Why is birth photography so expensive?
A quote from Lexia Frank with Lexia Frank Photography that I love and truly hope speaks to all of you wanting to hire a birth photographer.
“Shooting a birth is like getting an inquiry from a bride saying that she wants you to come to photograph her wedding, but isn’t going to set a date. She’ll just call you whenever. and when you ask her how many hours of coverage she would like, she says she’s not sure, probably around 24, but maybe only 2. And you ask her when she’d like for you to start coverage and she says she won’t know, but probably around 2 am. And also, that she doesn’t want any use of flash.
So when you ask her if there will be bountiful natural light she says that she’ll be getting married in a dark closet with no light whatsoever. And, she’s going to want the images right away to send out announcements. AND you’re not going to be able to use them anywhere on your website or blog because she wants to keep her privacy intact. We’d all be quoting this bride 50,000.00.” ––Lexia Frank, birth and wedding photographer in Portland, OR.
Birth Photography is so unique.
I get asked this a lot, and I am used to it by now. Birth Photography is unlike any other scope of photography but, in terms of cost, it compares closely to the high-end wedding photography. It takes some serious dedication and skill. I love what I do, and all my clients. I knew when I signed up for this gig that someday I would miss a holiday, birthday or anniversary. Birth is also not like other photography because we can’t book multiple sessions per day or even per week. My personal rule is to accept up to 3 birth clients per month. Just in case one goes into labor late and one goes into labor early, I always have a trusted backup photographer on-call.
I understand that it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that your photographer shows up, pushes a button, and then delivers you a gallery. It seems simple and straightforward enough, right? For most birth photographers though, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. More often than not, the bulk of the work exists not in showing up and documenting your birth, but in the selection and post-processing of your gallery. The development of the skill that’s required to do this takes many YEARS to perfect. It simply isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a constant, daily process of learning and refining, learning, and refining.
Why is birth photography so expensive? There is no set day/time/length.
Births have no predetermined amount of time when it will happen or when it will end. We will be on call for clients for 3-4 weeks. This means 24/7 we will carry our phone everywhere we go. We take our camera equipment with us if we leave the house, and if we leave with family it’s like a convoy. In case we have to leave at a moment’s notice. We sometimes will miss out on special events (school plays, prom, dance recital’s) with our families. We have to pre-arrange childcare (which is not cheap) weeks in advance. We have to have 2 cameras and a variety of lenses to handle low light which is expensive as well, and we are always sending it in for cleaning and maintenance so we know that we have done our best to prevent a malfunction.
Think of birth photography like wedding photography except that birth photography has no set day/time/length. Instead of putting it in my calendar as a Saturday wedding day, I block off 4 weeks in my calendar and keep the phone by my side the whole time. Instead of planning for an 8-12 hour wedding day, I plan to have a babysitter ready to watch my little guy & daughter for an unknown amount of time, day OR night, on any day of the week, with very short notice. When we get called in for a birth we have no idea how long we will be there. We could be away from our families for 10-30 hours or even more with home births.
Birth photographers also have to be insured differently than a portrait photographer.
The on-call life is not easy and not for everyone so those that choose to offer birth photography have a passion for it and truly want to give their clients the most amazing birth experience they can. I chose this special photography because I had a passion for wanting to give mothers that have husbands who are deployed a way to let the dad feel like they were there the whole time. I also wanted so badly to be able to see new life brought into this world. I love babies and have two children of my own and each of their births was so special that I knew in my heart this is where I wanted to put all my energy into. Photographers that offer birth photography choose it because it’s a passion of theirs. The scarifies they make in their lives to be there for this important event in yours is because we love being able to capture the amazing moments for you.
Birth photographers also have to carry insurance that differs from that of a portrait photographer (which I am as well) and it’s pretty much like a big end wedding photographer again. We have to take extra precautions since we are in a birth space with a lot of Dr’s and medical staff. I carry a business license and business insurance along with insuring my equipment. Then on top of that, I have memory cards, hard drives, batteries, and lens calibrators that make sure my lenses are tack sharp. We can not get that first cry back. We can not ask you to hold that pose so we can adjust the settings. We have to know how to adjust settings fast and catch those moments in a blink of an eye.
Now with all that being said, you can see why birth photography is so expensive and we charge what we do. All that I mentioned above doesn’t even include after I have photographed your birth. I have to sort through 100’s of images, edit those images and make sure they are backed up not once, but twice.
There is a payment plan option.
Birth photography is expensive and it’s not something everyone can afford but if it’s something you truly want, make sure you find a photographer you connect with and has the style you are looking for.
For those that want to have a birth photographer but think they have to pay all at once most birth photographers offer payment plans. I take a retainer and require the balance be paid in full by week 38, which is when I go on call. If you truly want a birth photographer at your birth, ask them what type of payment plans they can offer so you can make it work within your budget.
So if birth photography isn’t in the budget for your family, or if having images from your birth isn’t a priority to you, that’s completely understandable! Just don’t lose sight of the value in hiring a professional, it’s present in many, many ways. And if you’re anxiously awaiting the delivery of your final gallery, be patient! It’s probably worth the wait.
All text and images by Brooke Flanagan. Brooke is the artist behind Brooke Flanagan Photography. She is a trained birth doula and birth photographer in Stafford, VA. She has been published and awarded for her work. She is a proud member of IAPBP.