Pro Tips for Photographing Your Unique Birth Experience

Doula and birth photographer Karissa Raya balances supporting people in childbirth, and documenting the magic of a family’s history. She offers insights and tricks of the trade for documenting your birth experience with photos, including framing those special moments—all while staying in the moment.

Listen through to the end for Adriana’s “Two Things to Do: One for You, One for the Rest of Us.” Every week, she selects actions, books, and other resources to further inform your intuition and support others on their birth journeys.

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Pro Tips for Photographing Your Unique Birth Experience

Adriana Lozada: Welcome to Birthful. I’m Adriana Lozada. 

Karissa Raya: So, I’m capturing the details of their bonding time, that golden hour, I’m just observational. I’m not posing them. 

Lozada: That’s doula and birth photographer, Karissa Raya. Today, she will be sharing what to consider when trying to capture your birth experience, including special moments to look out for and suggestions on how to stay present in the moment while you capture it. Make sure you stay on till the end of the episode for my two things to do. One for you, one for the rest of us. You’re listening to Birthful, here to inform your intuition. 

Welcome, Karissa. It is so nice to have you here today. 

Raya: Thank you for having me. 

Lozada: I’m very excited to talk to you and pick your brain about ways to capture the birth experience, but before we do that, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Raya: I’ll start with my own experiences becoming a mom. I listen to your podcast, so I hear my transition into my motherhood changed my life, and that happened to me. I was already on the path of really the self-evolution, but having my daughter really opened my world and she was a huge catalyst into my own healing, and my own journey, so it was after having her that I was like, “I want to support other people with capturing their stories, with telling their stories, with supporting them, holding their hand through this transition too.” So, I became a doula within months of having my daughter and then it was in that time, during my doula training, actually, I was documenting and asking the trainer. I was like, “Can I take pictures for you later?” 

I was a hobbyist. I wasn’t a photographer at that time. And so, it was really through that experience too. The doula training I took was like a POC, person of color-only training, and it was really focused on traditional practices, and really focused on yourself. The person I was trained by was Sumayyah Franklin, who’s a Bay Area-Oakland midwife, and her motto is doula your damn self. So, how do you doula yourself to then be the best support for others? 

I still learn so much from her, and so for the first few months after becoming a doula, I really was my own doula, learning about myself, how to best support other people, and it was in that really precious time that I was like, “I’m a photographer.” I have always been a photographer. In college, I was in a club where I was the historian. It was called Mujeres Ayudando La Raza, so it was like a community service-based organization, and I was the historian, so I took pictures to document that history. And in high school I did film photography. In college, I also did film photography, and I always have loved it as a hobby. I didn’t have the confidence I think to seek it out as a profession, so it was after, in that time where after I did the doula training I really felt empowered in my own capacity to call myself a photographer. It was scary, but I went for it. 

So, I just photographed everything, mostly family, lifestyle, and then I was like, “I’m a doula. I can document birth.” And so, it just kind of snowballed and spiraled from there. Everything that I’ve been doing, I just kind of add on skills based on what my interests, what my clients are seeking out, so I do lots of things, from energy work, I practice Reiki. I can do that on my birth clients, too, so I’m also like a placenta medicine maker, and I practice herbalism for myself. So, I do so many little things, but photography is really weaved throughout them all. 

Lozada: And training with Sumayyah, you are a full spectrum doula, as well, right? 

Raya: Yes. 

Lozada: Yeah. I love that idea of doula your damn self, frankly. Yeah. Absolute transformation. How old is your daughter now? 

Raya: She’ll be four in October. 

Lozada: Okay, so this is recent. This is a recent passion. Oh, I’m so excited for you. We’ve got an unusual situation right now in that we’ve been several months dealing with the pandemic, all the COVID situation, and how there’s been a limit to the amount of people you can have in the birth room, so I want us to talk about what are some ways that people can document their birth experience? Let’s talk first of if they can’t have a birth photographer, what are your thoughts on that?

Raya: So, I feel like I like to come at things in the perspective that anybody can do anything, so as far as photography, anybody can pick up a camera and start taking photos. You don’t have to be professional; you don’t have to have training. It’s so accessible now, cameras, they’re on our phone, and they’re like high quality cameras on our phones, so we can easily take pictures, and there’s little tips that I can just share for people who are having births in a hospital where they can’t even have their doula, or they can’t have a photographer, they can only have one person, usually their partner, or like a really close loved one. 

