Ten common misconceptions about Birth Photography – Guest blog Jennifer Sarah Birth Photography.  Birth Photography? What’s that? Have you heard of it? As a specialist birth photographer, when I tell people what I do, it seems to be a very marmite subject that people either get really excited about or are really not sure about!

I was really excited when Jess asked me to pen a blog to clear up some common misconceptions around birth photography.

 

Here are some of the most frequent things I hear from people when I tell them about what I do:

 

  1. It’s the same as Newborn Photography.

 

This is a surprisingly common misconception as newborn photography is so well known, but many people are yet to hear of birth photography. Like Jess, I trained in newborn photography many years ago with one of the industry leaders in safe posing and handling of babies, and it was part of my portfolio when I started my business. It was around this time Jess and I became friends, however, over the years our work has ended up taking different paths! Jess has fine-tuned her specialist skills in creating beautiful studio portraits, establishing herself as one of the regions top Newborn Photographers, which is why I refer enquiries looking for this photography straight to her! I instead have been drawn towards documentary photography; and combining this love of natural light and real life-changing moments, with my passion for calm and educated births from teaching my NormalBirthing Hypnobirthing classes, has lead me to now be Norfolk’s specialist birth photographer.

The clue is in the title as to have the two types differ though, Newborn Photgraphy is when your little one is newly-born in the first few days of life, birth photography is the story of their actual birth into the world.

birth photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. But, I look ugly in labour!

 

No you don’t. You really, really don’t! You’re beautiful in labour. All women are as they find their inner strength to birth their babies. Even when the mascara is smeared down your cheeks and your hair is sweaty and tangled – I promise you-you are beautiful. I am yet to photograph a labouring mother who says she feels ugly in her images, instead, she finds them stunning, empowering and emotional.

My favourite quote comes from the world-renowned birthing guru, Ina May-Gaskin; “If a woman doesn’t look like a goddess during labour, someone isn’t treating her right.”

 

birth photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. It’s gory and graphic.

 

When I tell people what I do the most common response is a screwed up face grimace – “Ooh that’s a bit gory isn’t it?!” But it’s really not! The actual birth of your baby is actually just a small part of the whole story that’s captured. And actually birth itself is often far less messy than people think!

Jess doesn’t bat an eyelid if your newborn enjoys some nappy free time on her blankets, and I don’t bat an eyelid at the inevitable bit of blood during a birth. But it’s often really not like a lot of media would have you believe! I have worked in birth for 5 years now, and I myself have done it twice. I’m quite used to seeing all manners of bodily fluids and functions – that doesn’t mean I photograph it all though!

 

birth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. It’s all picture’s of ‘down there’.

 

Trust me, that’s not where I tend to point my camera! Your privacy and decency is of utmost importance to me. That said I do have some mums who want me to get the crowning moments as their baby is born, because it’s a viewpoint as a mother which is very hard to see! But, as above, the birth is much more than what’s happening ‘down there’. It’s the look on Dad’s face as the baby is born, it’s the forgotten back rubs, jokes in-between surges (contractions), your baby’s first expressions, and the little details and moments that make the day so special.

 

birth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. It’s only for ‘hippies’.

 

Far from it! Like hypnobirthing, this is something parents from all walks of life want and is increasingly seen in the mainstream media.  I do find though that the type of parents who come to me to capture the day their baby is born are usually those who have spent some time planning and preparing for The Big Day. Often, but not always, it’s booked by those who have explored their birth options and are planning homebirths. They may have attended my classes or another in the area, and have looked beyond the NHS’s antenatal offerings and usual birth plans and pathways.

 

Like wedding photography, this is the story of your family’s day. From the preparations before birth to the celebrations after, more and more people are investing in their birth experiences to be the best they can possibly be, and want that special day remembered forever.

 

birth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. It’s scheduled like any other photography session.

 

When I book a birth, I book out the whole month. Booking an Estimated Due Date in the diary sadly just isn’t the way it works. Babies keep to their own schedule for their birth, and we have no real way of knowing exactly when that might be! I go on call at 37 weeks, and remain on call until your baby is born. Just like you, I wake up every day thinking ‘is today the day?’ I recently blogged about life on-call over on my website, and I think it’s important to remember that I become just as invested in your birth as you are.

 

And on-call really does mean on call. I will come out wherever and whenever your baby is being born. Middle of the night, or the other side of the county, I cancel all plans and forgo all sleep to be by your side as you birth your baby.

 

birth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 7. It’s intrusive.

