1. Bring Backup Batteries

Seriously. If you shoot mirrorless and are using a speed light (both great things to be using in low light situations) then your batteries are going to be drained quickly. I typically bring 3-4 batteries and my charger, which is plugged in and actively charging. You can bring a spare flash battery if you'd like, but my Godox has never run out of juice!

2. Trust Your Instincts on Time

This is where a background in Childbirth Education is really important. You typically don't want to arrive until your client is in deep, active labor (around 6cm). There are all sorts of factors to take into account; have they had a precipitous birth? How many children have they given birth to? Where are they giving birth?

I know several birth photographers who do not head to a birth until their client specifically asks them to. What I know about myself is that I'd rather be camped out in my car or reading a book in the hospital cafeteria than miss a birth. Oh yeah, bring a book.

3. Bring Your Own Stool

Ever been to a dreamy water birth and the only perspective you can reach gives all the triple chins? Don't stress out trying to find a [safe] step stool or chair, bring one you trust. Shooting from above is super flattering angle and a great way to capture the whole scene.

4. Speak & Move Quietly

You have been invited into someone's most intimate space in which they need to be completely focused. Loud side chatter pulls said focus and is not cool. I absolutely love getting to know midwives [quietly] when the family is laboring in another room. Also, silence your phone and that camera shutter!

5. Set the Scene

Snap a picture when you're walking up to the location, the clock on the wall (or your watch!), the room number, etc. This is commonly referred to as "b roll" and, while it may not be hung on their wall at home, it's important for memory and processing.

6. Set Your Clients to Emergency Bypass

On your iPhone when you go into your client's contact, go to edit, scroll down to ringtone and toggle the Emergency Bypass. This allows you to receive notifications from this person if your notifications are accidentally silenced (it happens). Make sure you walk your clients through the same process for you when you go on call at 37 weeks.

7. Flash is Your Friend

Flash evens out skin tones and can create really cool highlights & shadows. Most people's first thought is "isn't flash like super distracting to the birthing person?" The truth is that when someone is in labor land they have tunnel vision. Speaking from personal experience, I had no idea flash was even being used during my birth. Make sure your flash is bouncing off the ceiling and not directed toward a birth worker (whoops!).

8. Shoot Horizontally

This one was really hard for me in the beginning with my background in portrait photography. I would send my colleagues a gallery and they would remark how few horizontal images I had taken and that the portrait images left them wanting more. As in more of the scene; the birth workers, the room, the animals watching their humans labor. You get it.

9. Have Reliable Backup

This should honestly be number one because it is arguably the most important part of the job. Though we don't like to think about it, there will come a day when sickness, lack of childcare, or a freak accident keeps us from a birth. Further, there are special moments in our lives that are non-negotiable (the wedding of a dear friend, your child's birthday...) Enter, your trusted backup. I have two partners who I pay an on call back-up fee to for each birth. Double coverage, every time.

10. Know When to Stop Shooting

During family photoshoots I lay on the continuous shutter button because I want to capture every single facial expression and movement. The biggest difference being I am not firing off a flash into a dimly lit space or taking photos of someone's most intimate moments. If my images from a wedding are 3,000 then my images from a birth are 300. We don't need 12 images of them gripping a comb, just 1 taken with excellent composition and lighting.

Want to Learn More?

I offer 1:1 mentor sessions via Zoom! Learn about gear and settings, etiquette in the birth space, editing, you name it!