One of the biggest tips I give people is just perspective. We’re so used to taking our pictures like standing, and our camera is right here, right in front of our face, snap, and it’s that’s it. But if you just change the perspective slightly, like go really low, look up, just changing the perspective of the camera really adds a dynamic level and gives a whole different depth to the image, so that even the iPhone camera will like blur out the background, so that shallow depth of field where only the foreground is in focus. Just shifting the perspective or tilting the angle slightly. 

I love to capture in general is details. I love the details like hands holding, like the hand in the hair, just like the really close, zoomed in kind of details, because we don’t normally look at those things. We see someone’s face, we see someone smile, but we don’t see the hand just gently caressed as a toddler on mom. Things like that. So, those little details, so in the hospital, also capturing those details of just like holding each other’s hands, of mom’s hand resting on her belly as she’s laboring. Even just the little details of the room, because our memory will fade. What I encourage people when they’re kind of thinking of birth photography is the birthing person is laboring. They’re not paying attention to the bigger details of the room, because they’re in labor and they’re focusing. And the deeper labor gets, the less and less those details matter to them. And rightfully so. They’re in labor. 

So, having a birth photographer, we can capture all the little details, like the little details of what’s one the wall, or the little notes that the nursing staff write on the hospital white board, and rather than, like I said, just taking the like, “Okay, I’m just gonna snap this picture at my perspective.” Maybe getting in a little closer, maybe getting in very back from the camera, or very back in the room and getting the whole room. So, perspective and then how close we are to whatever we’re shooting. 

Lozada: Would you recommend people have a tripod to make things more stable? 

Raya: It would help, especially if the birthing person is needing more support from partner. Usually, they want to hold their hand, or they’re hugging. Especially if it’s their first child, they’re gonna want more support usually, and it’s going to be a longer process, the whole laboring process, so having a tripod, you could totally set it up, you can set up a time lapse, which would be really fun to watch, you could set the timer. They also sell really inexpensively on Amazon a remote that just links up to your Bluetooth on your phone. So, if you have a tripod, even if it’s not a very tall one, sometimes they make those little ones with arms, kind of like octopus arms that you can put on anywhere, a little tripod like that, and use the remote to capture stills. 

Lozada: I love that idea and I love the idea of focusing on details and maybe focusing on those details early on, before things get too intense, and not worry if you can’t get every piece of it, right?

Raya: That’s the time to capture those details, is early on, when labor is still not very intense, before transition, when it’s still calm enough to be able to step away from that birthing person, to be like, “I’m just right here in the room taking pictures and documenting.” And it doesn’t take very long, but if they’re new to photography and new to using their camera in a different way, with different perspectives, especially if they listen to this, with more thought and more intention, you could take a few minutes to do that. And even if they don’t have a tripod, they could totally set it up somewhere. Set it up on the counter, and set it up with the self-timer, and things like that. 

Lozada: If you’re at the hospital, there’s always that little tray that has… You can adjust the height on the tray, so you can get those lower angles and use that as a moveable tripod. 

Raya: Yes. Exactly. Exactly. And I’ll at times use anything that’s around me to prop up my phone. 

Lozada: One of the things that I as a doula, trying to take pictures for people, have had a difficult time with always is the low light, and I know that phone cameras, as you were talking before, have gotten so much better at really being able to capture stuff with low light. What are your thoughts on that and what tips do you have for people? 

Raya: So, using a phone camera, you can tap on the screen on an area to focus. Sometimes in very low light situations, it’s hard for the camera to find what to focus on, because it’s so dark, so in that case, sometimes I’ll use a second phone to just use the flashlight to light the space, just so I could focus, and then I’ll turn it off. Or I’ll even use that just as a bounce. If I have another phone, I’ll grab my husband’s phone and I’ll shine the flashlight as almost like a makeshift flash, so to speak, and then I’ll use that to then take the picture. 

But I always recommend having a little light turned on, or I always tell my birth clients to take little fake candles even, just to kind of set the mood, so that there’s something and some ambient light. Usually in hospitals, they have some backlit light. They’ll have the big hospital lights you can turn off, and then just turn on the ambient, more moody lights under the counter or something like that. Turning on one of those lights instead of the main light, especially if the birthing person is needing that dark space to kind of go into their experience. 

Lozada: Yeah, instead of those really hard, harsh fluorescents, that-

Raya: Yeah, exactly. 

