“What are the benefits of having a birth photographer?” “Who had a birth photographer? Did having them in the room distract you?” “How do you convince your husband that birth photography is worth it?” These are some of the questions I see in my mom-based FB groups – and honestly, I had many of the same questions when I was trying to decide if we should have a birth photographer for Eleanor’s birth! I had seen some really beautiful birth images and films, and just wanted that for my birth. But it was hard, looking at the cost (and how much we were spending on everything else), trying to justify that space in the budget. And my pregnant brain couldn’t quite seem to explain to my sweet husband why I felt it was worth it. Thankfully, he trusted my intuition, and we hired our sweet Elizabeth to document Eleanor’s birth.
So why should you hire a birth photographer? What is it that makes that kind of investment worth it? I’d argue it comes down to 3 reasons:
- Quality, impactful, meaningful images and video of your birth experience is a really, really difficult task; it’s best to trust a professional!
- The rest of your birth team (your partner, doula, provider, nurses, etc.) should be focused on supporting you, not documenting things for you.
- Probably most important: your birth experience is an important, life-changing event, and should be honored and remembered.
1. Because a Professional is Best Qualified
If you already value hiring a professional to document important events, this point is a no brainer. But let’s go ahead and run through a little hypothetical scenario of DIY-ing this. If you google “how to take good pictures with your phone” or “how to DIY ____ photography,” you’ll find LOTS of tips (some great, some… not so much). If you’re outside, take your pictures within that hour or so before sunset (called the “golden hour”). If you’re inside, choose the brightest part of the day (usually somewhere around 10 AM-3 PM) and stay close to windows. Use the rule of thirds to compose your image in a more eye-pleasing way. Don’t shoot up people’s noses. Angle your subject so the light is flattering. Look at what’s in the background. The more diffused, even light you have, the better it’ll look.
Now let’s consider what we have to work with in the birth space. Mayyybe you’ll happen to give birth in a beautiful space, not too far from a large window, during the middle of the day. But – aside from choosing your birth location – there isn’t much you can do to control that! Baby will come when they come – that might be in the middle of the night in a space lit exclusively by candlelight (after all, birth tends to prefer darkness), or in a hospital room with yellow overhead lights mixing with whatever light is coming from whatever windows you might have (or not, if it’s the middle of the night), or in the OR with bright spotlights. ALL of those are a FAR cry from diffused, even light, and are honestly really, really difficult to work with well. (THIS is a major reason why birth photographers invest thousands into both having and knowing low-light capable, high-quality equipment.)
Unpredictable is pretty much the name of the game in birth; we don’t control where the birthing person chooses to labor, when and where that babe is born, what time of day it happens, what lights are on, how everyone reacts, where everyone stands. Not only does that affect what light we have to work with, it also means we have to do the moving to get the best, most impactful angles, to compose our images well, to use what light we have (or are creating using flash that we also need to use in a discreet, respectful way). And sometimes that’s in a crowded, small bathroom where mama suddenly feels the urge to push and baby is born minutes later. Sometimes that’s in a hospital room where you’re asked to stay in one spot, and you just have to get creative. And sometimes that’s knowing to just be still for a while, to wait for the most impactful moments to document.
My point: birth photography is unique, beautiful, and freaking HARD WORK! So if you can hand that over to a professional – who’s prepared to use their knowledge, gear, and experience to tell your story with beautiful, meaningful images – do it!!
2. So Your Birth Team can Focus on Supporting You
I believe that your birth team can serve you best when everyone can give you their best. (Or, in more technical speak, your team is most effective when everyone can specialize.) You have your partner who knows you best, your medical provider who knows best how to keep you and your baby safe and healthy, your doula who is best able to support both of you through it ALL – even when your medical provider or partner needs to step out, annndd ideally, your birth photographer/videographer who knows best how to document it all!
In other words, when none of the other members of your birth team have to worry about taking pictures for you (which, as we’ve talked about, is HARD WORK!), they can focus completely on supporting you just when, where, and how you need it! (Of course, excellent birth teams are also prepared to share roles as needed, but getting to focus on their specialty really helps it be a good experience for all.)
I believe this is ESPECIALLY important when it comes to partners. After all, this is THEIR child and birth experience, too; they’ll go through their own rollercoaster of anticipation and worry and exhaustion, all while also being there for you. That’s HARD WORK! Taking things they might not be best at (or are even great at) off their plate (like documenting your birth by hiring a photographer, or being your sole support and birth coach by hiring a doula) gives them space to fully experience their child’s birth and be their best for you.
3. To Honor and Remember Your Birth
This is probably the MOST important reason to consider hiring a professional birth photographer; the reason why documenting your birth (in general) is not only a good idea, but an IMPORTANT, even essential, one. After all, your child’s birth will only happen once; this will be a unique, life-changing, and significant chapter of your story. Doesn’t that kind of experience deserve to be honored and remembered? Doesn’t your birth story deserve to be told?
Of course, there are many ways to tell, preserve, and honor the beauty of your unique birth story. I wrote Eleanor’s birth story in a journal just for her (and then in my journal, and then briefly in our family yearbook, and then here on the blog). I have a shadow box with little mementos in her room. And, of course, most of those also include our birth images – her tiny, slim fingers, our first latch, the first time my husband held her. They, along with our birth film, just help tell our story in a way that words, items, and memory alone can’t quite do.
It’s also important to ask yourself – will you be able to remember the details of your birth experience? What do you want to remember?
Personally, there are a LOT of parts of my birth experience that are a big blur – or I don’t remember at all – because our photographer wasn’t there with us at that point and I didn’t or couldn’t write it down. What did my husband’s face look like right after Eleanor was born? Did I cry? What did my placenta look like? Some things I only remember or know because we have pictures or video of them (Eleanor had vernix, her sweet cry, how dark her eyes were). But there are also certain little pinpoints of memory that are still clear as day, despite not having images of those moments – how much of a difference Ben’s counterpressure made, when someone mentioned maybe doing an episiotomy during pushing, how determined and exhausted I felt during that last hour or so. I WISH I could go back and get our photographer there earlier (go back and read her birth story to get why she didn’t make it) so I could remember and see more.
There’s an extra bonus – a side-effect, if you will – of seeing, remembering, telling, and retelling your birth story: it’s healing. Empowering – for you, your partner, for even your child. There’s probably some research out there that can explain why; I can just say that it’s what happened for me and so, so many others.
Just imagine being able to see your birth through someone else’s eyes – someone who sees you as powerful, beautiful, and successful, even in this most vulnerable of experiences. Imagine being able to see your courage and strength, even when you faced an unknown or felt weak. Imagine being able to see your moments of triumph after all the difficulties. Imagine being able to look back – whenever either of you needed a reminder – and see how your partner was there for you when you needed them most. Imagine sitting down with your child, years down the road, and them being able to see how absolutely LOVED and WORKED for and TREASURED they were by each of you- from the very beginning!
And THAT’s what I want for you, and for every family. It’s why I believe that professional birth photographers (and videographers) are worth their weight in gold. It’s why I believe if you can make room in your budget, it’s WORTH IT. It’s why, even if you can’t afford one, or you feel a birth photographer doesn’t align with your birth plan, or crazy things like COVID keep a photographer of your birth space, I believe your birth story is still worth documenting, remembering, and telling – however you can. Because your birth story is worth telling.