How Would You Photograph a Birth Scene? - Digital Photography School
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How Would You Photograph a Birth Scene?

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Our last community workshop gave one of our readers some great tips on how to approach photographing a model so I’ve decided to post another reader question. This one is a question I get quite a bit – how do I photograph the birth of a baby?

Here’s the latest question from one of our readers – Drew.

“My wife and I are expecting the birth of our new baby daughter in two weeks time and I’m wondering if you might have any advice on how to photograph the birth?

It’s such a special time for us as family that we want to capture it somehow but I’m a little nervous about how to do it tastefully, meaningfully and without my camera dominating the event.”

I know not everyone will have experience in this one and that there are probably different opinions on whether people would take a camera into this situation – but if you’ve got some advice or tips we’d love to hear them.

What advice do you have for Drew?

PS: As a dad of two and an avid photographer I’ve found myself asking the same question. I know some families choose to make a birth a camera free event and can respect that – while others take an ‘access all areas’ approach. In our situation we did take and use the camera but were certainly not using it during the seconds babies arrived.

One piece of advice that I did share a while back here on dPS that came from a friend who took a lot of photos through the birth of his kids was – sometimes images in black and white can be good for this type of situation where color images can be be quite overpowering and graphic. My friend took a lot of photos during the birth of his babies but they were so vivid in color that it was very confronting. He experimented with converting some to black and white and found that the images were still very powerful but not quite as confronting.

The other piece of advice I’d give is to talk about it before labor starts! You probably want both of you on the same page before you start pointing cameras on a day like that!

Looking forward to hearing your tips on photographing the birth of a baby!

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • http://annie-kennedy.blogspot.com Annie

    This is one of the most beautifully documented birth stories I have ever seen:
    http://www.tirzahphotography.com/2010/08/part-1-a-story-about-forest-kael/
    http://www.tirzahphotography.com/2010/09/the-tale-of-forest-kael-part-2/
    I would be honoured to be asked to photograph a birth like this.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/dacosta1 DaCosta

    When my son, Carrington was born, I photographed him without flash. I didn’t believe in doing the actual birth photos (especially when Mom had a c-section), so I caught his first moments (actually 30 min old) in the nursery. You can see them on my Flickr site in the set aptly named, “Carrington”.

  • Barry McHenry

    I know I’m a woosh but can you shoot good photos while hurling or after passing out?

  • mikelinz

    As a midwife I am privileged to assist many women to birth their babies. And as a photographer I am constantly thinking about what would make a good photo. First thing I think that we forget sometimes is that we are taking Digital Images. We can delete them and they don’t all have to be shared. So if you are wondering whether you want a photo of that first glimpse of baby’s head on view.. take the pic and for goodness sake don’t ask your partner, coz she is busy pushing this baby out and probably doesn’t care. Now, she might be fascinated to see what that looked like later, but this probably isn’t a photo you will share with everyone. i agree.. a photo as you arrive, is nice.. a photo that captures the pain and the work of labour is nice too. Now I work with dimmed lighting and preferably no doctors, so it is a quiet peaceful space, but as the baby is birthing i will generally have a small light so i can see the progress, this would probably be enough light to take a few non flash photos. Following the birth, we want lots of pics! My favorite technique is to use the big theatre light, which we have for suturing or operative births and use that to create a soft light so I don’t need any flash. I focus that light close enough to mum and baby to get those first skin to skin photos but not so close they are disturbed. Think about getting some “decent photos’, that you can share, so photos with no nipples in; pesky things often end up in those skin shots. Sometimes a little movement of ‘used linen’ can make the photo a bit nicer. There can be a lot of blood and mess following a birth.
    I truly think that taking a photo of your new baby every few minutes shows you how fast they change. And even every hour after that first hour.. the changes are amazing to see. Make sure you get pictures of all of you together, most midwives/ labour nurses will help out, but may not be good with flash cameras.
    Don’t let taking the photos distance you from the moments of birth.. this is an intimate moment, if you really want birthing photos get someone else to do it. As i said before.. these are digital images, you can delete them. As a mother I would love to have photos of my baby’s birth, because I don’t know what it looked like from an observer’s perspective, but we didn’t have digital then and there was no way those kind of pics were going off to the lab for developing.
    A number of people have commented that you need to ask permission. You don’t need permission to photograph yourself, your partner and your baby. But you do need permission to include pictures of the midwife, and the doctor if you have to have one.
    Good luck with your birth and i hope you have special images to remember it by.

  • http://dsdphotography.co.za Dewan Demmer

    I am with DaCosta, I was there at my daughters birth and under order from my wife to photograph my daughter the moment she arrived. Now personally I am not one for a photo the moment the baby arrives, I let the baby appear and be given to my wife, at this point the camera was out and I was taking pictures. Did get some odd looks from the Doc, ah well.

    http://dsdphotography.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Kia_Demmer_Dreams_DSD_Photography_Johannesburg1.jpg – Moments after my daughter was born, time enough to let the nurse swaddle her.

