May 23, 2022
I have a treat for you in this episode. I am bringing on fellow birth photographer and one of my students Emily Gipper to chat with you guys about her first year in business and exactly what she did to go from a little bit insecure and unsure with her camera to finally confidently photographing birth.
And Emily shared so, so much great information in this episode. I can’t wait for you to hear she shared how she preps for a birth or a session to have a successful shoot. And this information is so valuable for anyone out there who still gets like sweaty palms right before a session and I totally can relate.
She is also sharing how she went from unsure as a photographer to booking eight births her very first year in business and the way that she was able to build confidence as a new photographer. She’s also sharing her best piece of advice for new birth photographers and what she wished that she knew a year ago. I also love that Emily shared a little bit of her birth stories and how she used birth photography in her own birth, and you can use this to help your clients in this way too.
Emily received her BA and Masters in Music Education and found that teaching in schools didn’t bring her joy and fulfilment. After a difficult hospital and subsequent post-partum depression and psychosis, she learned that birth photos empowered her to work through birth trauma. Now she’s a birth photographer and videographer as well as a doula. She’s a mother to three with one on the way and married for six years to her best friend, Trevor. She and her family reside in Mesa, Arizona. So we’re going to give you all the links to connect with Emily after this episode – let’s get into it.
Tavia: Emily, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here. It’s a privilege for me to have you here!
Emily: Oh, that’s so nice. I had never thought I would be on your podcast, so super excited.
Tavia: Oh, yay. I am extra thankful because I know you’re not feeling well, so thank you so much for making the time and effort to be here and just share a little bit of your story. And so can you just briefly tell us who you are, who you serve, all that good stuff?
Emily: Yeah! So I serve the moms in Arizona in Mesa and Gilbert, the greater Phoenix area. I’m a birth photographer and I also love photographing newborns – finally, it took me a while to get to that point – and maternity and families.
I have three kids and one on the way and my husband and I have been married for six years.
Tavia: Awesome, so cool. So what made you want to get into birth photography?
Emily: That is a really good question. Every time I have a baby, it’s a huge ordeal. I am really sick for probably about two trimesters-ish. I love the second trimester and the third trimester and then post-partum is really difficult. And I usually get postpartum depression and sometimes psychosis and sometimes anxiety and rage and all of the things that that I never knew were a thing. And so after my first baby was born, I didn’t have any positive pictures from that experience and I was really in a bad place.
After my second baby was born, I kind of knew what to expect post-partum and that I had tendencies for depression. And so we decided to get a birth photographer for that baby. And it’s the only pregnancy actually that I did have a birth photographer for and that depression was way lighter. And I didn’t have psychosis. That’s the only baby that I didn’t have psychosis with out of the three.
And I felt like the birth photos really helped me process her birth. And it was totally different than my first birth, which had a lot of complications and got really scary a few times. And so when my third baby was born, I wanted a birth photographer, but we couldn’t afford it. I didn’t even think about asking for a payment plan. Nobody had offered me one.
I really thought, I think every mom deserves a birth photographer. Every baby deserves to be recorded coming into the world. And I feel like it’s right up there with weddings.
And so I had been getting into photography. My husband was a photographer and he would sit by me every night and teach me everything on Lightroom and he would show me how to do settings. And I was never confident with settings and until I took your course. And so that’s how I kind of got into birth photography. I just felt very passionate about helping moms with their journey into motherhood.
Tavia: Wow, what an incredible story. So when you didn’t have a birth photographer with your third, do you feel like your post-partum experience was more challenging because you didn’t have those photos to look back on, do you attribute having birth photography with your second to really help you process and not have such intense post-partum depression?
Emily: Yeah, so my third birth was post-partum period was probably the worst. We also had COVID starting, she was born in January 2020. So I feel like that was complicated because we didn’t have people coming over to the house to help. I had my post-partum counsellor set up, but we had phone conversations and it’s different than being in person. It’s a little bit less able to connect with someone, I feel like almost.
