Okay, friends – gather ’round. You’ve got questions about birth photography, I know, so let’s talk about them.
What Is Birth Photography?
If you’re here, odds are that sometime in the not-so-recent past, you decided to look into birth photography. Maybe a friend of yours had a session done, and you fell in love with the images. Maybe you saw something on social media about it, or learned about it on a tour of your local hospital. However you found out about it, odds are that your initial reaction fell into one of two categories:
1) Oh, wow! That’s such a great idea!
2) WAIT – THEY TAKE PICTURES OF WHAT, NOW?
I get these reactions all the time when I tell people what I do, and both are totally normal. If you knew immediately that birth photography is something you would love, you probably still have a few questions about how it all works. If you were a little confused–maybe even put off–at the concept, you definitely have lots of questions that need answering.
And I bet that chief among the questions that both groups have is. “Why, for the love of all that’s holy, is birth photography so expensive?!”
No worries, though – we’re going to talk all about the Hows and Whys of birth photography, here. Including the numbers aspect, so that you can make the most informed decision possible as you decide whether or not it’s right for you and your family. Oftentimes, a person’s hesitation is a result of not understanding how birth photography really works, and why it’s a great thing to have.
So, let’s chat about things, shall we?
Why Birth Photography?
You think you’re going to remember everything – but trust me, you won’t.
Birth is a wild ride, filled with adrenaline, and hormones, and all kinds of (mostly) wonderful chaos. When you’re preparing for a baby–whether it’s your first or your 10th–you do everything possible to get ready. When the time comes, though, your body and your baby are the ones in charge, despite all of your planning. Exhaustion, overwhelm, and all of the hormones you’re only about 60% sure you can pronounce correctly swamp you. Your focus narrows to one thing: getting that baby out.
This is totally natural–it’s what your body is supposed to do! But as a result, you’re going to miss the little things. You won’t see how tightly your partner holds your hand. The wince on their face at every painful contraction. You won’t see the look on your mom’s face–the one she always makes when she’s worried but trying to not look worried. You won’t see the look on both of their faces as they wish they could take on the pain for you.
“So, I looked at everything this morning.. and Cyd, for the first time since giving birth to him.. I finally really had a cry. I was so overwhelmed with the most precious moments you captured! I missed most of those moments myself with how long of a day it was and how crazy everything went down! Thank you so so so so much. WE LOVE YOU!!!
You’ll miss the look at the moment of birth that can only be described as dumbstruck as your partner realizes that yes, it’s really real–you’re parents, now.
And although when you’re in labor, the discomfort and exhaustion and is-this-over-yet feelings are front and center…after that baby is in your arms, all of that fades away. That’s natural, too. Otherwise, why would any mother go through childbirth more than once?
The consequence of that, though, is that you miss out on seeing yourself at your absolute most fierce. You’re going to feel overwhelmed, and exhausted, and there’s going to be a moment when you think. “Maybe I can’t do this.” Then you’re going to do it anyway, Because you know that your baby is waiting to meet you. So you’re going to gather every last bit of strength that you’ve got, and you’re going to get it done.
Because that’s what mothers do.
That’s a powerful thing, that moment. And it’s worth documenting.
After your baby is born, there’s a lot happening simultaneously. Suddenly, you are two separate beings, instead of one nested inside the other. As a result, you’re going to miss a few things as your birth team is caring for you, while baby’s team is caring for them. As your birth photographer, though, I capture every moment for you. Even the ones you can’t see!
It’s not just about the baby.
As much as I love photographing the moment of birth, many times my favorite images from a birth story are the ones that come before and after the big event. And those are the ones most difficult for a non-professional to photograph. I don’t want to just photograph the birth, because that’s not your entire story! I want you to see how much your partner loves you while you’re laboring. I want you to see how instantaneously you both fall in love with your baby as you count all of their fingers and toes.
I want you to see how overwhelmed with joy and excitement your parents are at meeting their grandchild. The look on their faces as they begin plotting all of the spoiling they’ll do. I want you to have beautiful images of your grandparents holding that tiny little piece of their legacy. Because they won’t be around forever, and your baby will one day treasure that image of their great-grandparent snuggling them close.
You’re an expert at your job – just like I’m an expert at mine
My job as a birth photographer is not just to photograph the birth itself. Anyone with a decent camera can do that! More importantly, my job is to photograph what your birth means to your family. It’s important to realize that photographing the event, and photographing your story are two very different things. As an objective and experienced observer, I will notice and capture moments that a friend or relative with a camera–even Dad–will not. Having a professional there to capture everything also allows you all to be fully present in the moment, rather than worrying about taking photos yourselves.
