Professional birth photography is becoming a big business. Or rather, a big photography niche. There are many reasons to invest in birth photography, and many brilliant birth photographers, but when it comes down to it: is it right for you?
We've had this conversation with my sister, who is expecting her first baby in a few months. Having a photographer in the room while you're in pain, while you're facing your biggest fears (because let's face it - for me, the impending pain of labour was my biggest fear), while you're vulnerable and naked and possibly passing gas from strain... for some people it's just too much. They are modest, perhaps, or have other reservations.
But then there is the flip side. The flip side is that you get to completely outsource that one bit of work that ought to be the last thing on your mind at that moment - memorizing things. You don't need to concern yourself with figuring out which nurse to ask for a hurried photo of baby after it's born, or even to remember to pack your camera in your hospital bag... or to ever wonder if your hair was a mess when you were pushing (yes, it will have been, but wouldn't you love the photographic evidence?)
Putting all jokes aside, with all three of my children, their birth photos consisted of a quick snap my husband took of us in the hospital room, looking frazzled and pixelated. And I couldn't even easily find them now, to include them in this blog. So...
That's why there are photographers who will diligently set all their priorities for the entirety of that day to photographing your birth. Whether at home or in the hospital, whatever the lighting situation, they will take it all in stride and make the best photographs possible.
If you are thinking about having a photographer present at your baby's birth, don't be afraid to test the waters. Contact a few photographers you love and ask to meet them. Fall in love with their work, and imagine them handing you a gallery of your very own birth experience, with the faces of the people you love in those photos. Ask how long the photographer will stay and if they'll photograph the labour. And above all, feel comfortable with them.
When you find that person, you just might realize that you've already made your decision. And that you will undoubtedly be investing in photographs that mean the world.
When I first became a photographer, I had toyed with the idea of being a full-time birth photographer. Spending your life making photographs of babies taking their first breath seems like one of the best ways to spend a lifetime, no?
For many reasons, but no truly good ones, I put those ideas aside for a long while. Though I enjoy photographing families and weddings far too much to do anything else full time, I'd love to photograph at least a few families as they make the transition into parenthood, or as they add another infant or two to their family. Birth represents the continuity of family, and furthermore, there is nothing more in line with a documentary perspective than having to make use of available space and light in a small room as a busy team works tirelessly to bring a life into the world.
When I photographed my first birth in 2015, I was totally in awe of being present for something so important.
And I had never had the chance to experience it from that perspective before. In the past, I was always the one pushing out the baby.
The obstetrical staff at Kingston General Hospital were the VIPs of that day - along with the mother and father and wee one, of course. I, the documentarian, ensured that they would have the material means required to relive that day in the future.
Here are some of those photographs, taken in October 2015. I like to think my technical expertise (and my equipment, surely) have improved since late 2015. But one thing I hope is true: these photographs will carry meaning for this family for years to come.