Meet Leona

I’m Leona Darnell

Birth Photographer | Doula | Film Maker | Mother | Explorer

When you sit with yourself, quiet and undisturbed, and pick up a photograph of the day you became a mother, running your fingers over the edges of that image, it becomes more than what it physically is. When you sit with your heart and remember the love, of everything that picture means to you, nothing else in the world is more valuable”
birth photographer, leona darnell, breastfeeding her son
self portrait of Leona Darnell, Los Angeles birth photographer and labor doula.

My Story (the Reader’s Digest Version)

Being a traveler and explorer by nature, I did not embark on my own path to motherhood until my 40s. After several trials and tribulations, I had my son via IVF in 2013. I never met the “right” partner and remained solo throughout the process.

In the 8th month, I was rushed in for an emergency C-section. I briefly heard my child cry as he was rushed out of the room and into the NICU.  The entire event was a chaotic blur from the moments leading up to delivery, the delivery itself and immediately after.  It was a full 24 hours before I could even set eyes on him or touch him. Later, at home, I reveled in motherhood, but mourned for all that I missed. I wanted those moments back and wished someone had been there to document them for me.

I come from a photographic background and studied at the Academy of Art in San Francisco when image development came from the darkroom and the smell of chemicals filled my senses.

That day in 2013, two worlds collided and after doing my first birth photography session, that was it. Finally, I was grounded. Birth photography made my life complete.

Image of Leona Darnell with her son

Birth Photography

In 2017, I packed my bags and moved here to Los Angeles to bring birth photography to a new audience. 

As a birth photographer, I am dedicated to being the trusted storyteller for expecting parents. I strive to provide them with the opportunity to fully embrace the miracle of childbirth while artistically and respectfully preserving their transition into parenthood and the awe-inspiring journey of their child’s arrival.


In the midst of the 2020 shutdown, I dedicated my time to pursuing my passion for becoming a doula. By 2021, I had achieved my goal and became a certified birth doula. My intention was to be more than just another bystander capturing moments at a birth. I strived to be an integral part of the birth team, empathetically understanding the needs of a laboring woman and offering the right support at the right time. As I progressed through the program, I realized the incredible impact I could make. Bringing together my expertise as a birth doula and my creative eye as a birth photographer to create the unique role of a “doulatog” has proven to be the most rewarding and impactful decision I’ve ever made.

Image of Los Angeles birth doula, Keona Darnell with her son Luca


1998 graduate of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo – BS in Psychology

2001-2004 Academy of Art-San Francisco – Photography

2011 Graduate California College – AA in Veterinary Medicine

Doula Education

2021 Certified Birth Doula-Madriella Doula Network

2023 Foundations Course – Birthing From Within (Course)

2023 Building a Coping Mindset – Birthing From Within (Workshop)