When I first began shooting births in 2014 was really the first time I had picked up a DSLR. I had only the experience of my high school film photography and video editing class, a few college credits towards a degree in graphic design, and a passion for all things birth and art. That was about it. I did not obtain a degree in photography (gasp!), nor graphic design, nor art like I had planned. Instead, I certified as a CNA, and only used what I learned from that to raise a baby (thank goodness, because babies are equally cute as they are dangers to themselves!).
No, when I decided to become a birth worker of some sort, it was probably a few hours after I had just had the most incredible birth of my second daughter, right in my bedroom, in a tub full of the hottest water I think I have ever bathed in. It was glorious. It was magical. I felt like a friggin goddess, and like I was the only woman to have ever birthed a baby without medication (obviously, you know, that's not true) but still, I was on cloud nine. I thought to myself as I was watching my wonderful birth team pack up and leave, that they were just the luckiest people to be able to work with women like that, all of the time. To witness all the magic, and the power and the strength, and I wanted in!
I had always been in love with photography, and up until I was pregnant with my second daughter I had never even heard of a birth photographer. I didn't even know what a doula really did, and I was a bit shocked at the fact that you even had the option to birth naturally AT HOME. I was on board with it all once I found out, except for one thing...birth photography. I just didn't like the idea of it, I thought it sounded gross to be honest. I had never seen birth photography and I only had one image in my mind about it. That all changed once I had only the memories of my homebirth and a few shots that my amazing midwife, doula, and mother took for me. I immediately regretted not hiring a photographer for either of my daughter's births.
Once life settled down about 6 or 7 months after my homebirth, I decided I would pursue my newly found passion of birth photography. I researched and bought some used gear. A nikon D300, and some older lenses, and a little black thrift store bag to put it all in. I was set...so I thought. I shot my first birth October 5th, 2014. It was the most wonderful experience, and also the most tiring. I spent a totally of about 24 hours at this warrior mama's home, watching and documenting her and her team and family have a beautiful VBAC. I had a chance to meet many midwives as they all began to pile in and help with a bit of a difficult delivery. I learned what it was like to have to be up all night and all day and go home to kids and have to do that too. I took almost 1,000 images and only delivered about 200 or so. I learned that editing is more work than it seems, and so on and so forth. That first birth was a challenge, but the only part I found truly difficult was the fact that my gear was not up to par. How was I going to continue with a camera that has a bad time focusing in low light?! No, not the life of being on call or up all night, no that wasn't the bother at all. I was hooked from there, and all I wanted to do was book more births.
I was just getting my foot in the door right around the same time as Monet Moutrie. I remember her reaching out and wanting to become each others back up, which I was all for. I quickly learned that was extremely necessary with this kind of work. I had a blast shooting a couple of Monet's portfolio builders with her and gaining more knowledge along the way. It was nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of and such, and still is. I love the friendships I made with her and some other photographers early on, I don't think I would be where I am today if I didn't have that support system in place. I feel it is just so important in this particular genre of photography to have that.
As I approach my 2 year mark, I have now shot more than 25 births, and have learned and grown immensely. I have learned so much on my own and from many other photographers in this field. I believe that it is only the natural next step to now pass on that knowledge to others looking to get into this field. I am not necessarily an expert, but rather have made mistakes, and learned from them and gotten better because of them. So friends, I want to know...how can I help you?
Do you have any questions that you would want answered before you begin or as you continue in the beginning stages of building a birth photography business? I would like to spend some time over them next weeks or maybe months creating a series of videos and or blog posts just for you; the budding birth photographer. Now I still, myself, have a ways to go and am always learning and getting better. I believe that some of the best learning is in the conversations and the differences of the individual artists, and I would love to start some in the comments below or in the birth photographer Facebook group I created last year just for this very thing.
Topics can include: Editing, shooting and settings, using flash, contracts, clients and consults, pricing, and more. The sky is the limit really, and I am an open book. So ask away! I look forward to hearing from you in the comment section right down there. . .
(*Also, feel free to share with others that you may know looking to get into this birth photography*)