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Keys to Photographic Success in the Delivery Room

The birth of your child will undoubtedly be a momentous occasion—one worthy of capturing for posterity—however, it’s one thing to envision the perfect shot of your baby in the delivery room and another to get it. Short of signing up to be the next featured delivery on The Learning Channel’s A Baby Story, it is going to be up to you to figure out exactly how much of “the moment” you want to capture and how you’re going to go about doing it.

  • Plan ahead. If and when you fall into delivery preparedness mode and pack your suitcase in anticipation of your trip to labor and delivery, don’t forget to include your camera and/or your video camera and whatever accessories they may require. Even beyond showing up with your camera equipment, we suggest you take a few minutes between breathing exercises and OB appointments to discuss a simple photographic game plan. First and foremost, be sure to find out if your hospital has any photographic restrictions. If there are any, you’ll want to be sure to factor them in as you think about your photographic goals. If you’ve got your heart set on capturing a particular shot, the odds of getting it will be better if you make your wishes known ahead of time. Don’t forget to figure out a place to keep your camera that’s out of the way but easily accessible. While all of this advanced planning may seem a little extreme to some of you (especially those of you less “into” photography than we are), trust us when we say that the resulting photos will speak for themselves.
  • Delegate. If you don’t consider yourself much of a photographer, have no desire to rise to the occasion and focus your efforts on capturing the moment, or just plain anticipate having too many other things on your mind when you deliver don’t hesitate to delegate. If you plan on having any family or friends in the delivery room, pick the one you consider to be the best photographer (and the one least likely to be overcome with emotion when it’s time to click the shutter or start the tape rolling), and make it clear what shots you hope to have captured when it’s all over. Whichever type of camera you choose, make sure you or your designated photographer is comfortable using it, as well as prepared to swap out memory cards, and/or replace batteries. In short, the delivery room isn’t a great place to sit down with a new camera and an instruction book.
  • Use discretion. You don’t have to have gone through labor and delivery or witnessed one before to realize that there’s not a whole lot of privacy involved in the process. That does not, however, mean that you can’t control the degree of exposure evident in the commemorative photographs. I’m sure you all know what we’re talking about because you inevitably have to give at least some thought to how to take pictures of a baby being born without getting the infamous crotch shot. Fathers-to-be (or other family members or friends) who might otherwise find themselves caught up in the moment often do quite well in their role as photographer if you’ve not only delegated the job ahead of time, but made it very clear what you would and would not like to see revealed in the family photo album or posted on YouTube for all of eternity.
  • Consider composition. Now you may be thinking to yourself “who has the time to consider composition? I’m just focused on maintaining some degree of composure,” but that’s why it’s worth mentioning the concept to you now and not in the delivery room. After all, many a new parent has regretted not discussing photographic discretion in advance of the big event, much less having the designated photographer give some quick thought to such photographic challenges as the fact that open curtains on a bright sunny day can ruin the best of pictures. How much forethought you choose to devote to this subject will depend purely on how important the photographic end result is to you.
  • Digital distribution. There’s no question that as a society, we’re now fully embedded in the digital age. When it comes to sharing the joyous news (and photos and videos) of your baby’s birth, this means the opportunity to do so almost instantaneously. That said, you may want to figure out your game plan ahead of time. Some parents prefer to simply compile an e-mail address list ahead of time and send out a message to the group announcing the arrival. Others find it easier to upload photos to a password-protected photo-sharing Web site, or make use of Facebook, YouTube, or other ready made venues for sharing the news and accompanying photographic documentation. If you are a little moredigitally adept and commit to a bit more effort, you can even create your baby’s very own Web page—something that will represent his very first digital footprint and is sure to be cherished for decades to come.
  • Video. Video recorders have made their way up to the top of just about every expectant parent’s wish list. Whether you decide to have the tape rolling in your delivery room or ban all  live coverage of the event is purely a matter of personal preference (unless there is some related hospital policy, of course). Just remember that the photographic considerations we discussed for photographs in the delivery room apply to video as well—only more so. Unless you plan on doing a whole lot of editing, whoever is in charge of the video camera should be well versed in discretionary limits, not to mention the use of common sense when deciding when to put the camera down and get out of the way. If nothing else, we suggest putting a ban on instant uploading, since it is our firm belief that those being filmed as the events of delivery unfold should have the ultimate say (as well as absolute veto power) when it comes to sharing the associated sights and sounds.
Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP
Last Updated
Heading Home With Your Newborn, 2nd Edition (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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