Alexa Klorman, owner of Alexa Drew Photography, specializes in family, newborn, and maternity photography. While she also dabbles in wedding and event photography, like most photographers, her event line item zeroed out last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Klorman is based in New York City, so when the pandemic hit, she was forced to temporarily close her business. Once the curve of cases started to flatten, she began working on a plan to re-open her business. This proved difficult, as the pandemic introduced a plethora of new reasons for clients to feel anxious about a photoshoot.
Klorman embraced the challenge. Working with newborns – and new parents – on a daily basis for the better half of a decade, Klorman has mastered the art of making people feel comfortable on camera. We spoke with her last week about her career, and how she cultivates a safe, fun environment for every shoot.
In 2010, Klorman was fresh out of college and working for a media agency. Eager to pay off her student loans, Klorman started moonlighting as a photographer as a means of generating additional income. She’d learned the basics of photography from her high school darkroom before eventually teaching herself to shoot digital.
Klorman got started by asking a coworker if she could photograph her baby. Klorman offered to do it for free in exchange for using the photos as the foundation for an online portfolio website. Her coworker agreed, and the rest is history.
“I never gave a free session after that,” Klorman says with a smile. She continued working at the media agency for a few years, before transitioning to a part-time position, and eventually leaving to focus full-time on her photography business.
Finding a Niche
Klorman naturally gravitated to family and maternity photography. She loves working with families, especially children and babies, having spent a lot of time babysitting in high school, in addition to attending camps and working as a camp counselor.
“Being around children is always something that’s just been part of my life, so it was something that I was very comfortable with professionally,” Klorman says. She points out most clients want a photographer that knows how to work with children. “It has to be someone who has all the tricks up their sleeves and knows how to engage your children naturally.”
It was also important to Klorman that she find a niche that matched her lifestyle. She was hesitant to pursue wedding or event photography exclusively, as she didn’t want to spend every weekend working.
“I figured newborns would be a nice way to go because you could schedule during the week.”
This strategy paid off. Today, Klorman schedules newborn and maternity shoots during the week, although still finds herself working weekends for family shoots and the occasional wedding. However, it has allowed her to be more selective about the work she accepts.
Specializing in family, newborn, and maternity photography, Klorman is also well positioned to establish long-term relationships with her clients. She offers a joint maternity and newborn package for clients that anticipate they’ll want another photoshoot once their child is born. Klorman is obviously doing something right, as today almost all her new customers come courtesy of client referrals.
Client Relations & Pipeline
Klorman stresses how important it is to be transparent with clients about your style, services, and pricing. She finds maintaining an up-to-date online presence is the best way to guarantee a new client knows what to expect before they reach out.
“Because I have a lot of photos that are public on my social media, I find that generally when I’m receiving an inquiry, it’s from someone who has a general sense of what the style is,” Klorman says. “So, they’re not coming in blind and needing a lot of information about what my photos looks like because there’s so much that they could see, whether it’s on my website or my social media.”
Of course, Klorman still fields the occasional inquiry that doesn’t fit with her look. For example, when a prospective client wants to incorporate props into their shoot, such as a basket. Klorman gently advises that she’s not the photographer they want to hire.
“It’s just not me, and I wouldn’t want a client to do a photo shoot with me and then be disappointed that I didn’t offer that type of photo,” Klorman says. “I don’t run into that issue a lot because I’m really transparent about what I offer.”
Making People Feel Comfortable
Klorman says the first thing a photographer should do is “make sure everyone knows what to do with their hands.”
“When I’m in front of the camera, I’m always like, ‘where do my hands go?’ It’s really awkward,” Klorman says. Additionally, she says most people are unsure where to put their weight.
“I think giving people guidance on how to pose is helpful because then they will be at ease knowing that you are being mindful of that,” Klorman says. “Instead of just standing and posing for the camera, they’ll know, okay, my photographer is being mindful of how I am going to look in this photo. And that, I find, eases people.”
Klorman has a game plan going into every shoot about the suggestions she’ll make, but acknowledges that “every family is different.”
