Birth & Newborn Photography Tips | Labor

June 11, 2012

in Newborn Photography, Photography Session Tips, Photography Tutorials

Birth & Newborn Photography Tips - Labor

Birth and Newborn Photography is very popular right now and we are happy to welcome Heather Parkinson, a lifestyle photographer from Utah who specializes in birth photography. We invited her to share more about capturing powerful birth stories in a series of photography tutorials this month on I Heart Faces.

Follow the rest of this tutorial series here:

Birth Photography: Part One – Labor

I remember the first time I stumbled upon, “birth photography” searching through one of my favorite photographer’s portfolio, Jonathan Canlas. Having given birth myself, I could identify with those photos and connect my own memories of birth and those first moments meeting my daughter. It was so powerful. It was then and there, I decided I wanted in on it. In the next few months I offered my complimentary services twice to friends. I was overwhelmed with the experience, the images, and even more by the joy upon delivery of the photographs to each of the families. Yep, I was hooked.

Birth photography is an incredible way to remember some of the most precious moments of a new life. As a birth photographer, my goal is to focus on the emotions of bringing a life in the world. Rather than emphasize on the clinical side, I center on the candid moments and details of labor, birth and those first bonding moments.

After being a part of 16 births in the last two years, my experience has gone from home births to the operating room. In this three-part tutorial I will share with you the elements I choose to highlight in each and every one of my birth stories.


When a mother contacts me, generally via email, I encourage a consultation either by phone or in person. During this time I am able to learn more about this particular pregnancy, birth history, birth plan and begin to gauge my integration to her birth plan. Depending on the location, specifically at a hospital, I encourage the mother to communicate my role to her doctor in the birth plan as early as possible. After shooting a numerous hospitals in my city, I am familiar with the different policies/permissions each might have, but it generally comes down to the doctor being aware of my future presence. Communication is key.

After a consultation, staying up to date from the last few weeks of pregnancy, up through beginning stages of labor, I will head to the hospital/birth center/home. Most often I head to the location when the mother has dilated to a 6, but this may vary upon the mother’s prior birth experience and/or type of birth plan.

Best advice upon shooting your first birth story, particularly in a hospital? I learned quickly that the nurses rule the roost. Being conscious and gracious of them, allows you to go a long way to produce the birth story that you hope to, filled with beautiful details and special moments.


Upon my arrival, I document details of the specific day. From the time of day, weather, hospital details, I want to capture those little things that may typically go unnoticed or undocumented, but are important to the baby’s story. My lens of choice for the details is a 50mm f/1.4.

I Heart Faces Birth Photography Tutorial

I Heart Faces Birth Photography Tutorial
I Heart Faces Birth Photography Tutorial
I Heart Faces Birth Photography Tutorial


As the onset of labor gets more intense, I begin to witness and document the beautiful connections between those involved in supporting the mother anticipating the baby’s arrival… one of my favorite parts of the birth story.

I generally shoot with two camera bodies.  So, along with my 50mm, I will have a 35mm for these moments with a 20mm and a 85mm in my Shootsac if needed. I choose to shoot with available light only; this is where lenses with wide apertures are quite necessary. The majority of my births in the last year have happened in the wee hours of the morning, so fast lenses are a must.

I Heart Faces Birth Photography Tutorial
I Heart Faces Birth Photography Tutorial

In between contractions, I focus on the specific details of the room, personal items and preparation tools for the baby’s arrival.

I Heart Faces Birth Photography Tutorial

I Heart Faces Birth Photography Tutorial

As labor intensifies, I move to my “station”, which is generally behind the mother’s shoulder, out of the way. This location offers a perfect view of the birth and the expressions of all those surrounding and supporting.

I Heart Faces Birth Photography Tutorial
I Heart Faces Birth Photography Tutorial


Be sure to catch the rest of this photography series in the month of June. Part 2 of this series on Birth Photography will cover the arrival of the baby, while Part 3 will finish with welcoming of the new babe and all the lovely events that transpire.
Heather Nan Parkinson for I Heart FacesHeather Parkinson, owner of Heather Nan Photography is a lover of capturing the significant moments of life, focusing mainly on wedding, birth and lifestyle family photography. Like her on Facebook, keep up with current work on her blog, ask questions at Formspring, follow her ramblings on Twitter, and her daughter’s hijinks on Tumblr .


