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Birth Photography opinion

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Hi, I am new here at Mothering.com so hello to everyone :)

 

I am a 25 yr old mom of a very active 2 yr old girly. I have always been very passionate about birth even before getting pregnant. After the baby I took a workshop to be a Doula but was never able to get certified because it was too hard for me to attend births ( didn't have a baby sitter ). In August I will be starting pre reqs to become a nurse.

 

I am also very passionate about photography, and for my birthday my hubby is getting me a very nice camera and great lenses ( nikon d300). Now that my mother in law is coming to live with us for a while, I thought that maybe I could give it a shot as a birth photographer.

 

This is what I'm thinking:

 

Take a photography workshop

 

Do 10+ births for free and let them know that I am still learning

 

After I feel comfortable start charging $200.00 per birth. starting during active labor and two hrs after birth

 

If you see or hear about someone that would take picture of the birth and after would you wan't to do it?

 

And after I start charging is 200 too much? I really don't want to be pricey at all!!

 

Thank you all for your honest opinion and sorry for any misspelling as english is my second language.

 

 

 

post #2 of 18

I'm using a photographer who has been a pro for weddings for years but just getting into birth photography (first birth is in April near mine). She's not charging anything as she wants to build a portfolio.

 

I think your plan sounds like a good one.

post #3 of 18

Around here, professional birth phototographers charge quite a bit more than $200.  For that service, plus a slide show and photo rights, it's $800-$1500.  Don't underestimate the time you're putting in to make this a success.  Often there are $100 in childcare costs to attend a birth.


 

 

post #4 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jane View Post

Around here, professional birth phototographers charge quite a bit more than $200.  For that service, plus a slide show and photo rights, it's $800-$1500.  Don't underestimate the time you're putting in to make this a success.  Often there are $100 in childcare costs to attend a birth.


 

 


I'd agree with this. I initially thought you'd charge $200 until you gained even more experience and then charged a full rate (which is $800-$1500 here in Seattle).

 

post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thank you girls for your honest input. The whole idea behind it, is that since I am not a professional photographer and I have yet to take a course in photography ( I only know the basics). I don't think that I would ever feel comfortable charging at the beginning no matter how many hours I would have to be there for the birth and after. That way, I can gain hands on experience and build a portfolio faster because it's free and I (assume) that because people love free stuff ;)

 

After that, depending on how I feel with my abilities I would start charging for the services. I agree with all  you girls that $200 is too low. I just feel that since most photographer charge "so much" unfortunately a lot of people really can't afford it. For example: me!

 

I would've love to have a photographer at my birth capturing every beautiful moment but.... It would've been too much for me at that $800 range.

 

But hey, you never know how I will feel about it once I start putting in the hours ;)

 

Thanks again Girls!!

 

BTW if you saw a person willing to do birth photography for free would you consider it?

 

 

post #6 of 18
I would definitely consider it (any chance you are in AUstin?) if I saw it offered for free or even cheap. Of course I would want to meet with the person first to make sure they had good intentions and weren't going to try and steal my baby or something like that. Around here everyone is sooo expensive that I've pretty much ruled it out and DF takes super craptastic pics, so I've come to terms with the reality that those precious memories of her first few minutes of life outside the womb will probably only be in my mind instead of recorded in anyway.
post #7 of 18

I think it's a great idea, but I also agree with others who said you will want to charge more.  The hardest part of births, for me, is being on call.  Not only do you have to be ready to go, but so does your childcare, and if you start being on call at 38 weeks it could be a couple weeks per client.  