  • Emma

    I’m wanting to be a birth photographer but having trouble choosing the right lens. Tossing up between 16-35 2.8L and 24-70 2.8 L what did you use? I’m not so sure about room sizes! I’ve forgotten since having my kids! Which we filmed the whole birth but hubby left the CF card at home!!!!!!!! So we only have video of our daughter born in caul.

  • Melody

    I really don’t understand why new dads are taking pictures. I think better to have a trusted friend or family member that isn’t so involved to do the shooting. Set up your ground rules, make sure they understand rules are not written in stone and they need to be aware of what is going on and be able to gracefully bow out if requested. I think mom would appreciate more worry about her than a camera from dad and what kind of dad can just forget about the new baby and the moment of birth to take pictures? Dad will freeze or get busy, shots will be missed. Dad will have plenty of time to take pictures of his pride and joy after all the work is done :)

  • Heather

    I can’t offer technical advice as I am just starting my DSLR journey. But as far as whether or not to take pictures, it really depends on the person. I most definitely wanted those pictures. When it was time to push, I was the one saying “get the camera.” I know how to push. I know how to count to 10. So for those saying “put down the camera and be there for mom.” sometimes being there for mom is capturing on film those moments she wants to look back at later.

  • Rhonda

    I have been on both sides of the camera during my own births and as a photographer for other moms. I found that if the photographer is up at the mom’s shoulders you can achieve the photos without compromising the mother’s modesty or getting in the way of a doctor, nurse or a midwife. Usually there’s cloth or blankets covering mom. Also, if there are nurses,a doula or a midwife in attendance, they are good about helping keep mom covered. If not there is always cropping.

    I wanted to be able to show my children their births so that neither they nor I would be embarrassed. They think it is perfectly normal to have birth photos. (I have seven children) I didn’t need my husband helping me push, but preferred to have him photograph. Many dads aren’t that steady because of the circumstances.

    Indeed the first photos should be converted to black and white for obvious reasons. B&W stops everyone to simply marvel at the new little one and not the possibly objectionable realities of birth . After the little one is cleaned up, then I think color is ok. Still B&W makes you look deeper into the photo.

    Mom’s are so overwhelmed during that time we don’t recall much and I appreciated having photos of my new ones and all that happened before, during and after my children’s births. Holding my baby for the first time is beyond important to me and having a photo of it is priceless.

    A fast lens is a must. Flashes are quite disruptive and obtrusive to the mom during labor. I did shoot with some bounce flash afterwards.Whoever photographs should be like a fly on the wall. Some dads can handle it, but it would be best all the way around to have a woman pro or a close friend who is very capable with a camera, and who isn’t squeamish capturing this amazing life event. You can’t go back and do it again… thankfully.

Some older comments

  • Heather

    May 15, 2012 10:32 pm

    I can't offer technical advice as I am just starting my DSLR journey. But as far as whether or not to take pictures, it really depends on the person. I most definitely wanted those pictures. When it was time to push, I was the one saying "get the camera." I know how to push. I know how to count to 10. So for those saying "put down the camera and be there for mom." sometimes being there for mom is capturing on film those moments she wants to look back at later.

  • Melody

    November 15, 2011 09:35 pm

    I really don't understand why new dads are taking pictures. I think better to have a trusted friend or family member that isn't so involved to do the shooting. Set up your ground rules, make sure they understand rules are not written in stone and they need to be aware of what is going on and be able to gracefully bow out if requested. I think mom would appreciate more worry about her than a camera from dad and what kind of dad can just forget about the new baby and the moment of birth to take pictures? Dad will freeze or get busy, shots will be missed. Dad will have plenty of time to take pictures of his pride and joy after all the work is done :)

  • Emma

    July 29, 2011 10:47 pm

    I'm wanting to be a birth photographer but having trouble choosing the right lens. Tossing up between 16-35 2.8L and 24-70 2.8 L what did you use? I'm not so sure about room sizes! I've forgotten since having my kids! Which we filmed the whole birth but hubby left the CF card at home!!!!!!!! So we only have video of our daughter born in caul.

  • Dewan Demmer

    June 28, 2011 11:49 pm

    I am with DaCosta, I was there at my daughters birth and under order from my wife to photograph my daughter the moment she arrived. Now personally I am not one for a photo the moment the baby arrives, I let the baby appear and be given to my wife, at this point the camera was out and I was taking pictures. Did get some odd looks from the Doc, ah well.

    http://dsdphotography.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Kia_Demmer_Dreams_DSD_Photography_Johannesburg1.jpg - Moments after my daughter was born, time enough to let the nurse swaddle her.

