I have had the privilege of working with Rachael Steele of Steele the Moment Birth Photography several times. Here is her fabulous facebook page. If you are interested in birth photography I would highly recommend looking at all of the wonderful local options. The photos will be something you will cherish forever and everyone I have ever spoken to about them have found them well worth the cost. Below you will also find some beautiful examples of her work. I was at several of these births as a second midwife to Laura Hopper another wonderful local midwife resource.
Here is my interview with Rachael:
When did you first become interested in photography?
I have always had a fascination with the idea of being able to photograph and freeze moments in time…a fascination that started very young and was inspired by many artists including Anne Geddes. I remember even at about the age of thirteen, setting up a fur rug to take a picture of my newborn sister, as well as a close-up picture of a beautiful flower and thought somehow that I was going to put it together to make this beautiful piece of art! Not quite sure how I thought I was going to do that to be honest, haha. Yet the desire to make art out of a precious new life while at the same time capturing all her little details forever was definitely already there at that point!
What about birth photography?
I first heard about birth photography from a fellow twin mom on the mothering.com twins forum actually! I had just started to really get into the world of professional photography, and as I also had such a love for the whole birth process (but no desire to be any kind of medical personnel) I could not believe what I was hearing! Two of my passions all wrapped up into one! And not only that, the whole idea of the sentiment behind it…I am a very sentimental person. Yes, I save everything. I wrote every single detail down in a pregnancy journal with both of my pregnancies, did baby books, kept little sentiments, had hand and foot molds done, etc. Everything I can get my hands on to sort of capture those little details that are so soon forgotten. What a wonderful idea, to be able to preserve those memories and at the same time, allow the support team to work with mom and not even worry about taking pictures! Phenomenal! Not only did I wish I had thought of it with my births, but I wanted so badly to be able to provide such an invaluable service to as many families as I could.
Well, the first birth I ever attended would have been my oldest sisters. I was probably 17 or so and just there to support my sister. Even at that young single age I remember being a little bit shocked since I had never really seen a baby be born before, but I have been so amazed since then and continue to be amazed at the human body, the things that it can create and the hard things it can do! I attended several other family member births after that and it never ceased to amaze me. Following a long period of training and being mentored specific to birth photography I took on my first birth client, a dear friend of mine where I was able to photograph her breathtaking home birth. It was such a remarkable thing to be a part of. And from that moment on, I knew it was my calling in life to be able to preserve these special memories for people.
Why would someone want birth photography?
As one of my birth photographer colleagues says, “Because they only take their first breath once.” You know, this is the hardest thing for me to answer sometimes. I know the answer…but it is hard to describe. Each one of my clients could tell you, but kind of like having a baby, you will never fully understand until you have had the experience. For many mama’s it is so very healing and empowering to be able to actually see the work and the labor of love they put in to bringing their child into this world. To be able to see the love and support that surrounded them throughout the whole process. To me, there is no greater gift a person can give themselves, their baby, and their posterity than to have professionally captured those fleeting moments.
Why hire a professional?
As much as it would be nice to be able to have just anyone record your story, the sad truth is that many of those special moments will be missed, and those moments are things that you cant get back. As a professional birth photographer I am trained to hone in on the details and quiet moments that matter the most, often times they are little bits of importance that the average person may not catch as “important” but is very much a part of the journey. Many people may think it’s just the difference in the camera, but that is not the case. Yes…I have a nice big camera, but it is just a tool, and knowing how to use it properly is what makes the difference. I chose my camera and lens’s specifically to be able to capture great images in low light situations and have been trained in just about every aspect/scenario that comes along with birth. The difference in training as not just a professional, but a professional birth photographer is of immense importance.
Can't dad take pictures?
Words cannot describe! Please if I may share a link that will show you exactly what moments you would have missed if dad were behind the camera instead. As a member of the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers, a group of us got together to share our best images that just begin to describe the answer to this question. Please, enjoy our video “Hold her hand, not the camera”
What if I don’t want pictures of the baby coming out?
This is what makes birth photography so great! It is totally up to you how much or how little you want in your photos. Either way, rest assured you will have a complete birth story start to finish regardless of what you choose. It is purely personal preference. Some people want images they maybe even just want to keep to themselves to see the hard work they did, some may just want the images of babies head coming out where you cannot see anything else revealing, and then some choose to wait until baby comes up for their first breath. There is no right or wrong choice; it is absolutely up to you!
What about modest pictures?
Again, it is completely up to you how you want the images to turn out. There are almost always angles I can use to take the images in a way that it is as modest as you would like it to be. I am always very conscious and respectful of the birth space and my clients’ privacy and do everything I can to make it comfortable…more like a “fly on the wall” kind of experience.
What if I do want pictures of the baby coming out?
