I’ve posted about this before, but after photographing my 30th birth today, I just wanted to reiterate my point because I’m picking up some negativity filtering through from all sides about new birth photographers and the impact they are having on this industry. Of course it is a concern but it’s also an opportunity for us all to grow! So here’s my little post.
Yes, we all need to start somewhere and portfolio building is certainly a respected phase in a photographers journey into the world of professional photography. But birth photography is a genre that should really be approached with care, knowledge and a great big bucket of respect – before you even contemplate shooting one, even for free! The photography industry, the reputations, the mothers and babies, even you and your own family could suffer if you take short cuts and get it wrong. This DOES apply to you!
I had a single image spread around the world in 12 hours, over 600,000 views on Facebook alone, phone calls from London in the middle of the night, media taking my clients birth image and the story of censorship and running rampant with it! The whole time I was in close contact with the mother from the photograph to ensure she was coping with the plethora of negative and offensive statements along with the amazingly supportive comments from strangers everywhere. If I didn’t have a fantastic rapport with my client, a water tight contract, appropriate insurance coverage for births and the close support of the local AIPP members, it could have been a complete disaster for all of us involved!
Every decision you make as a birth photographer must filter through the wall of RESPECT that protects you and your client from harm. It doesn’t matter if it’s the way you talk to a midwife attending the birth, or the price you charge for your services, you have to take the time to consider the bigger picture and respect the outcomes of your actions.
It’s true that birth photography is the calling to so many female photographers right now. The trend that took off in the USA years ago like a wave of emotional excitement has hit Australian shores. Even those who’d never even held a full frame camera in their hands are getting swept up! I personally am thrilled that the genre is spreading. The acceptance of birth as a natural part of life, to be celebrated and cherished is both empowering and valuable in ways that even remain to be seen. But as with all this emotional indulgence can come serious failings that could seriously damage this genre and worse still, the women who wish to utilise the full range of birth choices.
If you’re a new or aspiring birth photographer, I earnestly urge you to consider the following:
- Talk to an experienced birth photographer about mentoring or at the very least, buy them a coffee and pick their brain for an hour. I’m happy to point you in the right direction if I’m not local to you! email@example.com
- Understand the norms and etiquette in the birthing space, along with the process of birth and arm yourself with an understanding of the possible tragic outcomes in the birth environment. http://www.bellybelly.com.au/for-doulas/birth-photographers-how-to-be-a-great-birth-photographer#.UsqdybTcBXF & https://adelaidebirth.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/how-to-be-a-great-birth-photographer-raising-the-bar/
- Know how to use your equipment, thoroughly. https://www.google.com.au/#q=photography+courses&safe=off
- Have your back up ‘s in place – camera’s, cards, batteries, babysitters, underpants, photographer… if you need it, have a backup for it because you WILL get caught out! http://www.maternalfocus.com/utah-birth-photographer/for-birth-photographers/backup-backup-backup
- INSURANCE & CONTRACTS. http://www.photoinsurance.com.au/
- A business and marketing model. It costs more money than you might think to run a successful business. It’s highly likely that unless you’re pulling in $3k per birth client at 2 a month (part time), you won’t be running a sustainable business model. The AIPP Emerging Membership have great business courses. https://www.aipp.com.au/
- Shoot maternity and newborn – that will help with the previous point! https://www.google.com.au/#q=maternity+photography+workshops+2014&safe=off
- Can you commit the time? 1% client meetings, 10% shooting, 89% sitting on a computer. I work 60+hrs a week. I have a great document I’ve created to help you work this out.
- Don’t portfolio build for too long. Not only will you annoy your allies in the genre, you’ll de value birth photography in the eyes of clients, and you’re undervaluing yourself! http://www.elizabethhalford.com/the-business-of-photography/how-to-build-your-photography-portfolio-and-when-to-open-for-business-2/
- Invest in yourself – workshops, memberships, groups, workshops, conferences… If you don’t value yourself enough to invest in YOU, your clients won’t either. I’ll be running more of these, so let me know if you’re interested: https://adelaidebirth.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/australian-birth-photography-workshop-retreat-adelaide-birth-photographer/
- Listen to criticism and evaluate it with your respect filter. There’s generally a lesson to be learnt. Don’t take it personally – if a couple don’t book you, if you miss the delivery, if someone doesn’t like your work. It’s all a part of the job and if you take away the lessons from these experiences you’ll be a richer person for it. http://lifehacker.com/5915488/how-can-i-learn-to-take-criticism-without-taking-it-personally
Don’t be afraid, or too proud to reach out and guidance. After all, if you’re really passionate about becoming a birth photographer, supporting women, providing a uniquely wonderful service, then we’re on the same team! Let’s work together to build something amazing for all.