Remember those insurance commercials where “Life Comes At You Fast?” They’re funny, but in an uncomfortable way because there is an element of truth to them. Things do come at you fast, and despite your best efforts, stuff happens. Stuff that can interfere with the best laid plans. As a birth photographer, there are three ways you need to be backed up:
1. Backup Photographer I am sure that you and I agree that as a birth photographer, you would never miss a birth. You would do everything you could to be there. And if life were perfect, that would be enough. Unfortunately, life is not always within our control. You could be injured. Last winter, I badly sprained my ankle and was completely off my feet and on crutches for nearly 2 weeks, and couldn’t drive for over a month. Right over my client’s due date! Thankfully, my client had delivered a healthy baby at 36 weeks and I was not on call. But had she gone to term, there is no way I could have shot that birth!
No one plans on car accidents. You can’t anticipate a stomach bug that leaves you weak and unable to attend. You have to have a backup plan for these kinds of things! Often I hear photographers saying things like “She hired ME for MY art and MY style, so why have a backup?” My opinion is that photographers need to realize that just because you were the client’s FIRST choice, does not mean you are the only choice. Most women would rather have their second choice photographer than no photos at all.
Because I know you’re wondering how that would work, I’ll address the various ways you can find and the logistics of arranging to work with backup photographers in a future post. There are as many different ways to make a backup arrangements work as there are birth photographers.
2. Backup Gear – Births cannot be rescheduled in the event of a camera malfunction. You have to have a working camera. I was once at a birth when suddenly my camera stopped focusing just two pushes before baby came. I spent about 30 seconds trying to figure it out, then stepped over to my camera case and picked up my backup camera instead. Shot the birth, then when things settled down I was able to go online with my smartphone and figure out the problem. It took me long enough to figure out that I would definitely have missed the birth without my backup camera. Other photographers have had memory cards stop writing and batteries that were fully charged suddenly fail. I personally feel that a backup body, lens, batteries (for both the camera and flash), and memory card are vital for birth photography. The last thing you want is to be in this position – and actual screen shot from another birth photographer:
3. Backup Your Files – I have already addressed this in another article, so I will just briefly state that your files are the most important asset your business has, and you need to carefully protect them. Don’t overlook offsite backup – in the cloud or somewhere far away. A large flood, wildfire, or hurricane can take out your best friend’s house at the same time it takes out yours.
When you promise a client that you will take photos of their birth, that is a heavy responsibility, and you would do well to cover all your bases to ensure that clients get what you have promised them.