Before I get into telling you all the story behind this precious little baby’s birth story, I want you to know that this post is unlike all the other birth stories. I will be sharing tips and helpful things I have learned throughout the years of documenting births. Tips that will help anyone that is a bit afraid of the thought of being responsible for capturing the happiest day for the parents that are anxiously awaiting their tiny one. I was once afraid and nervous, just as I imagine you are, and this session was actually the one I truly feel I transitioned from being somewhat lost in the birthing world to figuring out just what I had to do in every scenario. This was the third birth session I had the privilege of attending and a very high-stress one at that because it was my first un-medicated birth. ( My first birth session and the second ) These parents were welcoming their first child and she was already past her due date, if I can recall correctly by almost two weeks. The room was dark and quiet and we all just watched in awe as Kelly labored contraction after contraction. Calmly and in complete control. She didn’t make it look easy, but definitely worth it.
When it was time to meet the little lady there was no waiting around for the doctor to arrive. The nurses delivered baby Ella as the doctor was walking through the door if you take notice in the images below. Kelly had Ella in her arms by the time she was able to get to her. Proof that labor and delivery nurses rock births just as much as a doctor would at times. Watching Kelly hold her baby in her arms after it all made it sink in for me a bit more… that one day if ever I was a mom, no amount of pain would beat the feeling of holding your precious child. (If only I knew back then how true that thought was.) This is Ella Sue’s birth story (her parents are big LSU fans… I wonder if she will grow up to be one as well!).
By no means do I feel that from a photography standpoint this is the best session to use as an example as what should be done in a birth. I am using it for the complete opposite reason. I learned so much from this birth back in 2009 and I hope that these tips will help you too.
- Leave fear outside of the room when walking into a birth. Moms can feel tension in the room and you don’t want to be the nervous photographer meddling with your camera unsure of what setting to set the lighting for or how to use your equipment. They can sniff your insecurities so make sure you have practiced at least in all scenarios (indoor lighting, natural light, low-light) before and are comfortable with your camera.
- In the event the laboring mom wants absolute darkness ( like this mom in particular ) the pictures will not have the same feel as if she was okay with either having lights on or the window blinds open. Discuss this with her prior to the birth to give her the option of integrating artificial light, such as flash, if she doesn’t mind or keep some kind of mood lighting around so that you are not shooting in complete darkness. With time I have come to prefer shooting without the flash ( sample low light session here and here ) but I am not opposed to bringing it along just in case or for unforeseen circumstances.
- For those moms that would like to labor in a low-light setting, try asking them if it would be okay to increase the lighting in the room once the baby is born. Better light equals more detail, not necessarily a better picture. So if she doesn’t oblige don’t feel as if it won’t be worth your time.
- Shoot with lenses that are specifically and technically able to work in low-lighting situations. My favorite lens for this kind of thing would either be the 35mm or 85mm for detail shots.
- Make friends with the nurses. They will either make or break your experience if you are in a hospital setting. You may need their okay to stand right next to your mom instead of away from the bed or in an angle that is less than ideal. They will also be in your photographs, so having their consent is very important.
- Know the hospital’s policy regarding photography and videography.
- Speak to the mom prior to the birth about what she feels is acceptable and comfortable regarding nudity, exposure and moments throughout the birth. There are moms that wouldn’t want you to be documenting perhaps while they are pushing. Other moms will be all for it with the response, “My child needs to know how hard I worked to have her.” Every mom is different.
- Every birth is different. Remember that. One birth may last two hours and the next 2 days. Predicting birth is something I leave to the nurses and even they get it wrong at times.
- Bring snacks for yourself since you will want to be near the parents at all times instead of having to drive off for a meal or two. Don’t eat in front of the laboring mom since it’s not polite. I have heard wives chew out their husbands because they flaunt food in front of them. NOT cool.
- Try to be as close to a fly in the wall as possible. Take your shot and settle. From personal experience, I hated watching people constantly move around me while I was in pain. I wanted the world to stand still and hush while those contractions kicked in and I know that’s exactly what all the other moms are thinking.
- Take pictures of the other family members as well since it’s a special day for them as well. Moms get all the attention but dads are just as excited to meet their baby!
- After a birth, you will feel a high. Enjoy it. Let it consume your day and tell the world you witnessed a tiny miracle. Because child birth is truly that, a miracle.