I have many friends that hired birth photographers to capture the intimate moments of their labor and delivery. In a lot of ways I regret we didn’t. Today we’re chatting with a birth photographer and three other mothers who hired one to tell us a bit more about it and share some tips.
Excited to introduce you to LA based birth photographer, Rebecca Coursey Rugh, who initially started her career as a fine artist but found herself drawn to birth photography after the birth of her first child, and the death of her mother. All of the stunning images in this feature are from births she’s been invited to photograph (with permission from the families photographed as well).
It was interesting to hear from her that most of the women she photographs are second time moms who wish they had documented their first birth. I feel that tinge of regret as well for all three of my births that weren’t professionally photographed.
FIRST, A FEW TIPS FROM A BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER
What is it that attracted you to birth photography? What do you enjoy about it?
After giving birth to my own children, I felt myself drawn to working with women in their child bearing years –I just didn’t know in what capacity. A few years later, after the sudden death of mother, I stumbled upon images of another woman’s birth, and suddenly I knew, in my bones, that this was something I needed to do –to me, this was the perfect melding of the art and science of birth itself.
My love of documenting births extends not just from a love of my own children, but from my own love affair with humanity. Birth, like death, is unequivocally universal. However, each family has their own individual way they were born; each woman has a story of how she became a mother. Birth can be as wild and fierce as it is soft and quiet; as predictable as it is unexpected –and because of this, its important as a culture, to hold space and revere each individual woman’s birth story.
What are things mothers should consider when thinking about hiring a birth photographer?
Despite how universal event it is, birth itself can be very intimate and private. So the first thing a woman needs to consider is who do they want in their birthing room? Who are they willing to trust their birth story with? Just as they carefully chose their midwife or obstetrician, or even a doula, they need to consider the whole scope of a photographer’s experience. It’s not just enough to have someone who is photographer, you really want someone who knows and understands the art and science of birth itself.
What are common questions mothers should ask in hiring one?
Some of the questions are not unlike those when hiring a doula: How many births have you attended? How many births do you have a month? Who is your back-up photographer? From there it’s a bit like a wedding photographer where you would to view their portfolio, see their images up close, know their rates, as well as what is included in the price point. For many there are options of add-ons such as maternity images and newborn sessions, as well as video.
One important thing to know is how and when a birth photographer might share your images. Make sure they are keepers of your birth story. Not all of my clients are willing to share their images. And thats okay. As I said before, birth is as universal as it is private.
Any new trends in birth photography right now? What’s on the horizon?
Just as in wedding photography, adding a small film/video to your birth photography package is quite popular. And of course this trend has led to people live streaming their births on Facebook and Instagram! As much as it is not for everyone, I love that women are willing to share their birth stories.
TIPS FROM FRIENDS
Kris of Neve and Hawk
Jessica of Hej Doll
Surya of Tosan Knows Best
Why they hired a birth photographer
“Being a professional photographer myself not only do I value photographs, but higher quality photographs that will especially stand the test of time in this digital era. Sometimes I look back at old low-quality digital photos from years past and can’t help but feel let down by their quality. These photos will be a memory you cherish throughout your lifetime, so be sure you have good ones to start with!” – Jessica
“I have two other children who are older (10 & 7) and I wanted them present at the birth. We wanted gender to be a surprise and planned for my daughter (10) to announce the gender and my son (7) to cut the chord. I knew capturing the experience with my husband and my kids a part of it would be something incredibly special.” – Kris
“One of the most amazing parts of this whole process was having Rachelle’s prospective on it. She wrote the most beautiful things afterwards. I had a really rough postpartum and it was so amazing to have someone say, “you and your family are beautiful and you did well.” I guess for me birth photography was a way to feel seen. By myself more than anything.” – Surya
Things to consider before
“Oddly, my desire for a birth photographer started with our wedding. We knew that that was the one thing we really wanted to get right. But even still, when we got our pictures back, there were moments I would never have seen, there were moments I was worried I might forget, and moments I might not have even believed if they hadn’t been so beautifully documented.” – Surya
“Quality. You’re going to get what you pay for. Not only do you not want uncle John who has a nice camera in your delivery room, you don’t want someone who lacks experience as a photographer. Lighting scenarios vary widely at hospitals, birthing centers, and homes, and the tender moments of birth are easily lost in a photo that isn’t properly exposed. Similar to hiring a wedding photographer, you get one shot at this and there are no re-do’s in the birth photography world.” – Jessica
“We interviewed a few people the first time. One person, who was totally capable artistically, was just not the right fit. First of all, it was a man. Which is honestly not a big deal for me but he had also never been to a birth and asked if he could set up lighting. Even as a first time mom who hadn’t been through birth, I knew that wasn’t going to work.” – Surya
“A good birth photographer should be non-invasive, like a wedding photographer. You know they are there but they don’t interrupt or hinder the process of giving birth. They are merely there to document it as they see it through their lens.” – Jessica
“Our birth photographer lived in the east bay and we were in the city. It was the year that Bay Bridge was completed so it was closed the whole weekend before our son was born and I was so worried that it would be hard for her to get to us. Luckily it worked totally fine but location (and traffic patterns) is definitely something to consider.” – Surya
Some thoughts on modesty
“I am really comfortable with my body generally. I think maybe because I grew up with just my mom and sister in the house? Plus since we had a home birth, I was so comfortable with everyone there. There wasn’t any random new people coming in and out.” – Surya
“If I’m being blatantly honest in the heat of the moment I didn’t care about much. It’s easy to see what a photographers work looks like in their portfolio. Professional photographers are masters of getting the right angle whether it’s hiding strangers behind you at the park or being sure to not take photos of off-limits areas. You should talk with your photographer beforehand to be sure you are on the same page. These are your memories and you can be as specific as you’d like, but the most important factor is to choose someone you are at ease with.” – Jessica
“Honestly, I don’t have much modesty. HA! I view birth and our bodies as natural and don’t really mind it being captured in the raw” – Kris
It’s making me feel regretful about not hiring one. Did you? Would you? Here’s an online resource if you’re looking for one.
Lastly, I love this:
“Let’s be real, there is a baby coming out of your vagina. I say own it, celebrate it. Your vagina is about to really impress you, might as well give her the spotlight she deserves.” – Surya
Thanks to Rebecca, Jessica, Surya, and Kris for sharing their beautiful stories of birth photography.