Never Underestimate the Power of Good Birth Photography

Since it's fresh on my mind after an awesome birth I supported recently, I just want to put my 2 cents worth in about birth photography. Most women are pretty open to the idea of maternity photos, because hey, you're not going to have that belly forever, right?  However, some people think it's really weird that a woman would want pictures of labor and birth. They might only think birth photos would be graphic or "gross" or... miserable. However, birth photos can be as beautiful as, say, wedding photography, for example.

Melissa Weilenmann of On Call Photography says that her approach is to get "G-rated shots from the mother's perspective of labor and delivery." (What's the point of having pictures if you don't feel comfortable sharing them? Hence the reason I donned a "birth bikini" with baby #2.)  Melissa has even captured shots of the baby's emergence without being graphic at all (mom's leg in the way, etc.). So don't go getting all weird when someone talks about birth photography - it's totally awesome.

I personally think of it this way: did you have pictures of your wedding? Do you take pictures of Christmas and Thanksgiving and birthday parties? While I love my wedding photos, I have to say that the photos that were taken of both my childrens' births are hands-down the most precious treasures I have (besides my actual children!).

The moments that photographers capture in birth are as beautiful as those shots of your wedding cake, or the first dance, or your sign in book. I've seen some GORGEOUS photos that capture the intense emotions felt by moms, partners, siblings, family members; cool artistic shots like the clock in the background, the doctor or midwife attending the laboring woman, or in my case, a great shot of my Labra-doula licking my face sweetly while I labored. :)


The side benefit of birth photos is that - especially if it's your first baby - you just won't believe it all happened. Labor is pretty much an altered state of consciousness. Birth itself is just surreal... and the pictures prove you did it. Like crossing the line of a marathon! A good birth photographer will capture things even YOU can't see or wouldn't ordinarily remember.

My oldest sister Carrie Poulsen took the photos at my first baby's birth. Carrie is ten years older than I, and she personally witnessed my birth at home in 1977. She was so impacted by it that she went on to have two home births and one natural hospital birth.  She also happens to be quite creative and artistic, and I love her photography. She did a fantastic job of capturing the beautiful moments during and after Shawn's birth.


If you think good pictures can be taken by anyone who can push a button, consider that lighting, emotional attachment, sensitivity and skill level all come into play,  and if you do care about good birth photos, you'll be really disappointed if you get a batch of blurry snaps taken by your  helpful mother or friend. My advice, if you want good photos, is to actually hire a birth photographer (a real photographer who is skilled/experienced with births), or designate one person, friend, or family member who has demonstrated good photography skills and has been around birth before. I promise, if you hire a photographer, it will be so worth it. Those photos will mean the world to you!

At my second birth, I even had two photographers, just in case. My friend Olya Nelson (read her blog, she's so dang cool) is my neighbor and we have a midwife in common. Plus, she's a fantastic photographer who has done two of my boys birthday parties and my maternity photos with baby #2. The second photographer was my equally-talented sister-in-law Marci. I wanted two cameras just in case. That's how bonkers I am about good photos. Click here to see Olya's photo gallery of my second home birth, all PG-rated. :)

Food for thought:

  • A good birth photographer will capture many things going on in the room.
  • A good birth photographer will capture things otherwise unseen, like a tender touch from a loved one, partner's caring looks, baby's first breath, or even cool stuff like a hospital instrument table or a midwife's basket of supplies.
  • A good birth photographer will be mostly invisible, just working in the background. They will take natural, candid shots, rarely anything posed. They will also intrude just enough to catch a great shot (ie. getting that strand of hair out of your face.)
  • A good birth photographer will present a finished disc of edited photos, representing the best of the best photos.
  • A good birth photographer will turn otherwise ordinary moments into extraordinary works of art.

Here's another great example: check out this beautiful slideshow by my sister-in-law, Rachael de Azevedo Patterson, who currently lives in Portland, Oregon.  She was in Utah to photograph the birth of my newest neice Zoey in July 2010. Tell me you wouldn't LOVE to have photos like THAT of your family!

If you have beautiful photos you'd like to share, please feel free to comment here and link to them.

What do you think? Did you have birth photos? Do you love them? Hate them? Did you NOT have photos and wish you did, or are you glad you didn't? Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Salt Lake Prenatal Massage hosts the Utah Birth Pages and would love to list any  and all good birth photography services in the greater Salt Lake Area. Please contact us to suggest a listing or to list your own services!