Birth Partners

birth photography

 A pair of portrait shooters on their emerging business

How did you get started in this?

Smith: We both have BFAs in photography and have separate businesses with our husbands, shooting weddings and portraits. We both still do other assignments; we only take three or four births a month.

Pace: We are very much into birthing —there was a lot of talk about our birth photography amongst our community of doulas [labor coaches], midwives, childbirth instructors and like-minded mamas —everyone knows each other. We were already shooting our friends’births; it just came together.

Is there a lot of demand?

Smith: We get a lot more inquiries than we can take on. The doulas in our area refer work to us, as does our ob/gyn.

Pace: Westarted getting inquiries from photographers from all over who want to start their own birth photography

businesses  we seem to be getting as many inquiries from photographers as from moms.

Why has it become so popular?

Pace: I think women have realized, is just as big of a moment in my life as my wedding was —if not bigger.”When Kelly photographed my birth, I was so involved in labor that I had no idea what was going on around me, but I have these images that tell the story. Smith: From a photographerstandpoint, they realize that they can create a niche —they have the skills and equipment, and thata good way to advertise to people why they should hire a photographer. It frees up the labor partner so they can fully be there for the mom.

How does the process work?


Pace: Moms schedule their consultations when they are about four months along. We

are on call every day of the week around their due date, because a baby can come whenever it wants to. Once the mom is around 6 centimeters, one of us heads out. We take two cameras and multiple lenses so we can get as much as possible right as the baby arrives. We stay for the first breast feeding, the familyarrival, and a few newborn portraits.

How difficult does it get?

Pace: Last year I had a labor that lasted 36 hours, and I was there for all of it. The birth was an hour away, so I couldnleave  they kept saying it could happen at any time, but there were so many points where she was pushing and then just fell asleep for two hours.

I was seven months pregnant myself, so the nurses were also trying to take care of me. That birth ended up in a C-section, so I never got to shoot the actual birth.

What is your most-used gear?

Smith: We both use a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and we both have a 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.2, and 100mm macro lens. We always have flashes in our bags, but we rarely use them, and only after the baby is bom. We shoot usually in low light, like candle light for home births, or in bad hospital light, but our cameras are good at high ISOs, and we convert a lot of images to black-and-white, which helps.

Pace: I also carry a white-balance filter for flourescent lighting.

What do you like most about doing this work?

Smith: We love the raw emotion.

Itdifferent than what everyone else is doing and so unpredictable. Pace: It s not about the extra money! We are on call 24/7 like a doctor, willing to get up at 3 am. to attend a birth. It s a passion of ours —itlike our own baby being delivered.

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