Birth photography is the recording of a story that will only be told once. For most parents the birth of their child it is one of the most important and life-changing experiences and birth photography provides parents with breathtakingly, emotional pictures of a first meeting that only lasts a couple of minutes and yet has the power to change them forever.
If done correctly, birth photographers play an immeasurable role in addressing social and emotional wellbeing by setting the tone for transformative collaborations, narrative competence and person-centered experiences in birth.
The plusses of having a birth photographer capture your birth:
- We hire professional photographers for graduations, weddings etc. and yet few have the foresight to hire a specialized photographer for what would probably be one of the most important if not the most important day in their lives. They only take that first breath once – there are no do-overs.
- Traditionally the partner or husband took some quick snap shots of the birth or first moments, but expecting them to capture all the key moments, in a beautifully composed manner, is a tad unrealistic. Plus freeing them from ‘camera duty’ allows them to be more supportive and connect with the birth of their child.
- A good birth photographer will photograph a birth in a manner that tells the whole story from labour or going into theatre, to the first hello and baby’s first hour or two in his new environment, and not only highlight random moments.
- A professional birth photographer captures moments that you might miss, like your partner’s facial expression, or grand-mother-to-be sitting anxiously in the waiting room.
- Birth photography allows you to see your child’s birth from a different, wider perspective and parents often discover breathtaking details which they miss at a time when they are inwardly focused.
- Many mothers, especially mothers who had C-Sections, find that they feel that their birth photo’s helped them ‘connect’ with the birth process even if their bodies did not go through actual labour. Clients who have had difficult births have told me their photos were “redeeming and restoring”.
- Birth photography allows you to one day tell your children about their birthdays. They will be able to see how much they were loved from the moment they took that first breath.
- Birth photography allows loved ones ‘to be there’ or ‘included’ – even if they are not.
- If done correctly, birth photographers play an immeasurable role in addressing social and emotional wellbeing by setting the tone for transformative collaborations, narrative competence and person-centered experiences in birth.
What birth photography is not:
It’s not explicit.
Birth photography is about the moments of love connection in birth. It can be raw and real but it’s not grotesque. It’s about a father’s facial expression when he sees his baby for the first time or a mother’s tears when she hears that first cry. It should tell your baby’s birth story with integrity and tenderness. Some people are comfortable and open with some nudity in their birth stories in which instance the photographer may be less conservative in her approach, but a strict privacy and publishing code would still apply if the photographer is a SABPA professional.
Privacy (or the lack) thereof, is the number one argument that some healthcare providers and even fathers sometimes would cite for not wanting a birth photographer present. It is not until they actually experience a professional at work that they realize that not only is a good birth photographer not intrusive, she can actually contribute to holding the birth space for parents.
This point ties in with birth photography being non-intrusive. SABPA believes in the ‘fly-against the wall’ approach when it comes to birth photography and birth photographers should have a photojournalistic approach and style. This gives birth photography its ‘story-telling’ quality. It also means that the photographer truly captures moments and never directs in any way.
Not about a shot-list.
Birth knows no time. It’s unpredictable. It’s a journey. A story. Not a shot-list. A shot-list would by default lead to intrusiveness. A shot-list would mean posing and directing. SABPA’s advice is always to see how the journey unfolds and capture it truthfully and with integrity. Birth photographers are simply capturing the story, not creating it.
Or at least it shouldn’t be. Since a birth photographer doesn’t have that scheduling component, she’s on-call weeks on end. Petrol is always in her vehicle, her bag is packed with expensive gear that she risks traveling with at odd hours of the night. She has back up gear just in case something goes wrong with her primary equipment, since there’s no do-over for your baby’s birth. She’s skilled in the toughest kind of low light and unpredictable photography. When your birth is over, her work just begins with editing and post production. She’s doesn’t charge by the hour because no woman having a baby deserves that kind of pressure. Even for a scheduled C-section, she’s on-call because often babies do still decide to come spontaneously. For all these reasons, there is a wide range of price points of a birth photographer in South Africa, to suit each client’s budget, but its unrealistic to expect her to be “cheap”. If she is one should be concerned.