Professional photographers and even videographers are often at the important events in our lives. Weddings, yearly family photoshoots, milestone birthdays, graduations, you get the idea. Isn’t the birth of your child just as momentous?

Today we’re going to talk all about how to document your home birth. We’ll weigh the pros and cons of hiring a professional birth photographer vs. going the DIY route. You’ll learn about prices for professionals, the equipment you can invest in to get quality images, and general tips for whichever route you choose.

The bottom line is, you don’t want your home birth to come and go without some gorgeous photos or footage to cherish. And there are a number of ways to make sure you achieve this. Whether it’s with a professional or doing it yourself.

I deeply regret that we have maybe 3 solid photos from our first daughter’s birth. I know I won’t be making that mistake again!

So let’s make sure your home birth is captured exactly the way you want by diving into all the details and possibilities for photographing or filming your home birth.

How should I document my home birth?

The first thing you need to decide is how you’d like your birth documented, and what aspects of the birth you’d like to have captured. Generally speaking, you have two options here: photos or video.

Next, you and your partner should put some thought into exactly what you want captured on film. You could have your labor, pushing, and first moments with baby documented, or you might decide to only have baby’s first hours of life featured on camera. Another option is to wait and take the majority of your photos or footage a day or two later for baby’s first visitors or siblings meeting baby for the first time.

There’s no right or wrong option to any of these choices, but before you commit to a professional or decide to do it yourself, knowing the scope of what you’d like to have captured will help immensely.

Birth photography at your home birth

Having your birth and baby’s first hours outside the womb captured in photographs is a lovely way to remember and tell the story of your child’s birth. You’ve likely chosen a home birth because it has a more intimate and personal feel. You trust in your body immensely and are celebrating what your body was made to do.

Photography, whether professional or done by your partner or loved one, will capture this special feeling of a home birth well. In the end you will have, or can create, a curated collection of still frames from what will surely be one of the most memorable days of your life.

Having photographs of the entire birth experience will help you piece together and remember every aspect of the labor and birth. This is why documenting your birth is such a wonderful gift to yourself.

Often, you will have moments during labor and even while birthing that your mind blacks out. You might have a hazy or spotty memory of the experience, but photographs that tell the story can help you remember your birth timeline.

Birth filming at your home birth

Deciding to film your birth takes documenting your birth to a level above photographs alone. You will have footage to help you relive the day. An edited video of your birth can take you back to significant moments and capture emotions on a level that a photograph simply cannot.

A home birth is unique because there are no limitations on filming. But filming your birth and putting together a cohesive, edited version of what might be a marathon process can be more difficult to achieve on your own than photographs alone. If you want your birth filmed, a professional might be important, especially if you don’t have prior experience filming or editing video.

Professional or DIY?

This leads us to the next question of how to document your home birth…should you hire a professional or do it yourself? We’re going to dive into the pros and cons of hiring a professional in depth below, and cover tips if you decide to do it yourself.

Whatever your choice ends up being, if having your home birth documented in a way that you can cherish for years to come is important, you need to be intentional about this. Simply snapping a few photos when baby is born won’t tell the story of your birth or even the first moments with your baby.

Naturally, a birth photographer or videographer is a master at telling birth stories through photos or film, but it comes at a financial and privacy cost. On the other hand, a loved one can achieve this through a DIY, but it will take planning, brainstorming and effort to make it a well-executed reality.

Should I hire a professional to document my home birth?

Deciding to hire a professional photographer or videographer for your home birth is not a decision to take lightly. This person will be present for a highly intimate life experience. It’s important that you choose a professional carefully, research options, and conduct interviews with a few candidates if possible.

This will ensure that you hire someone who will put you and your partner at ease, meshes with your birthing team, and understands your vision of what you’re hoping for from your birth photos or video.

Before you decide one way or the other on hiring a professional, a look at the pros and cons is helpful.

