“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. ”
Tell us about what drives your work, How did you get started?
I got started like many others in the industry – As a mom-tog. I got my first camera for my birthday in 2010 and shot my first birth in March of 2011. Though large breaks had to be taken due to moves and lack of trusted childcare, documenting births always had a special place in my heart. In 2015, after moving back home to the Tampa Bay area, near family, I decided it was time to pursue birth photography full force. I’m driven by my passion to normalize birth and birth options, particularly for women of color who aren’t as often represented, in mainstream media.
What were the challenges for you in the beginning, how did you know birth was a calling?
The challenge, which is still actually a challenge, is convincing people that birth photography is worth the investment and that it’s not actually about the crotch shot. When I share what I do, I’m often met with faces of confusion and borderline disgust as they visualize me with my camera aimed at woman’s vagina with a crowning baby emerging. 95% of the time, that is NOT what I do.
I knew that births were where I wanted to be when I had the opportunity to capture the birth of a clients’ first child. For me, my first child’s birth is only a faint memory with bits and pieces missing. I captured for them what I didn’t have and that was, and remains, something very special to me. When I advocate for birth, I have the experience of the regret of NOT having a birth documented to speak on and it helps.
What specific things draw you in about capturing birth?
Oh my! Where do I start? Birth is something that cannot be replicated. Every one of us enters this world ONCE and each story is different. There are different events, emotions, and movements that lead up to the birth of a baby and it’s my job to capture those and tell the story. It’s a huge task and a unique honor to be welcomed into the birth space and witness life at its first breath and a family grows. I get butterflies just thinking about the feeling that overcomes me each time I have the opportunity to witness a birth.
What are the tips you would share with anyone trying to jump into birth photography? (aim for at least 5, but any are welcome)
1. Be patient. Those new clients will not come overnight. Just keep putting yourself out there and work on building your funnel (Ie. Make sure you have a solid website, portfolio, etc).
2. Your portfolio. We all have to start somewhere, reach out to expecting friends or family members to build your portfolio. With this line of work, it’s much harder booking birth clients if you have never shot a birth.
3. Your pricing. Remember that birth photography is unlike any other photography niche because it involves WEEKS of on-call time, then you can expect to be at a birth for anywhere from 4 to 30+ hours. So, pricing yourself with AT LEAST that in mind is a good idea. It’s also good to consider on-call sitters for your children in that pricing, too.
4. On- call life. It’s a sacrifice. I’m on call from the time my clients are 38 weeks until they have their baby (I’ve had clients go to almost 43 weeks before). Being on call means that you don’t get to go on those family vacations out of town, you may have to take two cars to family outings in case a client goes into labor, no getting drunk, and your phone cannot be on silent in the event that your client calls you at 2am telling you her water broke…And trust me, you WILL get a call at 2am. If you aren’t willing to make those kinds of sacrifices, DON’T become a birth photographer.
5. Have backups. Let’s face it, life happens. You get the flu, have a family emergency, or your car breaks down, having a backup photographer ready to fill in for you can mean peace of mind for both you and your clients.
6. Respect the birth workers. Know your place in the birth space. Stay out of the way of those caring for your laboring client and newborn. Know when to put down the camera (in the event of emergencies). Be kind and remember that during that birth, you represent all birth photographers. Don’t do anything that could ruin it for other photographers working at that location.
ABOUT THE ARTIST:
I’m Chinelle and I’m the owner of Dear Little One. I’m a wife, mom, birth photographer and logo designer who lives in the Tampa Bay area. I’m an avid nutella eater and movie watcher. My goal is to be more intentional and bold and overcome some of my introvert ways while spreading awareness for the importance of diversity in the birth community.