An understanding of the birth process.
Even though every single birth is completely unique and different, the process is similar. It is important to be familiar with possible outcomes and know what can be expected.
Respect and empathy for other birth professionals and the birthing family.
It is the most intimate kind of photography I can think of and it is important to not get in anyone’s way, be as unobtrusive as possible and know when to help, when to stop or step aside without being told to do so.
Love and passion for both photography and birth.
You need to be passionate about capturing and telling someone else’s story, including all the big and little details. It is important to remember that birth is a physical process and unfortunately you won’t be able to make it as a birth photographer if you faint from the slightest sight of blood or any other bodily fluids or solids.
Patience and ability to work long, unexpected hours.
Birth photography involves being on call 24/7 for weeks at a time. Your phone can ring at 3am and you have to be ready to go within 10 minutes. It highly affects your personal and family life and is a huge commitment. Birth can last for hours and even days and you have to be there for all of it. You might not get any sleep, food or drink and you have to be okay with that.
Knowledge of your photography equipment.
The lighting conditions are most of the time far from perfect, from a variety of bright light sources to next to no light, tight spaces, limited visibility and access to what you need to capture, etc. You have to be able to quickly adapt to different situations and produce quality storytelling images. There are no do-overs and you have to be confident in both your technical and storytelling skills.
Karolina is a professional maternity, birth and newborn photographer based in Edinburgh. She is a member of the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers (IAPBP) and is one of the first Birth Photographers in Scotland. Find her at: http://www.anilorakphotography.com
Words: Ana Hine
Image: Karolina (Anilorak Photography)