{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Katelyn Honeycutt September 7, 2014

I would love to know what settings you use. I am doing my first birth shoot tomorrow. Just experimenting and doing it for experience. I am very worried about everything turning out too noisy. Any advice you can pass along would be great! TIA.


Zoe December 5, 2012

Great photos!

Question: how many lenses do you use the majority of time?

I saw you posted 4 diffrent lenses; 50mm, 35mm, 20mm, and 85mm.

I shoot Nikon and I have a DX body (D90) I use my 50mm 1.4G lens. Which I find not wide enough for shooting I have to keep moving back.
Which lens would you recommend for wide angle and for birthing photography? I was looking into getting the 70-200mm 2.8, but not sure if that lens would be helpful in a situation like that?

Thanks in advanced!


Valarie Kings June 19, 2012

I love baby photography and can’t wait to be photographed as I have my first born..


heather nan June 17, 2012

My only trick? As soon as I am contacted by the mother I urge her to speak to her doctor or mid-wife right away. I feel as though communicating this part of the birth plan in the early stages is the easiest way to get yourself in there. It is hard because you are not working directly with those who may have the biggest issue with it. Encourage your mother to share your info/website with the doctor to give them the confidence to have you in there… and once again, be ever so polite to those nurses :)


Heidi June 14, 2012

I’m so very excited to read this series – I’m a doula offering birth photography as part of my services. It is tricky being on call and racing out the door at odd hours, but the experience is amazing each and every time. I’ve been blessed to photograph 15 births so far and I’ve been desperately searching for more tips on how to best capture these moments for families – thank you for this post!

Side note, I’m also a mom to six and we had photographers at 3 of our births – those photos are priceless, I’m so thankful we made that investment.


Tara June 13, 2012

I LOVE LOVE LOVE birth photography! Ilove shooting it, and I love looking at the images! Each and every one is so personal! Just love! great series!


ModernSauce June 12, 2012

Wow. Would you want your labor photographed?!


Shay Hobbs June 12, 2012

I am not sure if it is just the mentality of the area or if I am going about it wrong but our hospitals/doctors will not let photographers into the delivery room. Is there a trick to winning them over?


Nelie June 12, 2012

These are really lovely photos! I think there are even a lot of parents who would love to hear more of this.. Thanks for the inspiration!


heather nan June 11, 2012

Lea… when it comes to incorporating this into your personal life, it is just that… personal, you have to figure that one out with your life and resources. I have had many a births in the middle of the night and at not so convenient times, (including one on my birthday/Thanksgiving). It is definitely a labor of love. I only have one child currently, (and one cooking), so perhaps it is a bit easier in my situation, either way, I need someone there. Sorry, not much advice in this department :) Good luck to you!


Olivier Haran June 11, 2012

Birth & Newborn Photography Tips – Labor #photography


Declan Mc Glone June 11, 2012

Birth & Newborn Photography Tips – Labor #photography


Leilani Rogers, Photographer June 11, 2012

Thanks so much for sharing this Heather! As a fellow birth photographer it makes me smile to see birth photography shared and explained so well!!!


Angie June 11, 2012

This *almost* makes me wish we were having another baby! 😉 —>RT @iheartfaces: Birth Photography Tips | Labor


Amy Locurto June 11, 2012

Oh wow… I wish i knew about this when i had my babies. RT @iHeartFaces: Birth Photography Tips for Labor


Life with Kaishon June 11, 2012

Heather is one of my favorite photographers! I love her work. Sarah Carson Wise has also recently begun shooting births. She loves it very much. I love when people find their niche.


Lea June 11, 2012

I love this! I too am very interested in providing birth photography. I have three babies myself and after the opportunity to photograph my best friend’s labor and delivery this past April, I am even more interested! I really look forward to the next two parts to this. I’d really be interested to hear how you incorporate this into regular life. My husband is concerned (rightly so) that this wouldn’t be a good fit for our family because he’s in the Army and has a crazy schedule at best. I’m not sure how it would work out with heading off to a birth at 2:00 am and then getting my kids to school the next day, etc. I’d love to hear how you manage this and what tips you have for lining up childcare last minute, etc.


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