How Does Birth Photography work?

Birth Photography has seen significant growth over the last few years. As this genre becomes more acceptable, the public is wondering exactly what it is and how it works. There are misconceptions that birth is too personal to have a photographer there or that the pictures are too graphic. While giving birth is a personal event, does that somehow exclude it from being photographed? Legally binding yourself to a partner for the rest of your life is also personal, but there are thousands of wedding photographers all vying for a chance to photograph it. Perhaps it is the fact that there is nudity involved that makes birth “too personal”. Birth photography is story photography. It is not about the “baby crowning shot”. Graphic images don’t even need to be in your birth story.

Los Angeles birth photographer, Leona Darnell shows a color birth photo of a woman in labor using the birthing bar

What is Storytelling Photography?

Storytelling photography is pretty much as it the title suggests. It’s the story of your birth with all the little details, the relationships, the little moments, the laughter and the tears. How you labored and held on to your supportive partner, squeezed hands (and tears!), the little massages and secret whispers in your ear are all caught on film for you. Birth Photography is documentary. There is no posing. Laying eyes on your baby for the first time, seeing the little toes, the cord that supported your baby and the emotion and love are all part of the story.

Color birth photo by Leona Darnell, showing a partner's support during a contraction.

How Does Birth Photography Work?

Once you know you are pregnant and you talk with your partner, start your search for a birth photographer. This is much like looking for a wedding photographer, you talk to them and see if you click. Does their personality, artistic style and price resonate with you? Is being a doula as well as a birth photographer important to you? I have an informative blog post about what a doulatog is (doula+birth photographer) if you are unsure.

Once you have chosen an artist, it’s imperative to get on their calendar. Unlike wedding photographers, birth photographers are extremely limited on the number of births they can take in a given month. Babies can come early, late or right on time. There is no way to predict when it will happen, unlike a wedding.

Assuming you do not have a doulatog (doula + birth photographer) and just a birth photographer, it is important you call them when you feel you are in labor. This will give them time to get their affairs in order (get children to babysitter, grab their bags, snacks and drive to your location). Birth Photographers generally get to you when you are in active labor which is 6-7 centimeters dilated or when you call your midwife. I have an easy to read blog post on the types of labor here. A more in depth look at the physical changes during labor can be seen here.

The birth photographer documents your story from active labor through birth and until about 90 minutes postpartum or after the baby exam. Don’t want anything graphic? No problem. Tell your birth photographer your preferences and they will oblige. If you want everything shot from where your head is, some really beautiful shots can be taken from there.

Los Angeles birth photography black and white birth photography image by Leona Darnell showing a woman screaming during delivery in Glendale California

Typically, the birth photographer will send a few sneak peaks 24 hours after you give birth. These are great to share with friends and family who are waiting to see the new baby. The rest of your images should come between 2-6 weeks later, depending on the artist.

I hope this was helpful in explaining how birth photography works. I wish you a divine adventure!

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