I had an interesting experience a few weeks months back. Literally within days of each other, I received emails from prospective clients sharing their excitement with me that they were 8 weeks pregnant! Yay! Congratulations! And they wanted me to photograph their births. Wow, thank you! It is humbling to be one of the first people you called to share the news of your pregnancy. Also within those few days, I received email inquiries from mamas who were 36+ weeks pregnant. One mom was 39 weeks. Because I kept in contact with them, I happen to know that those moms did not hire birth photographers. Some got hardly any photos at all, even from family members, due to going into labor unexpectedly early. The other moms who emailed me at the beginning of their pregnancies WILL have their births photographed, as they have planned well in advance.
Here are a few things to consider when hiring a photographer and why booking sooner rather than later is better for you.
1. Cost. Let’s be honest. Price is big issue for some people. Yes, I have had clients who are able to book me at the “last minute” and cut me a check for the entire birth fee at 38 weeks, and it’s no big deal for them. But for the rest of us, we might need a little more notice so we can arrange our budget as such to fit in the added expense. Birth photography is a “luxury.” It’s not putting food on the table or a roof over your head. I know not everyone is going to be able to afford it. When you hire a birth photographer, you are hiring someone to be on-call for you for weeks at a time, to leave her family and life at a moment’s notice, to have a babysitter ready to take care of her children and be able to pay that babysitter, to spend hours and hours with you while you labor and deliver, to work completely odd hours including possibly all night long, only to return home to edit all your photos and provide beautiful images and products for you to love and cherish. The photographer also needs to own good equipment and software, and pay for other things necessary to run her business, such as licensing fees and taxes. Being a birth photographer is not exactly a walk in the park. Don’t get me wrong. I love attending births and each one is an incredible experience to witness, but there is a reason why birth photographers need to be paid a certain amount and that is because it IS work!
2. Availability. Most birth photographers have a set amount of births they are willing to book per month. For some, it is only one. For others, it is 6 or 8 or more. Many factors play into this, such as family life, childcare availability, other responsibilities, or even vacations. Yes, we too take vacations and we have to plan them months in advance, due to the nature of our profession. Most birth photographers do have a back-up photographer they will work with to cover your birth if their previously planned vacation falls within your on-call time, but it is unlikely that the photographer will accept you as a client if they have a weeklong vacation that encompasses your due date. Besides being unavailable for personal reasons, your desired photographer may have already booked their 3 or 4 births for the month you are due. The moms that book early in their pregnancies are going to be filling the photographer’s calender months and months in advance. I’ve already had inquiries for October 2014. Now that’s planning ahead!
3. Compatability. When hiring a birth photographer, you are inviting someone into your birthing space. For some this may be no big deal because they’ve invited lots of people to their birth and it will be a big party anyways. But for others, birthing is a very intimate experience that may involve only four people, one of which is the hired photographer. You will want to find a photographer whose personality you like and are comfortable with, and whose style you like. I always recommend and prefer meeting in person prior to the birth. Your relationship with your photographer will begin and blossom there and it will continue to grow through emails and updates as your due date/delivery nears. Then, when you are in labor, you do not have “a stranger” walking into your birthing space, you have someone you have built a relationship with and someone you trust.
If you are newly pregnant and researching your options, including hiring a birth photographer, good for you! You have plenty of time to plan and make arrangements! If you are already months along in your pregnancy and just now learning about or considering birth photography, don’t wait!! Meet with some birth photographers right away to start building those relationships. Make budget adjustments, etc. I’ve never met anyone who has regretted hiring a birth photographer, but I have talked to plenty of people who have said, “Oh, I wish we would’ve hired you!”