Winning In A Different Way

The International Association of Birth Photographers just held their annual birth photography contest, and like every year before I entered. Birth photography is important because it empowers women, shows birth honestly and helps educate people on how birth can be both an universal experience while at the same time remaining 100% unique to each birth. My entry for the labor category is one I am very proud of and thought it was unique enough and interesting that it would catch the eye of the judges.

Homebirth Photography Colorado laboring in the shower

I really thought I had a high chance of winning, or at least receiving an honorable mention. I knew once I clicked the shutter that this photo was going to be special.

Fast-foward to the night before the winners were announced and I was scrolling through my Facebook feed. I saw a post from the mother in the photo talking about her how they told her on same day this photo was taken that the baby most likely wouldn’t live through the night; eight months later he was playing with his big brother and doing great.


I felt like I had been sucker punched. I couldn’t breath and I started to cry.

I was getting worked up about the contest and had lost sight of the real story. This birth didn’t go as planned, in fact it was what we would call a traumatic birth. It was so very hard and made me question everything I thought I knew and loved about birth photography. Reading the mom’s post eight months later brought it all back to me on why birth photography is so important. This family, this baby, will always be in my heart as a miracle. Sometimes we all need a reality check.

Yes, we all love to be recognized for our work. Hearing from photographers around the country, and making connection because of this photo has been amazing, and is helping me grow a community. This morning I read that my photo did place in the competition and the feedback from the judges, two photographers I truly admire, Emily Robinson and Erin Hensley, and the founder of the association, Lyndsay Stradtner’s comments on my photo did warm my heart. (I am human.) But I keep coming back to the family, especially the mother’s post on the joy this baby’s life has brought; I know that being part of their story is the real prize.

Often the lessons we need to learn are the hardest or most painful. For me it was clearly seeing my own desire for wanting so badly to win that gave me the perspective on why I choose to specialize in birth photography. I don’t need to be internet famous, have a million followers, or be great at public relations. I need and want to provide my families with beautiful images that tell the story of their birth in a way that I know is uniquely my own. I do it for them and I do it for me as an artist.

To all you photographers that didn’t win, didn’t even receive feedback, take heart. Continue to show your work and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Share your work with others. Tell the families’ stories, and serve them the best you can. Find a space in your heart and mind that allows you to continue with the beautiful work you create.

If you would like to read more of Baby Tim’s Birth Story you can by following this link.




  1. Heather Keys February 19, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I submitted photos as well and didn’t receive any feedback. I know some of my images were my best work to date, which I’m over the moon about. We only get better I suppose. Your clients birth story had a pretty great turn out. Glad to hear her son is doing good.

    • admin February 19, 2016 at 8:47 pm

      I know how you feel Heather. Take pride in your images!

  2. Morag Hastings February 19, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    Beautifully written!!!! I loved your image it was in my top 10 for sure. Knowing the story behind it makes it even more powerful. I agree with your comment about shooting for your clients, not your internet fame. It will always shine through.

    • admin February 20, 2016 at 12:52 am

      Wow Morag, that means a lot! Your image is so beautiful and I am glad the world gets to see such a beautiful portrayal of strength and femininity!

  3. Lyndsay Stradtner February 20, 2016 at 2:10 am

    You have your head on straight and your heart in the right place: with your clients! Your photo and sentiment are beautiful – so proud of you!

    • admin February 20, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      Thank you Lyndsay!

  4. Isabell Steinert February 22, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    This is beautifully written, Sarah! And your photo was certainly among my favorites. Thanks for sharing the story behind it. Love from the Philippines.

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