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Portraits From Birth - PPA Today

Portraits From Birth

Once off-limits, the tender time right after the birth of a child has become a new frontier for portrait photographers. Increasingly, photographers are offering hospital visits as part of their maternity-baby portrait options. While styles and approaches vary widely, many photographers approach these sessions as a way to record the child's first few hours, and topete_wright_blog0919_1.JPG portray the family's closeness during this time.

Timing the Sessions

It's important to note that "birth" photography doesn't usually mean documenting the actual birth, but instead providing a series of portraits at the hospital or birthing location shortly after the birth. (Many hospitals do not even allow photographers in the delivery room, so be careful about what you promise clients.) Often, photographers try to time these sessions within a few hours of the birth, or perhaps the next day. This differs from the timing of a newborn session, which typically occurs a week to two weeks postpartum.

Packaging the Sessions for Return Visits
The birth sessions fit well into ongoing packages, with display options including collages and albums that can be added to as the child grows. They also serve as another key bonding element to help a photographer establish a stronger relationship with the clients. You can plug such birth sessions into a program that might also include a maternity session, a standard newborn session, and baby portrait sessions at regular intervals.

Thumbnail image for pete_wright_blog0919_2.jpgThat's how PPA member Pete Wright, M.Photog.Cr., of PW Photography in Richmond, VA, uses birth sessions:  to deepen his relationship with his clients and to add another element to their growing collection of imagery. Pete created a structure that incentivizes clients to return regularly during the maternity period and baby's first year. The ultimate product is an album, and parts of the process include a maternity session, a hospital visit/birth session, a newborn session seven to 10 days later, another early baby session about six weeks after that, and then follow-on baby sessions at six, nine and 12 months.

"The key is that we try to get two or three sessions in, as well as the preview appointments, before the baby hits eight weeks old. That's the honeymoon phase with a new baby when parents are crazy in love with him/her to the point where they'll spend a lot more," says Wright. "We wanted to offer a different option with some incentives to come back in. It makes our customers more proactive about coming back so they can finish their book."

Wright says that his system (which includes birth photography) "trains clients to keep returning at key points in their family's growth, and that process may continue long after they're finished with the baby book. Some keep returning for years as their children grow!"

Is birth photography for you? Do you approach it differently? Share below!




Actually, professional birth photography is photography of the labor, delivery and baby's first breath. It includes those first precious moments when mom meets baby for the first time and the first hours of baby's new life as s/he bonds with parents, gets footprints done, and takes a bath. But some of the most poignant images are sometimes before baby takes first breath, with dad holding her hand, rubbing her back, and supporting her through each contraction with love in his eye. Take a look at this video. THIS is professional birth photography:

I believe you are probably getting swarmed with comments from actual Birth photographers, like myself. Probably in the hundreds. Those of us who actually DO photograph the birthing process... those emotional moments where mom is being supported by her loved one(s), the excitement/tears/etc.etc. that happen when the parents see their baby for the first time... There are some amazing birth photographers out there, who offer the types of services mentioned in this article, but don't call that BIRTH photography. Popular names are "First 48/ New Baby Sessions" but not "Birth" sessions.
No offense to Mr. Wright, but I'm guessing he's never actually photographed a birth, and has NO idea what that actually entails.

I'm a professional birth photographer, and I would only refer to "birth photography" in relation to labour & delivery shots. If someone hires me to photograph their new baby in the hospital after the birth, I consider that in the newborn category. Most (if not all) other established birth photographers would agree with me that "birth photographer" refers to capturing the actual labour and delivery.
Although some hospitals may not permit professional photographers in the birth room, if your client introduces you as a "friend," they won't have a problem letting you in her labour room to photograph. Hope this clears up a bit of the confusion surrounding birth photography.

While Pete Wright may not photograph the actual labour and delivery of a baby, the sentence "It's important to note that "birth" photography doesn't usually mean documenting the actual birth, but instead providing a series of portraits at the hospital or birthing location shortly after the birth." is completely incorrect.

