By Laura Maxson, LM
Birth photos can be very powerful and bring back intense memories. Some new parents will want to let their birth experience sink in for a few days before viewing their birth photos.
The moment of birth can be intense. When the final push comes, mom’s face may be buried into her partner’s chest or perhaps her head thrown back in wild abandon, the baby is finally here. While the birth of a child is a once-in-a-lifetime event, is it also a photo op? For some, the answer is a resounding “no.” But, in increasing numbers, the answer is an enthusiastic “yes.”
While anyone can take photos, partners are often too busy as a main support person to be in charge of photos. Family or friends may be a good choice, but keep in mind that birth can be an overwhelming, emotional event for them, too. It is not unheard of for the designated photographer to be found gazing lovingly at the new baby, photo responsibilities forgotten.
Childbirth can be documented, and memories captured forever on a fancy digital camera or a basic cell phone. Plenty of parents opt for a new camera with baby on the way, but a professional birth photographer will bring professional cameras, lenses, and a photographer’s eye, often with amazing results.
Someone familiar with birth may be better able to anticipate shots and stay focused, especially if birth gets challenging. Many birth doulas are willing to pick up the camera and some offer photography as part of their services. A doula or a professional birth photographer will know how to be low profile. Professional photographers can also deal with tricky lighting issues and lens changes to get the great shots. Be sure to carefully review any contracts with professional photographers. Is there a back-up photographer? Who owns the photos of your birth and how might they be used in the future?
Birth photos can be very powerful and bring back intense memories. Some new parents will want to let their birth experience sink in for a few days before viewing their birth photos. Others might need a few weeks (or months) before being ready to revisit the birth again. It can be better to put the photos away for a while, instead of hitting the delete button right away. In a few months or years, these same photos that didn’t seem that special might hold more meaning or a different perspective when viewed later. What might have felt like hours of chaotic contractions can look very different when captured as a series of tender moments of connection and images of strength and beauty.
Nowadays everchanging COVID rules may limit who can be in attendance at hospital births, leading to more often parents and family being the photographer. If not using a professional, be ready with a little advance planning. If labor starts the day after the baby shower, memory cards can be full or batteries uncharged.
Have extra batteries, memory cards, and a charger at hand or packed in the birth supplies. Prepare the camera in advance by silencing sounds that digital cameras can make. Those in labor can do without the extra beeps and clicks from a camera. Experiment with settings for indoor, low light, or flash/no flash beforehand.
Candid shots are perfect for labor and birth. Bring out the camera early, but be conscious of how much memory is left. It’s easy to take 50 photos of a slowly crowning head, only to run out of memory as the baby is born. Digital cameras and flash mechanisms can have different capacities for taking pictures in close succession. Try it out to know how many pictures can be taken in a row before the camera needs to pause to re-energize.
Birth photos taken from beside or over the shoulder of the laboring person can be less graphic than those taken from the foot of the bed. Be aware of preferences for graphic shots ahead of time. Shifting the camera angle or the blankets can make newborn photos more shareable when not every one includes an exposed nipple.
Loving looks and tender touches abound in labor and birth. While an emerging baby is amazing, years down the road the faces of others in the room may be more memorable than another crowning shot of the head. Go for the wide-angle shots as well as close-ups of the birth.
The immediate glow from the birth experience and the “shout it from the rooftops” excitement of a new baby finally in arms can lead to over-sharing. As always, parents should be the ones to announce the birth and publish photos to social media. And whether it’s one over-exposed Polaroid or an album of professional prints, birth photos will always be treasured.
Go to birthnet.org for a Listing of birth photographers and doulas and registration information for Meet the Doulas,
September 21, 7pm