Baby photography comes to the delivery room, capturing the moment of birth

Baby photography, even of newborns, is a well-established tradition, but now some pregnant women are bringing professional photographers into the delivery room to document the birth itself.

 “I think the whole birthing process is so amazing; I wanted to capture it,” says Nicole Redmond of Aurora, Colo., who first saw examples of birth photography in a magazine at her ob/gyn’s office.

She hired Denver photographer Kim Rodgers, owner of highly rated Brink Street Photography. For $1,000, Rodgers photographed baby Christopher’s entry into the world on April 25, 2011, during a C-section scheduled a few weeks before because of his breech position. Redmond’s contract with Brink Street guaranteed Rodgers’ time, a slideshow and printing rights, and included a pregnancy photo session and shots of Christopher a few weeks after birth.

“Kim beat me to the hospital,” Redmond says. “She took pictures of the room number, me getting in, laying in the bed, the doctors monitoring me. She took nice pictures of my husband holding my hand.” In the operating room, Redmond was barely aware of Rodgers’ presence, and appreciated her use of black and white and tasteful angles to soften the surgery images. “I don’t have a favorite,” Redmond says. “I love them all, from right when he was being born, to my husband meeting him, to me holding him for the first time.”

While Redmond’s decision to hire a birth photographer didn’t surprise friends, her parents and older relatives were skeptical, especially that she’d pay for something dads usually did. “But when they saw the video, my father said, ‘That’s priceless.’”

Rodgers, who has photographed 20 births in four years, says that aspect of her maternity and baby photo business developed after she asked a fellow photographer to attend the birth of her own second child.  “When I saw the slideshow I recognized how tremendous it was to have my husband be part of the story instead of, ‘Get the camera!’” Rodgers says. “We didn’t have a photographer at our oldest child’s birth and we have maybe three pictures from the whole day, and my husband’s not in them.”

Not a job for an amateur photographer

A birth photographer must be discreet and experienced, says Jennifer Driscoll, a highly rated Indianapolis-area photographer who’s done birth work for a few former wedding and family-portrait clients. “You have to be very respectful of the moments you’re capturing,” says the mother of three and former nurse. “I offer words of encouragement at the appropriate times, but for the most part I stay in the background. I don’t use flash; I know my cameras well so I don’t mind shooting in low light.”

Randi Neukam of Fishers, Ind., had hired Driscoll to shoot her wedding and maternity pictures, but was initially shy when Driscoll suggested birth photos. “I’m a very modest person, so it took me a while to think about it. My family reaction was kind of like, ‘You’re doing what?!’”

In the final weeks before delivering her daughter, Neukam emailed Driscoll updates after each doctor visit, and called her when she went to the hospital around 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 13.  Driscoll documented the hours before Preslee was born, and even sat with Neukam while her husband left to get something to eat. When labor grew intense, “I honestly had no idea she was there. And all the angles of the birth pictures were from above my head. The shots she took, including my daughter having her first feeding, I felt like my dad and grandpa could see. Before, I thought I wouldn’t show the pictures to anybody. Then, I thought, ‘There’s no way I can’t show people this. It’s so cool.’”

Sheri Van Wert, owner of highly rated Sheri Van Wert Photography in Foresthill, Calif., near Sacramento, expects to document her first birth this fall. The idea originated with a former wedding and family-photo client, Erica Schweigert of Galt, Calif.  “I emailed her, out of the blue, saying ‘This is the most random question ever, but would you like to be there on the day I give birth?’” Schweigert says. “I didn’t want my mom or husband to feel obligated to take pictures. It’s like having a big party and the person doing the barbecuing gets left out.”

Van Wert says she’s more than happy to explore this professional avenue. “I’m very honored,” she says. “Being a part of these huge moments is such a blessing.”

