Birth Backup - A guide to documenting your own birth

Being a birth photographer the last 6 years, I am completely devastated to be living in a world where a virus has now prohibited more than 1 visitor per patient. As of right now, I have 3 clients whose birth is being affected by COVID-19, and this visitation rule, and I hope that number does not continue to grow. My heart goes out to all of the delivering mamas during this time who cannot have the birth experience they have dreamed of their entire pregnancy. To help, in the only way I know possible, I am providing my back up camera to clients, as well as collecting volunteer cameras from others, to donate to mamas during their delivery. If you have your own camera or will be using your cell phone for photos, below you can find a few tips to make sure you get all of the shots I would in a birth or fresh 48.

Clients Borrowing a Camera from me/Or if you have a DSLR to use:

  • Make sure the camera is on manual mode so you can manipulate the settings for different lighting. This is the "M" on the circular dial.

  • I deliver my cameras with the settings as follows: Shutter speed 1/160 or 1/200, Aperture 4.0, & I leave the ISO on AUTO as there will be several different light changes in the delivery room. If you feel comfortable changing the ISO, one simple way to think about it is like the pupil in your eye - the larger the pupil (number) the more light it lets in (brighter the photo will be). Feel free to change the ISO to fit the lighting scenario, but I would not advise going higher than 1600; this will create grainy photos when I am editing.

  • To keep it simple, the only thing you should change is the ISO.

  • Lighting in hospitals is not always great and the professional cameras, provided by myself, do not have a flash. To achieve the best lighting, open the windows all the way and cut off any lighting in the room. The best ISO for natural lighting and the way I edit is 600 or less. ISO can be changed by clicking the "ISO button" on the top right of the camera or by clicking the "Q" on the back of the camera.

If your are using your cell phone to document:

  • Stay away from portrait mode. It often blurs out too much of the shot and doesn't capture all of the details you intended.

  • Take all photos in landscape mode (turn your phone sideways). This way, your images upload to social media and can be printed without distortion.

  • Keep the room well lit at all times so the photos are not blurry.

One thing I have also suggested to my clients is to turn your video on during the last few pushes (or right before baby arrives) so that you have an audio clip of mamas reaction to meeting baby.

SHOT LIST - All the must have photos

Non-active labor.

  • Take some photos of what mom is doing during the process.

  • Make sure you get the small tid-bits of the birth story as well... Hospital room number, the TOCO machine, Audio or video of baby's heartbeat, the baby warmer, the clock throughout the day, etc.

Active Labor

  • Don't focus on having the camera in your hand the entire time mom is pushing. Take some photos when she first starts pushing and some when she starts making change or if she changes position to push.

  • A video would even be cool at one point. Don't forget if you are using a cellphone to turn your phone sideways!

Baby's arrival

  • Get a shot of baby first coming out - doctor holding them up, or ask your nurse to so you can be present in the moment.

  • Get the cord!!!

  • Ask the nurse prior to delivery to document the cutting of the umbilical cord.

  • Don't forget the placenta!

  • Get shots of baby on moms chest, breastfeeding, spouse holding baby, etc.

Baby's Stats

  • This would be a cool time to record baby being measured, weighed and getting their first bath.

Fresh 48

  • Open the windows entirely to get maximum amount of natural light and turn off all fluorescent and yellow lighting in room. Try to take these photos in front of the window so baby is backlit by natural lighting.

  • Before dressing baby, snag all the shots of their tiny features: hands, feet, ears, nose, belly button, hairline, any birth marks, their hospital bracelets.

  • Get several different angles of baby in bassinet in front of the window

  • Make sure to get both parents and baby in a photo standing in front of the window so they are well lit and sitting in the bed.

  • Don't forget to document your door hanger hanging on the outside of your hospital room door.

  • Take one last shot of mom being wheeled out with baby as you go home.

If you have any questions, or would like to provide a camera to one of these mamas, please email me at or message me on Facebook/Instagram.

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