Lozada: Yeah. And I would guess that if you’re birthing during the day, you’re gonna get a little bit more daylight, even if you hit the blinds, so that might create some interesting fills. 

Raya: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And it depends on where you are in the building, right? It just… Even if it’s daylight, it could be pretty dark still, so just playing with what you have, looking for the light, so looking for all the lights in the room and just seeing which switches work for what and turning on the ones that could work for just like ambient, warm light. 

Lozada: Yeah. Absolutely. 

Lozada: Do you have any suggestions of still in a hospital setting, when things get more intense, and say anything that people should think about in the pushing stage? Although half of me is saying like, “Don’t take any pictures. Focus on the person that’s giving birth.” What are your thoughts around that? 

Raya: I would say if they’re really wanting to capture that moment, which would be a really beautiful moment to capture, and to also capture themselves, right? If they’re a partner and they’re supporting the pregnant person giving birth, and she’s pushing, and they can’t take pictures of the actual… with their phone in their hand, because they’re supporting them, having the tripod, they’re gonna capture their own reaction, too. My favorite capture is to capture that partner’s face as soon as they see their baby. So, having a tripod would be the best for that, and a remote, because they could capture the stills with the remote. 

Lozada: Or even just before pushing starts, set up the time lapse and then they will also get focused on this. Yeah, that’s a great idea. I love the remote part. That’s where my heart is a little bit torn about having people capture their own experience, because I feel it’s such a emotional, transformational moment, that I don’t want them worrying about the camera, so I love the tripod, I love the time lapse, I love the forethought, and then just get what you get. 

Now, say people are having a birth situation, maybe being at home, being at a birth center, where they can have a birth photographer. What are some of the things that they can ask to see if that birth photographer is the right match for them? Or things to look out for? 

Raya: Someone’s work and their portfolio is gonna speak for themselves. So, they see their website or they see someone else’s pictures. This is what usually happens, is a client of mine will post pictures, and then they see that, and they see… They get the feeling. So, photography and seeing images brings so much… so many questions, so many feelings, so then that sparks their idea of, “Okay, I’m gonna look out for a photographer.” So, reaching out to a photographer, you could ask about their experience in birth. Not a lot of photographers have lots of experience in birth. If they’re also doula trained, because that would give them more of a perspective of what happens and the unpredictability of birth. And then of course, one of the biggest things is how early or how late they’re on call for you, because birth is unpredictable. 

And so, similar questions as when you’re looking for a doula, like what your experience is, what the ins and outs of being on call look like, and how many other clients you have, if there’s a backup. So, it’s like really similar to doula questions, because birth is unpredictable. You can’t just hire us at a date and take pictures and that’s it. We don’t know when the birth will happen. And it’s really interesting with that unpredictability during COVID, I actually was at a home birth a few months ago and she was a transfer, so I only could capture what I captured at her home, and she transferred, so I did end up going to her home a couple weeks after to take some pictures of the family with the newborn, but I wasn’t able to actually document that moment of birth, because she transferred. 

Lozada: And I’m guessing that’s some of the questions that you talk about after, like what if, playing some scenarios of what if I have a transfer and you can’t come? I’m sure from what you’re saying in your documents you have, “Yeah, well I’ll come afterwards and take some pictures for you.” You mentioned being on call. So, usually how long are you at a birth for? What can people expect? 

Raya: So, I am a doula and a photographer, and in the industry, they call them like doulatogs, it’s like doula photog. And so, in that case I am supporting as a doula as well, so I am there the whole time. And I usually will capture those early details, supporting them, and so I kind of go back and forth from my camera, and what I actually make sure to make a point of to discuss at length is that my priority as a doula is them, and supporting them, so the camera is not my priority in the cases where they really need more support. So, for instance, in the pushing stage, if they’re needing more support and they don’t have a lot of people… Especially right now, there aren’t more than one person to support, then I’m there and will get the camera after. 

So, I make sure that we discuss that at length, so that they understand that if you’re really wanting that moment, I will capture it for you, but if you’re really needing the support, you’re gonna want the support more in that moment. I also do get hired as just a photographer, so sometimes people already have a doula and so if they just need a photographer, I also do get hired just as a photographer. So, in that case, I do get there mostly for when they’re approaching active labor. I’ll either stay for just about an hour, an hour postpartum, so I’m capturing the details of their bonding time, that golden hour. I’m just observational. I’m not posing them. And that’s really important to note with birth photography is it’s unposed. I’m not giving them guides like I am with a lifestyle shoot or with an in-home family shoot. It’s just documentary style for me personally. 

