Birth photography is a bit like marmite. You either love the idea or you cringe at the thought of having your birth photographed.
But whether you love the idea or not, you can’t deny that the minutes, hours (and perhaps days) of your labour and birth are a hugely significant moment in yours and your baby’s lives.
I completely understand that you may not feel like having a camera in the room during this raw and very intense experience. But, if you do, after the event I’m sure that you’ll enjoy looking back at photos and will be so glad you had them taken.
They could well be memories that you love to relive through photos, whether in the immediate aftermath of the birth or at a time long into the future.
DIY birth photography
I’m going to be sharing my DIY birth photography tips with you here, in today’s blog, because I’m keen to encourage more women to consider having birth photos taken.
My husband was the chief photographer in 2010 when we welcomed my youngest daughter into the world by planned c-section. Although he didn’t (and still doesn’t) really know anything about photography other than to point and click, following my guidance he was able to capture these memories of Kyla’s birth which I will forever treasure.
Twelve DIY birth photography tips
If you like the idea of birth photography but aren’t looking to hire a professional photographer to capture your baby’s arrival, then you can get your birthing partner to take the photos.
Many birthing partners can feel a bit useless during the long hours of labour, so perhaps this would be a welcome job for them anyway!
Whether your birthing partner will be the father of your child, or your mother, sister or doula, the tips I’m sharing here will help them to achieve the best possible photographic record of the birth, even if they are a complete novice when it comes to photography.
My husband’s attempt at DIY birth photography is a great example to prove the point that you don’t have to have an in-depth knowledge of photography or a fancy camera to take great photographs.
DIY birth photography is entirely possible – it’s more about capturing the moment, telling the story and being able to spot a great photo opportunity than it is about the quality of your camera.
But, I’d still highly recommend that you instruct your nominated birth photographer to know the device or camera they will use.
Phones on the market these days have remarkable-quality cameras so even if you don’t own a digital camera you can still beautifully capture these special moments. The tips I’m sharing here are relevant whether you are using a smartphone or a more sophisticated camera.
Whatever the device though, if they’re taking it straight out of the box new, and expecting to just point and shoot, then they’re making a big mistake.
When photographing labour and birth, they’ll likely not have time to sit and read the instruction manual. So, make sure they spend some time before the big day getting to know the functions and settings the device offers.
This will save so much time on the day and you won’t need to worry about them not knowing what to do when the day finally comes.
Things can move quickly during labour and birth, so practice is really important too.
Your birth photographer will need to be able to capture images at a moment’s notices as well as be there to support you at the same time. So, it will help so much if they have practised and know which settings they’ll need.
Practising using the camera will mean they won’t miss an important moment because they couldn’t remember what to do.
The easiest way for them to practice is to try taking a photograph of one item indoors trying all the settings their camera offers. They should look at the results and see which is more pleasing in order to decide which settings they’ll use on the day of the birth.
You’ll also want to ensure they are prepared by having charged their device, so it’s got lots of power. And, if it’s a camera run with batteries, that they have charged those or have spares as a back-up.
Unless it’s a scheduled delivery, you probably won't know when the birth is going to happen so make sure they have packed a camera charger just in case too.
Another important tip for any DIY birth photographer is to not get so distracted by the task of taking photographs of the birth that they forget to be there for you!
Birth photos will be treasured for sure, but you’ll likely need their support so make sure that they focus on you first.
If you're planning on showing the birth photographs to friends and family afterwards, you'll want to be careful about what's on show in the photographs.
To avoid any slip-ups, advise your birth photographer to stand at the head-end of the bed to avoid snapping anything too intimate that you wouldn’t want to show to others.
If at all possible, your birth photographer should try to avoid using the flash on their camera. Using the flash causes harsh shadows and is not the most flattering light source.
If their camera has a function for low light situations you'll want to practice using this so that you are prepared for shooting in low light, especially if labour happens overnight.
If they’re using a DSLR camera, then they should set their ISO to 1600 and use Manual mode, set the aperture to 2.8 if the camera allows this. If not, use 4-5.6 and set the shutter to 1/125.
Also, keep the lights on in the room. If it's daylight, then keep the blinds open and they should adjust the ISO down if needed. Any images that are a little dark can be brightened later, so they needn’t worry about that. There are loads of free editing software programs that you can use to do this.
Window light is the best light source available to you so when you or your nominated photographer is taking photos of your new baby, whether at the hospital or at your home, move them right next to the window.
NOTE: if the sun happens to be shining directly in the window, so you can see a bright window-shaped patch on the floor, you don’t want the baby in the middle of the bright patch. They may need to get closer or further away from the window to avoid it. Read this post for more explanation.
When taking pictures of your new baby, it’s easy to forget the importance of camera angle. But if you shoot just from where you’re standing – probably next to the crib – you may end up with images at unflattering angles, like right up baby's nose and with lots of distractions in the background.
If you can shoot from directly above the baby, you’ll get a much nicer photo and the crib sheet will act as a plain background.
Now, to shoot from directly above the baby you’ll likely need to stand on a chair or stool or similar. Please always have safety in mind though, you wouldn't want to fall and hurt yourself or land on the baby.
Ask someone to help by holding you steady. You might want to get someone else to take the photographs for you if you've just given birth.
Now that your baby is here, don’t just take a few photos and call it a day. Spend time just watching your baby (with a camera handy!) once they are settled in the crib near the window.
Even if they are sleep, they’re going to move around a bit, yawn, grunt, and make some cute expressions – all of which are great moments to capture in photographs.
Once the baby is happy in a well-lit area, leave them alone! Move yourself around, shooting from different angles and zooming in and out, to get a variety of photos without disturbing the baby.
Like I already mentioned, my favourite shooting perspective for babies in the hospital is from directly above, but it’s worth walking around the crib and taking pictures from different angles so you have a collection of photos that don’t all look exactly the same.
Remember to zoom in for some detail shots while you’re at it.
Lots of mums are a little reluctant to appear in photos after they’ve given birth, but years later any mum will treasure a photo of herself and her tiny baby. So, ensure that you allow your nominated birth photographer to take photos of you too!
Hold your baby up close to your face for a sweet photo. And dad, if you’re the photographer, be sure to ask someone else to take photos of some of you with the baby as well.
Photography training and newborn photography services
So, after having read my tips for DIY birth photography, I hope you are feeling more confident about capturing some truly precious memories of your baby around the time of their birth?
If you’d like more help, or if you've just purchased a new camera like a DSLR or bridge camera and need a helping hand to learn how to use it, then did you know that I offer beginners photography courses? These are available either in a group or on a 1-2-1 basis. More information about my photography training is available on my website.
Also, if you like the idea of having some professional photographs taken when your baby is born, then also look no further! I am a specialist in newborn photography and my service is suited to babies who are between 1 and 6 weeks old.
My newborn photography sessions are best booked in advance so that I can guarantee you a space in my diary. If you are reading this while you are pregnant, please get in touch ASAP – ideally sometime after your 20-week scan – to book in a provisional date for your baby’s newborn photoshoot.
Take a look at my newborn photography gallery and session information to find out more. If you have any questions I have a newborn FAQ page which you might find helpful. Why not schedule a free of charge telephone consultation with me?