Absolutely. I have no problem with however my client decides they want their images taken.
What type of editing do you do?
Well, to start off…each of my clients gets a folder of color images as well as a folder of black and white images. Many birth photographers will just do black and white, but often times I find that I absolutely love the color image and I don’t want to take that away. For that reason, I provide both. So it is up to my client to decide which ones they like in color and which ones they like better in black and white. As far as actual editing, I “process” each of the images a certain way, I don’t ever “touch up” the images. I won’t remove things out of the photo or change anything in a way that does not depict the trueness of the actual experience. Most of what makes the images what they are, is the way that I actually “take” them in the first place. It’s true there is cropping and tilting and converting to jpg format, etc. and all my images go through a similar process, but it’s all just a way to get the images into a usable format.
How do the doctors and midwives like working with you?
I have a really good working relationship with a lot of providers including midwives, doctors and nurses. I have worked with a lot of them in the area so most of them are familiar with me and it has been a great experience! I have had both midwives as well as doctors tell me that they actually really enjoyed being able to see their job from that perspective as well.
When do you like to get called to the birth?
Basically once my client is in active labor I want to be there. For most home births, I will show up shortly after the midwife does. I want to be there soon enough to get “laboring” shots as well as pictures of those moments when their support members are there for them and helping them through their progress. I want to be able to get detail shots before hand also, in a way that sets the seen. Pictures of all the stuff that is out and ready for baby, maybe what other family members are doing while waiting, the weather, the date on a newspaper or calendar, and things like that.
What if I have a c-section?
Well, in general the rule is that as long as it is not a complete emergency and the doctor and anesthesiologist are okay with it, then it is allowed. There are no actual policy’s set in place at our local hospital that prevents photographs from being taken, as long as there are no photographs of any actual procedures. Even if something turned into c-section and I was not able to photograph that part of the birth story, there is still a story to be told. Even if the birth story images went from mom and dad walking into the OR, a picture of the empty room they were in and a picture of the clock at the time, then a picture of them coming out with their new bundle of joy. Then a lot of times they can wait to do the length, weight and footprints til they are in a regular room, so everything is still there and the story is still complete.
Tell me about the difference in shooting photos at a hospital birth verses shooting a homebirth?
Really there isn’t much difference as far as my job goes. The hospital ones I do tend to mostly be medicated, not all, but most. So those ones are easier to gauge how long I have. But that’s not always the case. The only other difference besides the “security” at the hospital is that the lighting is usually always the same in the hospital, very 2 dimensional. Because of that, I shoot a little bit differently in order to create 3 dimensions. Just technical stuff though. Each birth is different regardless of whether it is in the hospital or at home.
Do you do maternity and/or newborn photos?
Yes, absolutely! I specialize in maternity, birth and newborn. I have packages for each so you are able to combine either of those options together, which makes it nice for my clients to sort of be able to build their package how they want between those options.
Tell me about the birth where you learned the most about taking birth pictures?
Oh gosh, that’s a tough one! I’d say I have several. No matter how long a photographer is in the field, you learn something new at every single session I think. For me it was important to learn everything I needed to know about taking birth photos, before ever stepping foot into a birth to “practice” on, as birth is not something you can retake if you miss something. But if I had to pick, I would probably say some of my “firsts”. For instance my very first home birth, my very first hospital birth, first twin birth, first c-section, etc.
How long after the birth do I have to wait to get pictures?
I will usually give you a sneak peek within the first 24 hours of the birth. That way you have some beautiful images you can share with family and friends immediately to announce the birth of your new little one! I always say 4 to 6 weeks for the CD of all 150 to 300 images, although I have gotten them back within a couple of days. It sort of depends on how much work I have at the time. But is never beyond the 6 week mark and usually by 4 or sooner. If you need images for birth announcements, etc. I am always really flexible with emailing you a couple if you would like.
How much do you charge and what is included?
Well, I always tell my clients in the beginning that it may be something you need to save up for. I do take payments as well, but it is along the lines of wedding photography (except that a wedding photographer isn’t on call 24/7 like I am ). Right now I am currently charging $400 for the birth, and have packages that include either the newborn or a maternity session for $575 and my “Whole Bundle of Joy” package which includes a maternity session as well as the birth and newborn sessions for $750. (These are my current specials that require a $100 deposit to hold at that price)
Any final words?
I just want to emphasize how priceless and invaluable birth photography is. No matter what your concern, I have never once had an unsatisfied customer. It definitely isn’t something you will regret! But I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to that never quite get around to booking their session until it’s too late and they say how much they had wished that they had done it. For me, it’s not an option. Not just as the professional birth photographer, but as a mother myself. My next birth, no matter what the obstacle, I will make sure I have my birth documented in a professional way so I can freeze those moments in time so the memories can always be fresh in my mind.