A beautiful follower of mine recently asked if I could put together some helpful tips on how she and her partner could take beautiful images during her birth as she unfortunately, due to COVID, will not get the opportunity to have a birth photographer present like she had hoped.
Firstly, I 'd like to say just how much my heart goes out to all women impacted by the current situations of the world and have had to adjust their birth plans or changed them entirely. To the families who have had babies through this time and have not had their family visit due to closed borders. To the women who have struggled with postnatal depression and have felt even more isolated due to social distancing restrictions. You are seen, you are loved and I am so sorry you've had to go through some difficult circumstances.
Before I start.. I will just say - this is in no way a blog on how to replace your birth photographer, in no way a blog dismissing their worth or saying you shouldn't have a birth photographer. If the option is there for you - I 100% recommend you book one! I know just how invaluable they are and how it allows you and your birth team to be present and 100% focused on you and your birthing journey.
Alright, with no further delays - here are my top tips for taking your own birth images through this challenging time...
Get yourself a decent camera. I'm not talking about a $5,000+ professional DSLR... Any entry level DSLR camera will do the job. Birthing spaces can be quite dark majority of the time so you do need something that will handle low light situations more so than a little point and shoot camera. Mirrorless cameras are also an option and handle low light situations quite well.
Get the right lens As a birth photographer myself, I don't use much else than my 35mm lens for birth spaces. Something similar to this focal length would be ideal as birth spaces are often tight and wide angle lenses can capture more than say a 50mm or above lens.
Don't try and become a pro overnight Learning manual mode is a mind-boggling journey and not one I would suggest to any parents who are about to welcome a baby earth side. My suggestion would be to skim over the different shooting modes your camera is capable of and practice!!! AV-mode might be your jam or even simply whacking that bad boy into Auto mode. Whatever you decide on - my advice would be to stay clear of Manual mode unless you have prior photography knowledge and are confident you can shoot in Manual mode.
Prep your partner Your partner is there to support you first and foremost in any way you see fit. It is important to discuss your wishes and expectations with your partner to make a clear decision on what you would like them to do in order to support you through your labour. Birth can take you down a different path to what you had planned but it is important to plan and discuss your vision prior to your labour so your birth team is on the same page. If capturing images of your child's birth is high on your priority list - you might like to ask your support person to focus on capturing images for some of your labour, rather than comforting or holding you through your labour. For some women this wouldn't be an issue as I have witnessed women who labour solely by themselves, go deep within and don't require any touch or embrace from their partner. On the flip side - there are women who rely heavily on their partner's support throughout their labour so for those couples - putting all your energy and focus into birth photography may be a little more difficult. However you want to birth is up to you so just be open and honest with your partner about your expectations and at the end of the day - if your birth plan goes out the window and you don't capture one single image - at least your partner was by your side, supporting you and holding space for you while you brought your baby earth side.
Don't forget the small details Birth photography is all about storytelling. If your partner is able to capture shots for you - get them to try and tell a story with the images they are capturing so when you look through your images - they tell a sense of time and place. Perhaps a shot of the clock once you arrive at the hospital, the baby's heart rate if it's being monitored, your hands clenched as you go through a surge, the room number you are in... the list goes on! Tell them to get creative! Basically be like a paparazzi on speed haha! You can always delete any rubbish shots later on but you will never be able to go back and capture missed opportunities!
Hospital staff in images Most hospitals have a policy that no hospital staff are to be in any photographs unless permission has been granted. That includes any recognisable features like name tags etc. So please - before you go home and spam everyone with your birth images - crop or blur out any hospital staff who may feature in the image unless permission was given to you to do so.
Things can happen quickly So be prepared! Set your camera up so it goes into sleep mode after a certain amount of minutes rather than switching it off and on constantly. Letting it go to sleep mode should actually prolong the life of your battery compared to turning it off and on constantly. Plus if you have it in sleep mode, you will be able to wake it with a simple click of a button and be able to start snapping away quicker than if you had to switch it back on and wait for it to start back up.
Don't forget your birthing partner It is easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of labour and birth but don't forget to get some shots of your support person too! Maybe they have put down the camera to support you or they will be cutting the umbilical cord.. Don't be afraid to ask a midwife to pick your camera up and take some shots for you if they aren't preoccupied with something more important. Most of the time they will be more than happy to snap some shots for you if you ask!
So there you have it! My top tips for capturing your own birth images. I hope they bring you some clarity and guidance on how you can manage these unprecedented times. If you found it helpful, I would so appreciate it if you gave it a ❤, left a comment or shared it to someone you may know who could benefit from this blog.