A conversation with Emily from Birth Collective. Put the kettle on and enjoy the read.
What inspired you to set up your business?
My passion for photography was sparked when I had my first daughter (2017), I absolutely loved capturing moments of her as she grew. My husband is in the photography industry which meant we had a camera at home, I got him to teach me everything he knew, and this became a great hobby of mine.
It wasn’t until after I had my second daughter in 2019, when I was scrolling on instagram and stumbled upon some birth images that brought tears to my eyes, they carried so much emotion in each photograph. A dream started to bloom in my heart. These were the powerful and sacred moments that I REALLY wanted to capture!
How did you start out in the beginning?
Since 2017 I continued to practice and refine my photography. I then spent a good three months working on a business plan before I launched in 2021. I put my pen to paper and got my thoughts and vision in writing. I spent many hours watching and reading up on Birth Photography and attended friends’ births in preparation for launch. Although, launching a Birth Photography business in the midst of a pandemic has not been easy! CDHB has had a ‘one support person’ policy almost the entire year since starting, so have only been able to photograph home-births. Thus being said it has given me the space and time to work on my maternity and newborn portfolio which I have thoroughly enjoyed!! Hopefully with restrictions easing, CDHB will allow more support people into the hospitals, which will allow Birth Collective to capture those special moments at home and at the hospital.
What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
The most powerful and helpful tool for me has been the business plan. Having a clear vision (which has room to evolve) and working toward that has been really helpful to know what I’m focusing on. When other opportunities have arose, the upfront work of the business plan has really helped to keep Birth Collective focused on its core vision which is capturing the beautiful story of birth. Staying focused has helped people find and choose Birth Collective, which I have been so honoured to capture these beautiful māmā, births (wherereitanga) and pēpē.
How do you balance work and family?
Work and family is the real challenge isn’t it! Having two preschoolers at home makes my hours limited to when they’re in kindy. Although this is the beauty of working for yourself, you can have flexible hours, which means when the kids are home I’m very intentional about not working and giving them my attention. In saying this, housework and other household duties have taken a hit, but I guess this is just the reality of life and no matter what you do I think there will always be seasons where different things take a back-seat. I’m learning to let go of the expectations of having a tidy home or clean kitchen all the time etc. and focusing on a healthy balance of family, work, home life.
I am very thankful my husband is very releasing and encouraging, so when we talked about creating Birth Collective we discussed what it would logistically look like if I am ‘on call’ for a birth etc. and how we would navigate that. We also have very supportive friends who help out when needed.
What challenges have you overcome?
In many areas of my life in the past I’ve struggled with comparison, but when I stepped in to this industry I was intentional not to compare myself to others, because I knew that it’s not a healthy place to be, and what would hold me back. What is healthy is to be inspired by others, to see other creatives art and take inspiration to create your own art. A big challenge for me is that I’m my own biggest critic, so when I look at my work I always see imperfection, I guess it’s good in a sense that I always want to improve, but challenging when you don’t stop to appreciate your work. It’s a journey, and we’re all on one.
I know I’m not alone with my struggle with comparison and see myself in a privileged position through interactions and photography to show people their beauty, grace and greater self-love. This is a huge drive for me, showing women and encouraging them through their photo session with them that they are beautiful!
What are the pros and cons of running your own business?
My brain never stops ticking over with ideas. I am limitless in what I can dream and achieve, I’m the only person stopping me. There is so much possibility, and it’s exciting!
Time is my limit, having only x amount of hours in a day, but everyone has the same amount of time in a day, so we’re all faced with that challenge. I’m a real people person so have LOVED getting to know new people, hearing their stories and capturing beautiful memories for them to cherish.
I would say the ‘con’ for a sole trader photographer in general is that there is a big business administration element to it and if you’re not business savvy it can become a challenge. There are systems you need to set in place and procedures, contracts, design, website building and maintenance, marketing, accounts etc. which I see as an area which could potentially limit your growth if you don’t do it properly.
So not only am I on a journey of establishing myself as a photographer, running a sustainable business is new for me too. Thankfully my husband and friends have given me a lot of help and pointers along the way, I wouldn’t have been able to start this without the amazing support network around me.
Hopes and dreams: What next?
If you’re still reading my post, well done, I’m now letting you in on my dream and vision for Birth Collective!
Dreams are free so I thought I’d dream a big one up and go from there: The vision is to grow Birth Collective to be a community of birth photographers across Aotearoa, (because who knows it can sometimes be lonely working on your own!?). Also, because the hours for a birth photographer is similar to a midwife, I’d like to build a structure/team/support network around this job. If you’re reading this and interested in getting into birth photography and being a part of a wider community, please reach out to me via my links below, I would love to hear from you.
I want to try my hand at so many different things. I’ve heard advisors say “focus on one thing and get really good at it”, so I’m trying to do that. Every time I try something new though, I just LOVE it. I have a sister company called VSTO, shorthand for visual storytelling. Which is a platform for other photography genres. We have big dreams for VSTO too and are just getting started, so follow along and be a part of our journey.