I admire birth photographers.
I don’t engage in birth photography myself, but I marvel at those who do it well. The emotional climate is always changing at a birth, and so a photographer must not only be prepared in their own heart and mind, but also bring to the birth a level of patience, compassion, and skill that allows them to adapt to any and all changing conditions. The photographer is there to document what is in front of them and has very little to no control over the situation. They can’t dictate to the doctors or midwives what they need:
“Hey, could you angle that light a little bit for me? I know you are trying to deliver a baby and all, but that would really help ME.”
“Woah…woah…woah…slow it down there. This is going way too fast. Could you wait a minute to deliver? I am not quite ready.”
“Hey, there, Doctor. I’m going to need you to perform the caesarean super slow. That would be great.”
“DUDE! YOU’RE IN MY LIGHT!”
No. You don’t get to do that.
And it’s a one time-deal; kind of like a wedding. There is no way to re-insert baby back into the womb for a re-shoot if you muck things up. You get ONE opportunity. One. The parents are counting on you.
So knowing all this…and here comes the Tough Love part…don’t take it on if you don’t know what you’re doing. And this applies to any job.
I read a post in my newsfeed recently about a birth photographer who was in distress. She was at the hospital freaking out and asking for tips because the room the mom was in didn’t have a big window and she is a 100% outdoor natural light photographer.
Just in case it wasn’t clear, she was AT THE BIRTH in the room, asking for help shooting it because the room was dark. <gasp> A dark room? In a hospital? Well, that’s unusual. Except not at all.
She had no idea what to do. Of course, she was flooded with suggestions from photographers. I almost chimed in, too, as everyone wanted that mama to have great images.
And, maybe the photographer ended up pulling it off. Or…maybe she didn’t. One thing is for sure, she’s not alone. We’ve all read stories of unpreparedness; photographers showing up to photograph a session or event only to be smacked in the face with the knowledge that they are in over their heads because their skill level isn’t quite there, yet. And then the frantic cry goes out over social media for “HELP!”
“QUICK! PEEPS! I’ve got a maternity session in an hour and I need posing tips!”
“Shooting in a very dark church tomorrow and don’t know how to use off-camera flash. HELP!”
“Client changed locations and I don’t know what to do now. Anybody ever photographed at <fill in blank>?”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. When you’re new, you don’t know stuff. We’ve all been there. But here’s the thing: you don’t take on a job unless you are able to do it. Period. End of story.
My friends, people are trusting you with their memories, and when a lack of skill and know-how mucks it up, BOTH of you are hurt by it. Actually, the entire industry is hurt, because we are in this profession called Professional Photography together.
Lift up the bar of excellence by being as fully prepared as possible.
The industry is counting on you. And so are your clients. xoxo
About the Author
Lynn Cartia (AKA Missy Mwac) is a photographer/eater of bacon/drinker of vodka and a guide through the murky waters of professional photography. You can follow her social media links here: Facebook, Tumblr. This article is also published here and shared with permission.