she’s no longer worthy of your anonymity in her life?? Sorry, but then just stop following her–she’ll be non the wiser and you wouldn’t have said horrible things to make her feel bad. And to attack her husband and how he got his job—-really?? How absolutely sophomoric! BTW, I don’t always agree with Rachel or ‘like’ her IG updates…but I would never slam her over it just as I wouldn’t want anyone to do it to me. It’s very basic guys—the Golden Rule!

  12. trae says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this article and share your opinions. I know articles like this are controversial and are meant to be helpful. It seems as though it hit a nerve with some of your readers, sadly. I just wanted to say thanks for being willing to share your thoughts and encourage aspiring vendors. (even if they don’t see it that way) I received some really hard words when I started out — and I chose to use them to make me BETTER!! And here I am— I have been knitting newborn props for 4 years and selling them for 3. (and pretty good at it too) The vendor world is cut throat and difficult (just like the photography end can be) I appreciate you calling out to us to create new and unique items. That’s what keeps this industry fresh and new. xoxox

  13. lmac says:

    “Some of the advice may be hard for you vendors to swallow. Some of it may be offensive to photographers who may choose to style their sessions differently from me. Please keep in mind that my word isn’t the Bible of newborn photography, just my opinion.” Apparently none of you with the nasty comments didn’t read this sentence. Its her opinion and she’s entitled to it. Stop acting like a bunch of 14 year olds!! I don’t know Rachel and neither do any of you, but I do have manners and I would never hide behind my computer and say such nasty demeaning things to a person I’ve never even met before! GROW UP!

  14. sindy says:

    I’ve been a long time follower of your work. I’m neither a prop vendor not a professional photographer, just a photo enthusiast! I can’t agree or disagree with most of the comments on here as I don’t know what it goes into making and selling such props. But I do have to disagree with not using material from certain stores. It’s not fair to tell people that they will be looked down upon for using less expensive materials. Obviously they’re using them for a reason, they can’t afford the fancy stuff. Who says they can’t produce gorgeous products out of it? On the other hand, all those people attacking Rachel for posting too many selfies and telling her to take care of her sick daughter… are you actually serious?!! It’s HER life and her business. She can do whatever she wants as long as she’s not hurting anyone. She didn’t come knocking on your door asking you to follow her fan page or blog. You do not know what kind of a mother she is. Leave and her family alone. Peace πŸ™‚

  15. Angelica says:

    Rachel, I LOVE this post. Couldn’t agree with you more. The thinner, less busy props tend to resonate better with my style, too. Unfortunately it took me a few years (and too much $$) spent on the opposite type of props before I realized why I was unhappy with the over all look of my images. It just wasn’t me. You are such an inspiration to me and I love following all of your posts. You give me hope that I can be a great mom as well as a great photographer. I’m sorry these guys are reacting so negatively to this. There are approximately 764 billion more people who are 100% pro-Rach… Don’t let these goobers get you down. Do werk, gurl. πŸ˜‰

  16. anon says:

    I understand having your own opinion about Rachel’s blog post. She posted her opinion so you should be able to post your opinion ABOUT THE POST. When I start attacking her family and the way she handles her personal life, that’s just wrong. We aren’t 14. You’re just making yourself look insecure. So what if she posts selfies. That’s her prerogative. Get over it or stop following her.

  17. henriette says:

    7. DON’T COPY. So why you support vendors who totally copied and stole ideas from lil’ owl knitts?

  18. Amy b says:

    Eh….who cares. Prop vendors i guess. Way to get the clicks Rachel. LOL.

  19. another prop vendor says:

    Is the photographer not getting any exposure when the vendor posts a professional photo on their business page???? Why is it necessary to send them something for free just because they paid full price for the item in the photograph? It’s really a win-win for both the photographer and vendor as both gain more exposure. If you want something for free, you should ask for it, not expect it.

  20. danielle says:

    so, you’re going to slam rachel for enjoying instagram and documenting each day of her kids’ lives – the good and the bad – that she should be using that time to do non-media things only, while ya’ll use your time to trash her for it? woah! dream big. golf clap. ya’ll are either stay at home moms using your time as you see fit, single peeps using your time as you see fit, or working peeps doing it on your bosses hour. get a life.

