why you should hire an birth photographer &

what to expect from your birth photographer


Hiring a birth photographer is a decision that many expectant parents are starting to make. There are many reasons why you should consider hiring one, and we will go over some of them in this blog post. Birth photographers can capture those special moments that happen during labor and delivery, which you will never be able to recreate again. If you are curious about what to expect from a birth photography session, keep reading!

When you are in the midst of labor, the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not someone is capturing the moment. You need to be focused on giving birth! You also need your partner to be attentive to you, not on a phone or holding a camera. Having a photographer in the room frees up your support person to do just that, support you. Some of the most special images captured during a labor and birth are between mom and her partner.

A birth photographer will be able to capture the big moments and all the little details too. The big moments I focus on are dad's expression when he sees his baby for the first time, the look of relief and pure joy on mom's face, cutting the umbilical cord, and holding your baby on your chest. The little details are the way your baby is holding on to your finger, or the first time they open their eyes, or having their measurements taken. These are all things that happen so quickly but you'll want to remember forever. Birth photography can help make that happen.

Birth photography is about so much more than just taking pictures. When you hire a birth photographer, you can expect someone who is dedicated to documenting your birth story. This includes everything from when labor starts, to when your baby is born, and even up to an hour or two after birth.

Where to start

The first step is a consultation which can either be in person or virtually. You need to know that you and your photographer mesh well. Your photographer will be able to tell you what to expect from her and the services she provides. I use this time to get to know my clients. When I take on clients, I want to know what they hope to get out of my services the most and what they expect from me. The middle of a birth is no time to ask for clarification on what the photographer's duty is or what parents would like a picture of. This all needs to be discussed ahead of time.

mom and dead touching foreheads while having a contraction

Once you have found the photographer of your dreams and completed payment and contracts, your photographer will be on call for you usually around 38 weeks gestation. Each photographer is different so its important to know the range of dates they have reserved for you. Personally, I am available to clients 24 hours a day starting two weeks before the due date up until the baby is born. What does that mean? That means if I have taken you on as a client, you are my top priority. I will be there for your 2 am birth, or 30 hour labor.

 Knowing when to call your birth photographer is very important. If this is not your first birth, you will want to tell your photographer about your previous birth(s) and how they progressed. Labor is so unpredictable but we can do our best to be there at the right time. I ask that parents let me know when they are headed to the hospital so I can start to prepare, make sure my own kids are taken care of, etc. I usually wait until contractions are 5-1-1 before heading to my clients. The 5-1-1 rule means the contractions come every 5 minutes, lasting 1 minute each, for at least 1 hour.

what to expect

When you are in active labor, you will obviously need to let your photographer know. You may want to have your support person be in charge of contacting them. The photographer will then head to your birth location to document the birth story.

When I arrive at a birth, I like to come in quietly and be a bit of a wallflower at first. I may sit to the side and observe especially if mom is in the midst of a contraction. This also allows me to "read the room." Did I walk into a darkened room with no lights and classical music playing? Or did I walk into a dance party with Usher exclaiming "Yeah!" True story, that has happened! Every birth is personal and it's the photographer's job to adapt to any situation.

 An important thing to ask your photographer is if they use a flash. I personally do not and use only the light available to me. There are pros and cons to both natural light and flash photography. The biggest concern when shooting a birth without flash is that there will need to be light in order for your photographer to take pictures. If you choose to labor and birth in a dimly lit room, your photographer may be limited on how many images they can provide you. No amount of editing or skill will change this. Cameras need light. Many think having a flash will be distracting and irritating to mom and others in the room but some say they don't even notices the flash. I don't use a flash for aesthetic reasons.

mom and dad standing in a delivery room while she breathes through a contraction

You can expect your photographer to stay 1-2 hours after delivery. Many times I am able to stay until baby is feeding and mom and dad are settled in with their new little one. Sometimes I head out so that everyone can get some rest. Again, because every birth and couple is different, your photographer will be flexible and adaptable. After your photographer leaves, they start working on editing your images while you start your recovery. I like to send clients a few images within 24 hours that they can share with family and friends to introduce their new baby.

What's holding you back?

Let's address some concerns you may have about birth photography. The first being, what if the photographer misses the birth. It's really important to keep your photographer updated on your progress but even then, labor can move so rapidly and unfortunately there are times that a photographer cannot arrive in time. If I miss a birth because it is expeditious, I still arrive at the hospital to capture what I can. I may even offer a newborn session to compensate for the missed birth. Since each photographer has their own policies, it is important to ask who hire what to expect should they miss a birth.

Another concern moms can have is if their images will be shared by the photographer. Part of getting to know my clients involves asking them where they would like me to be positioned as the baby emerges. Some clients don't want a photo of the baby crowning. Some clients do want those images but don't want them shared. In my contract, I allow the client to approve the images I would like to share on my website or social media platforms. This gives clients peace of mind and creates trust between the client and photographer. On the other hand, some moms are all for that! Stick to what you are comfortable with and let your photographer know. Your privacy is the most important.

What if you need a cesarean section? Photographers are willing to follow their clients into the operating room. However, whether they are allowed to truly depends on the hospital staff and the persistence of the client. Some times clients will need to advocate for their photographer to be allowed in the room. Call your hospital or doctor before your delivery and let them know who you would like in the room and inform them that you will have a birth photographer. Unfortunately, there have been instances where the hospital staff will not allow a photographer in the room during a c-section. In this case, I may give my camera to dad or the support person so they can take pictures in the OR.

Finally, you may be concerned about the cost of hiring a birth photographer. This is a tough one. Photography is expensive, let's all acknowledge that. However, I don't know any photographers out there who are charging a fee that is not on par with the work they produce.

mom holding newborn on chest looking up at dad who is crying and looking down at baby

Keep in mind what a birth photographer offers. Many are on call for you for at least 2 weeks, making your birth their top priority even over their own family. There is also a lot of time spent processing and editing the images so they are perfect by the time they reach you. Trust me when I say birth photographers are dedicated! Some clients are able to pay outright while others will work out a payment plan with their photographer. If birth photography is something you really want, there are ways to make it happen!

newborn placed on moms chest after delivery

I hope this answered some questions or concerns you may have about birth photography. It is such an important way to document one of the most amazing things that will ever happen to you! Not only will these images be cherished by you but also by your family and future generations.

If you are interested in hiring a birth photographer on Oahu or have any questions, please contact me! I would be more than happy to chat with you.

Capturing Memories

Carly is a birth + family photographer in Hawaii. She is available island-wide on Oahu.

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