BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHY FAQ'S
1.) Why hire a birth photographer?
Many don’t think twice about hiring a photographer for a wedding, so why should the birth of a child be any different? Have you ever heard the story of how you were brought into this world? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that story had images to go with it? Imagine, as adults, how great it would be to see ourselves as we are being born, to see our mom as she becomes a parent, to see what we looked like as a fresh newborn. Hiring a photographer for your birth isn’t just for the mom and dad, it’s a gift to your child and a wonderful way to share your experience with family and friends. I’ve never heard of anyone regretting having professional images from their birth, but I know many (myself included) that regret not hiring someone! Birth is a once in a lifetime event, make it what you want and have no regrets! It captures all those emotions everyone felt and preserves them for a lifetime. This is exactly why you should hire a professional. A professional knows how to use the camera and angle it without compromising any of the birthing mother's comfort. A professional has been present at many births, so they know when to shoot, what to shoot, and how to shoot without the emotions and any environmental or mechanical issues that may compromise the pictures.
2.) Why not just have my husband or doula take photos?
I learned from experience that putting the burden of birth photos on my husband wasn’t fair to him when he was trying to enjoy the birth too. And a doula is hired as your support system, not as a trained professional photographer (of course there are few doulas who are also great photographers, but it’s still impossible to do 2 things at once). The times that you really need your doula are also times you need your photographer and 1 person can’t do 2 jobs 100%. I am trained to use my camera in low light situations and have the equipment to shoot in any atmosphere. Don’t cheat yourself short of professional birth images.
3.) When should I book you?
I only take limited births since it requires me to have a clear schedule for a month while on call, so I recommend contacting me as soon as you think you're interested to check my availability. Once you've decided you want to hire me, you'll need to pay the initial non-refundable on-call fee to hold your tentative date. The rest of the fees are due by your 36th week of pregnancy. I will not attend a birth that's not fully paid. Booking me early also means that you can make payments and are more likely able to fit birth photography in to your budget.
4.) What's a Stand-By birth?
I will sometimes be contacted about a birth during a time that I'm already booked. You have the option of hiring me as a stand-by photographer which means I haven't cleared my schedule but you will call me when you go in to labour and I will try my best to make it! Since there is no promise that I will be available, all deposits paid will be returned if I'm not able to make it. This is a great option if you decided later in your pregnancy that you'd like to hire me and my schedule is full.
5.) How do you charge? Is the fee the same for a home vs hospital birth? Or a c-section?
My fee is the same for all types of births because regardless of what kind of birth someone has it's the same motions on my end. I have to clear my schedule for 4 weeks, I can't leave the city limits at any time, I can't book any event sessions in that time because it's not something that can be rescheduled, and I have potential sitters in line and a back up just in case of illness (never needed to call on one yet thank goodness, but better safe than sorry). Also, some babies come before their scheduled c-section. Sometimes people unschedule their c-section. I do offer a few different packages to choose from, but the on-call fee remains the same no what kind of birth you have. I book hospital, birth centre, home, and c-section births. I offer gift certificates so people can add me to their registry to help offset the cost.
6.) Do I need approval from the hospital staff?
Before you hire me you will need to verify that I’m allowed to photograph at your place of birth. If it’s a home birth I ask that you talk to your midwife before hand too. If she has any concerns about me being there I’d be glad to chat via email/phone to answer any questions. You will also need to make sure you ask about any hospital policies or any providers that may not want a photographer there. In all honeslty, it's very rare that they will say "no".
7.) What if I have a c-section?
If it’s a planned c-section you will need to talk to your provider about having me in there. Some hospitals only allow 1 person in the room, some allow 2. AND you’ll need to ask them which anesthesiologist is ok with having a photographer in the room and see if you can schedule your c-section on the day they’re scheduled. They are MUCH more willing to allow a photographer in there if they know in advance. You are your own advocate, explain what it would mean to you to have a photographer there.
If it’s an emergency c-section, sometimes they let me in the room, but sometimes they don't. If I’m not allowed in the room I will give my camera to whoever is going in there with you and they can take photos as best as they can. I’ll be waiting outside and will take pictures of your baby as soon as I am able. But since c-sections are clearly more difficult to get permission to take picture, I can't stress enough how important it is that you are firm with your care provider that these images are important and that as the photographer I will respect everyone's wishes and be out of the way and only taking pictures when I'm allowed.
8.) What if you miss the birth because it was fast?
