The Luxury Investment of Birth Photography
Back in the old days
I grew up in a middle class family in rural Nevada. Going to a professional photographer in the 90's for us involved making a big trip out to the city, getting a coupon code to the Sears Portrait Studio at the mall, and snapping a few photos in front of a cheesy Fall nature backdrop. The session lasted 15 minutes and you were out the door, prints ordered within 60 minutes.
Confession: When I was a new mom and whose husband was making it through graduate school we totally did a few of those Sears Portrait Sessions. Money was super tight! We couldn't afford a newborn photographer at the time. I remember they would always push us to buy the $200+ CD with the digital copies but we would disappoint them every single time. We'd only pick out 2 or 3 of our favorites and pay $20 for the whole thing. I often felt bad because I believed those photographers made most of their money on the commission, but there was no way we could buy their fancy CD!
ALL prices and Ranges
Many of us experience hiring some sort of photographer in our lifetime to capture important events such as weddings, or update a family picture every few years. Photographers come in all sorts of price ranges based off of their experience, the specialty, and even the town/city you live in. Professional photography is a luxury service. Not everyone can afford it or wants to spend a large amount of money on our services. It's the reality and an important reality to recognize for those of us who specialize in higher end specialty photography (weddings or births are an easy example) where you are typically charging in the $1000-$5000+ range! Pricing and how to attract clientele is a hot topic that is discussed often in online birth photography groups. How can we charge a fair price for our time and skills while informing our target market of expecting families why our services cost what they do?
The wedding photographer analogy
Imagine you are a wedding photographer. You get an email from a potential client. They want to meet with you in person to talk about hiring you as a photographer for their big, very important day. In the appointment you learn that this wedding has a range of dates instead of a set date. There is also a chance that it may come earlier than those expected range of dates. They also tell you that they are not sure if they need you to be there for 4 hours or over 24 hours. There is also good chance that the wedding will take place at night with only the light of a candle stick and you might get a call at 3 AM to jump out of bed and hurry out to the venue. There isn't a schedule of how the events will unfold but to basically be ready and prepared for all unpredictability.
How much should the wedding photographer charge for taking on such a client? A lot of people would never consider taking a job like this, let alone what someone should charge for such a wild gig! I cannot imagine a wedding photographer seriously taking on a job like this for less than several thousand dollars. Here's the thing: This is exactly what birth photographers do. We are not family photographers that can or should treat someone's birth as an hour long family session. A hard aspect of this job is that we want to make it as affordable as we can and that more families can have access to this luxury item. Even some of the most talented award winning birth photographers in the country are not charging $5000+. I can't speak for every single top notch birth photographer out there in the world, but most of them are charging half that price to come out to your birth. This job is incredibly stressful, and can be physically and mentally exhausting. As birth professionals we take a risk every time we go out on the job that something really scary or heartbreaking can occur.
We are all in this niche specialty because it is truly a miracle and a humbling experience to witness life. It is beautiful and we capture families in their most raw and authentic moments. They are priceless moments frozen in time.
But Seriously It's Still So Much Money
Can you afford luxury photography if you are not upper class or wealthy? Birth photography can be affordable for everyone. Here are a few ideas to think about.
1. Hire early in your pregnancy if you can. The burden is a lot lighter and realistic if you are 12 weeks vs 30 weeks pregnant. The typical protocol for birth photographers would be putting down a retainer during signing contracts and then having the option to pay as you wish until 37-38 weeks pregnant. Many photographers have payment plans and options leading up to birth to help families. From our personal experience, most of our clientele use our payment system.
2. Prioritize what is most important to you as an expecting couple. Do you want a brand new decked out nursery with all the best stuff and top of the line strollers and things? That's completely fine if you do but if photography is also something you also want and you are on a budget for those pregnancy months, you may want to reconsider what stuff you really want and prioritize.
3. Put it on a registry! Yes, instead of family and friends gifting you a mountain's high worth of cute little outfits and blankets you can ask them to put their money towards a photographer. Some photographers, like Pittsburgh Born Photography, will set up a birth photography registry to set up for friends and family to contribute to. You might even get it ALL paid for by your friends and family.
Birth is our passion and our clients are our priority. We often develop lasting relationships with our clients. We've seen all kinds of births and can be a wonderful addition to your birthing team.