When Should a Birth Photographer Arrive?

The outside of St. Michael Medical Center's Family Birth Center in Silverdale, Washington at night with the lights of Family Birth Center lit up.

This is the first and most common question I get when I’m in a consultation for birth photography. And understandably so! You want to understand when and how to contact your birth photographer so that they won’t miss the birth and arrive at the right time!

If you have hired me or another birth photographer near you to document your birth, this is for you!

The outside of St. Michael Medical Center's Family Birth Center in Silverdale, Washington at night with the lights of Family Birth Center lit up.

Ultimately, the goal is for your birth photographer to arrive during active labor.

Active labor is when you are 5-6 centimeters dilated and can no longer talk through your contractions. Active labor starts when your contractions are regular and get stronger, longer and possibly more painful. You may need to really focus on laboring during these contractions.

So how do you know when you will be in active labor? Here are a few steps for you to know when your birth photographer will head over to join you.

1. Give your birth photographer FREQUENT UPDATES so they can be in the loop and get a good idea of when to arrive.

Your birth photographer wants to know all the details. If you had an appointment with your OB and you are a few centimeters dilated, text your birth photographer! If you met with your midwife, and things are going well, update your birth photographer! If you get a feeling in your gut that baby is coming today, send a message–even if it ends up being a false alarm. If your water breaks, definitely let your photographer know. And if you head to the hospital, birth center or start to set up your birth pool in your home, that is a sure sign to let your photographer know!

Every birth is different, and birth is unpredictable. So the more information your birth photographer has, the better.

Honestly, I sometimes arrive earlier that active labor to some births because of various factors. Maybe this is your second birth, and you think this baby will come faster than your last baby. Maybe you have some health concerns, and you want me there a bit earlier. Maybe you live across the Sound, and I need to take a ferry to get to you (hello Seattle). In this case, I would arrive earlier to ensure I didn’t miss the birth!

A signicade in front of birth center in Seattle that says, "Labor & Delivery" with an arrow pointing in the direction of the birth center in Seattle.

2. Understand the importance between texting vs calling.

Some birth photographer prefer for you to call them, and others are okay with both texting or calling. For me, I put your number on emergency bypass, so I will won’t miss you texts or calls, even when my phone is on silent. However, for important updates, like your water broke or you are heading to the hospital, please call! (Unless we have already been texting, and you know I’m responsive.) Also, if I don’t respond to a text immediately, you need to call me.

3. Give your birth photographer two hours from first notice to when they will arrive.

Now I know in the movies whenever someone is about to give birth, the baby comes like five minutes after they arrive at the hospital. In real life, this is not the norm. It usually takes a much longer time, and you have a lot of notice. In fact, if you give birth in less than three hours there is a special term for that called precipitous labor (or rapid labor) which means that it’s quick and short! Although precipitous labor does happen, it’s rare and occurs in about 3% of all births.

All that to say, once you contact me, I guarantee I will be at your birthing space within two hours, maybe sooner. This validates how important it is for you to keep your birth photographer in the loop if anything feel off or changes.

The two hours gives me ample time to grab my camera bag (which is already packed with batteries charged), and set up my childcare for the day/night. Maybe I’m volunteering at the school or running errands. This give me time to head home, grab my gear, and come join you at your birthing location.

Seattle Birth Photographer, Becky Langseth is taking a photo of herself using the bathroom mirror in one of the labor and delivery rooms at St. Michael Medical Center's Family Birth Center in Silverdale, Washington after she finished photographing a birth.

4. Don’t worry about contacting your birth photographer at any hour of day or night. We live for that call!

I absolutely love being a professional birth photographer! The emotions, the joy, the adrenaline–it’s all so beautiful and amazing. I’m a birth photographer because I love it! So you can call me anytime day or night. And I’m actually excited when I get your call or text. So don’t think you are bothering me if you call in the middle of the night. Even if it’s a false alarm. It’s what I signed up for, and what I love to do. And I definitely want to arrive at the right time!

Do you live in the Seattle area and want to know more about birth photography? Check out my birth photography page for more information on birth photography and get all the details on how it works or look at some beautiful birth photos.

Are you looking for a birth photographer, but don’t live in the Seattle region? I am also a member of the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers, and they have a fantastic website to help you find a birth photographer or videographer near you!

You’re welcome! 😉

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  1. Neyssa Lee says:

    Such great tips for expecting mamas!

  2. These are great tips for expecting moms working with a birth photographer. My second birth was sooo fast (4 hours) so keeping the photographer updated was a must.

  3. I always wondered when the birth photographer should arrived, this is great info!

  4. Alison Bell says:

    What a relief to put this out before anyone has to ask, or feel awkward for wondering when to call you. So good.

  5. Charis says:

    This is some great info for mamas to have to answer all those questions that come with birth photography!

  6. Ashlie Behm says:

    These are such great tips. I’ve always wondered what the timing was like for birth photographers and when you showed up. This is so informative.

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