I have been typing up this post for a while now after thinking about what to write. Birth Photography is a pretty new genre in the photography world in Australia. It is getting very popular with a lot of newbies that are only just getting started in the photography scheme of things. They are still learning how to actually use their camera correctly in all situations. Still learning how to process images correctly and getting them right in camera first. The major part that really worries me is that Birth Photography is just like shooting a wedding, its a once in a lifetime event and cannot be reshot at a later date. If you want to ensure you get amazing images of this journey please look into it well. I am seeing it everywhere on facebook that people that have never experienced birth nor been in a birth suite are offering to shoot a birth for free or a very small amount. Birth suites are not the easiest places to practice how to use your camera, they are very low light or one spot light during the birth. You need the right equipment along with the skill to work in this situation.
So as a mum to be, what should you ask when looking for a birth photographer? How can you protect yourself and your family to ensure the photographer you decide to hire is the right fit for you and at the right price point? I have listed a few of the main questions you should be able to comfortably ask your prospective birth photographer along with asking yourself before making that important decision.
I will explain some of the questions in depth here for you so you can understand the importance of them. The rest of the questions you can feel free to ask me also. I hope this will help you in choosing the right photographer for you.
Is the Photographer Experienced?
Has the photographer done plenty of births already? This is a once in a lifetime event that cant be redone if they dont really know what they are doing in a birth suite nor what to expect during the whole birth process.
Are they running a legitimate legal business?
Always make sure you sign a contract with your birth photographer. A professional will hold a business licence, pay taxes, insurance for equipment along with Public Liability. Why does that matter you ask? Protect yourself and your birth experience. When hiring a professional you can ensure you will get what you have paid them for. To many people have paid people and they have then gone out of business and never to be seen again and your lfet without your images. They will also come when they are called and deliver the images in a reasonable time frame after your birth. Some people book in births and then decide to go on a holiday so are unavailable at the time of the birth. You want to know that the professional you have chosen to capture this amazing moment in your life is truly a professional and that they will deliver as promised. Also supporting a small business that is providing a great service. Owning a legal business isn’t a easy nor cheap way to go and even harder when away from their family and other clients for hours at a time. If everyone supported a true professional that follows the rules and government laws it would be the best for everyone involved.
Do they have a great portfolio of work?
Can they show you several images from previous births they have done? It is so important that you can be sure that they are the right person to capture one of your most precious events in your life and your baby’s first breath of life is a professional who can produce high quality professional images for you. Ask to see an entire slideshow of one birth from start to finish so you are able to follow how the process is captured.
Are the photos clear and in focus?
Can you see great details in the images? Are they sharp and crisp and clear? Are they to dark (under exposed) or too light (over exposed) or blurry at all? If so they are probably not the best to take on for a birth as they arent experienced enough using their equipment. If the photographer is great in all other areas of photography such as family photos or children or landscapes doesnt mean she is ready for the fast paced birth environment working around medical professionals. Some births are shot in almost pitch-black rooms with one little candlelight in the corner. So knowing how to work in low lighting conditions and having the equipment to deal with it is very important. Its critical for them to know their settings for all situations at the drop of a hat on the spot to ensure crisp clear images.
Does the photographer use professional equipment?
An iPhone, point and shoot or basic DSLR will not produce the quality images that a professional will capture with the right equipment. A professional will have all the correct equipment to shoot in any situation whether it is Hospital, home or birth center etc. They will have 2 camera bodies being the main camera with a backup camera in case anything went wrong with the primary during the birth along with several low light lenses, cards, and batteries. In some situations a flash also may be needed which is attached to the top. Pop up flashes are never used in professional photography.
Does the photographer have low light lenses?
Having low light lenses is a must have for any birth photographer. Without these lenses they will struglle to get any light to use the correct shuuter speed for the fast paced environment.
Is the photographer available 24/7 around your due date?
We genrally call Birth Photography "Event Photography" since we cant schedule it in like a portrait session with several posed images. It is also very different to Wedding Photography and any other custom events, considering the timing cant be set up in advance unless your having a C-Section or being induced on a certain date. You will find that most professionals such as Doulas, Midwives, Obstetricians and Birth Photographers are all on call for two weeks before and two weeks after your due date. This means that they are on call around the clock for when the call comes to head to your birth and stays throughout the journey for however long it takes. Make sure they are prepared and understand the on the call life of a Birth Photographer even if you call her at 2am or while on holdiays etc. Babies come in their own time and they should have a plan in place to attend whenever she gets the call in the weeks surrounding your due date.
Is the photographer familiar with the birth process?
During your birth your birth photographer should take the fly on the wall approach and be like a spectator hired to capture the event not tell you what to do or talk about their experiences. Its not about getting that shot, its about documenting your experience and journey through labour to bringing your baby earthside. Its your birth not hers! They should know to stay out of the way of the medical personnel and respect your space at all times. Never give medical advice or present as an expert at birthing. But it is certainly important that they are knowledgeable about the whole birthing process, the stages, and the rules of the hospitals or birth centers so they know what to expect and how to be certain that she’s not impeding on the process. Be seen and not heard by everyone is the best way to be unless spoken to. If you are delivering in a hospital your birth photographer should be professional at all times and respecting the rules and regulations and the medical staff too.
Does the photographer carry Public Liability Insurance?
This is a must for all Birth Photographers working within hospitals. They must carry a minimum of $10 million liability insurance to work professionally in a medical environment. Should something happen such as someone tripped over etc it is a big must have!
Does the photographer have a Contract in place?
Contracts are in place for a reason. They protect you, medical staff and the photographer so everyone is on the same page in regards to the birth process. Make sure you read this contract in full before signing.
What does the photographer charge for her services?
We all know how expensive it is to have a baby! They are lots of money! This may tempt you into lowering your guard to hire a photographer with 'Cheap Prices' but please beware. As the saying goes 'Cheap is not good and good is not Cheap'. I can bet you bottom dollar that if they are inexpensive that there is a reason, that being inexperienced, using cheap inferior quality equipment, and providing a low quality service along with low quality products that wont stand the test of time. Don't justify going with a cheap prices by saying something is better than nothing. If this is your thoughts then have your friend capture them for you instead of paying an inexperienced and uninsured photographer. Remember your photographer is on call 24/7 for 4 weeks around your birth and needs to maintain a lifestyle to be able to drop anything she’s doing to head to the hospital for an unlimited known amount of hours at the drop of a hat. This could be holidays, dinners, kids school events, Christmas, birthdays etc to serve you. It takes thousands of $ in equipment, hundreds for licensing and insurances, and countless other expenses to run a business. For those that don’t have these expenses or charge appropriate session and package fees to cover them are most likely not a professional birth photographer and you may end up very disappointed in the end result of your most amazing time in your life. Most will offer payment plans allowing you to spread out the costs over several months rather than a lump sum upfront payment right before you give birth. While we all know that birth photography is a luxury and not everyone can afford, families that do value birth photography can ensure they will receive the most amazing images and products that will stand the test of time due to being the highest of quality and be satisfied by your selection of a competent and experienced professional birth photographer.
Can we arrange a time to meet up?
This is a must do. You need to meet up with the photographer to make sure they are the right fit for you. If you don't like their personality then you won't want them to be in the birth suite with you either. At this meeting you should discuss everything that may happen during the birth so you are on the same page of expectations. What shots not to take, what you want most of etc. Very important.
Check out our section on the AIPP Professional Birth Photographers website here