  • mikelinz

    September 19, 2010 11:16 am

    As a midwife I am privileged to assist many women to birth their babies. And as a photographer I am constantly thinking about what would make a good photo. First thing I think that we forget sometimes is that we are taking Digital Images. We can delete them and they don't all have to be shared. So if you are wondering whether you want a photo of that first glimpse of baby's head on view.. take the pic and for goodness sake don't ask your partner, coz she is busy pushing this baby out and probably doesn't care. Now, she might be fascinated to see what that looked like later, but this probably isn't a photo you will share with everyone. i agree.. a photo as you arrive, is nice.. a photo that captures the pain and the work of labour is nice too. Now I work with dimmed lighting and preferably no doctors, so it is a quiet peaceful space, but as the baby is birthing i will generally have a small light so i can see the progress, this would probably be enough light to take a few non flash photos. Following the birth, we want lots of pics! My favorite technique is to use the big theatre light, which we have for suturing or operative births and use that to create a soft light so I don't need any flash. I focus that light close enough to mum and baby to get those first skin to skin photos but not so close they are disturbed. Think about getting some "decent photos', that you can share, so photos with no nipples in; pesky things often end up in those skin shots. Sometimes a little movement of 'used linen' can make the photo a bit nicer. There can be a lot of blood and mess following a birth.
    I truly think that taking a photo of your new baby every few minutes shows you how fast they change. And even every hour after that first hour.. the changes are amazing to see. Make sure you get pictures of all of you together, most midwives/ labour nurses will help out, but may not be good with flash cameras.
    Don't let taking the photos distance you from the moments of birth.. this is an intimate moment, if you really want birthing photos get someone else to do it. As i said before.. these are digital images, you can delete them. As a mother I would love to have photos of my baby's birth, because I don't know what it looked like from an observer's perspective, but we didn't have digital then and there was no way those kind of pics were going off to the lab for developing.
    A number of people have commented that you need to ask permission. You don't need permission to photograph yourself, your partner and your baby. But you do need permission to include pictures of the midwife, and the doctor if you have to have one.
    Good luck with your birth and i hope you have special images to remember it by.

  • Barry McHenry

    September 19, 2010 02:37 am

    I know I'm a woosh but can you shoot good photos while hurling or after passing out?

  • DaCosta

    September 18, 2010 03:25 pm

    When my son, Carrington was born, I photographed him without flash. I didn't believe in doing the actual birth photos (especially when Mom had a c-section), so I caught his first moments (actually 30 min old) in the nursery. You can see them on my Flickr site in the set aptly named, "Carrington".

  • Annie

    September 18, 2010 09:33 am

    This is one of the most beautifully documented birth stories I have ever seen:
    http://www.tirzahphotography.com/2010/08/part-1-a-story-about-forest-kael/
    http://www.tirzahphotography.com/2010/09/the-tale-of-forest-kael-part-2/
    I would be honoured to be asked to photograph a birth like this.

  • Sarah

    September 18, 2010 01:27 am

    We had a professional photograph my son's birth. She did an excellent job. No flash. I don't know what lens she used, but I assume it had a large aperture since I delivered at 1:45am. That room had no natural light. I strongly suggest black and white. Not only is it less jarring, she didn't have to worry about white balance under those horrible florescent lights. She got some great shots of my husband and I working together through labor. She took shots of everying in the surroundings, and then we were able to edit later. One shot that I really liked (though it was actually my husband that took it) was of the clock at the exact time of birth. After we picked which photographs we wanted, she put together a photo montage set to music. I'm a sucker for a photo montage.

    The only downer about using a professional over a family member was that when I ended up needing a c-section, she was not allowed in the operating room (even though we told the hospital she was my cousin). My husband took some pictures of the actual birth on our point-and-shoot, but they definitely don't match the quality of the professional ones. If you do happen to shoot a c-section, my husband got this excellent picture of just a head coming out of my belly. It looked like a scene from Aliens! And it was in color! I thought it would be gross (I HATE blood), but actually I'm really glad to have that exact moment captured (though I don't think I'll be hanging it on the wall anytime soon).

    Good luck!

  • Alan

    September 18, 2010 01:09 am

    Another piece of advice is to edit afterwards.

    My sister did not.

    I was a bachelor at a ripe young age of 22 and my oldest sister had just had her first child. Shortly after the birth, she brings the pictures (35mm days) of the birth to church. We see the set up, we see the beginnings of labor, etc. And then...

    OMG, WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? IS THAT THE BABY'S HEAD?

    Yes, she left the picture of the baby's head crowning in the stack of photos. THAT was one piece of my sister that I never wanted to ever see. Especially at 22. Needed bleach eye drops after that.

  • Guess the Lighting

    September 14, 2010 10:25 am

    Sorry, I'd much prefer to take after-the-birth pictures. Don't think I have the stomach for the nitty gritty.

    Cheers,

    GuessTheLighting.com

  • Rachel Owens

    September 11, 2010 01:15 am

    Not that I've ever done it or been a part of it, but it seems that to be unobtrusive, it would be best to use only available light (i.e. no flash). I can imagine this could be challenging in a hospital room but I know with certain cameras that can be set at higher ISO's and a prime lens wide open it could be possible. That's how I would do it. Great discussion!

  • Rachel Owens

    September 11, 2010 12:16 am

    Not that I've ever done it or been a part of it, but it seems that to be unobtrusive, it would be best to use only available light (i.e. no flash). I can imagine this could be challenging in a hospital room but I know with certain cameras that can be set at higher ISO's and a prime lens wide open it could be possible. That's how I would do it. Great discussion!

  • Tuansands

    September 10, 2010 08:00 pm

    I planned to do a full photo-story of our latest child's home birth. The birth happening very quickly and I delivered the baby on my own, so all thoughts of photos went out the window until well after the event!