I don’t like to guide them. This is a really intimate ceremony, really, birth is, so I don’t like to interrupt in any way. I really like to be that fly on the wall. So, in that golden hour I’ll just kind of be rotating around, capturing everything that I can in that time. And sometimes I stay a little longer if somebody wants a longer package, where I stay for a few more hours beyond that and just capturing a little bit more as they settle into the postpartum room. 

Lozada: And you know this as a doula, that we get to be there for these incredible transformational moments, where you don’t need to pose anybody, because the moment itself has so much emotion. They’re just meeting their kid for the first time. 

Raya: Yeah. Yeah. 

Lozada: And connecting with each other, of the experience, like it’s just so intense that those photos will be so-

Raya: They’re really raw. Yeah. 

Lozada: So, Karissa, what about in case that somebody needs a cesarean, you can’t go into the birth room, into the OR is my experience, that only one person is allowed and usually that’s the birth partner who gets chosen. What are some thoughts in that situation? 

Raya: That’s one of the things that we talk about, right, with the unpredictability, is that anything could happen, and if this happens, or this happens, or this happens, everything is kind of outlined, especially from a technical standpoint, from like a contract. You want to make sure that they understand what the offering is and what could happen in the instances. And so, that has happened to me, where I had a client who did end up going to get a cesarean and I was not able to go into that room with them, and so usually I recommend that their partner take a few pictures, usually they allow some pictures at least from their perspective. Take a few pictures, even maybe just take a picture of them two together, and you could still capture those details, like holding hands, or as they’re just preparing. You know, it’s a process for them to prepare that room and prepare them together, for him to get all clothed and everything like that to get ready. 

But a lot of times, there’s just so much energy, they’re excited, but yet they’re worried, and there’s just so much happening, so I feel like that could be very difficult for them in that moment. But it depends on the circumstance. That birth in particular, I was there already for like 20 hours, so I had documented so much, and them being in the OR was just two hours, and then I got to document after. So, once they wheeled them into the postpartum room after being in the OR, I was able to document just them two with the baby, so they still had that bonding time. 

Lozada: That’s so sweet. 

Lozada: I always like to tell clients who are going for a cesarean like definitely remember your phone, and even ask the anesthesiologist, who’s right behind them, to take that first family portrait, right of the three of them. But it can even be helpful for that when baby is being checked to have the birth partner go take some snapshots or video of the baby and then bring it back to the birthing person. 

Raya: Bring it back. 

Lozada: Like the baby is born almost immediately, but then you’ve got another close to 40 minutes or so just of finalizing the procedure, which can be really good to have those images to distract, right? Or not distract, but like… Yeah, focusing on baby instead of just hearing them. 

Raya: Yeah. Yeah. 

Lozada: That reminds me, though, one of the things that if I have the wherewithal as a doula, right after a birth, depending on how it’s gone, I try to hit the voice memos on my phone, just to capture the audio in the room right after the baby is born, and that’s another beautiful way of capturing those first few words that-

Raya: Yeah, that’s really… The sound, just the beautiful sounds of the room. I think that’s a really, really good practice. I’m gonna try that too and just see if I remember and listen after. Because like I mentioned, I was coming off that birth high. We all know as birth workers, we also are affected by all of the oxytocin in the room, and we just leave with this beautiful glow of oxytocin, and so being able to listen to that moment after I think will just be like a really good reminder of the intensity and the beauty of births. 

Lozada: And I find the parents at that time say the most lovely things too, like they’re meeting their kid and taking them in, so you get these sort of like, “Who do you look like?” Or, “Whoa, that was a lot, but we did it.” Just really candid almost internal debriefing of what just happened. 

Raya: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. 

Lozada: Those are awesome. What about home birth? Is there anything specific to that scenario? 

Raya: From my perspective, I think it’s just asking who will be there and if there’s anything particular they want to capture, because they are at home. There might be something special to them, like they might be laboring in their special chair, or they might have a piece of clothing or robe that is special to them, and that’s what I find usually is that there’s something that they really want to document, or like the home birth I was in just a couple months ago during COVID, her son was also there, so getting able to document him being part of the process and just existing in that space while she labored, so I got to capture him playing and in the background his mom is in labor. 

Lozada: Yeah, because when you’re at home births, you can actually include the whole family, not just whoever got to go to the hospital. Yeah. 

Raya: Definitely. Yeah. 