Please notify me the same way you would your doula or midwife. I require 2 hours notice. When I get the call from you telling me it's show time, I will immediately make that my first priority and get there ASAP. The sooner you contact me the better! In most cases there's some warning signs a day or two before hand or even quite a few hours before hand. So just keep me in the loop! If things progress too fast, and you have the baby before I make it, then I will of course stay to photograph all the "firsts" with you and we can then arrange something on a case to case basis, whether that be Fresh48 photos or Newborn photos.
9.) What if something is wrong with my baby?
It’s not something anyone wants to think about, but it is something that needs to be brought up. Some moms want me to continue shooting no matter what happens and some would rather I didn’t take those pictures. It also depends on what the emergency is, if I’m in the way by taking pictures, if staff doesn’t want me to take pictures, if I am some how asked to help, or if it just doesn’t seem appropriate at the time. I try to honour your wishes as best I can but it always depends on the specific situation. In the rare case that something happens to you or your baby and I get images, I will put those in a separate folder in your gallery in case you’re not ready to look at them. Having the images can be helpful in processing a traumatic birth experience. But I have yet to experience an emergency like this and talking to other birth photographers that have, I think it's something that can't really be decided ahead of time because it's hard to say how one would react in such a situation until it happens.
10.) Babies come when they want, so what if the baby comes early, or late?
I’m officially on call from 38 until you have the baby, which means that during those weeks I don’t schedule anything I can’t cancel, I don’t leave the general area (and definitely don’t go out of cell range!), my cell phone is always on me, and my bags are packed with all my gear. If you have your baby early (or late) I do my best to make the birth, and we would discuss those details on a case by case basis.
I am on-call for your birth just as a midwife is. So even if it’s in the middle of the night you just call me like any other time of day. I already have stand-by childcare and my bags will be packed and ready to go!
11.) When do you aim to go to the birth?
Very good question! Not everyone receives vaginal checks during labour and even when they do, all it tells me is that baby hasn't been born yet. I ask that you call me when you are having first signs of labour, just so I'm in the loop and we go from there. I will come when you're in active labour which can mean when your doula arrives to your home, or after you've checked in to the hospital, or around the time your midwife goes to your home. Generally around 5cm, but maybe sooner if this is not your first baby.
12.) How long are you at each birth? How long do you stay after?
The amount of time I'm there depends on how long your labour is. Even with a short labour I will stay until I have plenty of pictures to complete your gallery. If you have an extremely long labour, I may take a short break or step out for lunch or a shower but I try to stay as long as I can. Remember, some births last 30 hours or more! Of course I will not ever leave unless it's been confirmed that it's safe. I stay about 2 hours after your baby is born to get all the 'firsts' shots. Once the high of the birth wears off and you and your baby start getting tired, it's time for me to go!
13.) Do you interact a lot? Or do you mainly stay quiet?
This is a great question. My job as a photographer is to be a fly on the wall. I do my best to keep out of the way and stay as quiet as possible. However, I may interact when the situation seems right...if I'm standing next to the bowl of ice water I may hand a fresh rag. Or if I'm standing next to your water I may offer it to you when you're staring at it but don't have the energy to reach. We will be spending your pregnancy chatting back and forth and I will get to know what your plans and expectations are during birth so I will adjust my level of interaction based on what you request or expect. My primary responsibility is to take photographs, but the ways I would interact with you or anyone else will depend on what you want, the relationship we've formed, and the overall vibe at the birth. Many times everyone is happy, chatting, and including me in the conversations. Other times labour is going strong and all the focus is on keeping the room quiet.
14.) Will you be posing of giving any direction?
I do not pose. Everything is shot as it happens. It’s always great to remind guests that I’ll be there and to pay no attention to me. There’s no need to ‘look and smile’ for each shot! If you specifically ask for a shot of the family I try to make it happen naturally and also capture one where you’re looking my way, but that’s the only time I would ‘pose’ or invoke eye contact. There’s no guidelines to planning shots, I just adjust where I am to get the best pictures.
15.) Will you be using flash? What kind of equipment will you be using?
We will have a conversation about your birth plans, pros and cons of flash vs available light, and decide from there. So far I have photographed all of my births with available light only, which means sometimes the images have a more raw/grainy feel with possible shadows from the lights. Using a flash gives a more even and bright feel, but it could be distracting to you or your baby. Most of the time, the lighting at any given time is what *makes* an image, it adds to the look and feel of it, it’s *real*, as it was seen. Using a flash changes the impact of a photo, changes the way things were actually seen. There may be times that it’s too dark and I will have to use a flash no matter what your initial preferences were. These are all things we discuss in detail at your consultation. But my gear is so good that I can shoot in extremely low lighting without a flash.
