But back to the subject at hand: choosing your photographer. What is the difference between a birth photographer, and a photographer who will do birth?
In my opinion, one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) differences is a knowledge of the labouring, birthing, and postpartum process. Much like you would want to look for a wedding photographer who is knowledgeable with weddings, timelines, and vendors, or a newborn photographer who is knowledgeable with infant safety & handling, you want to be sure that your birth photographer is knowledgeable when it comes to the physiological process, and working in the birth space. Like I said above, most birth photographers started out as doulas, or have taken some sort of doula workshop, childbirth education training, or similar. We are a part of our local birth community, and we are familiar with our local hospitals, OBs, and midwifery practices. We are comfortable with birth (hospital, home, water, cesarean, vbac…) and all of the variations of normal we encounter, and we bring a non-judgmental attitude to your space. We stay up to date on birth education and evidence based practices, and we know how to act appropriately in the birth space and how to read a room or situation. We know not to talk during your contractions, and we know to get the heck out of the providers way if they call a shoulder dystocia. When we get a phone call saying “I’m feeling a bit shaky” and we hear that grunt in your voice, we know exactly what that means, and we “START THE CAR”!! We are more than just a photographer, we are a member of your birth support team. We may attempt to be more of a fly on the wall because we know that birth progresses best when undisturbed, but alternatively, we’re also right in there with you, encouraging, and showing your partner where to press on your back, if that’s what you need.
Another huge thing to think about is availability and reliability. Unfortunately, for birth photographers who have been doing this long enough, it’s not an uncommon story to hear of families being left astray last minute, because the photographer they hired can no longer make it and doesn’t have a backup secured, and the family is now frantically trying to fill their spot while in labour (and yes… I have received this call). Birth photographers generally guarantee their on-call commitment from 38 weeks until birth (however, that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to make it before 38 weeks, it just means they might have to pack their bag quickly and get gas on the way). We are used to being called in the middle of the night, and we encourage it. When we are on-call, we don’t leave town (very far, anyways), we don’t drink, we check our phone about 500 times before bed to make sure it’s charging and on loud (it’s a legitimate obsession), we have childcare prepared, gas in our tank, and our gear charged and ready. We also have backup professional birth photographers in case we get sick, or to cover us in the event of an emergency.