Lozada: Have you had any different experiences, or any things related to birth centers, specifically? 

Raya: Sometimes I like to ask, because you can see on the website what the room looks like, so I like to ask which room, if they know they’ll be in a certain room, if they’ll be in water or not, so oftentimes I’ll prepare for those. From a birth photographer’s perspective, it’s also just being aware of what you’re going to need as far as lenses go, because if it’s a small room, we’re gonna need more of a wide angle to capture. My go-to lens isn’t always going to work in every case, because it depends on the size of the room, and same with home birth too, because every home is different. Every home has different lighting. So, just being aware of okay, where are we going to be laboring? How big is that room? Do I need a flash? All these little questions, because lighting is the key component when it comes to photography. You need light to capture images. 

So, light is one of the biggest things I’m always looking for. I’ll open windows. I’ll just be like, “Can I open this curtain?” While they’re laboring in their bed, I’m noticing that it’s golden hour, that that sun is coming through and I have these beautiful glares and it warms up the room. Those are little things that I notice, and if not, then I have flashes that I could use. 

Lozada: And that reminds me, because my husband is a photographer too, so I’ve got his accoutrement around me. I’m like, “Oh yeah. We use sometimes boards to bounce light off.” 

Raya: Yeah. 

Lozada: Can you speak a little bit about that? 

Raya: Yeah. Anything can reflect light, right? So, certain colors reflect more light than others. Like I remember in a home birth I was in, the crib was white and it was near a window, so if I opened the window slightly and the light just hit the crib, where they were going in and out of, then I would get more light bouncing off of that crib. So, it’s the same. It’s using that concept. I’ll recommend people get like a foam board sometimes and using like just a regular foam board you can get at Target, that is white and you can bounce light off of it, so just putting it on the other side of the room if there’s a window opposite it will reflect light from that back onto my subject. 

Lozada: And make it-

Raya: There’s other photographer tools where you can get actual reflectors and things like that that are easily accessible. 

Lozada: Yeah, and then you can fill if you’ve got really harsh light on one side, you can fill the other side with that bounce and have it be softer? 

Raya: Exactly. 

Lozada: Yeah. 

Raya: Yeah. Yeah. Play with light. And depending on where the light is, I like to also just… Then I could get like silhouetted pictures too if the mom is really backlit, to just get some pictures of her profile. 

Lozada: So, what I’m hearing is also that people should get their cameras and practice with them so that they’re familiar taking some stuff beforehand, so that then they’re not trying to figure out the technology while they’re having a birth. 

Raya: Yeah. Definitely. And we spoke mostly about like using your phones for phone photography, but people might have a point and shoot camera, they might have a little digital camera, or they might want to invest in one if they’re about to have a baby, because we all know as parents we take pictures all the time of our kids, and so they might be investing in one at that point, so it’d be a really, really good idea to get to know your camera before going into the hospital. Just play around inside your own home for lighting, for low lighting settings, and just snap. 

Lozada: Yeah. The whole low light, how much they’re able to capture, these new phones… It just blows me away. 

Raya: Yeah. 

Lozada: You mentioned before that knowing if it was a water birth made a difference. Why does it make a difference for you? 

Raya: Because sometimes the perspective is a lot harder to capture and I learned this because I was out a home birth last year that she did birth in the pool. Sometimes they don’t always birth in the water, sometimes they’ll get out and end up moving around. So, it was harder to see, so having my own flashlight would have helped, like a lot of times midwives will have a flashlight, so they can see. Having my own flashlight. I have an underwater case for my phone. Not for my camera, but for my phone, so even if I had that, to use that and capture some stills, because we couldn’t really capture the actual birth because of the position and the light. There was no light in the water, so it was really difficult. 

Lozada: In terms of photography-related things, what other things do you have in your bag? Flashlight, your bouncers, maybe an underwater case. 

Raya: Right. Soon to be scuba kit. I have an external flash. I always have an extra battery in case a birth goes a long time or if I’m just snapping a lot. And I also take my chargers just in case. I take extra memory cards, because pictures take lots of space. 

Lozada: Tell me about some of your favorite birth photographer moments that you’ve had. 

Raya: For me it’s those like split-second moments. It’s the moment where the mom is just grabbing her baby and gets to see baby. It’s one reason I really love birth photography is because as a birthing person, you don’t get to see everything. The home birth I was in a couple months ago, her midwife said, “Your baby’s right there. Go ahead and feel.” So, she had just pushed, and she just went down and felt the top of her baby’s head, and I got the picture of her face like totally surprised, like, “That’s my baby!” And I think she even reached down as she was contracting, so she could feel even more deeply. I got her face, like that surprised, “Oh my gosh,” face. 