And just seeing people in masks was somehow really difficult for me post-partum. So I really struggled that time, but I definitely think that those pictures from my second birth helped me not to spiral and they helped something in my brain flip because you know, your body keeps a score. So after my first birth went so poorly, my body wanted to remember that first birth and I was able to flip the script with good pictures that showed our family bonding and my husband’s supporting me and our new little baby. So I definitely attribute a half year of post-partum to birth photos.
Tavia: Wow. That’s so powerful. Thank you so much for sharing such a vulnerable time. I know that is going to help people really understand what an impact birth photography can have for them and their clients. Because I think that sometimes as photographers, we get so caught up in a lot of the day-to-day things, you know, especially when you start photographing a lot of births, it’s easy to sometimes forget what an impact it can have. So thank you so much for that reminder.
Let’s go to your business when you got started in birth photography. So after your second baby was born, you’re like, “Okay, I loved having these birth photos. I want to get into birth photography.” Is that accurate?
Emily: Yeah, exactly.
Tavia: Okay, cool. So did you have any hesitations about specializing in birth photography at that time?
Emily: Yeah, I would say it definitely did because I didn’t feel like many people wanted birth photos and people would come to me asking for maternity photos and “Hey, how about birth?” And they’re like, “No, we’re good.” It was very difficult for me to be able to reach them and kind of explain how important this was if they haven’t had a baby already.
And I get that because my first birth, I don’t want anybody in the room except for my husband. I’m going to be naked. I don’t want anyone to see that. And it’s very vulnerable having a baby. And so it made sense that they didn’t want to have someone extra in the room.
Tavia: So you felt like people didn’t want birth photos and obviously now, you know, they do. So how did you overcome that?
Emily: So I think it’s important to highlight what birth photos can do for people and why they’re so important and just continue talking about the benefits of having birth photos. And also, I think it’s important to have the comments from people who didn’t have birth photos in other births compared to having birth photos for some of their other births, because I know I have a huge regret in that area because I have two without, and if I had only known about maybe a payment plan or something, we could have had birth photos for all three.
Tavia: Hmm. That’s so important. Thank you for mentioning that. So before, you briefly mentioned the course. So you’re a student inside our certification program. What was your business like before joining? I know you said you were sitting on the couch with your husband and he was showing you Lightroom and you had these maybe ideas for photography and birth photography, but where were you like mentally?
What were you struggling with at that time? Did you know that you wanted to specialize in birth when you joined? Or was it just something you thought you might want to add? What were things like for you then?
Emily: So I was a music teacher and full-time teaching high school and junior high Music. And then I got pregnant with my second and we decided to have me stay home with her. And so I knew I wanted something on the side, but photography was never really in the realm for a job, I didn’t think I could ever be good at it. It seemed really daunting. And 2019, I was really pregnant with my daughter and our third baby.
And I was like, I think I’m just gonna have a photography business. So my husband was like, “Okay, let’s do it!” And so he would actually go with me to shoots and I would advertise like $30 for a shoot. It was really bad, Tavia. And I had people contacting me out. A lot of people wanted pictures and I needed stuff for my portfolio. So I did a lot of photo shoots for hardly anything and got a lot of practice, but here’s the thing my husband had to do my settings for me every time.
And I would get really freaked out before every shoot. And I would constantly talk myself out of doing it. I would almost cancel and that’s just not like me, I’m not the type of person to be afraid of things. I’ve mastered stuff when I’ve put my mind to it. But this, for some reason seemed really, really hard.
And so I think I had looked up birth photography and that I think actually got an ad for the course and it was an instant answer to what I needed to be doing because I had prayed about it. And it was really exciting because I was like, “Okay, somebody could teach me all this and I don’t have to go try to figure it out on my own. And she’ll tell me what to do and what not to do.” And there were just so many, looking through all of it, there’s so many good things that I needed to learn from you. So that’s how I got into the course.
Tavia: That’s awesome. I don’t think I ever knew that. So what was the experience like inside? Have you had any like big game-changing takeaways inside the course? What did you learn inside that you feel like you were missing before?
Emily: Yeah, I can think of two huge ones for me. The first one is, like I said, my husband had to go to every shoot and do my settings because you know how the sun changes and that changes your settings. And I was like, “Oh, I’ll just like do auto the whole time,” and auto doesn’t mean that you’re going to get a good picture.
