Whenever we make a purchase, we consider the “value” we receive. It’s no different when hiring a professional photographer or doula. Unfortunately, not many people readily understand the value of hiring a professional of either variety. Below I provide some insight into the distinct value a professional doula and professional birth photographer bring to the birth experience.
Interest in You
A professional photographer and doula will spend time getting to know their clients, their preferences, needs and special requests. The professional photographer brings the knowledge, experience and capability to capture and craft images in their own unique style, with your desires in mind. A professional photographer focuses on their “assignment” so you can focus on making the memories.
A professional doula works extensively to understand your concerns, fears and goals of your birth experience and is knowledgeable in finding you additional resources if necessary. It is wonderful to have your friend or family member there to support and experience this joyful event but without the proper training and education they may not be able to help you navigate your labor choices or be able to educate you on the pros and cons of your options.
A professional photographer brings an artistic eye to the equation. One focused not only on the subject but also the background, the lighting, the composition, the depth of field and a host of other elements that not every one can “see” when crafting an image. Artistic vision and the ability to “see” the image helps a photographer craft memorable images vs. snapshots.
A professional doula helps mom keep the vision of her birth plan. When the laboring mom and her family might feel bogged down with a slow labor, or when the events of the day take unexpected twists and turns, a professional doula can help parents stay grounded and working towards preserving as much of the plan as possible.
Most professional photographers use digital SLR equipment and most importantly, understand how to use their equipment. Today’s professional cameras have multiple and complex functions that allow a photographer to manipulate focal length, shutter speed, aperture, and depth of field to compliment almost any subject. It also allows the capture of crisp and sharp photographs in low light, with little to no image degradation.
An experienced doula also has her own equipment and techniques that help her perform her job most effectively. While tools such as the rebozo, massage oils and birthing balls may seem straightforward, knowing when and how to use them safely and effectively to aid the laboring mother is much more complex. The health and safety of the mom and baby always come first.
Understanding The Setting
A professional photographer understands and knows how to capture natural looking images in any kind of light. Whether in the studio, outdoors or low-light situations, a professional photographer knows how to add the right amount of direct, bounce or supplemental lighting to fill the scene, compliment the subject and maintain a natural looking image. At a birth, the professional photographer knows and can address the unique nature of low lighting that often accompanies birth, but will also not hinder the birthing mother.
A professional doula has knowledge of how the setting of a birth can impact the laboring mom. Whether the mom is birthing at home, a birthing center or the hospital a professional understands the unique impact each of these environments has on the family and can address them accordingly. In any setting, she can suggest ways to modify the environment to help mom feel more comfortable.
A professional photographer will utilize high-end post processing software that allows him or her to effectively correct color, adjust exposure, manipulate hue, saturation, lens distortion and edit images for a professional look.
A professional doula will use her listening skills to help mom remember and review her birth experience, processing the many emotions that women tend to have about their birth experience. Many doulas will share their notes of the birth process with their clients as well.
As you’ve read, many of the benefits of a professional are similar for both birth doulas and birth photographers. However, there are some services that are unique to each field:
A professional photographer focuses on capturing high quality images and the objective thereafter is to preserve these images with high-quality printing. Professional photographers will bypass the low-cost volume “snapshot” printing providers and work with a custom lab that will help assure the delivery of only the finest images. Many professional birth photographers can deliver products like albums, birth announcements and slideshows as well.
A professional doula has received extensive certification training and is constantly receiving continuing education via seminars, workshops, books and periodicals. A professional doula can offer unbiased information and insights during pregnancy to help prepare for labor and birth, provide physical and emotional support to manage the challenges of labor and birth, and be available during the tender days and weeks following birth to help moms, dads and families adjust to life with a newborn.
If you are considering hiring a doula that also offers photography or a birth photographer that offers doula services I recommend you ask yourself the following questions, “Can the two careers stand separately? Could I hire this person to only be my doula or only be my photographer?” If the answer is yes, then chances are you have found a professional in both fields.
While it does cost more to hire a professional vs. a friend or relative for either role, a professional brings far greater value and quality in both the fields of photography and doula work.
William Turnbull Photography
Thank you to Andrea Donaldson Lythgoe of Maternal Focus for her additions, insight and experience in helping write this essay. Thank you also to the photographers at The International Association of Professional Birth Photographers for your ideas and helping me find my own value.