How can I run a successful Birth Photography business?

I hope you now have a good idea whether this is for you and have seen how other birth photographers navigate the different stages of the business. You also know what you could potentially charge. 

Now it is time to see what else you need in place to successfully run your business. We will be talking about the equipment you need, insurance, the shots you need to take, marketing and how to navigate relationships with medical professionals. 

‘There is no such thing as a neutral presence in birth and even though you are not the doula, midwife or OBG, you form an integral part of the birth team where your role is to hold the birth space, whilst capturing memories.’

‘Birth photographers are facilitators and guides in their own way.  They offer gentle, non-judgmental support – walking alongside their clients in the journey they are on, without trying to impact or be part of the outcome or memories they are capturing.’

In this environment we need medical professionals to trust us. They still need to uphold their responsibility to the patient while allowing us to be in the birth space. We need to respect them and understand that we are going into their environment. There is a lot to keep in mind in terms of the regulations. It is covered in the oath of conduct which all SABPA (South African Birth Photographers) members receive and work through.

We realised that to have this respect and show respect we needed to all sit down and understand the needs of all parties – birth photographers, moms and medical professionals. We have spent years developing our code of conduct, sitting down with many medical professionals and having medical professionals sit on our advisory board. This allows us to continue to have our brand respected within the birthing community.

When you are going to do a birth at a hospital it is important to get in touch with hospital management, making them aware that you are SABPA registered. Always introduce yourself. Our members have SABPA lanyards around their necks which they can show for identification at the hospital. We have built relationships with hospital networks over time and stay in constant contact with them, so they are familiar with and trust SABPA members. 

You will also need a contract for the hospital and client to sign. We give our birth photographers an outline for this that they can use. They’ve got a lot of paperwork which we provide for them with make it clear to the hospitals that they are SABPA registered. 

Members have the extra clout and respect that SABPA has earned over the years and birth photographers follow established best practice to protect the industry. SABPA membership is an asset that stands behind the brand you create and hospitals appreciate the understanding we have and the professionalism we show.  

Now that we understand a little bit about navigating the birth space, let’s get into the shots you need to take, the equipment you need, and some financial considerations. 

The shot list is always the client’s preference and they will share what their preferences and requirements are. That being said I do always guide my clients into knowing that each and every birth is so different and unpredictable that having a shot list is probably the least ideal thing you want me to have.

I can bear in mind the important moments they want me to get but I always tell them that for me to work with them they need to trust my abilities to capture every beautiful moment I am able to get and they are always very understanding.

Equipment is a personal preference. The important thing to remember with equipment is that we only use a camera body and lens and you might have an extra lens in your pocket along with an extra battery. This is very basic equipment that I would imagine you already have.

We don’t use a flash and we don’t use tripods, out of respect for the birth space. You must remember when choosing your perfect camera body is that birth photography is very often in low light conditions so make sure the camera can tolerate a high ISO and you always want to make sure you have a nice fast lens as well as a low aperture that can let more light in. Something you can keep in mind is a bit of a quieter camera as you would like to be as soft as possible within the birth space – just an extra little tip to think about.

You also need to have identifiable hospital scrubs which you order off-line, we can direct you to a few options of suppliers. We provide our members with a digital logo to embroider onto their scrubs and you will also be required to embroider your business logo on to your scrubs as well. (Do not worry about this too much as we will guide you as you go, just wanted to cover as much as possible for you today.)

As photographers, we know that standing out from the rest and providing something more unique and special to our clients is what sets us apart. Delivering a great experience and beautiful quality work goes a long way towards achieving this. So I definitely recommend putting together some ideas on where you would like to be in terms of your service l

Make sure you are using legal editing programmes. And you will need to insure your equipment incase anything terrible happens to your gear. Make sure your insurance covers you for your equipment outside the studio or house because you do travel outside of a studio setup. If you have have been doing photography for a while, you will most likely have this in place already.

We really do support our photographers in getting their name out into the market as much as possible. We create a personal listing on our site for you where you can link to your website, social media accounts, email and display your work as well as your own logo. Birth photographers are displayed by area, but of course, some travel quite far out so they will be listed under a few more areas than just one.

We do promote our photographers via social media and share blogs posts etc, but you will be responsible for your own marketing. This is not what SABPA is here to do for you. It is a captivating profession and you can talk to other members about what works for them. 

Don’t forget to keep in touch with your clients for repeat work! The bond you have formed with them is a great foundation for the next milestones in their child’s lives. It is also a wonderful industry for word of mouth marketing as it is such deep work. Running a business does take dedication, planning, capital and marketing. We hope you join our member network for support through this journey. 

The pioneers in this industry felt alone in building their business, but you don’t have to. SABPA is truly here to make you feel protected and supported and we aim to keep industry standards as high as possible considering the incredible environment we work in.

Keep on reading to show you how to get ongoing support and your birth photography license.  

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