Using a Birth Photography Partnership Model
One of the most strenuous aspects of being a birth photographer is being on-call non stop. We find back-ups, we plan vacations months in advance, we miss family events and holidays.
Veronika Richardson and Laura Kralovetz of Fox Valley Birth and Baby share how they've officially joined forces under one business and how they've made it work to create more sustainability in their individual lives as well as their birth photography careers. We're thrilled to share their work and their words in our Birth Becomes Her LEARN series.
Where are you located?
We service the Fox Valley area of Wisconsin. One of us lives near Oshkosh, and the other two live in Appleton, so our service area covers from Fond du Lac all the way to Green Bay.
What is your business name and philosophy?
Fox Valley Birth and Baby: We aim to bring families dedicated support and education through our doula services and lasting memories through our documentary services.
How did you come up with this partnership?
Laura: I hired Veronika to take photos and video of my baby's birth, and a friendship started from there. As both of us were photographers (I had a separate business at the time), we helped each other out a lot and both spoke of our dreams to work in a photography partnership someday and how we would so much rather work together than trying to continue to build a business alone. It wasn't long after my baby was born that we just decided to go for it! Since Veronika already had an established partnership with our doula, Vanessa, we decided the transition would be easiest for me to come into their business as a 3rd partner instead of starting something new.
How do you split your cost and earnings?
Veronika: Right now, we split everything 50/50: costs, earnings, jobs, tasks, and duties. Since we do implement an IPS model, we never know how much money we will make per documentary or portrait session, so we've decided that, for ease and fairness, everything will be split down the middle and we will delegate tasks to make sure the workload is even and fair as we go. We have a savings account that we put a portion of our income into and we use that to pay for our cost of goods and products and other expenditures.
How do you share images, do you say who took the photo?
We never say who took which photo. We've worked hard at developing our own style that is not only unique to us, but that we both do well and that we feel is true to ourselves. It can be hard as artists to do this and make sure we are both able to explore creatively and freely without going in a direction the other one wouldn't want to go in, but we are very open and honest with each other and it works well for us to help each other out with editing. We are lucky to have a very similar style and because of this, we don't have our clients choose one photographer or the other when hiring us.
You also mentioned you work with a doula as well, how does that work?
Veronika: Our doula, Vanessa, is our third partner and founded Fox Valley Birth and Baby with Veronika in 2012. She takes up to four birth clients per month and uses Veronika as her main back up. If she has a conflict with attending a birth, Veronika would take call for her doula clients and then Laura would take call for our photography clients. This way, we can keep our back ups within our own business and have a relationship with all of our clients.
We also offer a small discount when clients hire us for both labor doula services and photography or videography. We enjoy working together very much, so it's a treat for us! But it also has other benefits too...when hired together, Vanessa is able to update us so the client and their family don't have to worry about contacting us or figuring out when to tell us to arrive at their birth. This has actually saved us from coming too early to births before, which is nice for not only us, but the families as well.
Do you take other sessions besides birth together and how does that work?
Laura: Yes, we also photograph maternity, newborn, and family lifestyle portraits and we go to every one together. We enjoy working together and feel more confident and inspired when we are able to shoot together. We usually switch off who shoots what session and the other will act as assistant and help with posing when it's not their turn to shoot. We also have so much fun with our clients, neither of us wants to miss out on any of it! :)
Veronika: This is one of my favorite parts of having a partner- portrait sessions are so much more fun! We flow well together and help each other think more creatively.
How does the phone number situation work, how does 'call' work?
Veronika: We have a separate phone number that we use for incoming business calls. Our clients get this number as well as our individual numbers. They can send us updates throughout their pregnancies via group text to either our phone numbers or the main number. When they are in labor, they call the main number and it will call whomever's phone us connected to the main line at the time. We are able to go in and switch which phone that number connects to easily.
One of us is on call one week and the other is on call the following week. If we ever have trouble with childcare or an appointment we can't miss, then we rotate who is on call based off who is more flexible at the time.
Does whoever get the call, go to the birth or how does that work?
Yes. We rotate weekly and if it becomes uneven, then the person with less births attended will automatically attend the following birth to even it out.
Who edits the photos?
Laura: Typically whoever shoots the session edits their own photos, but we are constantly in contact and helping each other out so sometimes we will edit each other's work too if the situation calls for it.