Photography is a lot like any other service. Whether you’re hiring a hairstylist, a house cleaner, a plumber or a babysitter, deciding how much to spend depends on your individual preferences, goals and budget.
Consider this: You need a haircut. You have LOTS of choices for where to go, in prices that range from $0 with your friend who likes to cut hair and has watched a few YouTube videos on how to do it, to a modest haircut for $20 at Great Clips, to over $150 at a top-notch salon with a stylist who understands your unique hair complaints and knows how to tame them. Neither option is right or wrong - it just depends on what is most important to you. Maybe you could care less about your hairstyle and just want to get in-and-out looking less scraggly. Or maybe you take a lot of pride in expressing yourself through your hairstyle and require a skilled professional to help you with that expression. For me, I get my kids’ haircuts at Great Clips because I know they could care less about fancy haircuts. MY hair is one of my favorite qualities and I love to express myself through it - so I spend a little more to stick with my favorite stylist who I have trusted with my hair for years because I know I'll get exactly what I want every time.
For any service you’re considering purchasing, including birth photography, you need to determine a few things:
1. How important is this line item in your budget overall? Is it worth sacrificing other, less important luxuries temporarily, or getting creative to obtain it?
2. Does it matter to you if you’re hiring someone with lots of experience who specializes in that service, or would you be okay with someone who’s just starting out?
3. How important is the quality of the end result? (keeping in mind that there are no do-overs with birth photography)
4. How do you want to feel when working with the service provider from start to finish?
How much you ultimately spend on birth photography is entirely subjective, and will depend on your answers to those questions, as well as the availability of photographers in your area. But to put out a ballpark figure, If you’re looking for a birth photographer, you can expect to spend anywhere from $0 to $5,000+.
That’s a wiiiiiiiiiiiiiide range…
So how do you know what a “fair” price is for birth photography? How do you choose the right one for you and your budget?
You know you want quality images (otherwise you wouldn't hire someone), but you also don't want to be taken advantage of. First off, you’re smart - and you know that running a business isn’t free. I don’t need to tell you that there are overhead costs in all businesses, including photography. You may or may not know that your birth photographer probably only takes home 50% (or less) of the money coming in to the business. They have business expenses and equipment to purchase and maintain, and just like you, photographers have taxes to pay, living expenses, bills and usually families to feed. They can’t maintain for very long by charging what any-’ol-Joe off the street would consider “fair” prices. They’re not Walmart. They’re local, small businesses.
Short of your photographer going line-by-line through their expenses, budget and financial goals with you, you’ll never know exactly how or why they charge what they do. Just know that, if they’re serious about providing quality services and products, they’ve crunched the numbers (probably lots of times) and charge what they need to in order to support themselves and their families with their business. I truly believe that these images are so important that the only way someone could charge "too much" is by charging you anything and not delivering on what they promised.
So the more important question is this: is what they charge worth spending to get what they’re offering?
Most of the time, a birth photographer will offer a free consultation to discuss their services with you. During this consultation, you can (and should) ask them some questions to help decide if it’s worth it to you to spend what they charge. Here are some things to consider asking:
What has motivated you to become a birth photographer?
How much experience do you have shooting births? Is there anything you are uncomfortable shooting?
What is your view on birth?
What does your process look like?
Are you able to attend my birth even if it happens in the middle of the night?
What happens if you miss my birth? Do you have backups?
What will I get with my investment?
What are my options for financing a birth session?
Why should I hire you?
Can I see examples of your work?
**I would encourage you to also ask anything that is specific to your individual circumstances: For example, if you’re planning an unassisted VBAC at home, you will want to make sure your photographer supports unassisted VBAC births at home. Bonus points if they’ve photographed one before and can share that experience with you. If your due date is around the holidays, you will want to make sure your photographer is willing and able to attend your birth, even if it happens during what would normally be holiday family time. Ask them ALL THE THINGS. A good birth photographer will answer your questions honestly and completely to ensure that they are a good fit to document your birth.
With the answers to these questions, ask yourself:
1. Do I like and trust this person? Would I feel comfortable having them in my birth space?
2. Do I like their work/style?
3. Is what they offer worth the price to me?
If you decide that you really want to hire a particular photographer because they’re a perfect fit for you and you love their work, but the price feels overwhelming, check out this blog post about 15 creative ways to afford your dream birth photographer. Sometimes shifting our mindset from “no way” to “how can I” is all it takes to make it happen. Also, share your budget concerns with your photographer! Most of the time they are happy to help create a payment plan or even a gift registry for your friends and family to contribute to the cost. Remember, they probably want your business just as much as you want a photographer. While they can’t give it away for free, they can be an amazing resource in helping to figure out how to fit birth photography into your budget.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think is a “fair” price for birth photography? Would you spend $1,000 or more to document the birth of your baby?