  21. karen says:

    Why do you feel it is alright to dictate to someone, when it is free? It sounds like you feel like you are so above reproach. I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if someone told you how to pose a newborn.

  22. fran says:

    Rachel, I don’t know you personally, but have followed you for what seems like forever now, on facebook and Instagram. While I don’t have much to say about this blog because I am not a vendor, but I do know that these personal attacks on you and your family are ridiculous. I have followed yor work because you inspire me to be better, in not only photography but as a mother. The people who say you take too many selfies and don’t care for your children obviously have way tooooo much time on their hands and just want to bring you down. I think your Instagram alone shows how much you love your husband and children, and that’s what I love about following you! You show that you aren’t just a famous photographer, you’re a mom. Who cares if you post a picture of a sick Josie then right after post a picture about how amazing your husband is? Who says you chose Instagram over taking care of a sick child? I wouldn’t let any of these people get ypu down, as they don’t even know you. They just want to hurt you. Again, I don’t know you personally, but I absolutely adore you and even more so now! Just know that you inspire people everyday! πŸ™‚

  23. anonymous says:

    Seriously? I too, have followed you for years and admired your work. As a vendor, I find this post incredibly pompous, not to mention, inaccurate. You do this a lot lately, post some obnoxious, self-righteous rant, all the while claiming that you’re “just trying to help”. Please. I see through that shocked, deer in the headlights look. Clearly, you do not know much about fibers, or the difference between knit and crochet, but yet you want to educate us, the vendors? Do you know how many photogs have contacted me asking for free stuff? How many times I have sent (requested!) stuff out, only to not get photos in return? How many times I’ve been disappointed in the photos that I did get? (GASP, yes, it does happen.) I could go on, but my point is this, I realize there could be many factors as to why I didn’t get what was promised AND I am not a professional photog, so who am I to tell them how to do their job? I learn from experience, and I have established wonderful working relationships with a select few photogs, and they are the ones I choose to send my items to. I just quietly (and politley!) decline other requests (and ignore those who go on to berate me for it). Never in a million years would I write up a blog post directed to all up and coming photogs, telling them how to go about running their business. Nor, would I speak on behalf of most, or the majority of other vendors. Seems to me, that like me, you choose to work with a select few vendors, which is fine, but then leave it at that and just politely decline other requests. This is completely uncalled for. I know, I know, you’re just trying to help. *Rolls eyes.*

  24. Melissa says:

    Well stated! I think the only other thing to add would be to also approach photographers who are not well known but are producing beautiful imagery. If you’re starting out and a photographer is hitting her stride with images, then you’re likely a great match to promote each other. I’m sort of in the middle stage of business building and I’ve been at this for a few long years. I have a real heart for helping others succeed in business because I know how hard it is. I actually search Etsy for brand new shops who display my style but have no professional photographs and offer to help them launch. No one has ever taken me up one it and that’s sort of sad to me. Maybe I’m going about it wrong; I can admit my own fault πŸ˜‰ But at the same time, I really want to invest in two or three vendors and help them grow, but those opportunities seem limited to just well known photographers or photographers who personally know the vendor.

  25. christin says:

    On the other side, those of us just starting out with newborns have to buy thousands of dollars in handmade, beautiful props so that our portfolio has variety and stands out from others and it can REALLY add up in cost at the time where we are making little to no income. I was offering to photograph the prop and then send it back, I didn’t even want to keep it! Just use it for a session and then give them the pics to use. All of the vendors are already working with the big names (and sending them freebies) and I can’t say that I blame them, but it’s very hard for us “freshies” to not feel discouraged when our favorite vendors use the same 4 or 5 people to showcase all of their things and don’t give us a chance to be up there. On top of that, in the beginning, my style was COMPLETELY different (think crocheted animal hats and minkee backdrops. yeah!) and I have a huge pile of things I will never use again and I am happy to send for free to someone who has that style to help them get started without spending $3,000 in props. I see your point entirely Rachel and I totally agree (I get vendors messaging me but their style is nothing near mine so I pass) that is needs to be a good match for it to work out, but there is another part to this and that’s the vendors might want to give us little guys the chance since we are the ones ultimately paying for their goods, each $45 hat at a time πŸ™‚

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