“There is only one sun. We can’t all claim to only have one way to use the light, but we can REDEFINE how we choose to express it. “
Why are you passionate about birth photography?
Births are the essence of documentary photography. There is no scripting, no posing, so it is–by nature–thoroughly honest and authentic. I adore being able to quietly observe, gently support, and humbly witness a mother working hard to bring her baby into the world and to use my perspective to create the most touching and meaningful photo and video keepsakes to tell her story with beauty and honesty.
It is my hope that every mother would look at her photos and watch her video and see her strength, the love of her partner, and the support of her birth team reflected right back at her. I want her to be able to relive those moments of joy and relief at meeting her child for the very first time whenever she wishes.
Also, birth can be unpredictable. When things don’t go quite as a family hoped they would, I feel a special calling to piece together the moments in order to create the most uplifting, yet authentic story that I can to honor that birth journey. I am often texting back and forth with my clients in the weeks after they view their birth stories, helping them process the events and reconfirming to them how strong they were and sharing all the ways that I can validate their birth experience.
Finally, I feel strongly that all types of birth are beautiful and worthy of being documented. Whether a baby is born at home, at a birth center, in a labor and delivery room, or in the operating room, I honor each story by capturing the real moments and the beauty to the best of my ability.
“There is only one sun. We can’t all claim to only have one way to use the light, but we can REDEFINE how we choose to express it. ”
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue this genre?
When I discovered I was pregnant with my third child, we decided I would plan to give birth at home. I have always been very interested in birth, and I knew that I wanted our home birth journey and my sons’ experience meeting their baby sister documented. I became enthralled in birth imagery while searching for a birth photographer, and I felt a tug to give the same kind of gift to other mothers.
When my daughter turned one and I could finally leave her for long periods to attend a birth, I proposed birth photography at a discounted rate to a friend who was expecting her second baby, and to my luck she agreed and was so excited about it. That first birth was so intense, so beautiful, so emotional, and filled my soul just as I knew it would. I felt like I was right where I needed to be, documenting that baby being born into grateful and loving arms. After the birth, I couldn’t wait to begin edits, and the emotion I felt seeing everything happen again was unique and unforgettable. I was hooked, and I booked three more births soon after that.
What do you think separates birth photography from all other genres?
I think what distinguishes birth photography is that it does not fit into a neat and tidy box like portraits. I am a documentary photographer, so the nature of my work is candid, real, raw emotion and natural moments. But birth brings that to another level because there is so much at stake when documenting a birth and so many variables to consider. Each birth unfolds however and whenever it may, and it is our job to be ready to tell that story creatively and honestly when it happens. It’s also the only type of photography where we can’t get a do-over for those significant moments. We can simulate proposals, weddings, and re-shoot family sessions. But each baby is only born once, so documenting it well requires skill, vision, and planning.
What are the tips you would share with anyone trying to break into the birth photography business (aim for at least 5, but any are welcome)
-Consider how the on-call situation will fit into your lifestyle
-Be prepared to be away from your family for hours or possibly days
-Be prepared for all lighting situations and birthspace configurations
-Always have back-up equipment, extra cards and batteries
-Price yourself thoughtfully to value your time and all that goes into birth photography and the sacrifice of an on-call lifestyle
-Be patient with the unpredictable process of birth
-Remember to document both the emotional and physical journey for your client
-Respect the medical environment and sacred birth space: be unobtrusive and calm
-Be kind and considerate to the birth team
-It’s especially important to connect with your clients before birth; make sure it’s a good fit before booking
What were the challenges for you in the beginning?
For my first few births, just having so many variables with the on-call lifestyle was a challenge. Do we take two cars to dinner down the street, in case I need to speed out to a birth? Should we commit to that event with friends even though I have two moms due that weekend? All the unknown was stressful, because of course I really wanted to make it to each client’s birth in time.
At the births, I found it challenging intially to shoot in various artificial and mixed lighting scenarios and to switch my settings quickly when light changes just before baby emerges. And then the question of which moments to document in video vs. stills when I’m making a fusion story adds a challenge, because things can happen so rapidly in birth.
But what I have learned with time, is that I can be on-call and still live my own life as long as I have solid plans and support in place. And with experience, I’ve learned to anticipate the changes in lighting and which birth locations present challenges.
With this growing confidence, I have felt myself falling deeper in love with birth photography…because at the end of the day, there is just nothing like witnessing new life being brought forth with such intensity, love, and raw emotion…and having a family’s trust to approach the experience as an artist handcrafting a keepsake.
The Birth Story of Nathaniel from Angie Klaus Birth + Family Films on Vimeo.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Angie is a storytelling photographer and filmmaker specializing in birth, baby, and family photojournalism. She is most inspired by interesting light, connections, and movement as she documents life for her own family and her clients. Angie also mentors other photographers and enjoys helping them along in their own journeys. She lives in Northern Virginia and spends much of her free time outside in nature. When she’s not on call for a birth, Angie loves traveling to explore cultures and good food with her husband and their three children.
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