“I work with clients where the family is mom and dad, mom and mom, dad and dad, just mom, just dad,” Klorman says, explaining that every dynamic demands different direction. “It takes a few minutes to get the vibe, and I’ll adjust my approach based on what the family is like.”
Most importantly, Klorman tries to be a friend more than a photographer.
“Being conversational and having a sense of humor will create a calming environment for someone to take photos with.”
COVID-19 Policy Sheet
As Klorman prepared to re-open her business during the pandemic, she knew it would be even more difficult to make her clients feel comfortable during a shoot. Klorman opted to implement strict protocols to ensure the safety of her and her clients; a decision that ultimately paid off.
“I had a couple of clients find me because they were specifically looking for photographers who had listed out what their policies were,” Klorman says. While she also had to turn down some jobs, Klorman says having firm rules ultimately benefited her business.
“If you have a policy sheet that you’re living by, and that you made public and made everyone aware of, I think that it made everyone feel a little bit safer working with you.”
The Dress Code
Klorman says another source of anxiety for some clients is what they should wear. Her advice is simple: “If you feel good in it, that’s what you should be wearing.”
“I provide tips and suggestions for how to dress, what type of fabric to wear in order to make a family feel like they’re looking their best,” Klorman says. She particularly enjoys working with expectant mothers to make them feel comfortable.
“Even though your body might look and feel different, it’s still beautiful, and it’s still serving a really beautiful, important purpose,” Klorman tells expectant mothers. She generally recommends silky materials, or loose cotton, with light colors such as pale pink or blue. However, these are always just suggestions.
“I always say, don’t try to push yourself to wear something that doesn’t feel comfortable, because then you’re not going to look comfortable.”
For men, Klorman’s go-to advice is to dress as if they are hosting friends for dinner.
“You’re not going to wear a suit because you’re in your apartment, but you’re not going to wear your sweatpants,” Klorman explains. “Let’s find that happy medium of an elevated casual look that is appropriate in your home but is something that’s nice and is going to photograph well.”
Working with Children
Working with children is an integral part of Klorman’s work. She says many of her clients are worried about how their child will behave and are looking for a photographer who “has a strategy and a specific approach.”
“Little kids can get your vibe from a mile away. You have to show up ready to have fun and ready to run around,” Klorman says. “You have to figure out how to get smiles out of that kid and that is definitely… It can be challenging, but it’s also so satisfying when you make it work.”
Klorman has developed a playbook of strategies for engaging kids that she draws on when necessary.
“One thing that a child will find fun at a shoot, a different child at the next shoot might not really be interested in, so you have to come up with a whole other list of tricks to try to get them to be into it and having fun at the shoot,” Klorman says.
“It’s your responsibility to make sure that you still get the photos that you promised the client. But it’s a fun challenge.”
Production & Post-Production
Klorman shoots on a Nikon D750, an FX-format (full-frame) DSLR. She primarily uses three lenses; a Nikon Nikkor 24-70mm F2.8, a Sigma 50mm F1.4 HSM Art, and a Nikkor 85mm F1.4. Klorman also carries a Nikon SB900 flash for indoor shoots. In addition to her camera gear, Klorman brings a backdrop, along with some swaddles, headbands, and onesies for newborn shoots.
When it comes to choosing a location, Klorman finds most clients want to shoot inside their home or have a specific location in mind that’s sentimental to them. Klorman also has a list of locations she can recommend.
“If it’s a new location and I’ve never shot it before, I’ll usually just arrive 15 minutes early to walk through, and then I’ll mentally create a list of three spots that I want to make sure we hit during the shoot.”
Creating an Experience
While Klorman provides a very tangible service, she uses less-concrete metrics to measure her success. Namely, whether the client had a fun, memorable experience.
“It’s your job to make someone feel like they’re having a good time and create an environment where someone is actually enjoying themselves,” Klorman says. “And then the photos will speak for themselves.”
Her “favorite, favorite, favorite” moment happens at the end of most shoots. When Klorman turns off her camera, and a person who was initially not thrilled to be there says, ‘that was a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be.’
“That’s what it should be. It’s just you hanging out with your family, playing and kissing and tickling and running around, and smiling and having a great time, and having someone capture photos. It should be really fun. It shouldn’t be torturous.”