There is a growing number of photographers, myself included, that do document the actual birth of a child and more and more hospitals are allowing photographers in the room.

Birth photography is not for everyone and not for every photographer, but I think a bit more research into birth photography could've been done for this article.

Actually I view it VERY differently. I do not shoot births just so that I get higher sales during the baby moon phase. Like most photographers, I do it because I love it. It's a special time in a couple's life. For some it's the first time they call themselves a family. It's a huge event and because I've had all four of my births documented, I know how amazingly special it is. I'm asked to capture the whole story from the moment the mama calls me with contractions 5 min. apart. to the moment the mom sees her baby and touches him outside of her womb for the very first time. I capture the tears of joy Daddy sheds as he witnesses his wife transform into his hero after seeing her endure tremendous amounts of pain and obstacles to meet their precious child. These moments are treasures. Instead of saying to their children, "When you were born, it was the best day of my life." They will also be able to show their child exactly what they were feeling the moment they first laid eyes on him. The love in a delivery room is tangible and contagious. A birth is the moment heaven kisses earth and I'm honored to be at each one I'm invited.

I couldn't agree more. This is such a beautiful time to document! I captured a "birth" session back in Feb. for my new little niece, and the photos are just priceless....the expressions, the love, the tenderness that everyone is expressing are all captured....leaving beautiful memories.

A couple of the photos from this session can be found at:

I am a birth photographer. I photograph labors, deliveries, and early bonding time.
There is only one hospital in the area that denies patients
My services and I am working to change that. There are
A good number of us birth photographers. Typically,
We are very passionate about birth. Birth photography is
Probably one of the least staged and purest form of lifestyle
Photography out there. Everything is in the moment and things
Don't always go well but more often then not, what I capture is

I think that it might be a little dangerous to term 'birth photography' as not necessarily the actual birth, but rather a lifestyle newborn session that takes place in the hospital. every birth photographer i know (including myself) does *actually* photograph the birth- the full labor, delivery, and post partum. i do know some photographers that offer sessions after the baby is born in the hospital, but those are definitely in the newborn category. though i am happy that this article addresses this style of shooting (as it may be a great market) i hesitate to term it 'birth' as there are other professional and established photographers who photograph just that- birth. i would encourage this photographer, as well as PPA to use correct terminology. after all, i wouldn't call a trash the dress/day-after session/bridal portrait 'wedding photography' as that isn't what it is. there is enough confusion out there already for our clients, lets encourage clarity and call it like it is.

I am also a professional birth photographer. This article goes against everything I'm trying to teach my clients/potential clients. There is a difference between birth photography and a newborn lifestyle session or fresh 48 type session. Birth photography DOES include photographing the actual labor and delivery of the baby. It's about capturing the emotion in the room, the support team, the baby's first breath, the expressions on the new parent's faces, and all of those special fleeting moments that the mom & dad of this precious child will want to remember forever.

While I understand each hospital has different rules, I have photographed births at 3 local surrounding hospitals and a birth center and have never had a problem with being permitted. My clients are instructed to talk to their healthcare provider ahead of time to let them know that they have hired me.

I think you need to consider changing the wording "It's important to note that "birth" photography doesn't usually mean documenting the actual birth, but instead providing a series of portraits at the hospital or birthing location shortly after the birth. " because, indeed it does.

I couldn't agree more. Professional birth photography is most certainly about photographing the actual birth. As a long time birth photographer and co-owner of Birth Stories [101], I work very hard to train photographers in the art of birth photography and to increase awareness and professionalism in this genre. Please do your research before you publish things like this. We have a workshop coming up... maybe Mr. Wright should join us so he can experience REAL birth photography. In the birth photography world, what he refers to is commonly known as a "Fresh 48" session.

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This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on September 18, 2012 8:27 PM.

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