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.