Here are a few more photos I’ve taken at births. I’ve really enjoyed the chance to photograph these arrivals, though I am discovering what a juggling act it is to play doula AND photographer. I am pondering if that is something I will continue to do, or
if I will leave my camera home for future births. (I have decided I will offer to photograph births as an addition to my doula service. See more below!) As I speak with other doula/photographers I hear what a struggle it is to be focused on the mom through her birth experience (our top priority) while also trying to capture photos. I would HIGHLY suggest to interested parents that they explore having a doula and photographer present. Some parents only want some snapshots after the baby arrives, which a doula can sometimes do (presuming mom isn’t needing help with nursing, getting a drink, settling into bed, etc.) But if you are hoping for the professional level birth photos and slideshows, I suggest hiring a professional! A great deal of time, talent, and training goes into the capturing, editing and creating of those beautiful images and movies. Professional birth photographers are a talented group, and their skill is worth the investment – I truly admire them! But it can be a financial challenge to hire a doula and photographer so talk with your partner about your priorities for the birth.
I found that there were moments in each birth I photographered during which I was focused on capturing a shot (often of a moment the mom asked me to be sure to catch) but I would lower the camera to see the mom needing assistance or something I just missed that I could have helped with. I hated feeling so torn, and that may be something other doula-photographers are better at balancing! If you are a doula who takes photos, talk with the parents about what their priority is. In some births I’ve attended I saw the mom had the emotional and physical support she needed and I used that moment to snap a picture but most doulas I’ve spoken with say the moms emotional needs are the top priority. Photos are secondary, and if you really want those pictures then consider that you may need to hire a designated photographer.
For us personally, if we could go back in time we would hire a doula AND photographer for each of our births. It was absolutely worth every penny and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The support of the doula is that crucial, but the photos are breathtaking and a treasure to our family – they are both worth it. Explore doulas in training and photographers working to build their portfolio if finances are an issue, but many are willing to work with you on payment plans, bartering, or discounted fees for certain situations. It’s worth asking!
Update: After much discussion with clients, doulas, and photographer friends I’ve decided I will continue to offer the option of being a doula who will take photos at the birth. Or as Rae says, I’ll be a doulographer! As parents tell me how precious the photos are that I’ve captured, I want to offer that same opportunity to others. I know how much we treasure our own birth photos, and I love being able to capture these sweet moments.