Birth Q&A

On this page I have tried to answer some common questions about birth photography and my philosophy around it.  But it’s really best to meet in person so if you want to know more, please contact me and we’ll discuss over a cup of tea or coffee at no cost to you.

Why hire a birth photographer?

You may be already sold on the idea of birth photography but to many, the thought of having yet another person in the room especially one with a camera seems crazy.  That said, birth is a transformative process.  Without a doubt, you and your partner will be changed by your birth experience.  I believe that a woman who feels loved and strong after childbirth is the best positioned to transition to motherhood.  I will help to show you your strength and the love that surrounds you and your new baby.

Why hire me?  You may think that your partner, your doula or another family member can capture these images.  But during the birth, those people will be pretty busy supporting you.   Birth is a very complex subject to photograph.  Not only does the photographer need to understand the technical aspects of photography but the person has to understand birth – when to arrive, when to leave the room to provide privacy so that the mom can progress with her labour, what energy to bring to the situation, and how to control one’s own emotions, opinions and judgment.

What is your philosophy?

I believe that a birth photographer should be a witness to the process with the main goal being to highlight the strength and love inherent in the birthing process.  Generally speaking, I will not direct or interact during the birth.  I believe that the medical professionals take priority and I will defer to their requests and needs.  Above all, I will honour the needs and wishes of the birthing mom and do whatever is in my power to honour and protect the birthing space.  I will, however, offer help and support if I sense that it might be needed (particularly to the support team, other family members, siblings, etc.).

My own birthing experiences have been home births attended by midwives and doulas. I have done birthing classes in both the Bradley Method and Birthing from Within.  I am very comfortable with the idea of natural and home births.  That said, I firmly believe in the informed choice of the birthing mom.  I am 100% supportive of a woman’s choice to birth at a hospital, at home, attended by either a midwife or doctor, with or without pain medication.  It is your choice and I will document that honestly and without judgment. A traditional hospital birth can be just as empowering as a home, water birth if a woman feels that her body, her baby and her wishes were respected.

What about my birth partner?

It is very common for partners to resist the idea of having another person at the birth.  It is a very vulnerable time for our partners and some men, in particular, may have concerns about having their experience documented or simply be worried about having another person in the room.   I am happy to discuss these concerns with you and your partner to alleviate some of them.   Ultimately, I think that having the right support people at a birth can really take the pressure off the birth partner so that he can focus 100% on supporting you (and not have to worry about taking photographs as well).

Are photographers allowed in Calgary hospitals?

I am not aware of any hospital policies in Calgary prohibiting photography.  It would be up to the individual doctor/midwife providing your care. Typically, I have found midwives to be very receptive and doctors vary depending on their general approach to care and past experiences with photographers.

One issue is the visitor policies of some Calgary hospitals.  Currently, the Peter Lougheed, Foothill, and Rockeyview hospitals have a two visitor limit in maternity wards.  Typically, that would be your partner and one other person.  The South Calgary Hospital does not have a limit on support people and most midwives also have different policies for hospital births.

Please talk to your doctor or midwife about birth photography in advance and obtain their approval.  I am happy to discuss any concerns that he or she might have.  I am very sensitive to the priority that medical staff having during a birth and my photography will always take second place.  I will always respect their personal privacy and seek specific consent to take their image.

When should I book?

I take on a limited number of birth clients each year so I would recommend booking and paying your deposit as early as possible.  That said, I am a last minute person myself and sometimes that works out perfectly  so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

What equipment do you use?  Will you use a flash?  Will that bother me or others?

My camera is excellent in low light.  I also own a flash (speedlight) and will use it if necessary.   Typically the light at births is varied, unpredictable and sometimes non-existent.  When I use my flash, I bounce it over my shoulder to minimize its impact. That said, I have a camera and lenses that handle low light very well and I do not need to use flash.   If you choose not to have flash at your birth, I will ask that a table lamp be turned on or some other source of secondary light.  In addition, non-flash images will have more grain in them.  I’m happy to show you the difference in image quality between flash and non-flash images so that you can make an educated decision.  Also, at any point during a birth, you or your birthing team may ask me to stop using my flash and I will happily do so.

What will you photograph?

When I photograph a birth, I endeavor to capture the story of the day.  I capture interactions, emotions, and the little details that you may forget in years to come.  Before the birth, we will spend time talking about what you would like me to capture (and perhaps more importantly if there is anything you specifically do not want me to capture).   We will talk about what angle you would ideally like me to photograph from during the actual birth and whether you want to receive all of those images.  Those angles will depend on what is most important to you but it will also depend on where there is space at the time of the birth.  Some women like to see “it all” and some prefer not to.  You will be able to decide after the birth whether there are any images that you do not want to see.

What will you post/publish?

Your privacy is of the utmost importance to me and I will respect it at all times. I will ask you to post/publish certain images in various media. I believe in publicly sharing birth photography as my small way of helping to normalize birth and reduce fear.  In all cases, I select what I believe to be only the most respectful and positive images for public display similar to what you see on my website.  Most of my clients are super proud of themselves and their birth story and are excited to have it shared on my blog. That said, you will always have a chance to review the images and blog posts before they are published and I will not publish anything before you have had a chance to share your news.

When should I call?  When will you come?  How long will you be there?

You should call me as soon as you know that you are in labour even if it’s in the middle of the night.  Keep in mind that depending on the time of day, I may need up to 2 hours to secure child care and deal with traffic.  During our initial consultations, we will decide whether or not you want me to come to your house (if you are planning a birth center or hospital birth) or meet you at the birth center or hospital and I will plan accordingly.

Generally speaking, I will try to arrive right around the time active labour begins.  After the birth, I will typically stay for 1-2 hours in order to document examination, weighing, cuddles and first feeding.

If you are planning on a home birth and need to transfer to the hospital, I will come with you unless it is an emergency situation and not possible. Typically in those cases, I will offer to visit you in the hospital as soon after as possible to take some images of that part of your birth story.

What if something goes wrong?

No one likes to consider a situation where something goes wrong with a birth.  These situations are unpredictable.  Essentially, I will do whatever you want me to do in these circumstances.  If communication is difficult or impossible, I will use my best judgment as to whether to stay or leave.  Generally, I will endeavor to stay and continue to document your story appropriately and will leave the decision of whether you want to view the images entirely up to you. I will follow all medical direction and your wishes in these circumstances at all times.   Sometimes, a hospital or newborn session a bit later is helpful and healing and in the event that I am required to leave, I would offer you this option at a discounted rate.

More Birth Photography Resources

I have a number of birth story slideshows that I have permission to share with prospective clients so please contact me if you wish to see more of my work.