My husband and I chose not to hire a birth photographer when our daughter was born and it’s something we regret. We’re not dying over the fact that we didn’t hire a photographer, but there is most definitely a piece of our heart that aches and wishes we would have chosen differently. It's an ache that has only grown as the years have passed. If you & your partner are on the fence--hopefully the info in this post helps with a more productive conversation as you decide whether or not to invest in professionally preserving your story.
One thing I love most about birth photography is its ability to show birth in a way our society doesn’t see often. Every birth is different and seeing the variations of normal help lessen fear associated with birth. Birth photography also has the power to transform the way future generations perceive birth and gives us the power to relive that amazing moment for the rest of our lives. That’s some pretty powerful stuff.
Do you actually photograph the baby coming out?
This is one of the more common questions I get asked. I think it’s because birth is incredibly intimate and most people associate birth with the moment of crowning. The easy answer is yes and sometimes no. When I meet with an expecting couple I love hearing about the parts of the story they’re looking forward to the most. Sometimes that includes crowning shots and sometimes it doesn’t. We’ll talk about the various moments and ultimately the couple decides if they want crowning shots to be a part of their story or not.
There are thousands of images floating around on the Internet that show everything when it comes to birth. It’s important to know those super-exposed shots only make up a small portion of the final images you’d receive. In a final gallery of 75 images, maybe 5 are of “that” crowning moment just before birth. Even my most conservative families allow the freedom to shoot whatever is needed to tell their complete story--capturing both the soulful & physical transformation of birth. From there you can choose which images you keep private and which images (if any) get shared with family & friends.
This leads me to the next question…
Do I have a say in sharing my images on social media?
I know there’s curiosity out there about the images I post & use to promote my business and the answer is I have permission from the family--otherwise the photos don’t get posted. Yes, you absolutely have a say in what gets used on social media, including what is used in my portfolio and even my marketing materials. We’ll talk about your preference so I have a good understanding how you envision seeing your story told. What happens if you only want to share a select few images or none at all? That’s totally okay, too. Most families I work with approve around 80% of the final images they receive, some more and some much less.
Why is Birth Photography Such an Investment?
The answer to this question is complicated because there are so many factors involved. Value, time, lifestyle, running a sustainable business, equipment & professionalism are all variables that determine my prices.
Value: People are willing to save & invest in things they appreciate--especially when those things require expertise, quality & artistic perspective. This is true with photography and many other goods & services we spend our hard earned money on. We spent $1200 on our engagement photos almost a decade ago. Why did we spend so much? Because we didn’t want a bunch awkward blurry photos that all looked the same and didn’t capture any of our personality. We wanted high quality images with an artistic touch and were willing to save to invest more.
In birth, trust is an essential part of the deal with choosing your support team. If you want a Midwife, OB & doula whose birthing values align with your own. Choose your birth photographer just as carefully. Choosing the right people to support you creates a safe & peaceful birth environment and helps promote an empowered birth experience.
Time: This is one of the main reason birth photography is more expensive than other types of photo sessions. The Knot 2014 Real Wedding Study Statistics report there average couple in Salt Lake City spends $2,215 on a wedding photographer with a national average $2814. Most birth photographers charge less than $1000 to document a birth. I photographed weddings back in the day and documenting a birth story is far more demanding in terms of predictability & hours worked. The reality is that most birth photographers don’t charge a similar rate to wedding photography because if we did it would literally be several thousand dollars. Also, I’m only able to accept a limited number of births each month because of the demands of the job, but also to minimize overlapping births & help ensure I’m there for you on your special day.
When I get called in to a birth I don’t know if I’ll be gone for 3 hours or 30 hours. I learned this lesson early on with one of my first births lasting over 24 hours. Not only does my schedule require extreme levels of flexibility, but the long hours are taxing and it can literally take a day or two to recover from the post-birth hangover. This level of flexibility & unpredictability is essential to be by your side through the ebb & flow of birth. Each photo is then edited according to my artistic style--one hour of shooting equals close to 2 hours of editing. As you can imagine the hours accumulate rather quickly.
Lifestyle: Birth work requires a very different type of lifestyle than most are used to. Birth is unpredictable, exhausting, requires dedication and putting life on hold for weeks surrounding baby’s estimated due date (EDD). I go on call for 5 weeks surrounding baby’s EDD which means I stay close to home and sacrifice family time even if you need me on holidays. If we plan a vacation it’s booked last minute because birth is unpredictable & never when on call for a birth. It’s the nature of birth work and a sacrifice I happily make to do what I love--and my family is super supportive.
Running a sustainable business: My journey to pro photographer started years ago. For the past 11 years I’ve invested time & money to learning a craft that ultimately led me to birth stories. I transformed my photograph-everything-type business to one that is specialized & unique. If you know me, then you are well aware I’m a research-aholic. I have literally spent weeks, probably months, researching & planning every detail. My pricing supports a modest, yet livable wage that allows me to create a quality over quantity experience, pay my taxes & other costs associated with running a sustainable business.
Equipment: Part of the reason birth photography is expensive is because high quality equipment is expensive. Birth requires high quality equipment because of the unpredictable lighting situations. I actually wrote a post all about my equipment here if you want to know exactly what I shoot with and why it’s in my bag. Equipment doesn’t last forever. Equipment needs to be replaced and requires maintenance. With birth you need a solid backup camera, memory cards, batteries, etc. in case technology fails--which is inevitable. My philosophy on equipment is that the families who choose me know that I’m invested in preserving their moment and make every reasonable effort to ensure their memories are intact because there are no redos with birth.
Professionalism: Every great birth photographer started out as a beginner and it’s great to see the genre gain popularity locally and all over the world. At the same time birth can be scary, emergent & tricky to navigate. The last thing you need to worry about during labor & delivery is if your photographer has it together. An experienced birth photographer understands the sanctity of your birth space and intuitively responds as the light & energy shift. We know how to interact and navigate with your chosen birth professionals and can adapt quickly to any situation.
Yeah, but why birth photography?
Why not birth photography & videography? We photograph & record our wedding day so why not birth? For us the day our daughter was born was much more epic than our wedding day. Don’t get me wrong, we loved our wedding day and it’s an important moment in our family’s history, but our birth day totally takes the number one spot for most monumental.
It’s not uncommon for a laboring person not to remember details from birth or for there to be gaps in memory. Birth is intense, overwhelming and life with a newborn poses its own challenges. Factor in sleep deprivation and it seems almost impossible to retain through the years.
If you find yourself questioning the value of the investment I encourage you to think about how important is it for you & your partner to vividly remember the details of your story. How do you want your children to experience the story of their birth? Do you want to vividly remember the details? Now imagine you’re 60, how do you want to relive the experience? Preserving your birth story gives you & your partner the ability to experience birth from an outside perspective. Witness the deep moments of connection, the love & support of your birth team, brothers & sisters meeting for the first time, first snuggles and all of baby’s precious tiny details. As a laboring person it's profoundly life-changing to see yourself give birth. The strength & determination (physically & mentally) it takes to bring new life earth-side is unlike any other experience in life. You are beautiful, powerful, strong, capable and your story is worthy of preserving.
If you'd like to ask a question or book your birth story please please get in touch. Don't hesitate too long though because I only book one, maybe two births per month.