Birth Photography – What to Expect

Birth Photography – What to Expect

The thought of giving birth is terrifying to many of us.  Aside from the anticipated pain and discomfort, the unknown can really make one nervous.

So you’ve painstakingly constructed your birth plan and selected the facility that will suit your birth plan needs.   You’ve carefully selected your birthing professional (midwife or OB) and decided on your birth partner.

You may have heard of birth photography  (read more about the benefits of commissioning a birth photographer   but know little yet about what birth photography entails, how to ensure you book a professional birth photographer and even how they will affect your birth environment.  This is one of the most important times of your life and you don’t want to miss a thing but you’re unsure about letting someone else into your birth space.

The following may answer some questions relating to birth photography and assist in choosing a professional that is trustworthy:

Professionalism –A professional birth photographer should understand the medical environment and know how to conduct him/herself there.  They should know what they may and may not photograph (e.g. a birth photographer may not photograph a medical procedure) and what to do in the case of an emergency.  They should also be clear on privacy issues relating to the staff and other patients in the facility and under what circumstances they may share images.

These aspects should be set out in a Code of conduct that they should provide you with.  [Members of the Gauteng Association of Birth Photographers (GABP) subscribe to a Code of conduct that can be found at

Permissions – A professional birth photographer should advise you of the requirement to get permission for photography from your birth professional (midwife, OB) and any facility (e.g. hospital) that you may be giving birth at.   They should also provide you with the relevant consent documentation to facilitate this. Without this permission, which should be arranged prior to the delivery date, your photographer will not be allowed access to photograph your birth.  Understandably theatre access for a Caesarean Section is one of the more difficult permissions to get, but all is not lost if this permission is not granted and your professional birth photographer should be able to advise you how they can still document your birth story.  Associations such as GABP work hard at establishing relationships with Doctors, midwives and hospitals in order to make this permission process easier.

Backup – Your professional birth photographer should take reasonable steps to stay healthy but accidents and illnesses can happen.  It’s essential that in the highly unlikely event of your selected photographer being incapacitated for some reason you should expect that they will ensure that a suitable birth photographer will be able to step in and take their place.

Technical expertise -Your birth space is largely crafted to be dark and calming.  Even a theatre, being an indoor space, is a fairly dark environment to take photographs in.   Your professional birth photographer needs to be able to take photographs in these low light situations without disturbing the environment.  The use of flash in birth photography is rarely allowed and your photographer should be able to take beautiful photographs without the use of flash.

Style -Photography is an art form and although birth photography falls into the documentary style of photography each photographer has a slightly different look to their photograph which they create through angles, editing processes and so on.  In addition it is essential that photos of this nature be tasteful and appropriate.  Your photographer should be able to show you examples of their work that illustrate the character of their style.

How do they make you feel? – There are many good professional photographers in South Africa and choosing the right professional for YOU is very important and should not be left to price comparison alone.

The person who is going to document your birth story should most definitely be someone that you feel comfortable with.  Someone who makes you feel at ease and someone whose energy is calm and supportive.   Remember that your birth photographer should be unobtrusive at your birth and should not interfere at all, even by posing the scene.

A professional photographer will request to meet with you (in person or telephonically) before finalising your booking so that you have the opportunity to get to know them and to address any concerns that you might have.  Take the time to meet them, together with your birth partner, so that they too have the opportunity to ask questions. Birth partners are often less excited about commissioning a birth photographer and meeting with the photographer can alay their fears.

Documenting a birth for a client is an honour that professional birth photographers do not take lightly.  Their passion for birth photography will be evident the second you interact with them.  Their commitment to telling your birth story through beautiful images will ensure that all of the details and emotions of the event are treasured memories forever.

A list of member photographers who offer professional birth photography services can be found here…


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