  • Leo Mangubat

    September 9, 2010 05:28 am

    Drew, I once, twice, trice had the opportunity to shoot my wife giving birth but everytime our baby comes out, I just drop my camera and forgot what I have to do. It is difficult ot explain the feeling of seeing your child come out of his mother. My advice then for you is to be emotionally prepared for this. I never was prepared to shoot the birth of my children. I cannot handle the feeling - emotion. If maybe it was not my child coming out, maybe I could have made good photos. I hope you are emotionally stronger than me.

  • david cooper

    September 8, 2010 06:06 pm

    mmmm

    certain amount of midwest bullshit being spoken here

    'sposed to kick it not speak it

    been present at 3 births, more or less

    the 1st, almost 29 years ago to the day, they sent me out of the room 'for a cigarette, whilst we tidy everything up'

    came back to find my eldest son

    with florid forceps marks on his forehead

    I had no camera with me

    Having just driven 300 miles to attend my fathers funeral the next morning

    So, at 9am my son was born & at 10am I went to my fathers cremation

    a difficult day

    i was not too happy with my brother shooting with flash that evening

    That marriage ended a few years later

    Got some cracking shots of him as a kid

    My second wife had 2 of my sons

    Both born underwater

    I photographed her nude almost monthly thru the 1st pregnancy

    & the night before the birth

    & during the birth

    The 1st thing i did after he was born was buy a 'new' 2ndhand camera

    Thru the 2nd pregnancy i photographed her less regularily

    This pregnancy ended a little too soon

    A month before she was due her waters broke

    We rushed to the hospital

    I actually toyed with the idea to come back home & get some stuff

    But if I had I'd have missed the birth

    From the 1st of these births I had a shot of the head breaching

    From the second I have a shot of the head fully out & the face facing the camera

    AS I left the hospital the full moon was just rising at the end of the street

    His middle name is Lluaed (pron Lewd) which is welsh for full moon

    [eimg url='http://deebeecooper.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d1j7jap' title='d1j7jap']

  • Lily

    September 8, 2010 04:56 pm

    What fortuitous timing! I'm just a few weeks away from having my first child and, being the photographer in the family, I've been worried about how to make sure I have a photographic record (probably not *too* graphic, but an irreplacable record nonetheless) of the birth. I'd love to be the one taking the photos, but... well, I think I'll have a bit too much going on to be running back and forth from my tripod like I usually do for self-portraits. :) There's no other photographer friends, really, who I'd feel comfortable inviting into the birth suite (or more to the point, who would feel comfortable with me inviting them).

    My video plan was to get my husband to take snippets of video in the leadup to the big event, and then when things start getting a bit more serious, mount the video camera on my tripod at either 11 or 1 o'clock behind the bed head, wherever it'll be least in the way, and simply ignore its presence. If it takes some interesting footage, cool. If it's too graphic for anyone but me to see, no worries, I'll just keep it private. And if it gets knocked so it's pointing at something else/runs out of battery/has a nurse standing in front of it the whole time... such is life.

    As far as photographs go... I'll get the settings on my DSLR roughly right (and shooting in RAW to maximise fine-tuning potential) with a nice high iso to ensure sharp 'documentary quality' photos rather than noiseless but blurred 'poster quality' photos and consider any photos my husband takes as a win. I'm also writing up a birth plan as requested by the hospital (mine, in essence, says 'pain is bad, drugs are good') which also has a section saying that any staff so inspired should *please* use my camera, which is much easier to use and much harder to break than it looks. Nudity okay, graphic shots okay - I can always keep it only for for my personal record - but the only bad photo is a photo not taken.

    I'm currently considering whether I should, instead of bringing my DSLR, borrow a family member's point and shoot, so it's less scary for medical personell to pick up and use. Decisions, decisions.

  • Liz

    September 8, 2010 01:49 pm

    I don't think anyone photographs births quite like Lyndsay Stradtner from Life in Motion Photography. She is AMAZING! I was totally wishing that I could fly her to the birth of my third son this last June. Check out this beautiful slideshow presentation she put together for a home birth: http://www.lifeinmotionphotography.com/slideshows/amerlyn/. Lyndsay has such enviable talent. *Sigh for me* :D

  • Rob Tobin

    September 8, 2010 10:55 am

    I shot my second son's birth in 1985 using a canon AT-1, 400 ASA 50 1:8 lens.I sort of new what to expect ,being the second birth and my wife knew what a camera addict I was.
    The camera wasn't there all the time I just lifted and shot at the times I thought appropriate.
    I agree with a previous post - most of the shots aren't for public consumption and you are there to support your partner going through some serious pain.
    The last shot of my son resting on my wife - was the keeper.

  • MissIgnore

    September 8, 2010 06:29 am

    A large aperture will probably be come in handy while delivering.

  • Karl

    September 8, 2010 05:56 am

    I agree with Rikka. seizing the moment is probably more important than technicalities. Nice to read all feedbacks though, since I'll be a Dad for the first time in the next 24 hours or so..

