Let’s take a look at what goes into capturing a family’s birth story, and 3 ways in which it is different than a wedding or other photography:
#1: Being On-Call 24/7
People often ask me how does this work since I don’t know when a baby will arrive. Its simple. I’m on-call for your birth about 2 weeks before your due date until you have your baby. This could end up being about a full month on-call. Even for scheduled c-sections because half of mine end up with spontaneous labour beforehand anyways. On-call means I live with petrol in my car, childcare on standby, both my phones always on, gear packed, batteries charged, contingency plans made constantly all so I am ready to go at any point NIGHT or DAY that you call. 2 am? I jump out of bed and go. In the middle of dinner time? Christmas morning? True story. That happened once! It is stressful of course so I do limit the amount of births I take. If only babies came according to a schedule, but they don’t. I don’t charge per hour or per day as I think that adds stress to a mother. This is a luxury service of having a personal photographer not to be bothered with hourly billing at your most vulnerable. I factor living on-call into all my packages so that I’m ready to be at your birth when your CHILD decides its best to arrive.
#2: Being Discreet
First of all, a woman has to feel comfortable with me in the room. Its a sacred day in her life. We usually establish this at her pre-booking consultation, just to see if the chemistry is right for me to be on her birth team. Then I aim to be a professional, **quiet**, unobtrusive, fly on the wall presence at her birth unless she engages me. I be what she needs me to be, and that varies for every woman. Many parents tell me “where were you most of the time? I barely saw you.” or “when did you take that photo?” This is because I tend to be behind her, behind a curtain, step out of the room alot, or sitting quietly. I shoot through things often (like this photo), allowing them to frame the moment. I wear quiet shoes or just socks. My hope is that this translates into two things 1) She and her partner can be fully immersed in the emotions of the day and 2) The photos capture emotion that isn’t posed, faked, or feels “watched”. More from this birth here.
#3: Tricky Light
Photography is all about light. Birth photography is alot like going rouge as a photographer, simply because often you have little to NO light to work with. Its tough. Whether in a home or hospital, day or night, light can be limited or mixed. Light is changing as the duration of the birth continues. Light can change on you from in the moment (someone turns on/off a light, position of delivery changes, you are moved rooms, people in the room move around). I work with pro gear and quality lenses. I keep my aperture low and my ISO high. I have practiced extensively with exposing properly in next-to-nothing light. I believe someone’s once-in-a-life-birth is NOT the time to practice. Night births are going to look “grainer” than day births. I have just made my peace with it. I think that adds to the authenticity of what that birth was like. Do I use flash? Rarely. If I do: 1) I only use a bounce flash speed light, not a camera pop up. 2) I have discussed this beforehand with the mother 3) Sparingly, often just for the faster paced moment of birth. 4) If I even get the hint that its distracting, I stop. 5) Never in an operating room or NICU. Here’s an example of a birth that starts late a night until early morning. See how the light changes.