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Joshua Metiever faced one task while he waited for his daughter’s entrance into the world two years ago: take pictures of the emotional, immediate moments following.
But after laying eyes on baby Iyla for the first time, Joshua forgot about the camera around his neck and the responsibility upon his shoulders.
“Obviously, he was distracted,” said wife Adrienne with a laugh.
Therein lies one reason why the Columbus couple recently turned to local professional photographer Angela Jackson to shoot more than 1,000 photos of the birth of their third child, River, this summer.
The Metievers are part of an increasing number of expectant parents who are eager to invite a professional photographer to document some of the most intimate moments a couple will ever experience. The International Association of Professional Birth Photographers, formed in 2010, now boasts more than 500 members in 13 countries.
“We are growing very quickly as birth photography itself grows in popularity,” said the organization’s president, Lyndsay Stradtner of Austin, Texas.
Still, the mention of a birth photographer often elicits confused looks and awkward questions about what, exactly, will be photographed.
“A lot of people were kind of shocked when we said we were doing it,” said Speedway’s Kodie Helmer, who used Nashville photographer Sara Monnett of MonWood Photography to document daughter Daniella’s birth in July. “But, really, it’s not that different than having a wedding photographer.”
Parents’ favorite shots include misty-eyed moms meeting their infant for the first time and artsy close-ups of a baby’s tiny toes. While the actual arrival shots normally remain private for a couple, other pictures go as public as Facebook or the living room wall.
“It’s a very journalistic style of photography,” said Monnett, who spent 13 hours during delivery on her first such assignment earlier this year. “It’s more about the love between a couple.”
Jackson, a mother of three, admits that every time a baby arrives, so do her tears, but she aims “to be a fly on the wall” during the experience. She normally positions herself at the head of the mother’s bed, or at mom’s shoulder, which gives her access to some moving shots.
For instance, Jackson captured Adrienne Metiever reaching her hand toward her halfway-born daughter’s outstretched fingers as the delivery progressed.
“Every time I look at these pictures,” said husband Joshua, “I literally find myself reliving the experience. And though you might tend to forget the minute details, you can look at a picture that shows maybe the nurse’s nametag, and then you say, ‘Wow, remember how nice she was to us?’”
Monnett, a mother of three, believes one strength of her service focuses on getting shots that even a sharp dad might miss. One image she snapped minutes after a birth, for example, captured the soft light on a newborn’s legs and feet.
“There’s no way the mother or father would have seen that,” Monnett said. “At the time, they were way across the room.”
The memories come with a price tag. Monnett, who still shoots mostly weddings, maternity and family shots, charges $550 for delivery room photography, and Jackson’s services begin around $700. Both photographers offer packages that include maternity photos a couple of weeks prior to the delivery and family photos after.
As a client’s due date arrives, Monnett plans her schedule carefully so that she is never more than 90 minutes from the hospital. If she and husband Toby Blackwood go out socially within a few weeks of a birth, they drive separately, and Monnett brings her Nikon 7000 and other equipment.
Of course, the unpredictable nature of babies’ entrances into the world can pose some challenges.
Once, a mother-to-be underwent an emergency c-section, and Jackson had to leave the room. And when working with the Metievers, she was told by the attending physicians that Kodie’s contractions had slowed and that the delivery probably would be hours away. The doctor suggested that relatives and Jackson go grab some lunch while they wait. Jackson left the delivery room but remained in the hallway on a hunch.
Thirty minutes later, despite the doctor’s estimates, the baby came. Jackson stepped back into the room moments beforehand and caught the big moments.
“If I had actually gone to lunch, I would have missed it,” Jackson said.
But the largest obstacle a birth photographer might face is not so different from what Joshua Metiever experienced when Iyla was born: getting caught up in the emotion of the moment.
“The biggest challenge I have is not reaching out to physically help during the delivery process,” Jackson said.
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