Birth photography has become more popular over the last decades, and it is easy to see why. The birth of your child and the moments around it are some of the most emotional and life-altering moments we experience. Reflecting on such a momentous day’s emotions, strengths, and connections can carry beautiful memories and significant healing.
There are many things to consider when searching for the perfect birth photographer; I’ll share 6 factors for choosing a birth photographer and important questions to ask yourself and your prospective photographer.
Hiring the right birth photographer for such a momentous time is essential. Not only is the birth of your child a moment that cannot be repeated or redone, but it is also incredibly emotional and intimate. Although hiring a birth photographer based on price alone may be tempting, there is much more to consider.
In Various Lighting Situations
The first factor to consider is experience. It’s important to consider not only their years in business but also how much experience they have in the birth space.
Birth photography is a unique genre in that lighting settings and scenarios vary greatly. Mothers tend to labor in dimly lit spaces and various light settings, from home to birth centers, to hospital births. Your photographer must be prepared to walk into whatever space you’re delivering in, ready to use the available light, or be equipped with additional light sources such as an external flash.
Do they have a portfolio with strong and consistent work in various settings?
An experienced birth photographer will have invested in equipment that can handle low-light situations and be ready to use their equipment to the best of their abilities. Some birth photographers use an external flash in dimmer lighting situations and during face-paced moments, while others prefer to rely on natural light within the scene. Neither is wrong, but you may want to ask your prospective photographer which they prefer.
Within a Variety of Birth Settings
An experienced birth photographer will have experience in various settings, better preparing them for what may come next. They will have learned the best angles and positions within birth spaces to capture the moments most important to you. They will have experience with the different stages and phases of labor, helping them anticipate moments. They become masterful storytellers, able to see storytelling elements within scenes while using the best compositions to tell your story beautifully.
They will have developed a reverence and respect for the birth space without becoming intrusive or disrespectful.
They will likely have developed the skill of working seamlessly with others on your birth team.
How Many Births Have They Documented?
It is appropriate to ask how many births your prospective photographer has documented. Although we all have to start somewhere (and I am so thankful for the first families that trusted me in their birth spaces), experience does matter in this genre. You may know photographers with years of experience and consider them for your birth, but they may not have had experience in such varied and uncontrolled settings, which matters.
If you’re considering having family members or friends document your birth, there are many things to consider: where to stand, what to anticipate, best angles, use of light, and respect within the birth space. Hiring a birth photographer allows you to have family fully present in the birth experience without worrying about grabbing their camera or not being fully present in these emotional moments.
2. How Do They View Birth?
Another important factor to consider is how they view birth.
You may wonder why your photographer’s views on the birth matter and why they should align with yours.
It is essential that you feel respected and honored in your birth space. Every single person present within your space can have an impact on your birth experience. Are they aware of your wishes, requests, birth plans, and history? Are they willing to leave their experiences and biases outside your space? It can be tempting for others within your space to project their experiences onto yours, and although that may seem helpful, it can also take away from your own unique and personal experience.
Having a birth team that believes in your ability to bring your child into this world can make a huge impact, particularly when you may begin to doubt yourself or your own body’s capability.
For instance, a photographer who’s never photographed or witnessed a home birth may have some anxieties or hesitations, or a photographer who is only comfortable in a homebirth setting may give off confrontational vibes in a hospital setting. Everyone is entitled to their own experiences and emotions, but it is important on your special day to honor yours.
The third factor to consider is their professionalism in the birth setting and your community.
Whether you live in a small community or a big city, birth communities tend to be small and close-knit. Having a photographer who has worked hard to develop and foster community relationships will help ensure they are accepted and respected in birth spaces.
Do they maintain professional behaviors within different types of birth locations and situations and are aware of policies within the facilities in which they work?
In this genre, your photographer must have backup gear, just in case there is a malfunction in any equipment, from their camera body to lenses, microphones, and external flashes. Documenting moments that cannot be redone requires extra diligence in ensuring your photographer has all the necessary tools.
Do they have a code of ethics they work under? Do they maintain proper business licensure and carry liability insurance? Do they have contracts to protect you and cover any incidents that may arise? Do they present themselves professionally in all situations? Do they have strong connections with other birth photographers?
5. On-Call Experience
Another important factor to consider is their experience being on call.
Birth photographers are often on call for weeks (most start ‘call’ somewhere between 37 and 38 weeks gestation and remain on-call until you deliver). That means they need a schedule that allows them to be available and ready whenever your baby decides to come, whether at night or during a family function. They’ll abstain from alcohol to stay clear-headed and focused and understand the unpredictable nature of birth, ready to remain at your birth whether it’s 2 hours or 18 (or more). They won’t put time restraints on your time together and typically stay 1-2 hours after delivery to capture important firsts such as skin-to-skin, breastfeeding, newborn exams, family meetings, and tender moments. They won’t have a heavy schedule that may conflict with your birth.
Experienced birth photographers will maintain a strong network of other local birth photographers to ensure you’re always covered if they are at another birth or in extenuating circumstances.
A great question for your prospective birth photographer is whether they work with backup photographers.
6. Do You Connect with Them?
Birth is very intimate and vulnerable. Having someone you trust with such intimate moments is vital. Are their personality and mannerisms compatible with yours? For instance, if you anticipate wanting a quiet space, does the photographer’s presence and personality demonstrate that? Does their presence make you feel comfortable? Or, are you more outgoing and conversational and more comfortable with more extroverted personality types?
Lastly, cost is a real factor in such a big decision. You’ll likely find a wide range of pricing from photographer to photographer in your community. Finding a birth photographer within your budget is important.
There can also be a variety of what photographers include in their packages. Do their packages include any products, such as prints or albums? Are there restrictions on time spent with you? How are your images delivered? How long is their turnaround time for providing images?
Birth photography is an investment just like wedding photography, and in my opinion, even more life-changing and important to document. Trust me; you’ll want to remember all those little details: how you looked at your baby for the first time, those first cries and tender words spoken as encouragement in the moments you needed them, the way your spouse or partner looked at you, and just how strong you are.
Most experienced birth photographers will have developed their price structure with many factors in mind, from the costs of maintaining a legitimate business to the quality gear they’ll need to capture beautiful images in whatever setting you deliver. Many birth photographers offer payment plans before your birth, which is another excellent question to ask.