 

I would be very interested in having a birth photographer at my birth!  Especially one with doula training, that way I would know she was supportive of and comfortable around natural childbirth.

post #8 of 18

I'm a birth photographer and I think the world needs more of us :)  In answer to some of your questions:

 

I absolutely agree you should not charge. Before you step foot in a birth you should be comfortable controlling your camera in manual in your own house at night without a flash. This is the best way to practice for a birth environment. It is NOTHING like shooting outdoor portraits of your kids or controlled shots with an external light source/flash. Your camera is good but not ideal for a birth setting because the D300 still has pretty bad noise handling in low light so you'll also want to practice editing noisy/grainy images so you can find the best combo of ISO/Aperture/Shutter to reduce noise as much as possible for your body and lens.  And if you don't have a prime lens with an aperture of at least 1.8, get one. You can pick up the 50mm 1.8 really inexpensively. You'll probably also want to process in black and white and that's an art in and of itself. That, too, is something you can practice now with ordinary photos of your kids.

 

When you start charging for births, the best advice I ever got was to decide up front what my ideal pricing structure would be and then offer a temporary reduction on that. So after I had some free births under my belt (and you should not need 10 - a few in different environments should be plenty for you to decide if you can make this a profession), I did a few for 50% off full price. It is MUCH easier to get rid of a discount than to raise your prices!

 

You will want to work up a model release and insist that all your portfolio-building clients sign. If you do not have work to show, you will never get hired. And then be VERY careful about the images you use. Not only do you NEVER want to take advantage of a client's trust but you also don't want to portray yourself to perspective clients as a photographer who will post graphic images. Insist on the model release - it is your marketing! Also never release full copyright on any images. Always provide a print release (if you are selling or including digital images) that explicitly says you retain copyright. This is industry standard.

 

When choosing how to price yourself, try to do a cost analysis. If you are at a typical birth for 8 hours and you take 4 hours to edit the birth plus 2 hours for a pre-birth consult, meals and parking at the birth, the cost of supplies for the CD/DVD, wear and tear on your equipment, time to deliver or cost of mailing the CD, etc you won't even make minimum wage at $200 a birth. I understand you, like all of us who work in the birth world, aren't in it for the money. But there is a difference between not being motivated by money and devaluing yourself! And never mind how you feel about yourself, you will be treated only as well as you treat yourself. Your most difficult clients will likely be your portfolio-building clients and your most grateful will be the clients who pay full price. This isn't always the case, obviously, but it's a rule of thumb in all areas of life. Do you want clients who really value you at their birth and value photography? Or do you want clients who treat you badly or place no real value in what you do? And of course you WILL burn out if you don't make enough to at least upgrade your equipment, pay your sales tax (every birth session has to be taxed!), pay your income taxes, pay your liability insurance and still feel like you aren't being robbed, right? You won't EVER get rich shooting births (just like midwives aren't getting rich and doulas aren't rich). But you have to make enough to at least break even!

 

Finally be sure you can handle being on call. It's hard. You have probably thought this through since you considered being a doula. It's the same on-call commitment. No vacations, no day trips. My brother just got engaged and I'm booked through November so if he picks a wedding date before December of this year I won't be able to go to his out of state wedding. Missing your kids birthdays, Christmas, etc. And if your client goes into labor at night (likely), you'll have to function on no sleep unless you have daytime help to relieve you. If your client goes into labor during the day you lose an entire day's productivity and have to play catch-up. It's hard no matter what. The burnout and turnover rate for birth photographers is HUGE. Most of us limit the number of births we take per month to ensure availability but also to ensure that we don't burnout and that we can have some semblance of a life. But it is also super-hard to say no. So keep that in mind. If you don't want to burn out, take it easy from the get-go.

 

Ok so that's way more than you asked for, really. I'm happy to talk about things privately if you like. I hope I don't sound too negative. I think it's best to go into anything new with as much info as possible and you already know all the positive things :) It really is the best job ever and like I said, we need more birth photographers out there! Good luck!

 

 

post #9 of 18

I am doing this very thing for my birth coming up since we can't afford to hire one, though since I have an interest in photography (not to ever be a pro or anything) I selected the photographer whose work I liked best. There was one I got samples from a couple births she did do, and I didn't really care for her work so I passed even though she would have been free too.