  • riikka

    September 8, 2010 05:22 am

    I am mother of three children between one and five years old. My husband, who is not specially interested in photography (I am), was with me during the labor and took some images before the birth and after with a point-and-shoot camera. He took a picture of the some minutes old newborn resting on me each time, me admiring him/her and he/she looking at the world where he arrived. These photos are so precious to me! Frankly, it does not matter if they are good as photos or which lense was used. He also recorded the things that the nurses did after the birth to the babies - weighing, washing, measuring temperature, putting a diaper, putting clothes on... I was resting and could not see any of this, and I am happy he recorded those moments for me. Also a short video of a newborn resting in my hands has been watched many, many times. My advice would be: take the camera with you and use it when there is nothing more important for you to do.

  • Jim

    September 8, 2010 05:05 am

    My only word of advice to add to all of your excellent tips is: DON'T FORGET YOU PLANNED TO TAKE PICTURES. When the big day came for our firstborn, I was so caught up in the moment that the doctor had to remind me (moments after the delivery) that it would be a good time to start taking pictures!

  • Jai Catalano

    September 8, 2010 04:48 am

    Around the time when my son was about to head out of the mommy door I was getting into photography heavily but I knew my need (and my wife's threat) to be the hands on husband was far more pressing than taking the welcoming shot of my son saying "PUT ME BACK IN." Picture this... (pun intended) I had my hands wrapped around my wife's left leg high around her head and my free hand was pulling back on the post to support her. If I only had a 3rd hand (insert your own pun here) I would have taken that once in a life time photo of ET... I did the next best thing though... I took a photo a day of my son from birth to 1 and put it to a video with an original song. Ok fellow photographers so I do have a sensitive side... shoot me. (I will let you figure the last one out on your own.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvyxUfY-EUk

  • Karen

    September 8, 2010 02:51 am

    As a nurse that worked in labor and delivery for 15 years and the mother of 3 children myself here are my recommendations. Most Dad's bring a camera and take photos. Some will bring a friend or family member to witness the birth and take photos. Having another person there does take something away from the special time between Mom, Dad and baby but if this is what is wanted it does work fine as well. I attended the birth of my sister's last child at her request and took photos and we all enjoyed the experience but I remember thinking that I was intruding on their special time together and if I had to do it again I would not have attended the birth. I think being a labor room nurse, I already had that opinion formed before my sister's delivery. Everyone has their own opinion on this and I think that whatever the parents want is fine. All photos should be done only if the mother is willing for them to be done. She may change her mind along the way especially if she is in pain so check with her and respect her wishes. I would not take a lot of photos in labor but a few are nice. A photograph when you first arrive in the labor room if the mother is feeling up to it would be nice and a few pictures during labor. I don't think it matters whether you use a flash or decide to not use it. All photos should be tastefully done respecting the Mother's wishes and privacy. I would not take any pictures of the baby crowning but would take photos of the doctor holding up the baby right after the birth shot from the Mother's side. Other shots that would be good would be when the doctor places the baby on the Mother's abdomen to cut the cord. Some doctors allow the Father's to cut the cord if the Dad asks to do this before the baby is born. Photos of the baby being dried off by the nurse in the warmer are nice and also applying the ink to the foot and taking footprints of the baby. If the baby is slow to pink up and needing a little bit of extra stimulation or if the special care nursery needs to be there for the first few minutes to help the baby out I would step back and let them work and wait a few minutes for more pictures. After the doctor removes the gown that he/she wears during the delivery and the mask you can ask that the doctor hold the baby in his arms for a photograph of doctor and baby. Most doctors are very pleased to do this for you. A photo of the nurse holding the baby later is nice if you want a photo of the nurse. Of course there will be lots of photos of Mom holding the new baby and photos of Dad holding the baby are nice. The nurses usually don't mind taking a family shot of Mom, Dad and the baby together.after everything is over and the nurses have slowed their pace down of everything they have to do right after delivery. I often asked the Mom and Dad later if they wanted me to take a picture of the 3 of them and they were always happy for me to do this for them. I am the photographer of the family and I didn't give my husband any directions after the baby was born for specific photos. I just told him to take photos. I didn't want to put any pressure on him and wanted him to enjoy the birth of our babies. He did a fine job and we got many great pictures of all 3 of our children.

  • Steven

    September 8, 2010 01:48 am

    I too am expecting the birth of my child any day now. I was thinking tripod, wide angle lens with a remote to control the shutter. I would like to capture the whole scene and crop. I would hate to miss something.

  • Jonathan Blundell

    September 8, 2010 12:07 am

    We're expecting twins next month so this is a great topic today! I appreciate all the comments as well.

    My wife is one who says she wants to watch the entire C-Section -- I on the other hand tend to get light-headed at the sight of blood. So I may just hold my camera over the curtain and start snapping ;-).

    I've also recently read a great suggestion for those wanting video - attaching a flash arm to the camera to hold the camera and video camera together in one unit. If the doctor lets me use video I plan on trying it with my Flash camera and Nikon.

  • Rafael Marquez

    September 8, 2010 12:01 am

    I agree that you definitely want to be on the same page as far as what to photograph. I also think you should make sure that it's OK with the doctors and nurses. The other thing, is that you should make sure that you're not in the way of the doctors, nurses and other family members there to watch the birth.

