There are a few birth photographers down here in south Florida who I am sure have the credentials as professional photographers and high quality work in their field of speciality, but the problem we’ve found with my birth clients who have used their family photographer (or wedding photographer) for their previous baby’s birth is that these professional photographers don’t quite get the right shot. Remember, they are not birth-industry specialists. They tend to photograph the care provider delivering the baby but from a very revealing angle while completely forgetting to capture mom and dad’s very emotional reactions to seeing their baby’s face for the first time.
It makes sense to me why this mistake is commonly made by those without birth industry experience: birth photography sounds like it could be a medical-geared genre of photography (such as the medical images you might find in an anatomy textbook about birth). And I am sure it really depends on the kind of birth photographer you hire (I say it is VITAL to look through their vast birth galleries to ensure not only their work is high quality and their editing style suits you, but the TYPE of photographs you would expect). There is a huge difference in photographer styles and approaches. For me, birth photography is much, much more than a baby’s head crowning and being delivered into the hands of an OBGYN.
To me, birth photography starts during labor: the powerful goddess that you are. You may not think of yourself in this way just yet. But just wait. When your sweet baby grows up and you look back on that first day you met her, you’ll realize looking at these images, how strong, brave, and focused you were on the only thing that mattered, bringing her into this world. And it might take your breath away for a second. As she is going off to college, or getting married, or perhaps in labor with HER first child, think of the powerful message you will pass onto her: YES BABY, you CAN do this! I DID THIS with you 30 years ago!
The crowning/delivering moment of birth is a piece of the puzzle. Without the journey bringing your baby into this world, it’s not quite the entire story. Did your partner hold your head up as you’re pushing? Did they look at you in total surprise and also admiration, never knowing you were so strong of a woman? Did they hold your hand?
And once your baby is born, what did you say? Were there tears in your eyes for a split second when you first saw his or her face?
Did your partner kiss your head almost to say “damn I am so proud of you, thank you for giving me my son”
That first touch, that first look, the first time you feel their super soft skin and realize how tiny they are, that they have your nose and his eyes?
All these precious firsts matter so much. They are all part of your journey, your transformation, and that is why my work focuses not on the anatomical process of birth, while acknowledging it, the main part of my work is HOW does this journey affect you? How does it strengthen you.
I have attended nearly 100 births in the last 4 and a half years, and what really broke my heart recently was a client sharing her story with me. A photographer was suppose to come to her birth, but she wasn’t on-call for them until 37 weeks, and my client went into labor during her 36th week of pregnancy, and they were unable to reach her. This is exactly why my on-call time for my clients starts at 28 weeks, the start of the third trimester. You have the security of knowing I am available whether day or night, for up to 14 weeks of your pregnancy and should your baby be a premie baby, you certainly deserve a birth story just as much as if your baby was born full term. The really heartbreaking part of this is that it is not the first time I’ve heard it. Women go into labor usually during the night (maybe 90% of my clients have over 4.5 years) and as a professional, on-call photographer who guarantees being on standby for your client, literally 24 hours a day (not just day time hours) you need to be prepared not only to drop everything and go when your client needs you, but to wake up the second you get that call. There is no snooze button in on-call work. And to not get out of bed instantly and commit to this family, despite how tired you are, is simply unprofessional and unacceptable. There are no do-overs in birth.
Yes, I do have birth photographers on-call for me when I have more than 1 client due in a certain time frame, I feel most comfortable having many back-up plans for all the unpredictable aspects of birth, but in 4.5 years I have not once sent a back up photographer in my place. I do this by limiting how many families I work with each month, so I can be present not only for each of my families but also, be a good mom to my own kids at home. It is not fair for me to be burned out and overworked and sloppy, not fair to my clients, not fair to my own family. That is also why I do not work in any other genre of photography. Occasionally, when I have a slow month (the birth world always has mountains and valleys), I will invite past birth clients for family photos, but I do not ever commit to year round family/maternity/newborn/breastfeeding sessions. My commitment in my life lies in 2 places: my birth clients and my own family. Imagine if I took wedding clients and you were to go into labor during a wedding of mine. I would have no choice but to send a back up photographer to you. I have a hard time disconnecting from my birth clients. They are like my own family, and I cannot imagine ever saying I cannot come because I have another commitment.
I privately edit all of your birth story myself instead of outsourcing the editing like many photographers do to photographers who spend their year editing the work of other photographers. It is too important to me, I need to edit your photos myself. They are my art of your extraordinary experience, so your photos and video are always completely private with me in my office.
Since almost half of the births I have photographed have all been photographed at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, the labor and delivery staff are very familiar and comfortable in working with me, they see me every month, and they know they can depend on my professionalism and being unobtrusive.
I have two phones, and although no one has ever had to use the second phone in all 4 years, this is my security measure for you to know that you can reach me multiple ways in case cell phone towers are being funky the night you go into labor.
How does birth photography work?
We are in touch weekly starting 35 weeks of pregnancy, you can inform me of any pregnancy symptoms, comments from your midwife or OB on baby’s size or when they think you may go into labor so I can be especially sensitive and alert.
You notify me once you have consistent contractions for 2 hours so I can be prepared on my end to join you at your birth once you are in the late stages of active labor, that way I won’t be intrusive to you during the earlier stages when women tend to need space to be alone. I tend to be with clients for 2 to 6 hours on average before baby is born so I am able to capture the moments of you being a powerful and strong mama and your partner being supportive of you and it’s okay if you end up having a longer labor because I always am happy to be present and never rushed for time. And I like to stay for at least 1 hour following birth to ensure I can capture all the first moments of you enjoying your baby, breastfeeding if you are planning on it, daddy holding baby for the first time, and the entire baby exam where we will find out how much she weighs and how long she is. For families with older siblings I like to come back the following day for that first meeting between big brother and baby sister.
You are already such a strong and amazing mama!
And it is really brave that you are listening to your heart and realizing how important it is to you to have this emotional moment documented of both of your faces the moment you both meet your baby so you can remember this day forever, all the moms say they forget most of it just even a year later, and you’ll be able to share the first time you saw her when she is older