As a studio photographer I've had 9 years of experience. And I love what I do but I've recently broadened my scope and shifted my focus to include a new area of business. I've found a new love in birth photography.
The most encountered questions are about price. Spending money on birth photography is a luxury and unfortunately not everyone can afford it. There are blogs upon blogs about pricing. As an industry photography needs to constantly explain itself.
When I buy a hamburger I know that this isn't Star Trek. Someone didn't push a button and the hamburger instantly materialized. A cow was born, wheat fields were grown...a hundred things happened before a minimum wage person pushed the sold button and took my money. Society understands that it's a industry...a process. And that's just for my fast food hamburger.
As a birth photographer, as any sort of professional photographer, people don't understand it's a process. I don't just push a button and instantly your photos ready. This isn't Polaroid, this is art. As a guideline for every hour you see your photographer there is generally 1-2 hours of them working on your stuff while you don't see them.
I'm not going to go into the whole discussion of expenses, of everything from equipment to software to education. Instead I'm going to focus on just what it takes for one clients photography.
For a wedding. People will pay from $600-$10,000 depending on a photographers skill and packages. And as a society there is somewhat of an understanding that the photographer is with you for 4-17 hours (sometimes longer) and that in the end they will put in double that time to edit your pictures, build your albums and slideshows and your going to get your money's worth because you get what you pay for in this industry.
But for birth photography people still think it's comparable. Maybe it's because tv has lied to us about what birth is. We see again and again on TV these moms who are happily doing something when, suddenly without warning, there's a huge gush and mom is whisked away to the hospital. She's instantly in active labour and two pushes later baby is born and the proud parents cuddle their newborn. That's not birth. Well maybe a select few get that.
Birth is momma having contractions for some unknown amount of time. Personally I had early labour for 3+ days before a full 24 hours of progressively contracting and 3 hours of pushing. I had a slow labour which happens for some first time moms. On the opposite side, I've had three moms who labored for 12+ hours, had active labour for an hour and pushed 2-6 times and baby was born.
If this was a wedding we could schedule it at a nice 2pm appointment, I'd get there 15 minutes early, capture the birth, the first moments and I could be home for dinner. That's not birth.
For birth two weeks before the due date to two weeks after my life goes on semi hold. I don't book holidays, i don't take trips with my family. I have a babysitter on standby and I warn all booking clients that I may need to reschedule or have a backup photographer. I carry a camera with me everywhere and I wait for that 2am...2pm (any hour of any day) text or phone call telling me moms now in active labour. I've had amazing clients who have been able to let me know when early labour started so that I know to stay close to my phone, but I've also had clients who contacted me without warning in active labour. I've had to get in my car and drive across the city at 2am to get to where mom is.
So what's my point? It's a process. Your not going to be able to call me an hour before baby's born and have me there till after baby's born. It's not a event you can schedule. I choose to give up having a set schedule so that if your active labour is 1 hour or 10 I'm there. I warn other clients. I reschedule what I can or hire a back up photographer so that I can be there. Then after it all I go home, I edit your photos because photography is an art, I spend hours building you a book of images to remember it all by and I create a slideshow video that will warm your heart and someday you can show your baby that they were born and welcomed into loving arms.
So when you ask me how much please remember your hiring me to be on call 24-7 for up to 4 weeks for a job that may last 10-20+ hours. You may only see me for 3 hours but my last client saw me for 10 and there is no clock watching when a baby's on the way. There is only a professional photographer capturing your story, your unique experience and those amazing firsts.