Tips from birth photographers and moms:

  • Be sure you’re comfortable with whoever you hire; you’ll spend hours with him or her during one of the most vulnerable times of your life.
  • Review work samples and check references. Also, ask about their equipment and how long they’ve used it, since flash is a distraction in the delivery room.
  • Discuss what photos you’d like to see, and what to expect if the unexpected happens, such as a C-section. Make sure the photographer will be available at whatever day and hour necessary, and has a backup, just in case.
  • Inform your doctor and birth facility that you want a photographer present. Be aware that not all facilities or doctors permit photography or video, especially in the operating room.
  • Clarify cost and what you’ll get. Some photographers charge a fee, in the hundreds of dollars, to secure their time, charging extra for slideshows, prints, books or other products. Other photographers charge higher initial fees, $1,000 or more, and provide clients a DVD with a slideshow and images to use as desired. Photographers may also include extras, such as maternity or newborn photography, or discounts on those services.

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Comments

In typical right wing fashion, your question seems to be another attempt to rile the extreme religious crazies out there who want to tell others what they can and can not do with their own bodies. Who cares if parents want a photographer in the birth room? It's their decision, same as it's their decision to have, or not have children, or whether they want to use birth control, have abortions or boob jobs. IT'S THEIR DECISION TO MAKE, not mine, not yours. Personally, I would not want to see photos or video of myself being born. I know how the female plumbing works and I'd rather not see myself exiting my mother's you-know-what. But if there are couples who want to do it, I don't care, it's their choice. If you do not want a photographer int he birth room, don't hire one. Pretty damn simple huh? Let's keep it simple by staying out of other people's personal lives. -uf

No, I would not, absolutely not! First, it is the ultimate private, even possibly spiritual experience for a woman and to have a stranger or anyone else except the father for that matter with her at that time seems outrageous to me. Second, birth is an event that has taken place countless millions of times all over the world from time immemorial and in that sense professional photography in the delivery room is a sign of the " Me, me, I'm so special" trend today.

ABSOLUTELY NOT CAMERAS IN DELIVERY ROOM. WE MOTHERS AND FATHERS DON'T NEED ANYBODY IN THE ROOM AT ANY TIME. IT IS NOT A PLACE TO INVITE CRITIQUE REST OF EVERY BODY'S LIFE.

Yes, I might do birth photos. The chances of getting really good images would be better if one hired a pro. As a nurse, I have worked in labor and delivery and also helped with c-sections. Generally, the staff is busy and don't pay attention to things like photographers. I have also seen fathers take photos that a mother would not be able show friends and family.

no, This is a private time for the family not a photo op .Iam a photography and i would not use my camera for that

The world is changing.I think childbirth is so personal that I don't have a way to describe it so I am saying "no" to having childbirth photographed by anyone. Down the road this might go wrong.How solid is a relation ship especially during "hard times" for a family? Considering that there is always a possible break up of a relationship. Would these photos be used Negatively by some party? How much squabbling is going to go on?

We had a photographer at both of our kid's births and the photos are amazing. The visuals bring back emotions in a way nothing else can. Our OB was very open to it, but it wasn't until minutes before going into the OR for a C-section did we know for sure if our photographer would be allowed to go into the OR with us. I've heard concerns about privacy or modesty... what you do w/ the photos and who you show is up to you. But if you don't get the photos taken you don't have a choice at all!

on request of the birth mothers, I have to date photographed three deliveries in hospitals, including one C-section. A friend of mine, also a professional photographer, photographed the birth of my son. My friend was filming for a larger project, which was apparently never completed, on women in transition. The photographs I took were given to the parents, who were very satisfied with them, and, for the C-section--- with permission of the mom --- also to our local public health clinic. No money was paid to anyone for any of these events. As a photographer I found them all to be wonderful experiences and would do it again for friends.

I was a professional medical photographer for 31yrs at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in Long Beach, Calif. I was in the delivery room for many actual births but at the request of the hospital or physician. However, the mother did have to sign a legal Photo Release to agree. As many births as I saw it never ceased to "awe" me. My first one brought me to tears because of the amazing beginning of life and its process.

Seeing that it is impossible for a male to give birth to a child. This is not really a feasable question to ask . I joined Angies list hoping to get pre-knowledge of companies or person with whom I was considering to engage iin certain types of work for me. So far Angies list has been a REALLY BIG DISSAPOINTMENT. Mrs Miller, is there another Dreamers Job available with Angies list?

