Why is birth photography so expensive?

what you don't see

One of my favorite quotes -

“Shooting a birth is like getting an inquiry from a bride saying that she wants you to come to photograph her wedding, but isn’t going to set a date. She’ll just call you whenever. And when you ask her how many hours of coverage she would like, she says she’s not sure, probably around 24, but maybe only 2. Then you ask her when she’d like for you to start coverage and she says she won’t know, but likely around 2 am. Also, she doesn’t want any use of flash. So, when you ask her if there will be bountiful natural light, she'll tell you that she’ll be getting married in a dark closet with no light whatsoever. Oh, and she’s going to need the images right away to send out announcements, BUT you’re not allowed to use them anywhere on your website or blog due to privacy concerns. We’d all be quoting this bride 50,000.00.” ––Lexia Frank, birth and wedding photographer in Portland, OR.

Birth Photography is so unique.

I get asked this a lot, and I am used to it by now. Birth Photography is unlike any other scope of photography but, in terms of cost, it compares closely to the high-end wedding photography. It takes some serious dedication and skill. I love what I do, and all my clients. I knew when I signed up for this gig that someday I would miss a holiday, birthday or anniversary. Birth is also not like other photography because we can’t book multiple sessions per day or even per week. We only accept a certain number per month. As one of the only birth specialists in the area, we are one of the only that offers an in-house backup photographer. Just in case one goes into labor late and one goes into labor early, I always have a trusted backup photographer on-call.

I understand that it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that your photographer shows up, pushes a button, and then delivers you a gallery. It seems simple and straightforward enough, right? For most birth photographers though, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. More often than not, the bulk of the work exists not in showing up and documenting your birth, but in the selection and post-processing of your gallery. The development of the skill that’s required to do this takes many YEARS to perfect. It simply isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a constant, daily process of learning and refining, learning, and refining.

There is no set day/time/length.

Births have no predetermined amount of time when it will happen or when it will end. We will be on call for clients for 3-4 weeks. This means 24/7 we will carry our phone everywhere we go. We take our camera equipment with us if we leave the house, and if we leave with family it’s like a convoy. In case we have to leave at a moment’s notice. We sometimes will miss out on special events (school plays, prom, dance recital’s) with our families. We have to pre-arrange childcare (which is not cheap) weeks in advance. We have to have 2 cameras and a variety of lenses to handle low light which is expensive as well, and we are always sending it in for cleaning and maintenance so we know that we have done our best to prevent a malfunction.

Think of birth photography like wedding photography except that birth photography has no set day/time/length. Instead of putting it in my calendar as a Saturday wedding day, I block off 4 weeks in my calendar and keep the phone by my side the whole time. Instead of planning for an 8-12 hour wedding day, I plan to have a babysitter ready to watch my little guy & daughter for an unknown amount of time, day OR night, on any day of the week, with very short notice. When we get called in for a birth we have no idea how long we will be there. We could be away from our families for 10-30 hours or even more with home births.

Birth photographers also have to be insured differently than a portrait photographer.

The on-call life is not easy and not for everyone so those that choose to offer birth photography have a passion for it and truly want to give their clients the most amazing birth experience they can. I chose this special photography because I had a passion for wanting to give mothers that have husbands who are deployed a way to let the dad feel like they were there the whole time. I also wanted so badly to be able to see new life brought into this world. I love babies and have two children of my own and each of their births was so special that I knew in my heart this is where I wanted to put all my energy into. Photographers that offer birth photography choose it because it’s a passion of theirs. The scarifies they make in their lives to be there for this important event in yours is because we love being able to capture the amazing moments for you.

Birth photographers also have to carry insurance that differs from that of a portrait photographer (which I am as well) and it’s pretty much like a big end wedding photographer again. We have to take extra precautions since we are in a birth space with a lot of Dr’s and medical staff. I carry a business license and business insurance along with insuring my equipment. Then on top of that, I have memory cards, hard drives, batteries, and lens calibrators that make sure my lenses are tack sharp. We can not get that first cry back. We can not ask you to hold that pose so we can adjust the settings. We have to know how to adjust settings fast and catch those moments in a blink of an eye.

Now with all that being said, you can see why birth photography is so expensive and we charge what we do. All that I mentioned above doesn’t even include after I have photographed your birth. I have to sort through 100’s of images, edit those images and make sure they are backed up not once, but twice.


There is a payment plan option.

Birth photography is expensive and it’s not something everyone can afford but if it’s something you truly want, make sure you find a photographer you connect with and has the style you are looking for.

For us, personally, we understand birth photography isn't an affordable luxury for everyone, but it is something I think everyone deserves the opportunity too have. This is why we've adopted a payment plan to fit any budget. If that's not enough, we also offer an Off-Call option as well as Gift Registry to add to your existing registry and invitations.