Pros of hiring a professional photographer or videographer for your home birth:

  • They’ve attended and documented many births, meaning they know how to stay out of the way, what shots to get, and how to work under time-sensitive conditions
  • As a professional, the quality of their photos or footage will be excellent because they know how to shoot in difficult lighting and with the proper settings to capture split-second emotions
  • A professional’s only job during your birth is to document. They will not be tied up in emotions, feel like they should be supporting you, or neglecting their job of capturing the moments to be ‘in the moment’. Having someone else take care of the photos or filming means your partner is totally present with you
  • Everyone will be in the birth photos! If your partner is busy capturing all the moments, he won’t be a part of the birth story. Having a professional means all of the important people are captured
  • A professional knows the right angles and shots to take to achieve the birth photos you desire (omitting nudity, for example)
  • They won’t miss the important shots, because they have knowledge and experience of typical birth timelines, where to be, and what to be ready for

Potential cons of hiring a professional photographer or videographer:

  • Cost. Paying a professional birth photographer or videographer isn’t going to be cheap. This is because they are often on-call for you during a window of time, ready to be on at a moment’s notice
  • More people at your birth. If you or your partner are especially private, having more people present than necessary could be a con
  • A ‘stranger’ at your birth. While a good professional birth photographer/videographer will take extensive steps to get to know you and put you at ease before birth, it’s not going to feel the same as your mom or even your midwife being there

How much does a professional birth photographer or videographer cost?

The cost of birth photography and videography varies significantly based on where you live. In general, you can expect to pay a lot more for a videographer vs. a photographer because of the editing work involved.

When you book a birth photographer or videographer for your birth, they are typically on call for you 24/7 for 2 weeks before, and 2 weeks after your due date.

How much does birth photography cost?

A google search of birth photographers around the country will show you that birth photography for an active labor + 1-2 hours after birth varies from around $500-$2500 with the higher range being in large cities. The price also depends on how many edited photos you receive.

Many photographers offer “first glimpse” packages where they come to your home 24 to 48 hours after birth for a lesser price. Naturally, this is quite different than having your birth documented, but can still capture some intimate moments with your new family.

How much does birth videography cost?

It will be difficult to find a birth videographer that charges less than $3000. Filming and then editing and putting together a beautiful account of your birth is a large undertaking for the videographer. In comparison to what a wedding videographer costs for a fraction of the filming time involved, this cost is actually quite a deal!

What if I really want professional birth photography or videography but can’t afford it?

  • Many birth photographers and videographers offer a payment plan to make it more financially feasible. Typically, you will pay an upfront retainer and make payments over a 3, 6, or 12-month plan
  • If cost is prohibiting you from birth photography or filming, add it to your baby registry! You can register for a specific photographer, or create a “fund” for multiple guests to contribute to your goal
  • If you are willing to take a risk, you can hire a photography student or someone new to the niche of birth photography/filming for a fraction of the price—sometimes even for free! We had free newborn photos done by going this route, and they came out spectacular. It was a win-win because the photographer could then put our photos into her portfolio and gain paying clients down the road

If you choose to work with a professional to document your birth

Before you even set up an interview with potential birth photographers, try to do your due diligence online. Most professionals will have a website that features some of their best photos, information about them, FAQs, and maybe even pricing packages.

Once you get a feel for their work via their website, it’s time to meet in person. Before committing, it is important for both parties to make sure it is a good fit. And most importantly that they can capture your birth in the way you are envisioning.

Questions to ask a birth photographer/videographer before your home birth

  1. Why did you become a birth photographer?
  2. How long have you been doing birth photography?
  3. What types of births do you most often capture?
  4. Are you comfortable with attending a home birth?
  5. Are you available during the time frame around my due date?
  6. What will happen in the event that you are sick or do not make it to my birth? What is your refund policy, do you have an apprentice or affiliate you might send instead?
  7. Will you be filming/photographing alone?
  8. How do you handle shooting in low light? Will you be using a flash? How might you progress with capturing my birth if I find the flash obtrusive?
  9. Are you able to capture my home birth in a way that is modest and won’t show nudity? (if applicable)
  10. Can we see specific examples of ______ kinds of photographs/video?
  11. How do you handle an especially long labor?
  12. When should we call you during labor? When can we expect you to arrive?
  13. Can I put your services on my baby registry?
  14. Do you offer payment plans?
  15. What are the specific details of the package? Will I have digital rights? Will I have access to the raw (unedited) images?

