(updated July 2019)
As a birth photographer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I’ve photographed over 100 birth stories. I’ve been hired by people who hadn’t heard of birth photography until after their first baby was born and then just had to have a birth photographer at their second birth. I’ve been hired by people who knew they wanted the once-in-a-lifetime moments at their birth captured before they even got pregnant. And I’ve been hired by people who had a less than stellar experience with a birth photographer the last time around and hired me because they valued birth photography and wanted to protect their investment. Their stories inspired this post. As a full-time professional birth photographer in the Twin Cities, I want you to have the best possible experience at your birth, and I want your birth photos to be something that you can always cherish.
As you email and interview birth photographers, here are ten questions to keep in mind.
How many births have you documented?
Experience matters. A birth photographer is a lot different than any other kind of photographer. Birth photographers need to be able to shoot in every type of lighting situation, day or night. I’ve documented over 100 births in the Twin Cities, and my skills have grown and developed with each one. (See a few photos from my very first birth on my about page — how far I’ve come!) From dark birth center births to beautifully lit daytime home births to hospital births with mixed lighting, I know my camera inside and out and can expertly capture your birth story.
What happens if you are sick or already with a birth client when I go into labor?
We’re only human, after all. Sometimes, despite our best intentions and lots of planning, a birth photographer won’t be able to make it to a birth. Your birth photographer should have a support network around them and at least two dedicated backups who can step in if they are ill or already at a birth when your baby decides it’s go time. Ask to see their portfolios, make sure they’ll adhere to the model release you have with your birth photographer, and find out what their qualifications are.
My fantastic doula partner Gina of The Sown Seed is at the top of my list if I am unavailable to attend a birth and she is so ridiculously talented. Here’s a preview of a birth that she captured for me while I was across town at a different hospital with another client. I’m so lucky to have Gina and a few other incredible women in my Minneapolis birth photography community.
What happens if I have an unplanned cesarean?
Your photographer should be comfortable supporting you through a surgical birth. Make sure they are open to the idea of not only witnessing but also documenting the process for you if you want them to. Ask to see examples of other c-sections that they’ve documented and make sure you know what your hospital’s policy is on photography in the operating room.
Do you offer birth videography as well as birth photography? How do you prioritize when to take video vs. still images?
Maybe you’d like to capture not only the sights of your birthing experience but the sounds, motions, and emotions too. Does your photographer offer videography too? And do they know how to capture video footage while they’re taking photos? Having multiple cameras makes this possible, and it’s one of my favorite things to do for clients. Many of my birth photography clients in Minneapolis and St. Paul request that I capture video footage as well as stills for the moment of birth. Here are two recent examples.
Can you show me what a full birth gallery looks like?
To know whether your birth photographer is a good fit for you, you should see the full story and not just what they put on their website and social media pages. Any professional worth hiring will have a full gallery available to share with you.
What to look for:
Are the images high quality? All of the photos should be in focus and not blurry. They shouldn’t be too grainy. Too much grain, or staticky speckles on the images, indicates either improper exposure in the camera, over-editing, or an inability to work in low light.
Do you like how the photographer edits their images? Digital photography is meant to be manipulated, and every photographer has their own style. Make sure you want your photos to look the way the photographer processes/edits their images.
Are the photos in color or black and white? Be sure the photographer’s style aligns with what you want. A good birth photographer will be able to deliver most images from your session in color and should be able to provide any image in black and white too.
Are you comfortable documenting births in dark spaces?
Cameras need light to work, and there isn’t usually much light in the middle of the night. A well-lit daytime birth is rare. Is your birth photographer going to be able to handle the low light when the lights are dimmed down at your birthplace?
Look at the images that your photographer showcases on their website. Do they feature a variety of lighting situations? Are they as capable of making beautiful images in a dim room as they are in one of those rare sunny daytime births? Not only can births be dark, but sometimes the lighting is incredibly complex. Between overhead fluorescents, ambient lighting, natural light, the surgical light that is usually turned on for the moment of birth at a hospital, and even operating room lights, a variety of light sources is something that a pro will know how to navigate.
Are you running a legitimate business?
It’s easier than ever to say you’re a photographer, but any birth photographer worth their salt will be operating a legal business with a business license, insurance, and professional quality gear. Merely owning a camera does not make one a professional photographer. And entry level-equipment doesn’t do super well in birth. Along with having high quality cameras, lenses, and cards, your photographer should know how to use their camera on manual settings.
A professional birth photographer will be running a sound business as well as using pro-level gear, working with backups, and signing a contract and model release with their clients. Is your photographer charging a living wage? What is their turnaround time? Are they continuing their education in the field? While you don’t necessarily need to know all the details of how they run their business, working with a professional gives you a lot of peace of mind.
Are there any hidden costs that I should know about? Will I have to pay more after my baby’s birth?
Your birth photographer should be able to tell you exactly what they include in your package, and you shouldn’t have to worry about how much you’ll end up spending later. If they list their prices on their website, great! If they send you a cost sheet via email, great! As long as they are transparent about what they are selling you and it’s part of your contract, you’re good. If you’d like to see my pricing for birth photography in Minneapolis and St. Paul, click here. Interested in videography too? Here you go!
Are you going to put my photos on the internet? Are you going to take, ahem, that photo?
Your birth photographer should have you sign a model release that doesn’t permit them to share a single image if that’s what you want. I’m so fortunate that so many of my clients have allowed me to share their beautiful and intimate birth images — but I do not require them to do so. As far as that image goes — you know… the crowning shot — if you want your photographer to capture that specific moment where your baby is thisclose to being in your arms, they should be able to! Barring a super speedy delivery or an emergency situation, a professional birth photographer understands the ins and outs (ha!) of birth well enough to be able to get that shot. Alternately, if you’re concerned about modesty, a pro will know how to work with your preferences and can find creative angles to preserve your privacy.
And finally, one last question to ask. I almost didn’t include this one because I don’t have kids of my own (yet! fingers crossed) but it comes up in interviews every once in a while so I figured I should address it. H/T to Hannah of Milk and Hannah for addressing this in her own fantastic post about questions to ask your birth photographer! Below is a direct copy from her site. She said it better than I could have!
What is your childcare situation?
The vast majority of birth photographers, I’d put my money on 80%, are parents to young-ish children. And children are the best, they really are, but… they make it absolutely impossible to do what you need to do when you need to do it.
If your birth photographer has babies at home, ask them what their childcare plan is. Birth doesn’t normally happen Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, it happens during Father’s Day brunch (been there!), it happens at 2 am on a Wednesday, and on Christmas Eve while everyone is still sleeping. It sometimes lasts for four hours, and other times lasts for 37.
Childcare for a birth photographer should be covered 24/7, 365 days a year, with little notice and no time limits.
If your choice doesn’t have a 24/7 care plan laid out, ask what the backup plan is — if they have no backup plan, you may want to consider another option.
Specific details you’ll want to know: Are you covered 24/7 in the time surrounding my guess date? What if my birth unfolds during a holiday or celebration? How much time does it take you to finalize childcare arrangements after being notified that I’m in labor?
Thank you, Hannah!
Is there anything else you think I should suggest that birthing people ask their prospective birth photographer? Let me know in the comments!
I’ll leave you with another quote, this one from the inimitable Monet Nicole, which helps explain why all of those questions matter.
Are you looking for a birth photographer in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the surrounding areas? You’ve come to the right place.
Learn more about Meredith Westin, the leading birth photographer in the Twin Cities.