You have a specific part in the course that teaches exactly how to do manual settings. And once I did my first shoot on manual, I can’t even tell you – I was sweating so much! I was so nervous, but I did it and my pictures look so much better. I was like, “This is so much easier than I thought it was going to be!” And it’s just because Tavia explained what my husband had been trying to explain how to do settings for a year. And something about the way that you showed me, made it so much easier to learn.
And then the second thing that was really big for me was trying to figure out how much to charge because you can’t just go look at how much everybody else is charging and kind of get an idea for how much birth photography is worth in the area. But it’s really important to take into account all of your expenditures and what you’re hoping to make and if you’re adding extra things like doula or videography, which I do both now, and it’s important to add all of those things. So you have a really cool calculator that was helpful for me too.
Tavia: Awesome. And I love that you kept going, because I totally remember that feeling of going to a shoot and you’re like, “I can’t do this. I’m going to do such a bad job. What if I mess it up and what am I going to say and how…” you know, all these different things. And I don’t love that you felt that too, but I can definitely empathize with you big time on that, but I love that you kept doing it and I love that you and your husband had the type of relationship where you’re like, “Can you set my settings for me now that the sun is a little bit lower?”
Emily: I know! I’m like, this is my assistant and I would chalk it up to him helping me. But in actuality, he was the real deal and he knows the setting stuff and I just had no ideas.
Actually at the first birth I ever went to, I was terrified because he’d never been not by my side, for my camera, to do my settings. And so I was like, I don’t know what to do, and I would text him every once in a while and be like, “Does this look right?”
And finally, after that first birth, you know it’s for you and you know that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, because it’s such a beautiful moment. And to be able to provide pictures for families of the first time they met their baby is just such a huge calling to me. And I was so glad that he pushed me out the door because he literally had to push me out the door the first birth.
Tavia: So how are you feeling now? We’ve talked about what things were like for you sort of before, and so how are you feeling now when you’re photographing birth? How many births have you gotten to photograph now and what results have you experienced not only in your personal walk as a photographer, but also in your business since you joined the course in the last couple of years?
Emily: Yeah, so February of 2021 was my first birth and I’ve done 8 births total. I haven’t been taking any since I’ve been so sick, but I feel so confident walking into a birth. I know that I have all my gear. Your checklist for that is really helpful in the course. I know that my batteries are charged. I know, since I’ve asked my client all of the questions that we talked about in the course, I know that we’re both on the same page with everything. If they need a transfer or if they want a crowning shot, for example, we go for all of that. I wouldn’t have thought to ask them things like that if I hadn’t taken the course.
And I also know my role if they’ve just hired me as a birth photographer and not a doula. I know that I am used to get really nervous talking at birth, I would just not shut up and just make comments and I didn’t need to do that. And so I really learned to be a fly on the wall like you teach and just be respectful of everything that mom is going through as she brings her baby into the world.
Tavia: That’s incredible. And photographing 8 births in about a year, right? That’s incredible progress to go from having your husband setting your settings and not sure what you’re doing and feeling insecure to now photographing 8 births in one year is incredible. You’re so diligent and you show up for yourself and you’re just doing such a great job. I’m so proud of you!
Emily: I really wouldn’t have had the confidence to venture into birth photography without your course, so thank you! Thanks for creating and going over every little thing we could have asked. And then if we have more questions, you’re always open to answering those in the Facebook group or even in a text sometimes, so thank you!
Tavia: Yeah, it’s my pleasure. So can you talk a little bit about becoming certified? What kind of effect has this had on your business, your bookings, or even maybe your confidence?
Emily: Yes. So I actually do slide in, every time somebody asks for a birth photographer on Facebook, I’m like, “Yes, I’m a certified birth photographer.” And then on my website I have my little certification stamp and it’s probably more in my head, but I feel like it does give me a lot of confidence to be able to say I’ve done the work, I’ve put in the hours, I’ve taken a course – and it not just like a mini course of birth photography, this is like a hefty detail-filled course. You really get your money’s worth. And it really helped me to be able to say, “I’m the one for you and this is going to work out really well.”
