While I’m not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination, I just became father of a beautiful girl (this explains the lack of recent posts…) and I’d like to share some photography tips for the magic moment.
1 – Equipment choice
There are some things you will have to prepare in advance. Actually there are many things, but I will focus on the photography aspect alone ;-)
First, you will have to decide what equipment to use. If you have a DSLR I strongly recommend you to use it, but only if you are familiar with it.
If you are not 100% sure on how to use it, forget it. Better to bring a small point & shoot that you can actually use than take horrible out-of-focus pictures with an SLR.
The delivery room itself plays the most important role in deciding what lens is appropriate. If you can visit the delivery room in advance, do it. Look at the lighting, room size, etc… (by the way a visit is recommended to the wife too, so she knows what to expect).
In my case the lights were dim and soft so a fast lens was mandatory. I used a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens (with a Nikon D80) and it was fine. Maybe slightly long, but it did the job very well.
The delivery room is not a good place to fiddle with multiple lenses, so pick one and stick with it. Leave the other lenses at home: you will have all the time later to experiment with different equipment.
Forget the flash, it’s too obtrusive and it’s pretty much guaranteed that after a flash or two your wife will get angry at you. Leave it at home –the less stuff you will have to bring along, the better.
As mentioned above, keep in mind that without a flash at your disposal you will probably need a fast lens.
2 – Make ready
In the delivery room you will basically forget everything you know, so you will have to prepare everything you can in advance:
Know your equipment
If your camera is relatively new, or you bought a new lens, make sure you are familiar with it. Take indoor shots from a distance that may reflect the available space in the delivery room.
As I mentioned before, come that moment you will forget everything, so it’s a good idea to preset your camera. If the lights are dim and low like in my case you will have to shoot at high ISO: If your camera supports it, it may be a good idea to turn Auto-ISO on and practice a bit. One less thing to take care of.
Shoot in RAW! You will need to adjust white balance because of the weird lights and it will be a lot easier to deal with it later at home when the adrenaline is gone. You probably won’t take hundreds of pictures, but anyways make sure your memory card is large enough.
The Program mode is probably the best as it does not fire the flash but will select shutter speed/aperture for you. Avoid Auto because of the automatic flash and Aperture/Shutter priority because as I said you will make any kind of mistake (except maybe if you are a professional photographer and/or at your third child).
Place the dial in the correct position well before the event. It sounds stupid, but you will feel more stupid when you’ll notice an hour later that you took all your pictures with the wrong settings.
Keep the camera ready
In the last few weeks of pregnancy make sure your camera battery is fully charged and the memory card empty. Put the camera in your wife’s bag so you won’t forget it at home.
If you put it anywhere else when you’ll be in a hurry to go to the hospital you will think “to hell with the camera” and leave it at home –only to regret it later.
3 – When the time has come
Fast forward a while and you are there in the delivery room. My advice is to forget the camera, be there to support your wife and enjoy the moment. Then when the baby is out, crying and looking around for the first time, grab the camera and do your best to keep your hand steady. Check with the hospital before, but in our case right after the birth they left us almost alone for an hour or two with the baby. That was a great time to take pictures.
By the way, babies are not that pretty in their first minutes of life. But they will look beautiful to you :-)
That’s all I can say. Please take all this advice with a grain of salt and most important congrats on the imminent birth and prepare for one of the best times of your life!