To every birth I bring my camera which is a Canon 5D Mark III along with a back up camera. I bring 2 lenses, a flash, a stool (in case I need to get a better angle), and enough memory cards and batteries to last me forever. I use professional Canon gear and shoot completely in manual mode with RAW images for those of you who understand that. If that doesn’t make sense, please know that I use top of the line equipment and I know my equipment like the back of my hand which is essential in shooting births!
16.) Will my photos be private or shared online?
You have every right to keep your images completely private! Not everyone wants to share their experience, and that’s completely understandable. The only time I would require a model release is if you’re getting a discounted portfolio building rate. All of my regular birth packages come with the option to decline the model release or sign a release. You can choose to sign a release for the PG rated images and I will give you $100 towards prints and products on any of your sessions or even future sessions. Or you can choose to sign a release for all the images and I will give you $200 towards prints and products on any session. I generally encourage everyone to sign the model release simply because we live in a culture that has put such fear in birth. Sharing your experience helps normalize birth and helps ease the fear that we have put in birth. But of course, no pressure.
17.) Will my photos be PG? What if I'm modest?
This is something I go over with each couple when they hire me. The pictures I take are completely up to your comfort level. If you don't want me to leave your head, I won't. If you want specific shots during the birth I will try my best to get those, and if there are things you don't want photographed I will honour those wishes. When I put your Birth Story together, by default I make sure the images are safe for all eyes. But if you want the beautiful shots included that might be on the more graphic side, I will be happy to include them for you. Always know that if you signed a model release you will have discretion as to which photos are seen as you will choose between PG rated only, or any and all. I will also step out of the room when it's appropriate. No one needs to be the watched pot, and there are times when photographs aren't as important as your privacy.
18.) Will my photos be in colour or black & white?
It all depends on the light, but you will get images in both colour and black & white. Generally I use more black & white images in the Birth Story film with occasional colour images which highlight the really strong images. You can see examples here:
Day time births with lots of natural light are sometimes the most beautiful colour images where I give more colour photos, and many times night births make better B&W. Often hospitals have multiple light sources that can be quite bright casting a greenish blue cast which makes black and white more appealing. I tend to decide depending on the lighting of the birth and your preferences.
19.) Do you "photoshop" my images?
Every image goes through a basic edit to achieve the best outcome. But I do not alter people in photos in anyway. I keep your images as true and real as possible. Birth is raw and beautiful just as it is, and I would not feel comfortable adding to the already overwhelming amount of misconceptions about birth. I truly believe we are beautiful and perfect as we are. So no virtual face lifts or tummy tucks happen over here.
20.) How soon will I receive my pictures?
If you signed the model release I will post a sneak peek on facebook and Instagram within 72 hours which you are welcome to share with your friends and family. Then I work as fast as I can taking complete care to edit the remaining images from your birth and post them in a password protected gallery within 3-6 weeks after your birth. It depends on my workload at the time of your birth. Once they’re in your gallery you’ll be able to order prints and products like albums. You should have your prints along with the digital images delivered to your door within 2 weeks of placing the order. And 3 to 4 weeks with an album or canvas print as they take a little longer.
21.) How many images will I get?
The amount of images will vary depending on how long I’m there. You can expect roughly 100 to 200 images. If you have a short labor I will stay and make sure I have plenty of other images so you will have all you need. If it’s too dark for me to shoot during labour or if my presence is bothering you, there may be less images of the labour but I will supplement with as many fresh baby images as I can get.
22.) Do you shoot video too?
Yes. I take short video clips throughout the birth (unless the hospital forbids this) and I can edit them in to your Birth Story film with the images creating this beautiful documentary of the best day of your life! To watch these Birth Stories click the links in my birth gallery:
23.) Can I get a complimentary mini newborn or family session after baby is born instead of the complimentary maternity session that comes with the Birth package?
There is no pressure to get the complimentary maternity photos taken, but please note that this free session is not interchangeable between newborn or family sessions. I offer this free maternity mini session after we meet to talk about your birth so you can see my work with you in it before you invest your trust and money in me because I understand that you can not retake your birth photos so you want to make sure you are choosing the right photographer for you.
24.) Can I, or someone from my birth team, use these images and birth story on business pages and websites?
Yes. But you must sign the model release agreement for your photos, and the person or business wanting to use them must contact me to obtain a Commercial License Agreement. This agreement will allow you or them to use the image(s) for advertising purposes, on websites, blogs, social media sites, and such. If you would like to use the images on products, you will need to obtain a Commercial Print Agreement.