Yes I would allow photos while having a child for this is magical and something you could never get back.

Well written article, Ms. Miller. I would like to see one about (expected) death and aftermath/funeral, etc. I know that it can be common in some cultures, but seems frowned upon in the US. Thanks.

Birth photographing is indeed a lifetime memory, I personally joined my wife during 2 C Section delivery of both daughters and have took full HD video and still photos of the whole Opeartion and cleaning of baby.

No I would not let a photographer in the delivery room. This is a very personal, family experience and outsiders should not be a part of the "picture"

Hell no! I think people have forgotten that some privacy is a good thing, because it makes certain things special, to the handful of people who are really involved. Now these people's most intimate moment,s are shared with every casual acquaintance they have on Facebook & other social media .. not very special is it?!

Eve, (And several others) Please know that a photographer in the room doesn't change the privacy or intimacy of the moment. It is truly something that we cherish as those things, and want to offer the opportunity for it to be more intimate between the mother and her family. The images seen in public are specifically chosen by the parents to be shared- often there are whole births that never are seen by anyone other than myself and the parents. I respect the desire to keep those moments private entirely (thus the reason anyone will only see 4-5 of the 20 births I have captured shared online). Please know the desire to have a photographer isn't to make these things public, but more to have a story of the day, captured in a tasteful and beautiful way. If the photographer is a true professional they will respect not only the person's privacy, but they won't step over the line with capturing any part of the birth.

Yes it does change everything. The photographer may be professional, but she or he is still there, seeing all, and I mean ALL.

There is no way, no how, that we would've allowed some stranger in the delivery room for that moment. My wife is already in an incredibly uncomfortable position, and there would be absolutely no reason to for an unnecessary person to be in there. Secondly, no one else other than the mother and father, and medical staff, need to see what happens during that moment. It is a moment to be shared between the mother and father, and a moment in time that I will NEVER forget. I don't need photographs to remind me of that time. I also don't have a desire to share that moment with anyone else. It's a time that will be ours, and only ours forever.

It is nol a show, it is private, tender, touching miracle. Watch a lovely dog have a little, She is not putting on a show for anyone and nearly always, things flow easily. Rarely needs a Dr., let alone a camera and a bunch of yucky relatives &/or photographger. I had easy births, when the OB let me alone. My mother had her 7 children at home siblings in th house , but not watching hr pubus. We had enough animals to watch, rarely helped them. These young people seem to want to be the center of attentios no matter what. Screaming is either for show, or because their muscles are too tense. Bearing down pains hurt, the pig or sheep grunts a bit, nothing else is very uncomfortable. OB's should go to a farms for a few months at birthings season. It would educate them. I am an 80 yr old g g mother,who grew up on a ranch. It is beautiful and miraculous, but not for a public show. No one really gives a damn anyway. I would throw the IV at anhyy photographer that ask me to pose for that. Lord sakes, chidren sense it, dont exploit it. Mayb,e this is one time when you should for go the center of attention. I am also po'd re: the reactions to the new head of Yahoo, Since when has pregnancy stopped women from doing their work. I am sure that she can also work from home for a few days. as far as motherhood, yes., I htink children need their mothers , but not around the clock. Some have hired help shile they are still at home, and many esp. in this high tech era can work form home. I didn't hear much about Sarah Palin, leaving all of her young childen, for what she & many others hoped would be fame and glory all over the world. Civilization has continued, under conditions much worse than being a new mother and a CEO at the same time. This country has got totally bananas. Contolling females is again bearing its ugly head. I am not anti'islamic, but manh are worried , well that is one things the heirarchy of the Muslims expect, is to have the woman wait on them, bear their children, & not get educated historically. I am not talkiing about extremist Muslims, their are many wonderful Muslims world wide that have kept up with the 21st Century. May God bless us all, we are humans, I think.

I didn't want the forty-eleven hospital staff members in the room. I certainly wouldn't have invited another stranger in!

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