So You’re Thinking of Hiring a Birth Photographer?
When I say “birth photography,” what comes to mind? When I tell people that I am a birth photographer I have often received some interesting looks of skepticism and also curiosity. Many people have asked me, “Soooo…you mean you actually see babies being born and you take photos of that?!” And my joyful response is, “YES!” Of all the types of photography that I have done in my life, and do today, photographing births gives me the most pleasure and is such a rush of adrenaline. At the same time, it can also be really exhausting because nine times out of ten my clients are calling me in the middle of the night saying that they are in labor. Sometimes there can be a lot of waiting, and naps, for both mom and myself. Yes, I have been known to take power naps in the hospital waiting room, birth center living room, or at my clients’ homes.
Point is, I absolutely love birth photography. It is an extreme honor to be there for a family to document one of the most sacred experiences of their life. And let’s be honest, it is very intimate experience. Yes. If you’re thinking it, the answer is yes. I’ve seen every baby come out of every woman I have photographed. I have seen a lot of vaginas. Seriously, it’s not a big deal. Everyone else in the room is seeing it when you’re birthing a human!
Most people who want a birth photographer don’t have to be convinced of it. They absolutely know that this kind of experience is for them. If you are considering hiring a birth photographer, or if you’re on the fence about it, here are a few things I’d like to share with you to help you through your decision making process.
* birth photography is personal: we’ve kind of gone over this above. If you are 100% sure that there is no way on earth you want someone up in your business then this is probably not for you. I certainly am not about to push people into something they are not comfortable with. If you are even remotely considering it, understand that the feelings of uncomfortableness completely melt away when you are in the moment and bringing that baby into the world. And seeing the photos after the fact will have you tears, never once regretting your choice to have it documented.
* how long has your photographer been doing this? birth photography is a very specialized art so it’s important to know that they understand how this process works. It’s even helpful if they are also a parent and understand how birth works. Now, all photographers have to learn somewhere and even someone like myself had to have that first client be the guinea pig. However, when I first started in this genre of photography I did a few births for free or very little money and was very clear with people that this was to get started and build my portfolio. They were totally fine with it, and the fact that I had already been a professional photographer in other areas for many many years gave me leg up. I was trying to learn photography and birth at the same time. If the person you are looking to hire has never shot a birth before, give that some thought. I trained professional should have a few births under their belt before they start charging market rates for those services.
* how far away does your photographer live? this is an important question to ask because births don’t have a dedicated start and end time like a wedding does. They also can have a schedule of their own. If your chosen photographer lives an hour away from you, you might want to consider finding someone closer, because you don’t want to be in a situation where your photographer missed your birth because they live too far away. That’s not to say that even a close birth can be missed. I had a client just last month give birth in the car on the way to the birth center because it all just happened that fast. None of us got there on time, not me nor the midwives. So we made it work, mom and baby came inside and we picked up where things left off. Bottom line, closer is better. I personally don’t feel comfortable taking on clients who are more than thirty minutes away from where I live.
* does your photographer have a back-up? And I’m not talking about back-up gear, although that’s important too for any professional photographer to have too. I’m talking about a back-up human. What if a situation arises where you go into labor and your photographer is sick, or out of town? It happens! We’re all human. That’s why as birth photographers we all have a few people in our back pocket that we can call on in case something comes up. This is a policy that my clients are informed of right off the bat when they hire me and it’s in my contract, so there are no surprises. So far, knock on wood, I have never missed a birth.
* is birth photography worth the money? 100%, unequivocally, yes. I have never had a client be anything than overjoyed with their photos and extremely happy that they made the decision to hire a photographer. This is a family session that if you hate how your hair looked you could easily have those photos redone another time. This is birth. There are no do-overs. Until you have your next baby, that is, and you hire them again. But while we’re talking about cost let’s review what it actually costs to hire a pro. The market rate for a quality, trained, birth photographer in the Katy/Houston area is anywhere from $1,000 – $1,500. I know that’s a lot of money and there is a good reason we charge it. One, I have a family to feed. Two, birth photographers have to be on call before and after your due date, which usually means we don’t take any other work around the time that your baby will arrive so to be sure that we won’t miss it. Like any professional service, you get what you pay for, and it is my professional opinion that if anyone is charging drastically less than that, they either don’t know the value of their work or they don’t know what they are doing. Both of those are red flags in my opinion.
* will my images be posted online? this is a really important question. In this age of Instagram, digital marketing is standard practice. I am very clear with my clients that the biggest way I get referrals is by other people seeing my work. So for my clients, yes, your images will be posted. However, I am also extremely sensitive to my clients’ wishes when it comes to what images they are comfortable showing. If they don’t want any images shown of their baby’s head popping out of their vagina then I don’t show those. If they don’t want me to share pictures that show their face, I don’t share those either. Sometimes I don’t even tag a client’s name in a photo. But at the end of the day we do post images because we need to market our work. We also want other people to understand the amazingness that is birth! Birth has had the curtain pulled over it for so many decades and that tide is shifting. Birth photography is political for me because I believe that birth and women’s bodies should not be censored. But at the end of the day, you need to have an honest conversation about your comfort level. If you are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, not willing to have your photos shown, then you will need to consider paying a little extra. It’s what we photographers call an “exclusivity clause” when our work can’t be marketed to get further work. And if you’re still not comfortable with that, then maybe birth photography isn’t for you.
Hiring a birth photographer is a very personal decision and one that I promise you will not regret. If you are interested in seeing more examples of birth photos, feel free to hop on over to my site www.anneschmidtphotography.com/births
or follow me on Instagram at @annethedoula (yes, I am also a doula, but I’ll talk more about that in my next blog post). If you have more questions about hiring a birth photographer do not hesitate to reach out to me. You can email me at email@example.com
Anne Schmidt is a professional photographer, writer, and postpartum doula. She lives in Katy with her husband and two young daughters. She is originally from Maine (but don’t hold that against her).