One of the biggest milestones in a parent’s life is the day their little baby first enters this world. The best way to preserve those memories are though birth photography.
Between the anxiety of baby finally coming and hoping the birthing process goes smoothly, parents can quickly forget some of the incredible details on baby’s birth day. Add the epidural, pain medicine and sleep deprivation on top of that and the experience can take on a dream like quality. This is where you come in to save the day. You need to be there to capture the family’s story on this wonderful day, to save the memories parents wish they could keep themselves.
What is birth photography?
Birth photography is not the same as newborn or fresh 48 photography. You’re in the middle of the action as baby makes its way into the world. Capture mom going through her contractions and dad (or mom #2) comforting her. Take photos of the doctor or nurse cutting the umbilical cord and mom holding her bundle of joy for the very first time. Sneak a photo of the moment the baby is weighed and measured. Capture dad’s (or mom #2’s) look of adoration at mom and the new baby. There is so much joy and celebration on such an incredible day.
Be prepared for anything that might come your way, and prepare your clients too. It’s your job as a photographer to explain to exactly how you believe this day will go. Explain how long before baby’s birth you’ll arrive, and which parts of the process you’ll stick around for. Explain some of the angles you will take photos from since some mothers need the reassurance that you won’t take any photos from THAT angle.
Perhaps most importantly, ask the parents how to proceed if they experience a stillbirth or a complication that leads to the baby dying. This discussion is vital because if the unthinkable does happen, that is the worst moment to bother them with decisions. Some parents might want privacy to process their loss, and others might want you to capture the proof that their little baby was in this world for a short time. It is important for you to be honest with the couple of what you’re able to handle. But also recognize that the greatest gift you could give them is sticking around to capture photos even when you’re not able to keep your composure.
What is the best camera for birth photography?
There is no one best camera for birth photography. You can use any camera to capture those moments. My personal preference is for a full-frame camera, simply due to the fact that you won’t know how large the delivery room will be. Full-frame cameras allow you to capture a little more of the scene than a crop-sensor camera with the exact same lens on it.
You won’t know how much light there will be, so may need to pump up your ISO for proper exposure. Depending on the quality of your camera, you could end up with a lot of grain in your photo when using a high ISO. If you’re able to comfortably afford it, a camera with an ISO higher than 6400 will reduce the amount of grain. Don’t fret over grain in your images though. Photo editing software like Photoshop does a fantastic job at eliminating a lot of grain. A vast majority of the time, our clients are oblivious to the grain us photographers see in our images. I too am guilty of pixel peeping occasionally, but I’ve learned not to obsess over it!
What is the best lens for birth photography?
The best lens for birth photography really comes down to preference. Are you part of the small group of photographers who believe everything should be shot at the classic 35mm length? If so use a 35mm lens on a full-frame camera, or a 20mm lens on a crop-sensor camera. Do you like to zoom in and capture the little details that make up a scene? Then bring a 70-200mm lens to capture the medical bracelet on mom’s wrist or vital readings on the fetal monitor. A high aperture capability on your chosen lens, along with the proper ISO, will allow you to get properly exposed photos. You should not rely on flash. After all, many mothers will hate the flash going of during labor.
How much do birth photographers charge?
The cost of birth photography is based on how experienced a photographer is and their cost of doing business. New photographers may start off giving a few sessions away for free to build a portfolio. Photographers starting a new specialty may also give sessions away for free, but they should try to charge something as their skills in other photography genres can be used to ensure they get decent images. Birth photography prices are also dictated somewhat by the local market pricing. Clients in some locations are willing and able to pay more for birth photography services than clients in other locations.
When calculating your cost of doing business, consider the fact that you may need to keep many nights on your schedule open in case baby is early or late. You may need to move around other appointments if baby doesn’t come on time. You might have to forgo taking other work around the due date to take on a birth photography client. The birth process is different for every woman, and can last anywhere between a few hours and a few days. So make your fee worth it.
Birth photography tips
- Keep your schedule open around baby’s arrival date
- Keep your camera bag packed and batteries charged (yes plural)
- Turn your phone volume all the way up (you don’t want to miss the call!)
- Bring extra memory cards and equipment
- Have a pre-packed bag of snacks, money, a warm sweater and a book in case the birth runs long
- Ask for instructions ahead of time for how to reach the right room in the hospital
- Are there any points during labor when photographs are not allowed to be taken?
- Make a plan in case your client needs surgery for a C-section
- Discuss with client what will happen if something happens to prevent you from making it to the birth (refund, another session credit, back up photographer etc)
- For non-hospital births, get as much information as you can (in bed or underwater birth etc)
The most important tip I can give you is to keep communication lines open with your client and be clear about expectations. Will you arrive as soon as the couple gets to the hospital, or after mom is dilated by a certain amount? Are you going to deliver the photos the next day or two weeks after the fact? How many photos can they expect to receive? Will you be posting on social media as soon as you have the photos edited, or does the family get to be the first to post? Discuss and negotiate these points with your client so there are no misunderstandings. Now that you have an idea of what to expect, do a little research on poses and give it your best shot!
Now that you’ve done birth photography, you’re in a prime position to do newborn photography for your clients too