In the world of photography, certain realms develop in popularity at certain times. They typically involve areas of popular photography whose impact and significance come to attract more attention to compelling subjects, as well as more expertise.
As the earliest work in color and motion photography was scarce and rudimentary, even the notion of "delivery room photography" was, a generation ago, somewhat rare. Maybe a shot of Mom's face beforehand or a discreet one of mother with baby afterwards, but not much else.
A recent Los Angeles Times article by Sonja Sharp on delivery room photography's popularity might seem to note just a passing fad. More likely, it reflects what has always attracted people to this art (or craft, if you prefer): documentation of the important aspects of life, the ability to recall a moment in personal or public history that’s worth recalling.
Ms. Sharp’s comparative references to wedding photography are insightful. Some basic research makes her comparison resonate. Was there a point in history when photographs of a wedding seemed intrusive or just an extravagance for the wealthy? Actually, there was. Photography of wedding ceremonies was slow to take hold, the occasional photos of the happy couple then usually taken in a studio. Even most people who could afford wedding photos probably didn’t feel as people today do: “Of course I want my wedding photographed!” (Today's status quo is not yesterday's.) Do people who reflexively decide to hire wedding photographers have realistic expectations? Well, that's another story.
If you’ve done much work in wedding photography, you know that you need to master more than shooting angles, composition, etc. You also have to master interaction with people in situations that are emotionally challenging. You need to balance different agendas and perspectives as skillfully as you balance light and shadow. That's not too far off from the demands of birth photography, although you might spend less time on your feet when documenting a newborn's arrival.
It’s a good guess that delivery room photography will come to seem more common and more demanded as time goes by. More than MWACs (moms with a camera) are taking up family, portrait, and birth photography. Many doulas (supportive birthing coaches) have also found supplemental income by offering photography as a side service in delivery rooms across the nation.
Do you see the explosion of birth photography as an opportunity for you as a professional shooter or as a threat from amateurs? Do you feel that birth photographers' pricing is fair, or has it become too "competitive"? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.