How can I be A Birth Photographer in South Africa?

You may ask, how can I be a birth Photographer in South Africa? Did you know that most private hospitals allow only registered photographers into the maternity ward/theatre. 

We are going to talk about how you can get support from other birth photographers. To grow your business and gain confidence. You will also find out what you are allowed to do and bring into theatre and what to do in an emergency. 

So let’s not waste any time – let’s just get right into the content!

South African Birth Photographer’s Association

SABPA (The South African Birth Photographers Association) wasn’t always around to help birth photographers navigate the medical space. Getting licensed, inform its members of hospital policy changes and help protect the photographers from any legal action against them.

Now, this support and training is available. Mediclinic, Life, Netcare and other hospitals are all very well aware of SABPA. Who we are, what we as birth photographers do and our level of professionalism and training. 

We are also supported by a board of nursing staff, gynaecologists, anaesthetists. Private midwives, doulas, hospital client liaison managers, professional photographers and lawyers. Before SABPA was established one of the two first birth photographers in South Africa had to go it alone. This is her experience and how and why we have the powerful network we do today.

South Africa’s first birth photographer’s Marysol and Alda share their experience. 

Marysol Blomerus and Alda Heunis Smith started a process that took years to get to what we have today. Medical relationships and respect for the community of birth photographers. 

Most private hospitals only accept registered birth photographers. Us knowing ‘exactly where to stand in theatre
. What ‘photographic gear is allowed in the birth space, and what to do in an emergency’. Goes a long way towards getting permission to be in the birth space. ‘This information is extremely important. To ensure the photographer does not get in the way of the doctor, anaesthetist or nurses doing their job. Ensuring the safety of the mother and child.’ At SABPA you receive, study materials. An examination ‘on the rules and regulations. Being present at a birth, in the labour ward and in theatre.’  

Privacy in Birth Photography

One major concern clients have when considering birth photography is privacy. This is something you will need to understand in depth and discuss with your client. ‘The SABPA photographers adhere to a strict code of conduct. We know exactly what images we are allowed to capture, share and release. We put our clients first, so that clients don’t have to worry about photographers sharing personal details. Nor revealing anything about the birth before they give the go-ahead. Due to the intimate nature of the experience. We also have strict rules about capturing explicit nudity and images detailing vulnerability.’

midwife led birth photography

‘Due to our relationship and continued communication with hospitals. SABPA is able to provide training to its members on the legal issues around shooting or sharing images. Of medical personnel, what medical brands and procedures you aren’t allowed to capture, etc. Protecting photographers for the risk of legal action against them.’

‘Professionalism – SABPA’s primary focus is to grow birth photography as a professional service in South Africa. This means that we do our best to protect the reputation of the industry. Not only for safety, privacy and ethical reasons. But also not to jeopardize our relationship with hospitals. The inappropriate behaviour of just one photographer could easily be the straw to breaks the camel’s back. Leading to a hospital banning birth photographers altogether. And stripping parents of the privilege of having their birth stories documented.’

Our mission is to create a safe space for all of the birth photographers and their careers. Whilst working professionally with medical staff through rules we have set up.

home birth photograph

What if you can’t attend the birth? 

‘Because births are so unpredictable, SABPA members partner up to ensure that there is a back-up photographer on standby should the original photographer be unavailable. We understand that nothing could be more disappointing to a family than expecting to have their birth story beautifully captured, but then the photographer never shows up.’
With all this in mind, you are going to need support. 

‘Many members comment that belonging to SABPA’s peer support groups has had major effects on growing their business as well as increasing their confidence. By chatting to each other we ensure that we are fully prepared for any session. We keep each other updated on new hospital requirements, and most importantly, we learn from others as we share our experiences.’

‘We have affiliations with more than one non-profit organisation supporting women in birth with many of our members giving their time to volunteer services. Ten percent of practice and membership fees go towards HATCH. Hatch is a starter kit for new moms from underprivileged areas, giving them and their babies some of the basic essentials for those first few weeks that most people take for granted.’

Over the last few days, we have given you the information we all wish we had when we started. You should have a better idea of whether this is for you or not, reading many other birth photographers experiences. We know what you can charge and how many clients you can book in a month. You also know the crucial birth photography business assets and services you need to have in place. 

Now you know why getting SABPA licensed, receiving ongoing support with training, access to private hospitals, legal knowledge and protection for you and your client, and a board of medical professionals behind you, will be a huge asset to your business. Not to mention the branded scrubs and SAPBA lanyard you will receive so that hospitals (many of which only allow registered SABPA birth photographers) can easily identify you. 

You will also be able to meet and form relationships with other SABPA members learning how they grow their businesses and have become successful even through COVID.

I hope you have enjoyed these blog posts as much as we have loved putting them together for you. All that is left now to get you started is to join SABPA. 

To join SABPA please email us and let us know you’d like to get further information to get registered.