I’ve invested in some of the best photographic equipment appropriate for the job of documenting births, which is just going to do a better job than a smartphone. There, I said it. Don’t crucify me, but it’s true. Birth often takes place in low-light environments, with lots of clutter all around you, and a million different things going on in every frame. The newest iPhone or point and shoot is just never going to replace professional equipment, a trained eye, and a whole lot of experience.
Okay, let me be clear about this one. Your medical professionals are always going to be smarter than me–by all means, you need to listen to Team White Coats and Team Scrubs. When it comes to all things medical, they are most definitely the ones in charge.
However, I’ve been told many times that my presence as a birth photographer is a comforting one. I’ve been on both sides of the birth process myself, so I know what it feels like to be a laboring mom, overwhelmed and exhausted, with a million questions fighting for attention in my head. There’s something to be said for having someone there with you with whom you’ve built a personal relationship over the months of your pregnancy. You’re able to chat with them, and bounce questions off of them. Fathers in particular often have questions that they are hesitant to interrupt the busy medical staff to ask – and I often relate my own personal experience, as well as things I’ve learned from working with clients. I am also a certified doula, so I’ve been known to coach my clients through a birth or two!
Birth photography isn’t for everyone
Look, here’s the thing. I can list every reason in the world for Team Pro Birth Photography, and some people are just never going to be on board. Maybe they don’t really “get” why they would need professional photographs of their birth. Maybe they can’t get past the hangups they have about it. Maybe there is just absolutely no convincing their partner that it’s a good idea, no matter how hard they try. Maybe it’s just not affordable, much like I will probably always lust after the $44,000 Hasselblad H5D-50c medium format camera, while I will likely never come closer to it than (carefully) pressing my nose against the glass of an extremely upscale camera store display window.
If it’s not for you, that’s totally fine–but if it is, I want you to be able to make an informed decision.
So, on the subject of affordability…
Here’s where we get to the “For the love of all that’s holy, it costs how much?!” part. I didn’t forget about it, I promise.
If you’ve decided that maybe this birth photography thing is worth looking into, you’ve likely put some feelers out there and experienced a bit of sticker shock at the prices you’ve been quoted. My birth stories start at $750–although the market fluctuates somewhat, most seasoned professionals will not charge less than that. And you know what? I totally feel you if that number is shocking. It seems simple on the surface, right? It’s just taking pictures, man – how hard is that, really? Why would it cost more than your family portraits, or newborn photos – probably more than both combined – just because it’s a birth session?
I’ve heard every shocked exclamation and seen every taken-aback look imaginable, folks. But the thing is, most people have that reaction because they have no clue how the whole shebang works. Once they do, most of the time they “get” it. They don’t always turn around and book a package, but they get it.
Once a birth photographer accepts a session, we reserve what’s known as an “on call” period. During this period of time, we are absolutely committed to you and being there for your family. We don’t schedule any other clients during that time period who cannot be rescheduled easily and at the last minute. We prepare to walk out of our kids’ school functions should they conflict with your baby’s arrival timeline. And we leave family dinners with our food cooling on the table so that we can race to the birth to be there with you.
We have to be as ready as you are to race to the hospital or birth space at any given moment–whether it be at 2am or 10pm. And we are your ride-or-die partners until the end. I’ve attended labors which have progressed so fast that I have skidded into the delivery room with only minutes to spare. And I’ve photographed moms who have stayed on the cusp of “could deliver at any moment” for hours and hours. My longest to date has been 26 hours!
As professionals, we have to be prepared for anything and everything. We work closely to build trust with your birth team, so that they will allow us the access that we need to photograph your story even when things get hectic.
I don’t say any of this to portray we birth professionals as martyrs, but to communicate just how much we believe in the power of birth photography. We do it because we love it, and we love being there to support you. We want to capture you at your fiercest, and give you the gift of those memories. The power of birth and the miracle of witnessing new life never ceases to give me chills. And I feel privileged to live in a time where I have the tools to document it in all of its uniqueness for each of my clients.
To do this job reliably, and to do it well, necessitates a lot of work and dedication. The actual process of photographing is often the easiest part of our jobs–but before that part comes the client meetings, getting to know you and your needs. There’s the checking-in texts and emails for moms who are often in full-blown pregnancy brain mode. We answer emails thoughtfully, and always have our phone on full volume so that we can be ready for every call or text about contractions–even if it does turn out to be just a false alarm. We charge batteries–many, many batteries–and have our bags packed and with us wherever we go.
All of this work occurs before photographing your birth–before we get back to our desks to safely store your images and begin the process of editing them and creating a beautiful final product for you.