  • Pete Langlois

    September 7, 2010 11:57 pm

    I tried getting video or stills for both of my children, 10 years apart, but was denied both times. This is up to the individual doctors as well as hospital policies.

    I believe if something were to go wrong during the delivery and you had video/photographs of it they would have to pay out more.

    We were able to take pictures of the moments after the birth when our daughter & son were on being weighed and measured and when my wife held our daughter for the first time. It was a magical moment which is captured on film forever.

    http://www.petelanglois.net

  • Angel

    September 7, 2010 11:07 pm

    When my daughter Maria was born there was no problems with taking pictures during the baby's birth. The pictures of the actual birth were taken from the top looking towards the doctor I was standing next to my wife. I was able to get pictures of the baby coming out and there was nothing I would not be able to show around... By the time my last two were born, no pictures were allow during the actual delivery, same hospital, same doctor... but once the baby was born I could shoot away. Something I didn't think about then, once the baby is born and o.k., maybe the doctor may be willing to re-enact as if the baby just came out, just a thought. By all means check with your doctor about pictures during the delivery...

  • Amy

    September 7, 2010 11:06 pm

    My husband took pictures of the birth of our son. He didn't take photos of the actual birth - we both decided not to do those. However, the pictures of our son right after birth, and the moments leading up to the birth are priceless. I had a caesarian, and it was still a beautiful event.

  • Matt

    September 7, 2010 10:30 pm

    I would love to do that and I have a baby on the way - my second - but I would feel bad showing my second child "Hey, here are some awesome pictures of you being born. Oh, by the way, first born there are no such awesome pictures of you." Haha.

  • Pamelala

    September 7, 2010 10:18 pm

    I shot a birth on NYE 2008. I used my 50mm wide open at 1.8,, I cannot remember the ISO or the shutter speed. I def. feel BW is much nicer for birth photos, giving a photo-journalistic feel. I also agree that a higher ISO wouldn't hurt, giving it a real gritty feel. I posted on my blog, the actual birth (crowning) ones aren't on there but literally right after are.
    http://ukreal1.blogspot.com/2009/01/life-oh-life.html
    Cheers!

  • Ian

    September 7, 2010 07:13 pm

    I can't agree with the 'forget your camera' coment. My wife and I thought that we would take photos only after the birth (her first), we both really regret that now as the memories of the event fade with time. We love the photos we have of the birth of our second child and they are our most precious memories.

    High ISO and fast glass (consider renting) rather than flash in my opinion is less disturbing to the mother. The medical team will probably be ok with whatever you decide as long as the mother and baby are happy. Labour can take a long time or be over very quickly and it will be a very emotional rollercoaster so you have to be really focused on both mum and what you are doing. Don't let the photography take over but don't miss anything either!
    Good luck.

  • Florian Knorn

    September 7, 2010 06:51 pm

    PS: I must add --- I never shot the birth itself, and probably wouldn't have anyway (we unfortunately had to have a caesarian).

  • Florian Knorn

    September 7, 2010 06:49 pm

    From my own experience this is kind of obvious but:

    * Don't be afraid of high ISO. It's usually rather dim in hospitals, and there's no use in having blurred photos. Plus, early live photos just look better in black and white, so noise there won't harm the charm either.... (And, don't you even think about using flash on that poor little thing).
    * Have a macro lens ready. This is really useful if you want to cover your frame with "baby". Babys tend to be really small when they're fresh ;-)
    * Have a wide angle lens. This allows you to be "in there", up close and personal.
    * Quickly take a lot of photos, and then don't. It's your baby, after all...
    * Have something that takes video ready (if you're lucky your DSLR, if you're not, use your cell phone or compact camera). Just get some moving shots with sound - you'll find yourself watching them over and over again.

  • Carol Hall

    September 7, 2010 06:48 pm

    I was really interested to read this article and all the comments so far. I am a mother of 3 children, 2 grown up daughters and a teenage son and have just plunged into the world of freelance photography.
    My eldest daughter is now a midwife and I'm really keen to have a go at doing birth photography but don't know the best way to go about it. My daughter lives and works some distance from me and I don't think it would be right for her to approach expectant mums about it.
    I don't know anyone who is pregnant so how should I go about finding willing couples?

  • Pawel

    September 7, 2010 04:11 pm

    to be honest just forget about camera for that one moment in your life and help your wife to get through it. she will need you not the camera. you will have stacks of photos of the newborn anyway, trust me :-)

  • Brandt Steinhauser

    September 7, 2010 12:35 pm

    My wife gave birth to our first child last Monday. What an incredible experience. When she began pushing, the nurse told me to get my camera ready. I did. I placed it on the table next to me. I left it on and in continuous shooting mode so I could grab it and fire away. When my daughter was born, I couldn't stop staring at her. My mind said, "get the camera and start shooting." My body just stood there in awe. It wasn't until the nurses took my daughter into then cleaning room that I came to my senses and grabbed my camera and fired away. I took around 500 pictures in the first hour. Just a little trigger happy. However, I came away with once in a lifetime shots of my daughter being weighed for the first time, being handed to my wife for the first time, and the nurse took our first family photo.

    So if your pondering whether or not to bring your camera, do it. Do it and come away memories for a lifetime!

