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Should You Hire a Birth Photographer?

holding newborn baby

The birth of your child will be one of the most amazing days of your life. Of course you'll want to document the moment in some way, so the question remains -- should you hire a birth photographer, or just snap some shots yourself?

For some, the idea of bringing a professional photographer into their homes or delivery rooms to share in the excitement is a bit too much. "We had people who were part of the experience take pictures," says Deborah Poppink Hirshland, a children's music artist based in Los Angeles, California. "For my first baby the doula snapped shots, and for the second it was my husband. They were simple and real. Fascinating!"

The field of birth photography is growing in popularity and is becoming much more common as more parents invite photographers to their birth experiences, according to The International Association of Professional Birth Photographers (IAPBP), an organization that aims to help connect interested parents with birth photographers in their area.

Beth Skogen of Madison, Wisconsin, is the photographer behind Capturing Day One. She's a member of IAPBP, and founded her own documentary birth photography business about four years ago, when she photographed the birth of her good friend's first child.

"Birth photography is my passion, and I feel so fortunate that these people allow me to capture their babies' birthday for them," Skogen says. "I don't take those moments for granted. Birth photography is documentary photography at its core -- there is no such thing as posing here. Even if you don't intend on sharing the images publicly, you will find that birth photography provides the best narrative of your birth experience. The memories you have from your birth experience won't stay with you forever. The documentary nature of this work will always call those memories back."

Each photographer's style will vary, but Skogan says she shies away from using anything fake -- no backgrounds, props or special lighting. "I'm a fly on the wall," she says. "Many of my clients have told me after their birth they didn't even realize I was there. And that's the point."

As storytelling increasingly becomes more digital, some photographers might add multimedia elements to your package. "I've also been getting more into recording audio and shooting video of the day as well," Skogan says.

Before you hire a photographer, know that one won't necessarily come cheaply. Packages vary widely, but prices could run from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on location, a photographer's experience, and products used. Parents who have used birth photographers seem to be excited about the end results. "I used a birth photographer at my babies' births," says Karen Shopoff Rooff, a certified personal trainer and fitness business development coach in Austin, Texas. "The photos I have from the labor, birth, and the first few minutes of life are my most prized material possessions. I am grateful to have had a competent, caring, and unobtrusive person capture those precious hours."

At the end of the day, giving birth is an incredibly personal moment for you and your family, and the decision about whether to hire a birth photographer should be one that makes you most comfortable. If you choose to hire one, ask around for recommendations, and get to know the photographer before he or she is part of the day.

Copyright & copy 2013 Meredith Corporation.