Capturing Birth Stories

Last week my girlfriend Jennifer welcomed her second little girl to the world.  Meet Miss Allyson Sky.

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Last week it was my third time witnessing a delivery with camera in hand, and after a quick post on Facebook, I was surprised by the response and knew I had to write about capturing birth stories. After all, does anyone else feel like everyone around them is having a baby?  Last winter I had 15 pregnant friends!

I’ll be writing a much more in depth article to appear on PhotoTuts+ where you will begin seeing super in depth how-to’s by me (as in, 1500 word articles).  But for now I’ll keep it simple and give a few tips whether you’re professional or hobbyist to help you document the day as well as you can.

Tips on capturing a birth story:

  • Turn off your flash.  No no flashy flash.
  • Pick an ISO that’s high enough, works well, and stick to it.  With everything going on, you won’t have time to change it. You’ll be indoors the entire time anyway.
  • Your light will change – some rooms will be darker than others, lights will turn on, some areas will be better lit. You can manage proper exposure by quickly adjusting with your F-stop. I choose to shoot at F2.0 and stay around that range to let enough light in, but still get sharp images. Again, ensure your shutterspeed is fast enough to get a sharp image as you toggle from say F1.4 to F3.2.
  • Know you aren’t constricted to sitting on the chair, but ask what you are not allowed to touch (you really shouldn’t touch anything).
  • Document what’s going on, emotions, capture the clock, who is visiting, the contraction charts.
  • You are not there to stage, ask to repeat, or do anything.  This is not portrait time during a wedding. You must shoot fast, know your focal point, correct settings, and shoot.  There are no re-do’s when the baby comes out (you can’t put it back), when they clean, weigh, measure, or footprint be there and document quickly.
  • Be aware of baby privates, mommy privates, and strategically crop or capture when either isn’t exposed.  You can do so by your positioning or waiting for a better moment.
  • As you edit, typically B&W images cut away distractions and allow you to focus on the feelings.  I prefer all birth story photos in B&W.

From different past captured birth story moments (different babies in all pics):

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Here is a slideshow of a birth story I captured a few years ago, I’d say this accurately depicts a successful documentation.  If you have 5 minutes, watch this – it’s a very special mom in my life, I have known her since she was 10 and I was in college.   You will see a few shots of me in there.

Good luck capturing your birth stories, don’t be afraid to move around and be creative!

Equipment used: Canon 5D Mark III / 50mm f/1.2L / 85 f/1.8EF / 35mm f/1.4 L

Diana Elizabeth doesn’t regularly shoot birth stories but she has been there as support if she’s super close to the mom’s who need her in the room. She just so happens to decide to bring her camera with her too – with permission of course.

Diana Elizabeth is an author, photographer, and obsessive thrift shopper. You can typically find her in the garden wrist deep in dirt, at a local estate sale or planning her next epic party. She continues to blog weekly.


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