 

So, there are profs out there who are doing what you plan to do - not charging anything in order to get the experience specifically with birth photography and building a portfolio before charging anything. They are already professional photographers in another area of photography, for the most part. I would try to get connected with some other birth photographers in the country (ie find blogs, contact, etc) and perhaps find out from them how they build their birth photography business. With the charge range I mentioned above, in paying that, I would be expecting experienced professional birth photography both in conduct, presence, capturing, equipment, editing, turn-around, and options.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by surfermommy View Post

Thank you girls for your honest input. The whole idea behind it, is that since I am not a professional photographer and I have yet to take a course in photography ( I only know the basics). I don't think that I would ever feel comfortable charging at the beginning no matter how many hours I would have to be there for the birth and after. That way, I can gain hands on experience and build a portfolio faster because it's free and I (assume) that because people love free stuff ;)

 

After that, depending on how I feel with my abilities I would start charging for the services. I agree with all  you girls that $200 is too low. I just feel that since most photographer charge "so much" unfortunately a lot of people really can't afford it. For example: me!

 

I would've love to have a photographer at my birth capturing every beautiful moment but.... It would've been too much for me at that $800 range.

 

But hey, you never know how I will feel about it once I start putting in the hours ;)

 

Thanks again Girls!!

 

BTW if you saw a person willing to do birth photography for free would you consider it?

 

 



 

post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 

Mamanicky, Thank you so much for all the info you have shared with me. I very much appreciate it!! Funny thing is, that when I was surfing online for birth photographers and looking at their work I came across your website!!! You are a very talented photographer and I feel honored that you could share all that input with me :) I will definitely be private messaging you with any other questions I have. I still haven't purchased any equipment because I want to do a bit more research on that. My husband was a surf photographer and he used the d300 and absolutely loved it but then again it might not be the best camera for this type of work.

 

Thank you again to all the ladies here that shared opinions and info. It was very much appreciated and needed :)

 

 

 

 

post #11 of 18

Mamanicky, Wow you are an awesome person to take the time and share a few tips. I'm also looking in to getting into birth photography and not many share or answer questions. So thank you so much!!!!! You info was so helpful!!

 

 

Surfermommy------- Wishing you the best luck on ur new journey as a birth photographer :D

post #12 of 18
I'm also a pro-photog and though I'd chime in. Pricing is a difficult topic. Mamanicki is absolutely right - you don't want to devalue yourself and the community. However, you're also not a professional photog, and we all know there ill always be folks starting up and pricing themselves at the lower end of the spectrum to get experience and, in turn, getting the sometimes problematic clients who won't value you. That said, since you have no experience shooting births or much with photography, it might be weird toprice yourself at a grand and have an 80% off sale - seems a little suspect, so I thought I'd pass on the best, best, best pricing advice I heard (unfortunately after I'd floundered through way-too-slowly raising my prices, making no money, having problem clients, being unable to finance better equipment cause it all had to go to my bills because I made zero profit for years, and starting to resent the job because I was burning out from working constantly because I'd priced myself wrong and been commited to the lower pricing for up to two years because I took bookings too far out).

Once you've shot a bit for free (which is a great idea) and pick the price you're comfortable starting at, for every three clients you book at that price, raise your prices $50 - $100. You'll not spend too long under valuing yourself, but it's also a confidence booster everytime you raise your prices and people book you. You'll go up to a industry-standard price probably before you feel you're ready to be charging that, but you'll also quickly realise you are worth it.

Also, be very wary on workshops. We have a local photography gallery that does workshops and classes - a great place to learn. But I know a ton of folks who run their own business, and when they aren't working much, out come the workshops. There are a few who are legit, but most don't work nearly what they'd have you believe and are not worth spending the money you could put toward better glass (the sooner you can afford a camera with great iso capabilites and a wide open lens, the better).

