Ideas For Newborn Photography – The Newbie Guide To Birth Photography
I was inspired to write something about birth photography when one reader posted a comment under a previous article about camera lenses.
She wanted to know what lenses to use for birth photography so I simply answered her question and expanded a bit to produce this birth photography article…
…We can all agree that birth photography is a very touchy subject, with 2 opposing sides. One side thinks it’s okay to photograph a birth because it’s a momentous occasion, while other people are disgusted by the possible exposure of private parts and unsightly bodily fluids.
The two sides do have a point. If you’ve never been inside a delivery room while a woman is giving birth then I can tell you that, yes, visually, it can be a disturbing experience. When the baby is born and the mother and child are safe then all you can see are smiles and sighs of relief, those are some of the moments worth preserving. Read on now for more ideas, tips and techniques that can be used for newborn or birth photography.
Let’s discuss first the proper equipment needed for this kind of photography. You don’t necessarily need an SLR to capture birth images. If you have a point and shoot or a fairly advanced camera phone then that can suffice. But an SLR will come in very handy, especially for moments when there isn’t enough light. The quality of the image will also increase as you can control different settings and be creative in the process. As for the lens, your 18-55mm kit lens can be used because it is prefect for wide shots, portraits, groups, and some bokeh shots.
If you want to have a creamier bokeh then you can use either a 50mm f/2.8 lens or a 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. Anything above 80mm or 100mm isn’t necessary because you won’t have enough space to use it. A 24-80mm f/2.8 to f/4 lens can be used if you are comfortable and confident when working with a bit of distance between your subjects. There is no need to bring a lot of extra gear inside the delivery room. If you’ve found your favorite lens then stick with it. You will find it rather complicated to change lenses when the medical staff are busy moving around, and the pregnant woman on the delivery table is shouting at full volume.
Avoid using your flash if you can. This is a tense moment for the whole family so they can be really sensitive when you flash a bright light in their face every once in a while. Do not use the flash on the father, the mother, and especially the baby. We really don’t know if the child’s eyes can be affected by bright flashes of light but I highly suggest that you turn your flash off inside the delivery room.
Now that we’ve covered the equipment part, I’ll now talk about the process of birth photography. If you are a friend willing to cover the birth events or a professional photographer then communicating with the couple before the actual day of labor should be your priority. As I’ve said, birth photography is very sensitive so ask them what you can or cannot photograph. You should know what photos they want and then do your best to follow through. Tell them how you work and what they should expect.
On the actual day of labor you might want to be in the house with the parents or wait at the hospital depending on what you’ve talked about. As the photographer, your main goal is to tell a story, so taking photos while they are preparing to go to the hospital would be a nice starting point. Photograph the ride to the hospital, the delivery room, and other details that might go unnoticed. There are lots of opportunities to take dramatic photos even before the baby comes out.
You can photograph the mother while in labor, the supportive father, the busy doctors, nurses, mid wives, and the excited family members sitting in the waiting room. When the baby is ready to come out then you should focus all of your attention on the mother and father. Additional details can then be photographed when the mother is resting in between contractions. And do not forget to observe any regulations that the hospital has set for photographers.
Many birth photographers prefer to shoot in black and white. The baby will be covered in blood and other fluids so shooting in B&W will prevent the images to come out too graphic and intrusive. Monochrome images can also add a dramatic and story like quality to your images. But as effective as it is, there is no actual rule that dictates it so it’s still upon you on what style and techniques to use.
Photographing a birth is not for everybody so think long and hard if you are prepared for this kind of challenge. But if you are passionate enough then you will find that birth photography is really rewarding, both as a must-do life experience, and also for financial benefit from what is quite a specialized field within professional photography.