So you want to hire a birth photographer! Excellent choice. You've done your research, know who's work you love and why you want a birth photographer. You know the things to ask before hiring a birth photographer...but how much is it all going to cost?
A reputable and experienced birth photographer isn't cheap. The average cost of birth photography runs from $1500-$3500 depending on the level of services offered. In general, you should expect to pay as much as you would for a reputable and experienced wedding photographer in your area. Did your eyes just pop out of your head? How could it possibly cost THAT MUCH to come and snap a few pictures for an hour or so? Stick with me and let's unpack that.
BIRTH IS UNPREDICTABLE
It is impossible to time arrival so that your photographer is only there for the moment of delivery or just after. I, like most birth photographers, aim to arrive in your birth space near the transition phase of labor (approximately 6-7cm dilated). This gives us the most assurance that we will not miss the delivery, but that you are still far enough along in your labor that birth that we aren't hanging around thru periods of little activity or when you are trying to rest. Still, once your birth photographer arrives, there is no way for her to know if she is going to be there for 4 hours or 24 hours.
In general, labor progresses at a rate of about 1 cm per hour, but this isn't a hard, fast rule. Every woman is different, every baby is different and every labor is different. I've had mamas fly thru and go from 5cm to here's-your-baby in an hour. I've also had mamas push for 3 hours. Your birth photographer has to charge enough to account for the possibility that she may be working for 24 hours straight.
Pricing is usually fixed so that you don’t have to worry about additional costs if your labor stalls or takes much longer than expected.
THE WORK ISN’T DONE WHEN WE LEAVE THE BIRTH
The time we spend capturing your birth is only a small part of the process it takes to make your images great. Hospital lighting is pretty awful, and it takes quite a bit of time editing your images to turn them into the magical memories we deliver. We have fancy cameras capable of recording much better pictures than smart phones and the average camera marketed to consumers, but the real work is still done in post processing.
RUNNING A LEGITIMATE BUSINESS COSTS MONEY
Equipment maintenance, backup equipment, licensing fees, taxes...these are expenses that every small business incurs. Not to mention the expenses that come along with always being on-call: backup photographers, on-call childcare providers, etc. We have to make sure we are taking in enough to run a sustainable business, meet our commitments to clients, AND make a living.
Why should that matter to you? Because the last thing you want at 38 weeks pregnant is to get a refund and a ‘no-longer-in-business’ email from the person you were expecting to capture your birth, have your photographer fall ill or their only camera fail or break in the middle of your birth (with no backups), or (worse) to call when you go into labor and receive no answer at all.
It is important to protect your investment by hiring a photographer who is running a legal and sustainable business.
WE HAVE FAMILIES TOO
Yes, we birth photographers LOVE what we do so much that it rarely feels like work. Still, it's a job that requires sacrifice, mostly from the people who love us. We plan family time and vacations around the 3-4 weeks that we are on-call for our clients, miss holidays and other important events to attend births, and generally put you before our own families. Yes, we absolutely feel privileged to do the work we do, but ultimately this is our JOB. We do it to help support our families financially and we have to make an adequate wage to continue to offer the services we do.
The key thing to take away from this is that the old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ always rings true. Photographers who do not charge within that average range are likely not earning enough to account for their business costs and personal salary. They will eventually find themselves in situations where they are unable (or unmotivated) to keep the commitments they have made to clients and ultimately, go out of business altogether. I’ve seen it more times than I can count. You don’t want to be the client who’s ball gets dropped.
Keep reading for some tips on how to get the birth photographer of your dreams…
HOW TO MAKE IT WORK FINANCIALLY
If you desire birth photography, we really want to do everything we can to make sure you have it. Here are a few things you can do or ask about that can help soften the blow to your bank account.
1. Start saving BEFORE you are pregnant. If you know you'll want it, start putting funds aside for it NOW. It really doesn't take long to accumulate enough savings to make the expense so much more palatable when the time comes.
2. Reach out to your favorite photographer early. I promise, we won't think you're crazy for emailing us to say "I'm not actually pregnant yet but...". We'll happily send over all of our information, friend you on social media, and be waiting for the moment we get to celebrate with you over the pregnancy announcement.
3. Ask for a gift registry listing. You have friends a family out there that are going to want to shower you with gifts. Let them know how much birth photography means to you. I’m more than happy to set up a page where friends and family can directly contribute any amount they choose toward your birth photography package. Share it on social media, you never know who might feel inclined to bless you with a little something. Dollars add up!
4. Ask for a payment plan. Most birth photographers are moms too. We know how expensive preparing for a baby can be. We also know how much having pictures from your birth will mean to you when all is said and done. It is our greatest joy to be able to give a mama back the memories of the moments she missed or has forgotten about. We don’t want money to be the reason you miss this opportunity to begin building a history for your family and a legacy of love for your tiny little human.
5. Opt for a Fresh 48 instead. This birth space session is a truly fantastic alternative to actual birth coverage. It is a shorter session, (scheduled during business hours) within 48 hours of delivery. The investment for a Fresh 48 is significantly less than birth photography, but the resulting images can still feel very similar as we are able to capture many of the same moments and details of the birth space. In fact, all of the images in this post are from a Fresh 48.