 

As mentioned above, I promise you it isn’t. I spend time before birth chatting to parents about images they do or don’t want, both to be captured or included in their private or public galleries.  As a birth professional, I am also aware the effects of being observed can have on a mother in labour, and so I make myself as accessible, and yet invisible as possible. I offer a fly-on-the-wall perspective, and for that, I must keep myself out of the way. That being said I’ll also be on hand to make cups of tea or lend a hand tidying up where needed, after all, I am another pair of useful hands!

But the biggest compliment I am so fortunate to often receive is “I didn’t even know you were there!” If I hear that I know I’ve done my job well.

 

birth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. It’s pricey.

 

As with all professional photography, it is a luxury. And when hiring a photographer you are paying for many things beyond the time they spend clicking a shutter. You’re paying for the years of training, things like professional equipment and insurance, and for a specialist birth photographer like myself, years of the birth experience.

 

More and more people are valuing the documenting of these life-changing events through beautiful photography, and just like with wedding photography, are seeking out photographers who’s work they admire and want to invest in to capture their day. You may be surprised to hear many people spend more on their pushchairs than they spend on their antenatal classes and birth photography!

 

Often it is cheaper than you think, and my birth packages actually start cheaper than my basic wedding photography package. And yet unlike weddings, I have no idea when I will be called to work, or how long I’ll then be there for! Like many photographers, I have different offerings for different budgets, and can also accommodate payment plans. I even offer gift vouchers for alternative baby shower gift ideas!

 

birth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. My partner can just take photos on his phone.

 

You know what. He can! For my births that’s exactly what my babies’ Dad did. But… the one photo I had from my eldest’s birth got lost in phone upgrades. We forgot to take my camera out of the car. I can still picture the image of me cradling my son, but I can’t ever see it, and I am really sad about this.  For my youngest son’s birth he did pick up my camera briefly and managed a slightly blurry snap of me and my son in the pool. It’s the only picture I have of that time and I cherish it as one of my most treasured possessions.  So although I am a photographer, I have one photo from both my births. So often I hear Mums say that they wish they had more photos from that time. Dads are caught up in the moment, and (rightly so) aren’t thinking about photos!

 

The truth is, even if your partner is a world famous photographer, Dad should be with you, by your side supporting you, welcoming your new baby into your family. You’ll see most images in this post include Dads – it’s his special day too. These wouldn’t be possible if he was watching the events through his camera screen!

 

birth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Any photographer can take pictures for me.

 

Again, this is in some ways true. Having someone at your birth who is there just to document the day will always give you more memories to look back on than not having such a designated person. But there are two things that are so important when choosing who to have with you; someone who can work confidently in ever-changing situations (importantly light and environments), and someone who has a complete and thorough understanding of the birth process.

 

I am so passionate about both of these – the latter in particular. I have spent many years perfecting my art, working in ever-changing natural light, knowing my equipment inside and out, and working intuitively when these things change to always capture the best images. Any professional photographer will have been perfecting these skills over their lifetime. And as professionals, we find our area of expertise usually lie in certain areas. For me this is documentary photography, where my environment is uncontrolled and my subjects completely un-staged, it’s so different from my previous studio work. I just love the completely unpredictable nature of it!

This is taken even further when working in a birth environment. There are so many factors to consider I can’t begin to list them all here! Being in a birth room is such a roller coaster of emotions and logistical changes; your photographer has to be ready at a moment’s notice to change plans or position, and it’s imperative they have a full understanding of what impact their work might have on you or your care team.  All while maintaining professionalism and calm composure.
Having been teaching hypnobirthing for 5 years now – and now embarking on my Doula training – I am a full blown birth geek! I fully understand how small words and actions can have huge impact both positively and negatively, and this is something I work hard with my couples to understand and use in my birth work when alongside mums.

 

I cannot stress the importance to you to find someone you feel 100% comfortable around, and who you can 100% trust to be there when you need them, offer you support, and not disrupt your labour and birth. I am registered with both the UK Professional Birth Photographers and the International Association of Birth Photographers, both of whom have minimum requirements for their many registered photographers to ensure those on their listing are professional and experienced.

 

I love what I do. As corny as it sounds, this isn’t a job, it’s a calling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you may be able to tell, I’m really passionate about what I do, and I love to chat about it. So if you’d like to know more please feel free to email me at jen@jennifersarah.co.uk , find me on Instagram or Facebook, or pop along to the Baby Shows at the Showground, Sportspark, and Open Norwich over the next few months to meet me in person and see more of my work. I’d love to hear all about your birth plans!

You can read my other guest blogs here, thanks Jennifer for taking the time to write this blog, did this help change your misconceptions if so comment below we’d love to know!