Should You Work for Bella Baby Photography?
I worked for Bella Baby Photography last year for about four months. This is my short and sweet review of my experience to help you get an idea of if it would be a good fit for you! Spoiler alert: it could be the right fit. It depends on where you are in your professional photography development and your life.
What is Bella Baby Photography?
Bella Baby Photography has contracts with hospitals around the country to provide in-hospital newborn or "Fresh 48" photo shoots to families the day after they give birth. They provide a complimentary natural lifestyle photo shoot that lasts 15-20 minutes. The photographer then offers digital files and prints for sale once they have edited the photos that are selected from a gallery of 20 images. Bella was created by Kelly Billington who made a partnership with a local hospital to provide photo shoots to families of newborns while they were still in the hospital. That one hospital has grown to many hospitals around the country and they are growing.
What is it Like Working for Bella Baby Photography?
I found the interview to be long, but pretty easy. My manager was incredibly personable and I am too, so we hit it off immediately. Because there are many moving parts and things to be aware of while working in a hospital, there are many things to consider before accepting a position with Bella Baby. Things like:
Hospital etiquette/working around nurses and doctors
Handling newborn babies
Sales/Presenting Edited Galleries
The interview lasted over an hour and it was a lot of information to digest. But my manager sounded awesome and I was really excited by the opportunity.
Working for Bella Baby Photography
Newborns and Facebook Groups
Working for Bella Baby Photography was exciting, exhausting, draining, frustrating, and exhilarating! Confused? Let me explain: I LOVE newborn babies and getting to work with a variety of families was so fun! I can't think of one nasty encounter with a family while on the job. Plus, being forced to do multiple lifestyle newborn photo sessions quickly is the best training I can think of!
Every area/region has a private Facebook group where your manager and your fellow photographers come together to share stories (some funny, some maddening!), get advice (sales and editing), and general team building stuff. I LOVED my manager and my teammates were encouraging, smart, and available. That's probably what I miss the most is the feeling of being on a team and that we were all in it together!
If you are not a "people person", you may struggle working for Bella Baby. There are so many people you encounter in a day of work: security, nurses, NICU, maintenance, doctors, hearing specialists, new parents, relatives of the new parents, etc.
Some days I felt like a PR magician juggling the day's schedule and personalities. I found that to be very satisfying and exhausting at the same time.
I learned how to cull and edit my photos super fast--at first it would take me 2 hours + to edit a 20 minute shoot of 125+ photos down to a gallery of 20 images. After a couple of months my editing time dropped down to 45 minutes to an hour. Bella Baby wanted it to be faster, but I'm not a robot LOL
The schedule was erratic. You never knew how long your day would be. It all depended on how many babies were born the day before. Some days you had 7, some days 13, and some days, zero! So you could get yourself ready, drop the kids at pre-care, drive to the hospital, park, check-in, and find out you have zero babies, or you had a couple of babies and no one wanted photos. The kicker: you don't get paid for those days. You don't shoot and show? You don't have an opportunity to get a sales commission.
Plus, one weekend day is required and holidays are, too. That's tricky when you have young kids.
How Much Money Will I Make at Bella Baby Photography?
Let's get down and dirty about how much money you can make at Bella Baby Photography. Bottom line: it depends on the geographical market and it depends on your ease of doing face-to-face sales in a hospital room after a couple has just given birth to a baby.
The commission on sales is pretty generous since they don't pay an hourly wage. When I worked there, I believe it was 35% commission, but that may have changed. That commission is motivating and depressing at the same time.
I would have worked just as hard with an hourly wage and lower commission, but I think the company thinks there would be lower sales if people just took their hourly wage pay and didn't put effort into selling the gallery. I put my heart and soul into every shoot and I know the other photographers do also. We were the face of Bella Baby Photography. We provided top-notch service and made sure everyone was happy (from the nurses to the parents). It felt like we were under appreciated when some paychecks were so pathetic.
Some people wouldn't bat an eye at dropping $400 on a package of prints, digitals, and baby announcements. Other people barely wanted to spend $20 on one digital image. And sales tactics aside, I had a hard time pushing people to buy when they were only hours out from having a baby.
The families were exhausted, emotional, and usually in a fog. It didn't feel right to take advantage of those emotions! The flip side of that is that we were there to help them see how valuable and cherished these photos would be--for the rest of their lives! We were supposed to be their trusted advisor when they couldn't think about those big picture things at the moment.
In the end, I typically defaulted to the former and quickly "let them off the hook" :)
After showing them their gallery, I had about a 90% "tears rate" (it's hard not to cry when you see a gorgeous gallery of your baby along with super sappy music!). I had a couple of dud shoots (some of those rooms were tricky and Bella had strict rules about camera settings), but for the most part I delivered amazing galleries.
Then I would go over Bella's products and packages and would remind them that their gallery would be up online for two weeks and they could order straight from there. I would say 80% of my sales were from the online gallery.
Pros and Cons of Working at Bella Baby Photography
- Flexible work schedule
- Opportunity for high commission sales
- Work with newborns!
- Meet awesome people
- Develop professional relationships with nurses and hospital staff
- Get AWESOME experience photographing
- Great for a talented or a new photographer looking to gain experience
- Good training (sales training AND photography/editing training
- Working on a team
- Commission-based income (no base salary)
- High photographer turnover makes scheduling stressful for other employees
- You never know how many babies you'll be shooting
- Sometimes you have to wait around to shoot depending on the needs of the baby (i.e. tests, etc)
- You stay until all the babies are photographed for that day
- Hard to juggle the schedule if you have childcare issues
- Working at least one weekend day is REQUIRED
- Working holidays
- No sick days (not talking about getting paid for sick days--I'm talking about having to work when you are sick)
Let me be clear: I absolutely LOVED working for Bella Baby Photography. The experience I gained in that short 4 month stint is invaluable. I improved my photography skills, I gained confidence working in tricky lighting situations, and I honed my people skills while shooting lifestyle newborn photography. I wouldn't trade that for the world! I never would have had the confidence to start my own photography business without that experience.
BUT, for me and my family, I couldn't keep up with the haphazard hours. If one of the kids needed me or got sick at school, I was in a bind. I also had to pay to put my daughter in before-school care and then race to my son's school and then back to whichever hospital I'd been assigned for that day. That put stress on my kids, and on me. When your paycheck was dismal, it made those sacrifices harder to swallow.
At first, the sales were pretty steady, but as we moved into fall and the holidays, I hit a pretty big dry spell. I heard a rumor that it was because people were concerned about paying for Christmas and baby photos weren't in the budget. I didn't stick around to find out if that was true. Working on the weekends and the unpredictable schedule (especially combined with low paychecks) was taking a toll on my family. In the end, I had to side with my family.
If you are young and hungry for some photography experience (and especially if you have no kids!), Bella Baby is a GREAT place to work!
Let me know if you have any specific questions and I'll be sure to respond. I hope this helped!!