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