Why is birth photography so damn expensive!?

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I understand that sometimes there is sticker shock when it comes to finding out the cost of having a professional birth photographer at your birth. I get it, I really do - before jumping into this line of work I likely would have had the same reaction at first.

But when you look at the actual costs of birth photography vs., let's say, wedding photography, I think you may come to a different conclusion on the value of having a professional photographer at your birth.


I looked up what the average photographer costs in Toronto, and this is what I came up with:

Wedding

Average cost: $3,000 - $4,000

Average coverage: 8 - 10 hours, generally rates go up after this

Birth

Average cost: $1,000 - $2,500

Average coverage: as long as your birth takes!


Now, I have to admit, I had a bit of sticker shock seeing the cost of a wedding photographer. I didn't hire one for my simple $600 elopement, so I had no idea of the cost before writing this. But after thinking about it, the cost does make sense when you consider the time, equipment, and logistics of a wedding. The same can be said for birth though, just in a different way. Arguably, meeting your child for the first time is just as important as your wedding day (though, I would argue it's even more pivotal considering the abysmal divorce rate!)

So why is birth photography so damn expensive?

We're on call 24/7.

No matter what time you call, once we hit that 37 or 38 week "on call" period, we're ready to drop everything to attend your birth and capture those beautiful moments. This means that we always have our equipment packed and ready to go, that we often leave our beds in the middle of the night, that we sometimes miss important family moments, and that our families have to adjust to all of this as well. That last part, especially, is not always an easy sell!

We don't put a limit on coverage.

Meaning, we will be with you until the end, without charging more. We expect that birth is unpredictable and rarely follows a set timeline. Some births will take 2 hours, and others will take 24 hours, and that's ok - we'll still be there. During exceptionally long births it may be necessary to call in our back-up so we can rest, but we won't leave you without someone there to capture all those important moments.

We have some of the trickiest lighting conditions to contend with.

It's true that many births happen at night because there's just something about the stillness of the night that can really ramp up a labour. As a doula and birth photographer, I fully expect to be called out in the middle of the night. It's why there's a term for daytime births among birth workers (and photographers in particular): a "unicorn" birth! As a result of (often) dark lighting conditions, we have to invest in a lot of equipment that will handle low light conditions well. And because birth is not really something you can "do over," we bring 2 of literally everything to your birth, so if a piece of our equipment malfunctions (it does happen!) we still have a back-up ready so we don't miss a moment.

Scheduling can also be tricky.

Births are unpredictable, which makes scheduling a challenge because we never know in advance when we'll be called, or for how long we'll be needed. This means that we only take a certain number of birth clients per month - and this totally depends on the individual photographer and their life circumstance - but it also means that our time at births is at a premium because we have to limit how many births we take.

Don't forget the editing time after!

Sometimes this gets forgotten because there's so much emphasis on the birth itself, but when we go home and unload our memory cards, we're in for another few hours of work in culling and editing to give you the best edited images possible. Offering a birth video requires even more time, as we have to edit video, make a cohesive storyline with everything, and choose the music (which itself is more time consuming than one might think!)

So that, in a really succinct nutshell, is why birth photography is so “expensive,” although I could argue that it is actually way underpriced when you consider how similar it is to wedding photography (the number of clients per month [considering most weddings happen on weekends] and editing time), and how the two are different (being on call 24/7 for a birth, unpredictable birth lengths, challenging lighting conditions). At the very least, it should clarify why birth photography is not priced in the same ballpark as portrait sessions!

If you’re interested in seeing a recent birth session, check out the Birth of Kaia Soleil, and if you’re interested in finding out more about birth photography or booking your due date, give me a call or send me a quick email and we can chat!