You are venturing into the world of birth photography, and you are filled with anticipation to be invited to be a part of people’s most life-changing moments.
You think you are all set to begin. You have vast photography experience in all sorts of lighting situations, your equipment is ready, you have 24/7 childcare set up for your kids for when you are on call, and your phone’s battery is fully charged.
But are your legally ready to begin shooting birth photography sessions?
Hospital Photography Rules
A good place to start when thinking about the legal aspects of birth photography is what rules and restrictions regarding photography may be in place in the hospital. Some general tips to remember regarding photography rights are:
• In general, you can freely take pictures in a public place.
• In general, in a private place the owner can set rules on whether photography is allowed.
There is some debate on whether hospitals are public places, or whether they only include areas within them that could be considered public places and everywhere within them is a private place. Despite this uncertainty, where one has a reasonable expectation of privacy then photography restrictions may be set. Due to the nature of what happens in hospitals privacy is often expected and therefore across the country hospitals are implementing policies on photography and videography on their grounds.
There is no “official nationwide policy”, so each hospital is free to set their rules regarding photography permissions. As such there is a wide range of policies, ranging from all-out bans to allowing any photography. Some hospitals may not allow photography in an operating room, but will allow it in a delivery room. Some hospitals may require that photography is limited to post-birth, citing the safety of mother and child…and liability issues. It will all depend on what hospital you plan to shoot in, so make sure that you do your due diligence and investigate the hospital’s policy well in advance and get any necessary permissions in writing.
If a woman chooses to give birth in her home than she can give you permission to photograph inside the private place. This should be easier than working around the red tape in a major hospital.
Remember that whoever owns the private place has the authority to give, or not give, permission to photograph on site so you will need to make sure that your client has this authority. You may want to consider adding language to your contract that specifically states that your client has the right to give such permission, and such permission is being granted.
Contracts for Birth Photography
Like all of your contracts, a birth contract should be customized to your specific shoot. This does not always just mean adding in the relevant party names, dates, times, session fee, etc., but also any additional considerations that may only apply to that instance.
For birth photography some items to consider adding to your contract include:
• Expectations of type of what will be captured during the shoot
• What being “on call” means
• What date range you will be on call
• Any “medical update” requirements in the weeks leading up to the due date
• When the client should contact you to come to the hospital
• How long you will spend at the hospital
• What happens if you miss a birth
In addition, clients may have extra concerns regarding birth photography that don’t come into play a lot during other types of shoots. For example, due to the intimate nature of the photographs they may want to you to agree to not publish all or certain photos. Make sure you address with your client and add any such agreement to your contract.
Model Releases for Birth Photography
In any shoot, a model release is important if you want to use your image for any advertising or other commercial purposes. Remember that this includes promotions on your website or social media.
Due to the nature of birth photography many clients will not want to sign model releases. This is something you should expect and may want to come up with some compromises so that you can still promote your birth photography services.
Some examples include:
• Having a set number of photographs that will be allowed to be showcased on your website/blog/social media that are pre-approved by the client
• Offering a discount in exchange for signing a model release
In addition to having your clients sign a model release for themselves, what about others present that might need to sign a release if you intend to use the photograph for commercial purposes?
This could include grandparents, doctors, nurses, doulas, and even the baby!