Learn about documenting a birth and telling a birth story through photography. Find a birth photography checklist and camera setting tips.
From the moment I started my photography business I knew that one of my primary focuses would be birth photography. There is just something so awe inspiring, empowering, and captivating about being there to capture those first moments between a family and their newborn baby. I have been told that out of numerous photo sessions family’s have, birth photos are by far some of their favorites images/ memories.
Birth Photography Tips
Having three kiddos of my own birth photos are something that I wish I had invested in. Birth photography is not your typical photo session. Lasting anywhere between 6-18+ hours with all of the unknowns, it is sure to keep you on your toes and ready at all times.
For my birth clients or those who are interested. I like to meet face to face for an initial consultation somewhere between 20-28 weeks. At this meeting I am getting to know more about my potential client, her pregnancy, any past history from previous pregnancies, and information regarding doctors/ midwives and what there birth plan might entail. (hospital, home, birth center- etc). I go over what to expect of me and answer any questions that may arise.
During our consultation I also go over pricing/ package details and contracts if they move forward with booking. Pricing: I offer one price for birth photography and do not waiver from it. It includes my time on call starting at 36 weeks, time at the delivery, and up to an hour post-delivery. Timing has usually ranged anywhere from 4 hours- 18 hours (thus far).
Each birth is different and must be treated as so. You really have to be well versed on that process of having a baby and all of the lingo. Educate yourself before hand on the process and lingo if you aren’t familiar with it! At around 34-36 weeks I will schedule a final consult with mom and hope that her partner also attends. We discuss the need for updates after each doctors appointment (this helps me plan my schedule and make sure I have things in order so that at a drop of a hat I can make my way to the birth).
I encourage communication between the partner and I as mom is laboring and at around 5-6cm I make my way to the birth. This allows me to capture the end of labor and the delivery- you know all of the emotion! I stay for up to an hour after birth capturing those sweet details of getting measured, weighed, finger printed, and all of the firsts. I then leave and allow the parents to soak in those sweet moments with their newest little one.
What is the best camera for birth photography?
Camera Wise I would highly suggest a full frame camera. I capture on a Canon Mark iv, and typically use my 35mm lens. I find that sometimes in a birth delivery room setting you can be confined to a small and often dark space. In order to ensure that we are out of the way of the medical professionals and family that are there to see and support the healthy delivery of mom and baby, you’ll need a wider view for capturing and a camera body that is great in low light.
Do you use flash for birth photography?
YES! I use a speed lite attached to my camera body and bounce flash if necessary. If natural light is available, it is always my preference. I feel like sometimes flashes can cause a disruption although I have never had complaints from a family or medical professionals. I try to be a fly on the wall when the time comes so that mom and family can focus on bringing their baby earthside.
What are fresh 48 pictures? are they different than birth pictures?
Fresh 48 pictures can be considered an alternative to birth photos. They are usually taken within those first 48 hours of life, hence the name ;). These images capture the love and emotion of having a new baby. Holding, snuggling, first baths, tiny details, and the setting are the content that I aim for in Fresh 48 pictures. Birth photos capture the entire journey and raw emotion of labor and delivery- it truly is telling a birth story from beginning to end. It’s a personal preference for what the family chooses to be documented and I always try to provide them with as much information on the two so that they can make the best decision for them!
Where should the photographer place themselves in the hospital room?
During my consults, I always gauge the family for the type of birth images they envision. Most families prefer not to have the vaginal area photographed and that’s ok! But some opt to have the doctor’s view (crowning shots) and for that I am there as well. If families choose not to have the lower region captured, I stay up near the head of the bed with mom to get her view, because this is the story I want to tell. I capture mom’s pushing, partner’s/ dad’s emotions, and the medical team coaching mom through the pushing. Often, I become an additional support or encourager for the mom. For the mom’s who want everything documented, I move quickly and quietly throughout the room being mindful of my surroundings and staying out of the way of the other professionals.
Do I as the photographer talk to the doctor or does the mom/dad inform them of me taking pictures?
I normally have the family consult and inform the doctor of their wishes and desires to have birth story photography in the room as part of their intended birth plan. I haven’t run into any issues or concerns from the doctors but have been informed of c-section procedures. Meaning if mom goes to an emergency c-section or even a planned one, typically only one additional person is allowed in the OR. Families normally opt for their partner/ father of the baby. I haven’t been allowed into an OR as of yet, but I have seen other birth photographers welcomed. This all depends on the medical provider and the hospitals rules.
Birth Photography Checklist
For me, it truly is about documenting a birth which means getting the entire story within the birth photos. I have included a little bullet list of what I try to aim in getting at each birth. The details in a final gallery really set the scene and give you a timeline of the events. Those details would be a reminder of “when we were waiting, anticipating, expecting” a baby.
- The Outside (hospital building, birthing center, home birth)
- I also capture images as I am walking to the family’s room, signs (labor and delivery, floor, room number)
- Details, don’t forget the details!
- Time of the birth on the clock
- The machines monitoring the heartbeat
- The ivs
- Bags of medicine
- Baby’s bed
- Baby warmer
- Laboring shots of mom
- Images of dad
- Nurse visits
- Any other significant moments that come up
- I try to always capture the details and love/ support between the expected parents.
- Don’t forget to go in for close ups and get different angles!!
- When it’s time to Push .. usually my camera is going back and forth from mom, to dad, to professionals until the baby comes out.
- Be prepared for “the moment” when baby comes out and is displayed to mom for the first time—oh it’s my favorite, and always brings me to tears.
- During this time emotions will be flooding and your camera will be clicking.. dad’s emotions, mom’s reactions, and anyone else in the room that has been anticipating the baby
If you are looking to do a little DIY Hospital Pictures on your own – HERE is a helpful read!