I don't shoot births with my schedule/family life, but a couple weeks ago, I shot my own, and of course he came in the middle of the night, and even with really solid equipment and a decade of being a pro photog, it was hard. I ended up in a place I hadn't planned with awful light (one weak overhead for a really big room- raccoon eyes, yay) and blocking the light in the position I was in, so he came out in full shadow. I wouldn't have had anything usable of the birth and the immediate moments after if I hadn't had solid equipment that was able to salvage the extrememly minimal light I found myself in. (though had I been able to move, I could've found slightly better light, but it would've been a really hard shoot, still.) Anyway, point being, equipment is important in such dark harsh lighting conditions!

Good luck with it - it can be overwhelming & frustrating (and I'm not even speaking about the being on call part!), but also an incredibly awesome job.
post #13 of 18

I am also a professional photographer, and agree with everything the other photographers said.

 

I would like to add, before you start shooting anything for other people as clients, free or not, I think you need to get a lot more experience with photography in general.  Having a good camera does not automatically make someone a good photographer.  It's the person behind the camera that makes the difference.  I suggest taking more than one workshop.  Perhaps try taking a few classes with a local college or something along those lines.  Try hooking up with some photographers in your area and see if you can work out some sort of apprentence type of situation or second shoot for them.  And of course, take lots and lots and lots and lots of pictures...ALL with an eye towards learning, vs just getting cute pics of your kids. 

 

Oh, also, don't just take photography classes, take some photoshop classes too.  Photography isn't just about what you get in the camera.  It's as much about post production as it is about getting the correct exposure.  Converting raw files, getting the right black and white conversion, the right crop, etc.  And, like Sissah mentioned, salvaging mistakes. 

 

 

post #14 of 18
Quote:

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by happysmileylady View Post

 

Try hooking up with some photographers in your area and see if you can work out some sort of apprentence type of situation or second shoot for them.  And of course, take lots and lots and lots and lots of pictures...ALL with an eye towards learning, vs just getting cute pics of your kids. 

 

 

While this is a great way to learn photography overall you are not going to find a birth photographer who takes her work seriously who will ever take on an apprentice. As is, birth photographers work hard to build credible respect within the birth community so that hospitals, doctors, midwives and birth centers know and understand that they will stay out of the way and quiet. Extra bodies in the room are not something that is well-supported, overall, and it can be hard to convince a labor nurse or a birth center midwife than photography is a valid reason for an extra body in the room. Heck - it can be a hard enough sell to the client!! There is *no way* I (or any birth photographer I know) would allow yet ANOTHER body to tag along in the form of an apprentice. I've been asked many times, I have never even considered it!

 

That said, there are birth photographers (including myself) that do offer one-on-one mentoring (usually to non-local photographers) via phone, email and skype. That is probably your best bet because the information is tightly guarded. There is also The Birth Experience, out of Austin TX which is another source for birth photography mentorship. I am not a member so I can't speak about it either way but I know it's out there. Finally there's a birth workshop in Dallas very soon but, again, I know nothing about it and don't know anyone who has ever attended. It looks like it could be a good source of information for those just starting out.

 

Good luck and let us know how it goes!

 



 

post #15 of 18

And I don't do birth, so I don't know the details.  I was thinking along the lines of a wedding photog, where second shooting is so common.  And actually, given the wide variety of lighting conditions and such encountered at weddings, second shooting some of those might not be a bad idea, for the technical experience.  But again, I don't shoot birth photography, so I dunno.  I do kids/babies, families and weddings, so I can't really speak to the details of birth photography specifically. 

post #16 of 18

hey i'm getting into birth photography and would like to talk in private to get some advice and tips? can you email me at ashleighelizabethphotography@live.com Please? thanks and this is great advice!
-ash
 

post #17 of 18

I wouldn't pay for a birth photographer(just for the simple fact I can't afford one...) but would LOVE to have been a learning experience for someone starting out ;).

I think $200 is reasonable more so if you start when they WANT you, not just active labor... especially since active labor can be as long as hours or as short as 10 minutes, ya know? 

post #18 of 18

And I say the $200 for a couple births after your free trial, maybe about 10-15 births at 200 and then go higher ?

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