I want every woman to have the option to have her birth photographed. I believe it really matters, and I am certain that no one who hires a birth photographer will ever regret having those photos. 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've made because I wanted birth photography to be accessible to anyone who wants it, and because I was just getting started... AND because I didn't yet understand the cost and value of all that it entails! In this part of the country, 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 it's value. I certainly don't regret those early days or what I charged for the services; it was a necessary season.
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 28 days (or 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. It means that I'm shooting in lighting situations that are hard or bordering on impossible, and though I'm proud of how much I've grown in my capability to work with difficult light, it still means that the editing process is 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.
Let me try to break it down, item by item:
- Being on-call for 28 days, 24-7 : $560 ($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 6) : $150 ($25/hour)
- 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) : $150
- my uniquely artistic, photojournalistic, emotional style (can i brag just a tiny bit?) : priceless
TOTAL : $1,374
I don't charge quite that much, 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 you can begin to understand how I've arrived at the pricing structure that I have.
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. AND I believe deeply in the benefits of home birth, which often must be paid for out of pocket. 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.
A funny thing happened to me this fall. I came out of denial about my desire to become a home birth midwife, I finally shook off the fear that had kept me from seriously considering that path, and I've found an incredible amount of joyful anticipation coupled with abundant confirmation about pursing training and apprenticeship in midwifery. I hope to begin in the next year or two. In the meantime, with each birth I photograph I'm learning more and putting aside some funds to pay for my education. So each family who invests in birth photography with me because they first and foremost deeply value the timeless worth of such images for their own family is also, in a roundabout way, helping a midwife to be formed and birthed, so that many more women and families can have empowered and supported births. It's a great circle.
I'm about 3.5 weeks away from having my 4th baby. Yes, we're having a birth photographer present. Yes, I'll share the images with you. :)