You wouldn’t think twice about hiring a photographer for a wedding, and possibly not for a maternity or newborn shoot, but would you immortalise the birth itself in all its messy glory? You should, says licensed birth and family photographer Lana Abu Shaheen. Birth photography is a new, but growing, genre of photography in the UAE, and its delicate intimacy captures magically moving moments like no other.

Here, Lana answers some of our questions...

Why do people book a birth photographer?
Birth is an important and happy milestone in any family’s life and it is an occasion that happens once in a lifetime: That baby is born into the family one time and in one way, and their birth changes the lives of everyone involved, from the mother and father to the siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even cousins! So documenting the baby’s entrance into the world is definitely an occasion worth preserving and remembering. 

‘I am probably going to look terrible during the birth of my child – why would I want that on camera’?
I understand. Most of us are very critical of how we look, even on our best days, so this is to be expected. I always say that I have never seen a labouring mom not look beautiful during her labour. The extreme joy and the magnitude of happiness and relief is the best form of makeup anyone can ever ask for! Plus, it is a professional photographer’s job to capture mom in the most flattering angles and situations.

Read more: Why you might want to eat your placenta

What should you ask a birth photographer you’re thinking of hiring?
It is important to know whether they have experience covering this sort of thing, especially because birth photography is not for the faint of heart. You will see people in some of their best and worst conditions, some in extreme pain or agitation, and while it is important to be empathetic, it is even more important to show strength and resilience so that you are not adding to the worry or the load on the expectant couple’s shoulders. I have an entire website dedicated to helping couples decide on birth photography and how to choose the right photographer (www.dubaibirthphotography.com)

Here are some suggestions to consider before hiring a professional birth photographer:

Do they have a business license? It is illegal to operate without a business license in the UAE. Check reviews on Facebook and Google. Experience is key, knowledge about childbirth and the labor process can really make a big impact on the overall experience.

When you think you've identified someone, know that you should be entitled to an in-person consultation. Please do not take this lightly, it is so incredibly important that you are comfortable with every single person that will be present inside your birth space on delivery day, and your birth photographer is no exception to rule, this works the other way around as well. The best way to ensure that you are all a good fit for each other is to meet as a couple with your birth photographer and get to know each other.

Ask them: How many births they have covered? How long have they been in business? What is the longest labor they've attended? The shortest? What is their experience with birth in general? You don’t want to hire someone who can jeopardize your experience in any sort of way by being a hindrance to you or the hospital staff in any way. When looking at their work, look at their portfolio, does it look and feel good to you? Does it resonate with you? Is it consistent? Have they demonstrated growth in their skills? Are the pictures getting better or worse with time?

What’s the process?
I usually have a phone call to get to know the mom a little better, ask questions about her birth plan, find out who her doctor is and explain the process of how things would work on the day. It is important for me before booking a client that I meet with both the mum and the dad prior to any contracts being signed. This ensures we are all on the same page, and that the expecting parents are comfortable in my energy and presence. It is never too early to contact a birth photographer, especially because we can only take on a limited number of birth bookings a month. My presence in the delivery room also counts as an extra birth partner and therefore it is important that the client obtains approval from their doctor and midwife and informs them that I will be joining them on the day.

Read more Meet the woman who had Dubai's first 'natural' caesarean

Are there any instances in which hospitals will not allow a birth photographer?
In cases of extreme emergency; for example, if a mother has to be rushed into theatre for an emergency C-section, a birth photographer would probably not be allowed in. This sometimes would apply not only to the photographer, but also to her birth partner in general (husband, mom, etc.)

Do you have to be on call as birth photographer?
I go on call at 39 weeks up to 41 weeks and from then on my clients can call me any time day or night. I have been called out several times in the middle of the night - babies LOVE the night time for some reason! How long I’ll be with the mum is unknown, I’ve covered really short labors that have lasted as little as four hours and really long ones that lasted over 48 hours. I will stay with a laboring mom from the moment she is in active labor until two or three hours after the birth of her child.

Read more Waterbirth, Hypnobirthing and Doulas: Your guide to alternative birth options in the UAE

What kind of packages do you have?
I am a birth photographer and videographer, so my packages include both mediums. I edit a minimum number of images and also edit video footage to turn it into a mini movie that can be uploaded and played on practically any digital device. I have varying packages that suit couples’ needs from digital packages, to albums and everything in between.

For more information on the packages she offers contact Lana at: 052 903 7740, info@lanaphotographs.com

All images courtesy of Lana Photographs