the cost of birth photography

I want every woman to have the option to have her birth photographed, if it matters to her. I believe it makes a difference and that the resulting images become family treasures. I am certain that no one who hires a birth photographer will ever regret it.

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In birth photography, a woman gets to see herself as she really is: strong, capable, and absolutely gorgeous. In birth photography, a couple gets to see their love in action, as they partner together to work through the process of labor. Through birth photography, a family gets to relive their beginnings, the moments when they first laid eyes on one another and were forever changed. 

When I first began trying my hand at birth photography -- freshly enamored with and hungry to be allowed to be near birth at all -- I began by charging just $400 (!!). That was a choice I made because I wanted birth photography to be accessible to anyone who wants it, and because I was just getting started building my portfolio... AND because I didn't yet understand the cost and value of all that it entails! In the part of the country where I live, at the time when I was getting started (2012) many women hadn't even thought of having their births photographed before, so they were being introduced to the concept for the first time, perhaps not yet fully conscious of its value. I certainly don't regret those early days or what I charged for the services; it was a necessary season. 

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But. It's labor intensive. To be a birth photographer is joy and gift, but it is costly. Every time I go on call for a birth, it means my family has to stay locked down around home for up to five weeks (week 37 of her pregnancy until the baby is born). It means that I rather suddenly head off to work, often at odd hours, leaving my husband to flex his own work hours to stay with our kids, or leaving us to find a sitter on very short notice at a high payment rate. It means that I'm shooting in lighting situations that are hard or bordering on impossible, and though I'm confident in my capability and my camera gears’ suitability to work with difficult light, it still means that the editing process is longer and harder than if we were shooting outdoors during golden hour on a warm summer night.

I do it because I love it. But the counsel of other professionals and friends eventually led me to see that I must put higher value on what I'm doing. 

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Let me try to break it down, item by item:

  • Being on-call for 35 days, 24-7 : $700 ($20/day - how do you put a price tag on that?)

  • On-call babysitting services for during the birth : $66 ($11/hour for my four kids for 6 hours... but it could be more or maybe less depending on the length of the birth)

  • Hours spent at a birth (average 8) : $600 ($75/hour, which is less than I make shooting any other session type)

  • hours spent culling, editing, exporting, uploading (about 7 hours, images are in my clients' possession within 2-3 weeks): $175

  • childcare services so that i CAN cull, edit, export, upload : $88 ($11/hour for an 8-hour day for an in-home sitter)

  • having/maintaining the right gear/equipment (cameras, lenses, computer, software, online gallery hosting, etc): $200 (hard to estimate)

  • client owns all digital files : $300 (many photographers don't include digital files at all)

  • 40-page photo book of select images (and my time designing it or hiring someone else to do so) : $200

  • my uniquely artistic, photojournalistic, emotional style (can i brag just a tiny bit?) : priceless

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TOTAL : $2,329

I don't charge quite that much (in fact, I currently charge about half that!), because I sincerely want women to be able to have birth photography (did I already say that?). I only spell that all out so that it’s easier to understand how I've arrived at the pricing structure that I have, and to make it clear that I’m not getting rich off of this; I’m just trying to get by.

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That said, I believe in doulas, and I wouldn't want someone to choose me instead of a doula. So, I offer modest discounts for those also hiring a doula (or you can hire me to also be your doula and save significantly with that bundling of services). I also believe deeply in the benefits of home birth, which often must be paid for out of pocket, so if that's the road you're taking, there's a discount for you, too. 

As ever, I remain very open to working out barters as well. Barters can be arranged to cover some or all of your birth photography package. And sometimes I might be able to work out an extended repayment plan with clients who just need a bit more time to get all the financial ducks in a row.

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You can always reach out if you have more questions. Soon I’ll be putting together a Barter Page where you can peruse our family’s list of needs/desires and, if any of them are things you can provide, reach out to arrange a full or partial barter. :)

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