  • Julia

    September 7, 2010 12:31 pm

    I would use this as inspiration - it's better than all of his bridals and family shots that he does):

    http://canlasphotography.blogspot.com/2010/09/our-miracle-baby.html

  • Marc

    September 7, 2010 10:43 am

    Some advice for before the birth...don't become to worried about the perfect shot and live in the moment. Having been through three births without too many photos at my wifes request I can tell you I remember the moments that matter vividly.

    Some advice for after the birth...make sure your wife gets final say on all photos that will be shared. Her concerns could be anything from the messy hair to not liking the lighting.

    I am reminded of this because one day I was looking at a friends photos on Facebook of their new baby, with a couple of labor pictures mixed in, and was suddenly confronted with a freshly born baby and a vajay-jay in all its glory. I suspect in the excitement of the moment the photo was posted and the wife may have preferred a little cropping.

  • Kham

    September 7, 2010 10:27 am

    As a father of three beautiful angels (girls) I took photo of all delivery minus the nudity of the actual delivery. I also took pics of first grasp of air when the nurse clear the air way for that taste of oxygen, mother child bonding, father cutting the code self portrait and scale - weighing in ect. The most important thing is to have format of the pics that you would like to be include in the album for the kids when they get older. The most important thing is to enjoy the moment and if you can capture it do it and if you don't want it later then you can always delete it but you can never go back and say "I wish I took those pics". Alway check with the hospital policy and guideline for taking photo in an operating theatre.

  • kate si

    September 7, 2010 10:14 am

    I didn't really photography the birth as I was helping hold the mother but I did get labor and the first meal.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/katesi/4087866150/in/set-72157623524554784/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/katesi/4468590335/in/set-72157623524554784/

  • Anon

    September 7, 2010 08:57 am

    I agree very much with Marcy, keep checking on the mother's consent and listen to her carefully all the time.

    It may even vary depending on how she wants the images to represent the experience.

  • DVS

    September 7, 2010 08:47 am

    We are expecting our first next week...so this is a strangely well timed post. lol

    I will be taking just a small P&S (that also has 1080 video ability on it)...and not my "Full DSLR" gear. I am probably not going to take every sec. I rather enjoy the moment with my wife. But once things get a little more settled (5-10 mins in), I think I may try to grab a few shots.

  • John Meadows

    September 7, 2010 08:31 am

    How about focussing on where the emotions are (namely the faces)? Record the effort, joy, relief, fatigue etc.

  • Marcy

    September 7, 2010 08:13 am

    As a photography hobbyist and mother of one, about to give birth to my 2nd in a few months (and so already thinking about how to get good pictures of that event) here are my 2 cents...

    It's very important, as you mentioned, to be on the same page with the future mother (and father, if it's someone else taking pictures) about how intrusive/private they want to be as far as the pictures. Things like how much nudity to allow, whether to photograph the actual moments of birth, etc.

    BUT it is also VERY important to check in with the mother DURING labor and make sure she still feels comfortable. Especially if it's your first time, you never really know how you'll feel in labor. You may want to bare it all, or you may want to scream at everyone to leave you the f*ck alone. So, the things she asked or agreed to ahead of time as far as the photographing of the event go, may fly out the window once contractions actually hit. So be mindful and respectful of that.

    We have a handful of pictures from my first birth, both of me laboring and then snapshots of me and the baby right after birth. Looking back through them, I wish there were a few more pictures from the labor, and I wish we'd thought to make me a bit more, uh, presentable after birth so I'd feel comfortable showing those shots, too (the birth was at a birth center, and I wasn't wearing anything by the time the pushing part came, so in those "after" pictures both baby and I were in our "birthday suits." ; ) This time I want to take a moment to cover myself up a bit first.

    As for more technical aspects, I think a wide(ish) lens with a wide aperture is the best way to go. You don't really know what the lighting situation will exactly be like, and don't want to end up with too-blurry shots (this may not be as big of a concern in a hospital, but for anyone birthing at a birth center or at home the lights will likely be turned down low). I'm planning to have a 35mm f/2.0 lens handy for our birth.

  • Jennifer Chaney

    September 7, 2010 08:12 am

    I photographed a birth last spring and it was amazing! I think the importance of birth photography is right up there with wedding photography.

    1- Not only ask the hospital if you can shoot, but ask the doctor and nurses if they mind.
    2- You've generally got lots of time, so make sure you get the detail shots - people, machines, clocks, etc...
    3- I stayed over the mom's shoulder for the most part - it was important to make it as tasteful as possible because the slideshow I created would be seen by everyone. You don't need to see "everything" to understand what's happening.

    Not sure if it's okay to post a link to the slideshow I did, but I think it might give some ideas on angles:

    http://www.jchaney.com/blog/birth_photography_slideshow/

  • Nick

    September 7, 2010 08:10 am

    Truthfully, I think I would photograph it from about 200 meters.

  • David

    September 7, 2010 08:00 am

    I would make sure (in advance) that the delivery room allows pictures. I was all geared up for my first, all up until the last few minutes when the medical team informed me that photos of the actual birth were not allowed. I was pretty bummed out about the policy, but there wasn't really anything I could do about it...

