Birth Photography | Shooting C-Sections

January 11, 2020

One of the biggest questions for beginner birth photographers is, "how do I shoot a c-section?" I've seen this question on Facebook group pages and been asked it by friends interested in what I do.

While you can't really predict whether or not a c-section will end up being necessary during your birth session, you can prepare yourself by having the right expectations and educating yourself.

The first thing you should know is that not all hospitals/doctors/anesthesiologists will allow a birth photographer into the operating room. I have yet to be let into one. Typically, they will allow the patient and one support team member (usually the husband). The best thing to do is to talk with your client and have them ask their doctor about having a birth photographer in the OR. If not, you have a couple of options.

1) Send the husband in with a camera and give him some direction on what angles he should shoot from and the type of shots to make sure he gets. A smartphone would do the trick, or if you have a spare camera, set it to Aperture Priority mode, set the aperture you want, and then let him go with your shot directions.

2) Some nurses are very helpful and will offer to take a few photos for you if they have a moment. Of course, I would never suggest interrupting a health professional for a photo while they are working, but if you ask before heading back into the room, there may be one who is willing to help out.

3) Document the experience as far as you can. I always like to follow my clients as they put on the bunny suit, sign the paperwork, and head into the OR. While the procedure is in progress, I usually go out and ask the nurses where the baby will be taken. Some hospitals will allow you to enter the nursery to take photos of the baby afterward (if there are no complications). You just have to be very polite and ask.

I usually prioritize Baby after the surgery if she can't come back to the room with Mom, otherwise, I pick up where I left off when Mom comes out with Baby.

In most of my experience, c-sections have either been planned well in advance or have not been what I'd call "IMMEDIATE" emergency, where the mother was wheeled out of her room about 30 seconds after they decided it needed to happen (that has *thankfully* only happened once in all of my birth sessions).

Whatever the circumstance, the best way to handle a c-section birth is good preparation and total transparency of expectations with your client. Be prepared, and do your best!


Susan is a birth photographer and videographer serving Mesa, Arizona and surrounding cities in the East Valley including Chandler, Gilbert, Queen Creek, Scottsdale, and Tempe. Considering a photographer for your birth? Contact Susan for EDD availability.

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