And all the people that I’ve done birth photography for, they’ve really mentioned to me that they just love how the photos turned out. And they’re so glad they got a birth photographer and I love being able to help with that.
Tavia: That’s awesome. So I think that, this is kind of like deviating from a conversation a little bit about something that’s been on my mind, because I think that some people think about becoming certified in whatever it is. And there’s so many different levels of certification to where it’s like, “Oh, I paid money and now I’m certified,” and that’s totally not what our certification is all about. It’s actually a little bit rigorous because I don’t want to just certify everybody who pays for the course.
I want to see people, like Emily, to actually go through the material, learn the material. You have to take an assessment – a pretty detailed assessment with 75 questions and submit 3 galleries so that I know that I’m comfortable putting The Beauty in Birth stamp of approval on these photographers. And so it is quite an achievement to become certified that not everybody who applies for ends up obtaining.
And you can resubmit and that kind of a thing. But I do think that, especially when you photograph less than three or four births, to be able to say, “I’m working towards my certification,” or to say, “I am now a certified birth photographer,” shows your potential clients that you’re taking your business seriously. It’s a way that can help you stand out among a sea of what is now a lot of birth photographers, to be able to say that you’re certified or working towards your certification, it’s just an additional element to help you stand out. Would you agree with that?
Emily: Yeah, for sure. I have a master’s and I worked my butt off for it. And so I know what good schooling is. I guess what I’m trying to say, and I feel like, there are definitely different levels of certification and the reason I felt confident going into your courses when I saw like the list of things that you offer in it they were so detailed. And then on top of it, you have the money-back guarantee. And so I was like, if this doesn’t work out, I could fall back on that. Like if her course wasn’t good or if there wasn’t enough in here that’s really worth the money, then I’ll be okay financially. But really, it was worth every penny and more. And for sure, there’s different levels of certification.
And I feel like when I was taking your test, I was like, “I don’t know if I’m going to pass this.” So it was rigorous and I definitely didn’t get 100% on my galleries. There’s things that I still need to work on, but I also love that you pointed out what I needed to work on. So it’s still a learning process as I’m going through this birth photography journey.
Tavia: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s so fun for me as an instructor to see you have so much progress in such a short amount of time. So you’re doing such a great job.
So can you share a story maybe of like a birth that you’ve been to that is like something that was fun that happened at a birth or silly or exciting cause birth photography. Naturally lends itself to those things. Right. Because it’s just like, you never know what’s going to happen. And there’s always so many different, exciting things going on. Like, do you have a fun birth story that pops to mind?
Emily: Yeah. I have photographed only home births besides one birth center birth, actually. And so when this first time mom called me and said, “Hey, I’m in labor,” two weeks before her due date, I was like, “No, there’s no way that you’re in labor.” And I really didn’t think she was in labor.
And then her sister texts me a couple of hours later. She’s like, “Things are ramping up. You need to get out here now.” And I was like, “Okay.” And so I packed up all my stuff. She was actually at labor and she did have her baby a couple of hours after I got there. So I just wasn’t expecting it. First time, mom, they usually go late.
So the other one was the day before that actually. It was another home birth and she knew her baby was a girl the whole time. She didn’t get an ultrasound and all of that. And so when her baby was born, she checked and it was a boy. And so she was like, “I have all these girl things, ‘cause I was just like hoping it was the girl, but it was her third boy.
Tavia: Oh my gosh. That’s so funny. I love surprise genders! That’s so fun. It’s so exciting. Yeah, that’s an interesting point too, about the mom who was 38 weeks and a first time mom in particular. You don’t think it’s like, “Yeah, you don’t really know. You haven’t done this yet. Call me back tomorrow.” And she’s like, “No, for real real.”
Emily: I just thought of another one, this one was super embarrassing for me. I had looked up a client’s house on Google to just make sure I knew what the front of it looked like – had a truck in front, and then there was something else parked in the driveway. And so when I got there, I was like, “Okay.” Now where I’m going, it was really dark. It was early in the morning and so I couldn’t see the numbers very easily. And you know how Google like leads you along. And then they’re like, you’re here and you’re not even close. And so I was really confused. So I grabbed all my gear and I was actually doing videography for her too. So I have a lot of stuff and I go knock on the door.
