Capture 'The Moment' With a Birth Photographer
A woman leans over a bed, her arms and legs held strong and taut, her fingers digging into white bedsheets. Her partner sits behind her with a hand on her back.
In another photo, the woman is crouched in a tub, clutching the wet, wrinkly body of her newborn. So much happened between those two moments. And birth photographer Meg Ross was there for all of it, capturing the waiting, the laboring, the pain and the joy.
Birth photographers have become a common addition to the birthing team, hired by parents to capture the details of labor, delivery and baby's first moments.
"Birth is the most magical and empowering event I've ever experienced," said Lydia Stubbs, who hired Cassie Canales to photograph the birth of her second child. "Having it photographed was one of the best decisions I made."
But the practice of hiring birth photographers is relatively new. So how do you go about finding one? And are they really going to get all up in there while you're pushing a baby out into the world? We turned to the experts to find out.
Explore your options
Instagram is an excellent resource for exploring the different styles of birth photography. (Search: #homebirth, #birthphotography and #birthphotographers.) There is a wide range in what photographers can capture, depending on your preferences—from modest shots of labor, fully clothed, to a close-up shot of your baby's head crowning.
You'll want to consider the style and content that is most appealing to you. But if you're feeling overwhelmed, remember the photographer you choose can help you navigate the options and make a game plan that feels right.
Your options will narrow based on location. Birth photographers are on call for your labor, and will need to arrive quickly when things get moving. So you'll need to find someone who lives nearby.
Consider your budget
Hiring a birth photographer isn't cheap. In addition to finding a photographer willing to be on call 24/7, birth photography requires expensive equipment for capturing a range of environments. Ross says she's seen packages range from $500 for new birth photographers to $2,200 for those with extensive experience.
Another option is to hire someone who is both a doula and a birth photographer. This person will likely charge more than someone who is strictly a photographer. Ross notes that while many people are skilled at both, it's not possible to do it all. If you opt for a doula/photographer, they may not capture as many images as someone who is there strictly to shoot photos. "You gotta weigh which one is more important to you," she advised.
Get to know each other
Once you've reached out to potential birth photographers, the next step is a conversation, ideally in person or over the phone, so you have a chance to get to know each other.
"I'm sassy and bubbly," said Ross. "There's a difference between someone who will murmur affirmations and someone who offers comic relief." And it's important to find someone whose energy jibes with yours. After all, this person will be present for one of the most important moments of your life. "It's a very vulnerable place. You don't want anyone there who you don't really get along with."
If someone is having reservations about hiring a birth photographer—Ross said in her experience, it's more often the man in heterosexual partnerships who is uncomfortable with the idea—that first meeting can go a long way in putting them at ease.
It's important to find someone whose energy jibes with yours. After all, this person will be present for one of the most important moments of your life.
Come prepared with questions. You'll want to know what type of environments the photographer is accustomed to shooting in (the lighting for home births presents different challenges than that of hospital births) and who they work with as backups if they, for whatever reason, can't attend the birth. Always ask to see a full gallery of their work, which will give you a good idea of what and when they'll be photographing during labor and delivery.
Once you've hired a birth photographer, the getting-to-know-each-other continues.
Photographer Stephanie Shirley has regular check-ins with her clients. She says it's a good idea to send your birth photographer updates after every appointment with your doctor or midwife, so they can stay on top of where you're at in your pregnancy. "By the time they go into labor, we have built a pretty substantial relationship and it feels natural for me to be present," she explained.
Don't worry—they've got it
A lot can and will change in your nine months of pregnancy. But you should be able to trust your photographer is along for the ride—and whatever unexpected details come with it. They're experienced at anticipating your needs, knowing when to ask questions and when to get out of the way.
Ross makes sure she has as much information as possible about what a client wants photographed before labor begins. But some details require check-ins, like whether or not a laboring parent is comfortable with a crowning shot. "When it's time to push, I'll double-check. Some people change their mind in the moment."