An interview with a Birth Photographer

  • Posted by Emma Fraser
  • On 2nd October 2019
  • Reading Time: 6 minutes

I suppose the obvious place to start is – why do people hire a birth photographer?

That’s a great question! And one I am asked on a daily basis. People have been hiring photographers to document their wedding day, extending families and growing children for nearly 200 years. Birth photography, like these types of photography, is just as precious! It is the coverage before, during and after such a momentous, breath-taking, captivating, new chapter of a woman’s life; of the couples’ lives – the birth of your child, or children.

For example, your parents are flying the whole way from another country, and will be present during the birth of your first child; your partner has just got back from a few months of working away from home; these two very important people are part of your ‘birth story’, as well as the rest of your birth team. You pass your partner the camera and tell him to take picture of the birth, but he forgets because he is so captivated in supporting you and working together with your ‘birth team’ to ensure you have the most positive birthing experience. You so wanted these images to treasure, and to help piece together the labour, delivery and postpartum of this new life, your baby’s life. But your partner and mother’s infinite support meant so much more. This, my readers, is ​​why people hire a birth photographer.

​​How do you work around anyone that doesn’t want to be in the photos?

That’s easy – I like to have a quick chat with them when I arrive, introduce myself, explain why I am there (whether it is a home birth or hospital birth) and then they can express their wishes not to be included in photographs. There was one instance, where a midwife had expressed that she did not wish to be in the photographs (this birth started at the client’s home but mother gave birth in the MLU Royal Hospital) and just as baby was crowning, the same midwife hurried me over to capture the moment baby would be born, all whilst being in the ‘frame’. It doesn’t happen every time, but, understandably, I am fully respectable of anyone present in the room and their wishes not to be photographed. That’s just something you work around.

​​Would most clients want pictures “from the business end” of baby arriving into the world?

Believe it or not, YES! The female body can be worshipped for many reasons, BUT PREGNANCY AND BIRTH SHOULD BE #1 ON THE LIST! During my consultation, we chat about what they envision at their birth, and what images they are comfortable and not comfortable with me taking. When I mention ‘crowning’, I always provide a few options so that they don’t miss out on the moment baby is born – it all depends how mummy wants to birth her baby and where she is comfortable just as baby is being born. All in all, when I have been able to, I have photographed baby ‘arriving’ where possible.

​​When labour starts does it work similarly to calling your doula then?

From what I gather, yes – I am on-call for three weeks around the client’s due date (if baby is born outside of this time, I always tell my clients that I will do my very best to attend outside of those dates but it’s not guaranteed). It can take up to an hour to get to the client’s delivery location and when the on-call period starts, I stay close to home!

​​What would you say to anyone that is on the fence about having a birth photographer?

People automatically think ‘Why do you want to stand in between my legs and photograph this thing coming out of my vagina?’ (that is my favourite response actually, ha!) This year, I have spent a lot of my time educating myself and getting feedback from past clients about why they hired me – “Knowing that every second would be there for me to remember”, “the expectation, the excitement…when you came to the house”, “Having a photographer present to capture those precious moments should be the norm”, “Not only did she give me priceless memories, she contributed to the positive energy in the room”, “She’s shown me blissful moments I was unaware of” and “[Rebekah] allowed me to form a timeline of events from the latter stages of pregnancy, labour and birth” are only a few of the precious comments and feedback that I’ve received. I am fully supportive of my client’s birthing choices, as every mother’s birth is unique and this is their story. Each of the families that have hired me as their birth photographer, haven’t had any regrets – apart from not having a birth photographer present at their other children’s’ births. Get in touch with me, tell me what your fears or concerns are, and I will do my best to answer them, truthfully!

​​Any funny or interesting positions you have found yourself in while attending a birth?

Standing on the birthing pool ladders, to grab a shot of mummy and baby, at the MLU (Royal Hospital). Sitting on my knees, in the middle of birth-related stuff just after baby was born (not ideal, ha, but vital when you want to get ‘the’ shot). Squished in between a wardrobe and a table, documenting the last few ‘surges’ before mummy birthed baby on ‘all fours’. Those are probably my most ‘interesting’ positions that I’ve been in. I just try to find a spot, and stick to it before baby is delivered.

Fun fact: I generally take my shoes off when I arrive at the birthing location, as it’s easier and quieter for me to walk about and not disturb mummy (or daddy), so I hope that if I am in your birth place, for your baby’s birth, that it is welcome!

​​What is the spark that makes you love this job?

That’s a hard one! I love everything about birth, and the adrenaline, stress and burst of joy that comes with it! I am still learning every day about the different aspects of pregnancy and birth, as I would like to know what I can when I attend more births in the future. Midwives have actually said to me if I was interested in doing a Midwifery course, but, at the moment, photography is my passion. After attending the NI Positive Birth Conference this year, I would love to learn more about postpartum and what services are available to women after baby is born – it is all just so fascinating! I’m quite the birth junkie!

​​How can people get in touch with you to find out more?

Anyone that is interested in finding out more about birth photography, they can contact me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/birthphotosni), Instagram (@rebekahcollinsphotographer) and on my website, they can find out more about my Birth, Family and Motherhood Sessions (www.rebekahcollinsphotographer.com).

​​Anything else you would like to share with us?

I am not the first Birth Photographer in Northern Ireland, and I hope I am not the last, but I hope it grows in our little country, like everything else. I, actually, have a small, but growing, photography list that I hope to tick off in my lifetime: photographing a surrogate birth; documenting a ‘culturally-motivated’ birth (this really interests me, learning about how different cultures and countries look after mothers during labour and delivery); an outdoor birth; a caesarean birth; a twin birth (vaginal and/or caesarean); a triplet birth (vaginal and/or caesarean birth); a birth with first-time parents; repeat client birth; a family member’s birth; an IVF birth; a local midwife’s own birth; an adoption birth; a lotus birth; and (this is a dream!), visit another country to do a documentary on cultural births, from a birth photographer’s point of view. If any of these scream ‘YES!’, please get in touch!

Rebekah x

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