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How I Balance Doula Support & Birth Photography

Amanda Cagle birth photographer orange county

As a doula and birth photographer, I often get asked how I manage both roles during a birth. It’s a valid question as being a doula requires a great deal of physical and emotional energy. Adding the task of photography to the mix might seem overwhelming.

Being able to offer both doula support and birth photography to families in and around Orange County is a true joy and privilege. I believe that these two roles complement each other beautifully, and working as both a doula and birth photographer allows me to support my clients in a uniquely intimate way during this special time in their lives.

There are a few things I do to ensure that neither my doula care nor my birth photography suffer during the course of a labor and birth. Here are a few tips and strategies I’ve found helpful in juggling both roles:

  1. Communicating well with clients. I can't overstate this one! It’s important to have open and honest communication with pregnant families about what to expect during their birth. This includes discussing my role as both a doula and a birth photographer and how I will manage both tasks during the birth. Making sure my clients feel comfortable with my approach and that their needs and preferences are being met along the way is of utmost importance. I like to present specific scenarios to my doula clients to suss out their priorities for my effort and energy. Some families will ultimately request that I emphasize the photography elements-especially around the moment their newborn baby is born-even if that means I shift my emotional support attention for a few minutes here and there. Others will know themselves well enough to clarify that taking birth photos is important overall, but they ultimately are hiring me for my doula skills, my advocacy, or physical support abilities above all else. With these families, I capture labor and birth pictures between fulfilling my role as a doula. It does take constant checking in with myself and my clients to do this well, but it's more than possible with some specific conversations ahead of birth.

  2. Being strategic with positioning. As a doula, it’s important to be present and available to my clients at all times. But as a birth photographer, I don't want to miss important moments. To balance these two roles, I try to position myself in a way that allows me to be accessible to my clients while also getting the best possible shots. It's not always possible to do both, depending on environment and number of medical personnel in the room during labor or birth. Being clear about this potential limitation with clients is essential. This is event photography at it's wonky-est, and flexibility on both sides is crucial.

  3. Taking breaks. It’s important to remember that both doula work and birth photography can be physically and emotionally demanding. I make sure to take breaks as needed to rest, take in a snack, use the bathroom, and recharge. Sometimes this also includes recharging batteries!

  4. Trusting my instincts. As a doula and birth photographer, I have to make quick decisions and adapt to changing circumstances in a moment's notice sometimes. Trusting my instincts and doing what feels right in a given moment, while also checking in with clients every step of the way, is how I ultimately decide whether I'm supporting, shooting for images, or doing a bit of both.

  5. Bonus tip for anyone considering adding birth photography to their doula practice--Outsource editing if you're a busy doula. I run a very intimate doula practice, so my editing for birth photography can happen between prenatals, postpartum visits, and car seat installation sessions. Figure out the time and energy commitment involved in your workload as a doula, then add on the number of hours it will take to edit each gallery. I typically shoot hundreds of frames per birth, and then deliver a culled down gallery of hand-edited images. This number gets bigger the longer the birth is because I prioritize telling the whole story. If editing 50, 100, or 200+ images sounds daunting (and it can be!), don't be afraid to utilize a professional editor. You can capture amazing moments at a birth, deliver outstanding images to your doula clients, and still have time to sleep between births.

Newborn baby photographed at birth after hoag irvine labor and delivery

Balancing the responsibilities of being a doula and birth photographer can be challenging, but it’s also deeply rewarding. By offering both services, I am able to fully support my Southern California birthing clients and help them preserve the memories of their labor, their baby's first breaths, their partner's tears, and so much more. If you’re considering adding birth photography to your own practice as a birth professional, I encourage you to research documentary family photography as a genre, get really familiar with a solidly built camera, and practice practice practice!

Want to work with Amanda? Reach out today for a complimentary consultation to chat through the possibilities!

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