So if birth photography isn’t in the budget for your family, or if having images from your birth isn’t a priority to you, that’s completely understandable! Just don’t lose sight of the value in hiring a professional, it’s present and possible to obtain in many, many ways. And if you’re anxiously awaiting the delivery of your final gallery, be patient! It’s probably worth the wait.

FAQ

What is Birth Photography?

A. Birth photography consists of artistic, documentary-style images taken throughout your labor and your child's birth and the immediate postpartum period in the most unobtrusive manner. I understand how to work discreetly to capture your story while respecting your birth space and the working space of the birth team.

Why Should I Hire a Birth Photographer

A. 1. Birth deserves to be celebrated
In the hospital or at home, a planned C-section or unmedicated water birth — however it happens, birth is remarkable! You feel the weight of their warm body against yours and kiss that damp, fuzzy head. Where words fail to capture the depth of this moment, an artful photograph preserves all the emotion of your first minutes together.
Birth photography provides evidence of your incredible strength — and you may need that reminder during the grueling newborn days ahead.
2. Birth photography enhances family connection
Some people fear that inviting a photographer into their birth space will disrupt the intimate connection between a birthing couple and their new baby. I find quite the opposite to be true. Hiring a birth photographer allows your partner to be completely present with you throughout labor and delivery, and especially in those precious bonding moments after birth.
Give your partner the gift of experiencing this day fully, without worrying about getting a good picture.
3. Birth is unpredictable
There are no do-overs. Hiring a professional birth photographer means securing someone with the specialized equipment and knowledge to handle all the challenges a birthing situation can present. You want the person documenting this momentous event to have the technical skill and artistic ability to make art in the most unpredictable circumstances.
You didn’t trust your cousin to photograph your wedding — don’t leave her in charge of capturing the moment you become parents.
4. Birth is a team effort
A birthing mother deserves to be surrounded by people who know her, believe in and support her. Birth photographers are intimately acquainted both with the families they serve and also the birthing process itself.
People hire me not just for photographs, but also for the calmness I bring to their birth experience. A good birth photographer knows when to offer words of reassurance, when to quietly hold space, and how to artfully tell the story of your delivery as it unfolds.

How do I know you won't miss my birth?

A. We understand Birth Photography is an investment. While nothing is guaranteed, we want to be there as bad as you want us there. Birth Photography is not just what we specialize in, but it's our passion.
As one of the only photographers in the area who specialize in birth, we offer an in-house backup photographer. That means you have 2 of us on-call. In addition, I don't travel the weeks leading up to your special day and I'm reachable 24/7. Just like the doctors and midwives.
With that said, if I was to miss a birth due to my own personal circumstance, you are covered in the contract to receive a full refund. If you're still unsure, I'm happy to cover more in our consultation.

Will we meet before the birth takes place?

A. Of course. It is vital that you are comfortable during your birth. I offer the most unobtrusive, professional approach to documentary photography. Comfort allows for the best quality imagery.

Why is birth photography so expensive?

A. Due to the unpredictable nature of birth photography, time is not limited to an hourly fee. In addition, it includes on-call service, travel, backup photographer fees (so we don't miss your day), childcare if needed, as well as the selection and editing of generally 100+ images. Like your wedding day, you want to capture every detail to relive every moment. Memories fade, but they don't have to. Take it from me, you don't want to miss the opportunity.

Do you offer a payment plan?

A. We do. A non-refundable deposit is required at booking, then you are welcome to make payments up to 38 weeks gestation. These are details we will discuss at our consultation.

What about my privacy?

A. Your comfort and privacy are my number one priority. Each of my clients fill out a contract with an extensive model release, granting me permission to share (or NOT to share) your birth story online. As my client, you always have the option to keep your photos completely private. While many of my clients find joy in sharing their story with the world, many others keep those images just for their own family. Whatever you choose, I'm behind you 100%.

I like the idea of birth photography, but modesty is important to me..

A. While birth photography is an impressively physical process, it's equally an emotional transformation. Some clients want the powerful, physical content, while others prefer the more modest, emotional approach. We are trained in many ways to respect your level of modesty. Those limitations are discussed during our consultation process and taken very serious. I will be as honest as possible if I think certain limitations would hinder the outcome of your birth story.

I know it can feel overwhelming to allow someone in your birth space, but as a professional birth photographer my goal is to make you feel safe and secure.

I'm not sure birth photography is for me. Do you recommend any other service?

A. I understand birth photography is not for everyone. Fresh 48 or a documentary newborn session would be a great alternative. Contact me for details.

What if I have to have a C-section?

A. Every birth story is worth being told through photographs. Even if you have a c-section or have a scheduled c-section, there is plenty of activity surrounding a C-section to tell your story. If I am not allowed in the operating room, I will be there leading up to and waiting as soon as you are in a postpartum room. Be sure to check your hospital’s policy on who is allowed in the OR.

Another option I offer is dialing in my settings and sending it in with your partner to capture these uncharted moments. It's empowering for our partners to be involved as well.

We can talk more about this during our consultation.

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