On Photographing your Birth

I’ve written about this before in a post on regrets. I wanted a birth photographer, but in the end it was going to be too expensive to hire a professional and we didn’t know anyone I was comfortable enough letting into the delivery room (I’m weird that way… the closer someone is to me, the less comfortable I am showing them my vulnerability). We brought our nice camera to the hospital with us, but of course everyone in the room was too busy, you know, delivering a baby, to remember to snap pictures. There are 4 or 5 photos of all of us in the delivery room, and most of those have nip slips in them so I don’t even want to show them off.

I’m also a person who takes A. LOT. OF. PHOTOS. My wife teases me about it and asks why I can’t just settle for making a memory in my brain, rather than trying to capture everything in photos and live the actual experience from the other side of a lens. I take so many photos that both my laptop and my phone ran out of space after 6 months of having a baby. I was able to store some pictures in the cloud for a while, but then that too ran out of space. We finally bought a huge external hard drive and I’m now moving everything over to it (and forcing myself to pare down the photos I kept, from ~300 a month, to under 100 per month). 

In my photo sorting, I came across a folder from my nephew’s birth. My wife brought her fancy camera to that too, but this time was free to get creative and play the role of professional photographer. There are more photos of my nephew’s birth (actually the afternoon after he was born – we weren’t in the room for the gory stuff) than there are of Avery’s first 4 months combined (after paring down). There are beautiful shots of the clock on the wall, the contraction monitor, the little “it’s a boy” card, the baby with each and every one of his new extended family members, and about 50 of the new mom with baby, so she could pick the few that she looked best in.

I’m jealous. I’m disappointed for Avery’s sake that we didn’t plan to capture more of her special day. It only happens once in a person’s life, and the changes from that day forward are monumental, taking you away from the wrinkled, vernix-covered innocence to the round, chubby baby days in the blink of an eye. And birth itself is such an intense experience for the person birthing that photos would really help jog the memory when the dust settles and you find yourself wanting to reflect.

So if you are reading this and you are pregnant, I highly, highly, highly recommend having a birth photographer. Don’t lose out on the chance to capture those fleeting memories in all the raw, beautiful detail.

11 thoughts on “On Photographing your Birth”

  1. I’m sorry you don’t have many pics of Avery’s birth and right afterward. I never wanted to hire someone, but it was also just B and I and the hospital staff in the room when C was born, so we don’t really have many pics either. B took some pretty good ones just after she was born, but not during labor at all because he was busy with me. And honestly we don’t have a ton of pics from her early days in life, because we were too tired and preoccupied. I get upset with B because he’s a photographer, and whenever I ask him to take a picture of something she’s doing he takes so much time trying to figure out what lens he wants and getting his settings “just right” that he completely misses the moment. I much prefer my cheap little point and shoot camera that I keep set to auto mode, because I can just pick it up and snap a pic and be done with it. I feel like if you want to get pics of life, just take them, don’t try to make it perfect. I also go through every month and print out a set of pics for her baby book, and to send to my mom, grandma, and sister. I’m always torn, too, between wanting to get pics of everything, or just enjoying the moment as it is. Sometimes it’s hard to find a balance between it all!

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    1. Yes, the early days are another time when you’re just not thinking about taking pictures… Awesome that B is a photographer, but yeah, I tend to agree that snapping quick pics (I just use my phone most of the time) is totally sufficient.

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  2. I never had any desire for labour photos (obvious as we adopted this wasn’t likely going to happen, nor would it have felt right) but I never really wanted any when we still thought I’d be the one carrying and delivering our child. What I really wanted was professional infant photos within the first 2 weeks. I had my heart set on having these photos done for years, I even knew the photographer I wanted to hire.
    In the end, I had to give up that dream because we had no idea when or where our child would be born or when we’d get home once the child was born. But, what was amazing is that when we were in the USA we had 2 possible days to get the photos done, and I contacted every photographer in the city we were in and one made time to fit us in. And, she even had a home studio so we didn’t have to have hotel room photos. They weren’t cheap, in fact they were fairly expensive considering the Canadian dollar at the time. But honestly, I am beyond thankful for these photos. For me, these photos mean the world to me. So, I guess, all of this is to say I understand your desire for specific photos, and I’m sorry you didn’t get the ones you really wanted.

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    1. That’s amazing that you found a great photographer on short notice while you were there! I’ll just have to pick another stage to get a set of professional photos. Maybe at her 1 year we’ll get family photos done.

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  3. We have these amazing photos of Linnea’s birth from our midwife’s phone (like, that shot where the baby’s face is all crinkled up and in the light and she’s just being lifted up – be still my mama heart) and all these blurry shots of Darwin’s from my phone. There was no money for a birth photographer, but I do sometimes get a little sad that we don’t have better photos of Darwin’s birth. I’m sorry you don’t from Avery’s too ❤

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  4. I have no birth photos either. Sometimes it makes me sad because I’m such a photo person, but se la vie. I do have cell phone pics from when they finally got her breathing and put her on my chest and I am grateful for that. I wish they were better but my wife is soooooo not a photographer!

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  5. I REALLY want a birth photographer… I haven’t the slightest idea of the cost, but I’m hoping to find an affordable one to make it happen. I love how many photos you have of Avery in your posts, I think pictures are great memories!

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    1. Pictures are great memories. I don’t have actual memories in my head of my own early childhood, but looking at photos makes me feel like I can remember it. I hope Avery will like having them.

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    1. Yeah a birth photographer is probably a new part of the consumerist pregnancy & birth complex. Older generations roll their eyes at it like it’s just another way to spend money. But I like that it’s a thing now!

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  6. We don’t have a single picture of the delivery room (in part because we were so shocked to be there 5 weeks early) and I regret it soooo much. I hate that my wife didn’t think to snap a few even in labor. I’m sure I told her not to at the time, but I still wish she would have.

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