Birth Photography is a growing industry, serving more and more families each year. But is this service worth the considerable cost?
I have seen galleries and competitions of birth photos that bring me to tears. These photographers have used their talents to capture the challenges and passions of these precious moments in ways that the average parents with a phone camera could not. However, a quick google search of birth photographers in your area will prove the fees can be significant.
Newer photographers may charge a few hundred dollars — others may charge in the thousands. But when you consider all the logistics involved, you may understand the need to charge more than the fee for a typical family photo shoot.
Obviously, birth is unpredictable so a photographer who commits to be there is committing to unforeseeable hours. Not only can this complicate their other appointments, but it can be a sacrifice for their families, as well. If they have children, they have to arrange on-call childcare and transportation for little ones to and from school or other activities. They may have to pump before or during the birth for nursing babies. Just as for any other birth worker, there are a lot of arrangements to be made.
Also like other birth workers, birth photographers are often motivated by a passion to serve expectant families and to enhance the experience of childbirth. Some of them will also offer price breaks if you purchase a package including other sessions, such as a maternity or newborn photo shoot.
When my first baby was born, we did not have the budget for a photographer, but we did have a DSLR camera. We brought it along and my husband took a few photos of me in labor. Then the assistant midwife snapped a few when she had a free hand and took some more staged photos of us with our new baby after the birth. We really did not know how to use the camera to its full capacity but still, I treasure those photos.
I thought I would not really want any documentation of the more private moments, but I actually cherish them. They help me relive that beautiful memory, even though they are not ideally lit or the best angles. At our second birth, we got a few better shots with the same camera and I love to look back through them. Since then, I’ve seen some incredible, raw birth photos that only a trained eye could capture.
Obviously, if a photographer is invited to a birth, they should be comfortable with birth and know how to be the least distraction possible. The photographer’s personality should match well with the parents’, just like a doula or care provider. A hired photographer has the bonus of not needing to be a supporter or have any other responsibility. They focus only on capturing the moments so that the couple and other birth workers can focus just on supporting the mother and baby.
When I asked some mamas who hired a birth photographer about their experience, they all said the photos were well worth the expense. One mom talked about how their photographer took maternity, birth and newborn photos for them so they really feel like they got to know her and she got to know their personalities. She was able to capture them well and respect their individuality because they built a relationship throughout the whole process.
Some talked about how they felt so focused during birth, they did not notice a lot of details about the environment or the way their birth teams supported them. When they looked back at the photos, they saw all the ways everyone worked around them when their eyes were closed. There were efforts they never saw or could not appreciate in the moment, but were so grateful for afterwards.
Others expressed appreciation for the opportunity to share photos with people who were not present during the birth. One said she as able to show her family and it helped them feel more involved in the birth. Another mentioned that she made her birth photos public as a way to encourage other moms that birth is a beautiful, empowering, natural process. What a great way to help replace some of the misleading and more fearful images we often see in the media.
One mom talked about “birth amnesia:” how often soon after a birth, you forget about the pain or challenge. But she said through the photos, she remembered more about the sensations of labor and how hard she worked. Several moms talked about all of the the emotions of birth: the vulnerability, the connection, the grit, the self discovery, the bliss. They said they love reliving those moments through the photos in the days and months following the birth experience and know the photos will become even more precious over time.
In their words, capturing these moments to revisit for a lifetime is “priceless.”