  • Zeca Moraes

    September 7, 2010 07:48 am

    Dear Drew,
    I had the birth of my only daughter photographed, but not by me - I thought it would be far more important to me, to my wife and to my daughter that I participated in the parturition than to have it photographed. But coincidentally the doctor, a close friend of us, asked permission for a friend of him to photograph it. We gave our consent and obviously had the copies. So, just think about if it wouldn't be more interesting to ask a friend photographer to photograph the birth, with the added advantage that you will be in the scene.
    But if you want to photograph it in any case, I would advise you to use a pocket camera with at least a 28mm/equivalent lens, possibly with a 24mm/equiv., and with 2.8 or possibly 2.0 maximal opening. Work without flash (and it would be possibly unnecessary, since it will have lots of light) and don't forget to ask the express permission of the chief doctor. Congratulations for your new daughter.

  • Jaksmum

    September 7, 2010 07:30 am

    Hi... we recently had the birth of our daughter photographed - happy to share as I was thrilled with the results.

    http://www.viddler.com/explore/karenking/videos/1/

  • SimonB

    September 7, 2010 07:26 am

    Nothing can prepare you for the drama of your firstborn..and taking photos of that moment is something you can't really anticipate.

    My wife had to have a ceasarian because of a breech birth so I really thought I would have time to think about the kind of photos I wanted, but it all went out of the window at the final moment and I had to be reminded by the OBGyn to get ready...

    But still I really believe I captured the drama of the birth... it might be a bit much for the squeamish but I still think it an awesome photo (even if I'm the only one who thinks so). It also makes one realize how much danger the little one was in.

    [eimg url='http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-snc1/v2114/75/69/726159767/n726159767_2015053_4610.jpg' title='n726159767_2015053_4610.jpg']

    My second one is of my niece and my daughter... somehow I don't think one can plan these.. perhaps that is why I struggle as a photographer...the planning

    [eimg url='http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-snc1/v2114/75/69/726159767/n726159767_2039806_8743.jpg' title='n726159767_2039806_8743.jpg']

  • Gail

    September 7, 2010 07:09 am

    This is kinda hit or miss photographic situation.
    I have followed a midwife 4 three years. I OFTEN
    take birthing pictures.

    FIRST let me say "most mothers think they want the WHOLE event" because they want to SEE it latter.
    I've actually done this, doctor, midwife, between raised knees -crowining - burst while baby is
    sliding into the "catchers mitt" YOU DON"T WANT THESE PICTURE --Lets get honest here :
    WHO are you going to show them 2 ?? Trust me, we R designed NOT to see or record this image.

    So what pictures should I take ? I love clenching hand, mom hiding in her coach, moms coached face.
    granma, uncles, sibling waiting, the birthing team. Mom reasuring everyone with a brave smile, and
    scared eyes ( Belive me , there's no sugar coating this)
    and THEN, when baby arrives ( it's all VERY fast): I like close up of baby snuggled in warm blankets, sometimes I get half open eye. MY FAVORITE picture is when mom, dad, sibling , get their first vision.
    plan ahead & with your doctor to get "cut the cord picture". Hospitals like to snip cord themselves, if you insist, you can set it up, so important family member cuts.

    From there enjoy the power of digital, the pressure is off, shoot and shoot and shoot This is the REAL event. make an appointment for photographer to come to your home between 8 - 10 days, photograph all family togeather --use for birth announcements, Christmas ans every occasion in between.

  • Rachel@IdahoCheneys

    September 7, 2010 07:06 am

    My anesthesiologist took some pictures of my daughter's birth (I had a C-section). He took quite a few--most of them are too graphic for me, I don't really want to know what the surgery looked like--but the ones of my daughter seconds after birth are awesome! I have to agree with the author, B&W is the best.

    My favorite picture is one where it's just her on the table with all the hands of the doctors and nurses cleaning her up, in B&W of course.

    It's a special time, but it definitely has to be done tastefully!

  • J Richards

    September 7, 2010 07:02 am

    Photographed the births of both of my kids. Best advice I got was to use black and white. Both of mine were by C-section, and even the shots of the moment the doctor holds up the child are great. In color, it might be a bit jarring, especially when you realize what else is in the frame.

  • Shellie Vickrey

    September 7, 2010 06:57 am

    I actually photographed my sisters birth scene. I made sure not to photograph anything to revealing and added a ton of glow to make it look dreamy afterwords. I would recommend not using a flash. Here is a link where you can view some of the photographs that were taken. Hope you find this inspiring and useful. Congratulations on your new baby. http://tinyurl.com/2btn3bv

  • João Dullius

    September 7, 2010 06:53 am

    My Wife and I contracted the hospital Photographer for taking our girl birth photos. The man flashed a directed flash on our daughter face on her first seconds of life. And the keeped flashing her for some minutes, until I realized what he was doing and told him to get the hell out of the room with that flash!
    Common, I was expecting him to take photos of a newborn baby on a very well lit surgical room without flash!!! Me and my wife were very concerned if the flashs could have causes some injury on our daughter vision. For the moment we haven´t discovered any, for our relief.
    But I would not ever enter a birth room with a flash unit or let any photographer use one on my future childs.

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