Questions to discuss and ask yourself after meeting with potential professionals

  1. Did I get a positive vibe from this person?
  2. Will this person be disruptive during my birth?
  3. Will this photographer capture my birth in the style I’m hoping for?
  4. Am I comfortable with this photographer’s prior experience and expertise?
  5. Do I fully understand what I will get from my package and what I will be paying?

Capturing your own home birth in pictures: DIY birth photography

In love with the idea of birth photography but just can’t commit? Maybe it’s the price tag, or maybe it’s the idea of another body in the room. Whatever it is…I feel you, momma. But you can still get the birth photos (or even footage) that you are craving!

Get your partner on board, invest in a nice camera, and learn a little bit about how to do it and you will walk away from birth with some great shots.

DIY birth photography tips for your home birth

1. Invest in a good camera

If you want high quality, beautiful birth images, you can’t get away with using your phone. Investing in a DSLR camera is a must. We have and love the Canon Rebel.

I know the price tag isn’t cheap (though it is a heck of a lot cheaper than a professional photographer). But just think of the years of professional photography you’ll be able to do yourself if you have this.

Another thought is to put a DSLR camera on your baby registry. A friend of mine did this for the sole purpose of doing her own maternity, birth and newborn photos.

2. Learn the basics of how to use said camera

If your partner (or whoever you choose to be behind the camera) is new to taking pictures with a real camera, birth is a time to use AV mode. This will take some of the guess work out of what settings to use because it matches your shutter speed to your aperture. It will give that nice portrait photography look where the subject is in focus and the background is a bit blurred.

Because you will likely be shooting in low light, you should set the ISO fairly high, to 800 or 1600.

Be sure to read more about camera settings for DIY birth photography, and this complete guide to birth photography.

3. Have the person taking the photos get LOTS of shots

When it comes to birth photography, more is better! The more your partner is taking photos, the better chance of capturing the important moments and the raw emotions. Remind them to take photos of you, but also of small details and the birthing team.

4. Make sure to hand over the camera

Once your partner has the settings right, see if your doula or midwife is willing to take a few photos during labor and especially right after baby is born. Our midwife was more than willing to do this and got a few wonderful candid photos of us with our brand new baby girl.

In the hours and days after birth, keep the camera out and handy and have visitors take family shots whenever possible.

5. Know what shots are the important ones to tell the whole birth story

A professional photographer capturing a birth story focuses on all the small details and raw emotions, but also takes wide shots of the room and birthing team to tie everything together.

Before birth, look at birth photography portfolios and examples on Pinterest. Create your own Pinterest board of birth photography ideas to help your partner know what shots to get. You can also create a list (a cheat sheet) for him to have handy during labor and delivery.

6. Edit those photos

When you see birth photographs, you most often see images in black and white. With some basic editing software, you’ll be able to convert your images to black and white, bright them up, crop them and more to achieve that “professional” look.

You can then have your birth photos made into a keepsake photo book by using a site like Snapfish or Shutterfly.

General tips to get the most out of your birth photos or video

Whether you decide to go with a professional or DIY your birth photos here are some general tips to make sure you are happy with the outcome:

  • Create a birth photography Pinterest inspiration board and share it with the photographer (whether that’s a professional or your husband)
  • Browse as many birth photography portfolios and videos as you can to find examples of the vibe and look you’d like
  • Create a list/cheat sheet of your top 10 must-have shots to make sure they don’t slip by undocumented
  • Be sure to communicate your stance on nudity/ “private shots” with whoever is photographing or filming
  • Discuss a plan ahead of time with your photographer (or partner) on what your wishes are regarding photography in the event of a hospital transfer or other emergency during your birth

What do you think, momma?

We’ve discussed the pros and cons of hiring and professional photographer and gone over the ‘how-to’s of achieving your own amazing birth photos. What are you thinking is right for your birth?

Whatever you decide, I’m so glad you read this because I don’t want your birth to pass by without at least a few beautiful photographs to help you remember it. Your postpartum self will thank you endlessly for putting thought and effort into capturing your birth and first hours/days with your baby.

Be sure to Pin this article so that you can reference back when it comes time to interview your birth photographer or make sure your husband knows the heck what to do! And in the meantime, check out all of our other great home birth articles to continue preparing.

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