It was around Halloween and the lights are all on. I thought for sure, this was the house. It was 2:30 in the morning. It was back at the house and they’re like, “Oh, sorry. No, we’re not having a baby here.” I was like, “Okay. My bad.” So I had to go a couple of houses up, finally found the right place. And mom was crowning when I walked in the doors. Lesson is to always go to your client’s house ahead of time.
Tavia: WOW. There’s the sound clip for the episode of everything that Emily said, her lesson is always make sure and go to your client’s house! That’s so funny. Were they nice when you went to the house?
Emily: Oh yeah! They were like having a party there, they were just hanging out. I was like, “Wow, you guys are up really late.” And she was like, “Yeah!”
Tavia: Oh, that’s so funny. You know, they still tell that story. Remember that lady who came to the door with all that stuff in the middle of the night?
Emily: It was really embarrassing. I didn’t tell my client ever in the end. I was like, I’m so sorry.
Tavia: Well, I mean, at least they were nice and they were hanging out anyway. It wasn’t somebody that you woke up or something. Oh my gosh. That’s hilarious.
Tavia: So what is something, if you could think of one tip to share with a new photographer who maybe has photographed one birth or who is thinking about getting into birth photography, but there may be Emily a couple of years ago, and they’re struggling with confidence and they’re not sure how to get their first few clients, what would be your advice to them other than joining the course, what would be your advice to them right now?
Emily: You’re going to have rough patches and they’re going to feel eternal at times. I’m used to working really hard and getting results fast, and I felt like even though you say like, my photography has improved really fast, it’s kind of hard to see those changes when you’re in it yourself. And so be confident that the skill is coming. You are working on this and it’s all going to come together and you’re going to have some big breaks along the way that you didn’t expect.
And I was kind of in a point in my business where I was like, I haven’t had a birth in a while. I just had one birth. I don’t have anything set up for the future. And then the news channel featured one of my home births and gave me credit on every picture that they shared. And they only used my birth photography. So it was really exciting that I was on the news. And now I can say I’m featured on my website. So you’re going to have cool little things like that happen to you.
So don’t give up, you’re going to want to give up sometimes – just don’t. Because if you really love it, if you’re really passionate about it, it’s worth it to keep doing it. There’s a reason why you’re doing it.
Tavia: I love that. This is my last question. What would you go back and tell your former self? Maybe something along those lines of what you just said. You tell a neighbor, this photographer, but like about birth photography and sort of like knowing where you are now, what would you go back and tell your former self?
Emily: This is a little I guess hippy-dippy, but it really works for me so I can get really anxious about going to shoots and I still do even though I know how to do settings now. But I would probably tell myself to learn how to tap and do affirmations. So when I’m on my way to shoot now, I tap and I say, “You’re a good photographer.” And I say, “You’re going to get amazing photos right now. And you’re going to know when to change your settings. And you’re going to know how to read the room and when to not take photos, and all of the things kind of that I learned in the course I just reaffirmed that I studied this and that I can do it.
And so it’s mostly just like a motivational speech for me every time I get in the car on my way to a session that I need to remember that I put the time into this and I can do it.
Tavia: That is so beautiful. I love that so much. That’s a perfect way to wrap up the episode. Emily, thank you again for being on the show. Please let everyone know where they can connect with you online, so they can go follow your work. Or if they’re listening in Arizona, maybe connect with you in real life.
Emily: Oh, I would love that! I’m on Instagram @emilygipperphotography. It’s like ‘flipper’, but Gipper – with a G. And then my website is emilygipper.com. So pretty easy. And I would love for you to come follow me. I’m on Facebook too. So yeah. Thank you.
Tavia: Thank you so much, Emily!
Emily: It was a blast talking to you, Tavia. Thanks again!
Thank you so much for making the time for yourself to listen to this episode, make sure and connect with Emily on Instagram and check out her website as well just to say thanks for being on this episode.
And my friend, if you have a passion, it is not an accident. Not everyone loves the thing that you love. So whatever your passion is, I hope that you will get out there and make it happen. Have a great week.