Behind the Book with Kristal Bean

For Kristal Bean, the world of photography opened up when her first daughter was born. Inspired by the profound experience of pregnancy and motherhood, she decided to launch a photography business focused on maternity and newborn portraits. Her print magazine, Celebrate Motherhood, is a beautiful extension of that work, providing a showcase of her photography skills and a style guide for new clients. We reached out to learn more about her life behind the camera and behind the book.

1. How did you first get interested in photography?

My journey as a photographer began shortly after my first daughter was born in 2013. Every day she was growing and changing, and I wanted to remember all the things I loved about each stage. I bought my first crop sensor camera when she was just a few months old and started teaching myself everything I could about photography, running a business, and working with clients.

2. What inspired you to focus on portraits of women and motherhood?

Pregnancy and early motherhood are absolutely beautiful parts of life—but these are seasons that can be challenging, too. It’s not easy for everyone to feel gorgeous at eight months pregnant or right after you have a baby—I know I didn’t!

That’s why I believe every woman should have maternity and newborn portraits taken. I encourage my mamas to have their hair and makeup done and buy a beautiful dress (or use one from my client closet). We meet at beautiful, peaceful locations for maternity sessions, and the entire experience is all about helping them celebrate the beauty of pregnancy. Through the session and photos, she has a chance to embrace her new identity as a mother, and that is very powerful.

My goal for newborn sessions is to showcase the amazing love of a mother. I provide gentle posing guidance during my lifestyle sessions to help moms and dads slow down and bond with their new babies. Every mom has the softest, most beautiful smile as she gazes down at her baby. Capturing moments like that hardly feels like work—photography brings my heart so much joy. I’m honored that clients invite me into their homes to celebrate the beginning of their parenting journeys.

A mother with her 3 children

3. Do you have any tips for people who want to take better portraits? (Do’s and don’ts on lighting, backgrounds, angles, composition, etc.) Any tips on how to photograph someone you’ve just met?

My best advice for taking better portraits is to get closer! I prefer prime lenses that make you “zoom with your feet” by physically getting closer to whatever you’re photographing.

I like to spend a few moments chatting with clients and getting to know them before I ever pull out my camera. Everyone is usually a little nervous before a photo session. Taking just a couple minutes to help them relax and get to know them is a wonderful way to kick off your session.

It also helps if you explain why you’re asking clients to do something. When I am working with a pregnant woman, I briefly explain why poses are flattering as I help position her. Keeping the conversation going helps manage those feelings of nervousness clients might feel at the beginning, and it helps foster trust between you and your client if they understand why you’re posing them in a particular way.

4. Why did you choose to self-publish?

I’ve sent my clients a digital style magazine for years, and it has always helped them feel more prepared for photo sessions. It also saves me a lot of time answering texts and emails, because everything they need to know is inside.

This year, I decided to elevate the client experience and send mamas a physical copy. The Celebrate Motherhood magazine goes in the mail as soon as a client books her session, along with a card. I don’t tell them it’s coming, so it’s a fun surprise they get in the mail!

The magazine shows clients that I care deeply about making this a wonderful photography experience; mamas tell me they love how pretty the magazine looks on their coffee tables! I also love that a client can pass the magazine along to a family member or friend who is pregnant when we’ve wrapped our sessions together and it acts as a perfect marketing piece!

5. What appealed to you most about Magazine format? Had you published other Photo Books or Magazines prior to this one?

What woman doesn’t love to grab a magazine and curl up on the couch for a bit to relax?! That’s definitely one thing I like to do! The majority of my clients tell me they’ve never received a style magazine from a photographer before. It’s a fun way to learn more about their upcoming photo sessions, and I think this format keeps all that info from feeling overwhelming. Plus, my mamas get excited about possibly being included in a future version!

A pregnant woman surrounded by flowers

6. Tell us about the process of writing and designing Celebrate Motherhood. How did you decide on the layout, typography, and page length? Which book-making tools did you use?

Fortunately, all I had to do was adapt my digital version for print! My background is in public relations, and I also have experience in journalism and layout/design. That was definitely a big help in putting together the print version. I used the Blurb plug-in for InDesign and it made the layout a piece of cake.

My favorite magazine is Real Simple, so I grabbed a few recent copies as I was working on the print version of Celebrate Motherhood. That’s where I took most of my layout and design inspiration. I knew I wanted lots of white space and a clean, modern, professional look.

I also knew I wanted to include bonus info that I would share with any new mama friend; I include my favorite registry items, tips for motherhood-centric books and podcasts, and even my favorite brands of swaddles and clothing for newborns.

7. How has the print publication impacted your business and your relationship with clients?

The print version has absolutely elevated my client experience! I wanted my mamas to immediately see what they have invested in, and it’s so much fun to send something that’s beautiful and educational!

My maternity, Fresh 48 and newborn sessions flow better, and I kick off every session having already earned the trust of my clients because of the magazine. They feel informed and confident about the session before it ever begins, and this makes an incredible difference in the photos. My clients also understand why I make certain suggestions for wardrobe, location choice, etc.

The magazine also gives me plenty of space to educate my clients and help them get to know me and my heart for motherhood photography. I really think this is why clients treat me like a friend when we meet for their photos; they feel like they already know me after reading Celebrate Motherhood.

8. What advice would you give to aspiring photographers that want to turn their hobby into a business or career?

I would encourage any hobbyist to invest in education before you purchase expensive gear or lots of props. There are so many incredibly talented photographers who can teach you everything you need to know about shooting, editing, posing, running a business, marketing, blogging, small biz accounting—and more!

I think a lot of people considering the move to professional photography don’t realize that actually taking photos is a very small part of what you do as a biz owner. You spend far more time on the business aspect! That means running a successful business is about much more than your gear and props.

A woman smiling down at a newborn baby

9. When you’re not taking portraits, what are your favorite subjects to photograph?

My kids! I have three daughters (6, 4, and 3) and they are my heartbeats. My girls grow and change so fast! It seems like there is something a little different about them each day. Sometimes I take formal photos of the girls to mark a particular stage, and other times I just capture our crazy daily life.

All of my favorite images are compiled in a family yearbook at the end of the year. These family yearbooks make great gifts for family and someday I’ll pass them down to my daughters. I love that they’ll always be able to look back at childhood memories.

10. Where do you look for inspiration? Are there certain places, books, or creative resources that you seek out to feel energized?

My favorite photographers who have inspired me from the beginning include Katelyn James, Emily Lucarz, and Sue Bryce. All of these ladies are incredibly talented—and I love how generously they give away their photography and business knowledge.

11. Any new projects in the works?

I have plans to create an updated version of the magazine for the fall/winter of 2020! It will include recently photographed sessions and new content that will help mamas feel even more excited and prepared for their photo sessions.

Do you have an idea for a magazine project to promote your photography, creative work, or business? Start creating today!

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