I’m going back to school! Well, not a school in the literal sense of the word, but I am very excited about this learning opportunity. I’ve enrolled in a three day birth photography course. These are still quite rare and there is no formal birth photography education, you can imagine it’s quite difficult to find an internship for birth photographers. I’ve chosen a course with Marry Fermont. She is the first birth photographer in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg and built up her business from the ground. Birth photography is rapidly gaining popularity in the Netherlands, where I’m originally from, and she’s played a large part in that development.

After I moved to Basel (Switzerland) I’ve seen the same trend evolving here too. People are becoming interested in having their babies’ birth photographed and I soon get bookings to photograph bellies and babies. I enjoy it immensely however there’s always much more to learn. When I see that Marry announces a birth photography workshop not too far away from my home town in the Netherlands I immediately book a spot and start preparing.

A lot to learn about birth photography

Next to me there are five other participants in the course, we started with a short personal introduction and Marry gives a bit of theory about birth photography. I very rarely meet other birth photographers and I’m enjoying the story and information sharing between us. I’m also learning a lot about things which are very specific for birth photography, in many ways it’s so different from ‘normal’ family photography. We discuss how to best organize your personal life when you need to be on standby for 10 days before and 10 days after birth and the potential impact that can have on your partner and children. I learn about the best way to conduct an introduction meeting, how to draw up a contract and how to think about myself as a ‘brand’ and how to market and sell myself. I’m pretty introverted by nature, so this is a challenging one for me! We discuss pricing and that’s an important subject as birth photography can appear to be very expensive at first sight. I realize again that it’s very important to try to answer questions about that beforehand, see here for my attempt.

We talk about the birth itself. Which equipment you bring and the optimal way to use your camera for these shoots. I’m happily realizing that my current camera is a very good one and that even in very high ISO’s the noise is still acceptable (sorry this was for the photography lovers out there!). It’s important to realize that most birthing rooms are dark. This is nice for the mother’s oxytocin level, but doesn’t always make for the best photos. I learn how to ask for specific and appropriate kind of lighting and I know which ones I can bring myself. One of my favorite learnings was the value of taking notes which you can use to write a birth story. I love to read them myself, even more after I became a parent, and I feel these recollections are a nice addition to my photos. See here for my blogs.

the medical side of a birth

An important subject during my introduction meeting with the parents is when I need to leave for the hospital and it’s good to get some guidelines on this. It totally depends on the situation, if the birth is all natural, induced or a (planned) C-section. Every case is different and that makes our work exciting! An important part for me is the medical component. I’m not medically schooled so it’s very important for me to fully understand this part. Marry tells us about the best ways to communicate with the hospital staff, how to collaborate with them and how to interpret a CTG (heart monitoring). She also talks to us how to best deal when complications arise during birth.

That was a lot of theory! Next up is the practical part of the course and as I’m a ‘do-er’ by nature I’ve been looking forward to this. My most important takeaway from this part, where we got to watch a birth, was how to best position myself in the room and how to make myself ‘invisible’. This lets me document the situation as it is and create real and natural images. The birth itself only takes a mind-blowing 5 minutes, I’m pretty sure every mother would sign up for that! We leave the parents in peace and return to wrapping up our course. It’s been a great experience and I return to Basel full of inspiration and energy to share my new insights!