So, what you’re paying for is not just pictures–you’re paying for passion, talent, and commitment. You’re paying for trustworthiness, and experience, and finely-honed instincts. Cadets in the armed forces probably take more time to wake and dress to be out the door than I do at this point.
Sure, you can find someone to do it for peanuts – but is that person really who you want with you throughout this process?
If birth photography is something that you feel is right for your family, I’m more than happy to offer payment plans–and you can even add me to your baby shower registry information! Like with anything else, investing in quality work is not cheap, but the remorse experienced after going with a less satisfactory option is often too little, too late.
Q – Okay, so I know why an on-call birth is expensive, but I have a scheduled induction/c-section planned. Would a birth session be cheaper then?
A – Great question – but nope. Let me tell you why: Do you know who doesn’t care about the fact that you and your birth team planned an induction or section one little bit? Your own precious bundle of joy, that’s who. The most important thing I’ve learned about birth over the years is that there is absolutely no predicting it. So, even if you do have a time scheduled on your hospital’s board, your baby could very well decide to come before that date.
If you’re having a surprise operation, things will be extra rushed. Your medical team is not going to put everything on pause until I can pack my bags and get there for you. Their first priority is the health and safety of mom and baby! So, if I’m not already at the hospital, I will likely not be able to make it in time if I am not already prepared. Additionally, I believe that all birth is equal and worthy of the same level of commitment from me. I don’t feel it would be fair to charge one mother less because she delivers via c-section or induction than I would another mother who goes into labor on her own and has a vaginal birth.
Q – What if I want to book a session, but my partner isn’t exactly on board?
A – This is probably my most frequently asked question. I think it’s probably some ingrained protective instinct, but it’s natural for partners to be hesitant about a stranger in their space during such a sensitive time. Many times, having a meet-up helps a lot. We can go over the hang-ups that partners have, and they get a chance to meet met and realize that I’m a professional with a job to do, just like everyone else in the room with you that day will be. And also, I like to consider myself a pretty cool person. 😉 I’ve never had a partner regret having me in the room to photograph – not once. Again, most of the time, hesitations just come from lack of understanding! Maybe they’ll change their mind, and maybe they won’t – but it can’t hurt to get to know one another and talk things over.
Q – Isn’t having a stranger in the room during birth a little invasive?
A – Okay, do me a favor. I want you to take a sec and really think about all of the things your birth team will be assisting you with while you give birth. You’ve read the books, right? It’s a lot. It takes a village, for real. There will be multiple people involved with the process of helping you bring your baby into the world. And–spoiler alert, here–many of the processes involved are less than gloriously dignified. It’s just how it works, really.
All that to say that I am often the least invasive person in the room. And I often am told that I was so low-key, my clients forgot I was even there. Plus, if I do my job right, we won’t be strangers by the time you deliver! Many of my clients have become good friends, and I regularly scroll their social media pages to go all googly-eyed over baby pictures (yes, I’m “that” person).
Q: What exactly gets photographed? Is my business going to be all over the internets?
A: Okay, I lied when I said the whole what-if-my-partner-isn’t-on-board question was my most frequent–this one’s it, for sure. What woman isn’t put off by the possibility of one of the most vulnerable times in her life being on public display? But I’ve been in that same vulnerable position, so I know how it feels. Rest assured that I am very discrete regarding what I post publicly. And what I photograph depends on your comfort level, as well as what your birth team allows. Digital images included in your package are protected with a secure password that only you receive. And I will always check with you before posting anything online that may be considered sensitive.
Getting to know one another during the booking process, as well as throughout your pregnancy means that we go over all of these little things so that we’re all on the same page when it’s go-time. I know the term “birth photography” probably conjures all kinds of extreme-possibility images in your head at first, but trust me… It’s not about the crotch shot!
Q: When should I book?
A: The earlier, the better. Most clients book me shortly after their first trimester. I only take a limited number of birth sessions per month in order to fully commit to my clients, so once my calendar is full, that’s it! That said, if you’re a bit of a procrastinator (and if there’s ever a time in your life when that’s completely understandable, it’s when you’re pregnant)…know that I have booked births as close as the day of a mom’s due date! So, drop me a line and we’ll chat.
To find out more about booking, email me at BayouRosePhoto@Gmail.com
Bayou Rose Photography specializes in wedding, birth, and documentary style family photography in Southern Louisiana, and surrounding areas including but not limited to Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Prairieville, Gonzales and Lafayette.
This is the most thorough and comprehensive blog post on this subject out there! Kudos for answering all the hard questions! You are the best!