So, those ones I love, and then also capturing partner, so that’s one of my favorites. Especially in a hospital setting, like birthing person can’t see. They’re either laying down, or they’re flat, and they can’t see until baby gets placed on them, and so the partner usually could see a lot quicker, so the partner will see, and then either the tears will start streaming, or their face will be like surprised, so I like to be on the opposite of them to capture that, and usually I love capturing the baby in the foreground and then focused on the partner’s like, “Oh my God,” face. 

Lozada: And it’s so funny, I keep shaking my head and going, “Yes, yes,” internally, because I’ve seen those faces. When you were talking about her feeling her head, I know that the minute they touch the head that face is gonna light up, because I’ve seen it over and over again, like that’s a moment of like, “Oh my gosh, that’s my baby!” Right? 

Raya: It gives me chills. I really have the chills. Yeah. 

Lozada: Yeah. Me too. Like goosebumps on my arms and when you were talking about the partner’s face when they realize, they kind of just sit back and you can see everything drain, all this tension that they had, it’s like, “Oh, everybody’s safe and we’re all here.” And when you get the picture of the birthing person after they’ve kind of seen… There’s that moment when they look over to the partner and kind of go like, “Did you see that? Did you see what we just did?” 

Raya: Yes. Yeah. 

Lozada: Yeah. 

Raya: Yeah, and those little tender moments are always so great, just the tenderness of the birthing person holding baby, and just them snuggling together, the partner usually comes down and gives lots of kisses, and just those little tender moments. 

Lozada: I think I want to make sure people hear that even though they think, “Ah, do I really need to document this?” You will definitely, definitely be happy you got these pictures later on, because there’s so much you won’t remember. 

Raya: Yeah. Yeah. There is so much you won’t. Just the little details like we mentioned that nobody really looks at, we don’t think of, but we know that as parents, we like to revisit those memories of the birth experience if we didn’t experience birth trauma, for instance, or if it was a really magical experience, then we like to revisit those pictures and look at them. And actually, I like to show my daughter, because I only had… I didn’t have a birth photographer myself, but I had my mom, and my mom’s actually the reason I got into photography. She always had a camera taking our pictures. She had the cameras, and she was taking pictures of everything, so now I’ll look back and look at the pictures and I show my daughter and she loves it. She’s like, “That’s me and I was born.” She’s like, “You went like this.” She knows, she knows. She’s gonna be a little doula or midwife one day too. 

Lozada: Yeah, that adds another extra special layer to their birthday, being able to see the pictures. I love it. Karissa, is there anything else before we wrap up that you wanted to make sure we mentioned? 

Raya: I just want to leave people with I hope that they are more inclined to document their special moments, and even non-special moments. Just document their lives more. We usually pick up our camera, our phone, when it’s like a special moment, when it’s like a milestone, or birthday, or something like that, but just taking every day, taking pictures of the messy room that you’re mad about, because one day you’re gonna miss it maybe. Taking pictures of the toys, of them playing, the little details, because we just forget the mundane days, and we only are left usually with pictures of those celebratory moments, and those moments are important, but I think the mundane moments are really beautiful too, and it leaves us with something to really look back on in the future when we’re looking at boxes of pictures, or hard drives of pictures since nobody prints them anymore. Yeah.

Lozada: I love it. If people want to reach out to you, contact you, ask you questions, how can they do that? 

Raya: They can find me on Instagram @olivelavida, that’s my business name, and at That’s my daughter’s name, Olive, and so she was all of my life, but now is allowing me to give all of my life to others, so Olive La Vida, and that’s where they can find me. 

Lozada: Yeah, and la vida means the life in Spanish. Yeah, she’s all your life. Olive La Vida. I love it. Thank you so much for doing this today. I really appreciate it. 

Raya: Yeah. Thank you for having me. 

Lozada: That was Karissa Raya. Her heartfelt purpose as a photographer is to help keep a family’s histories and stories. You can find her on Instagram @olivelavida. I hope your main takeaway from our conversation is that with a little forethought and preparation, you can capture moments and details that you’ll treasure for years to come, and to make sure to grab some pictures before things get too intense. 

One thing you can do for you is to be mindful of including yourself in the photos. It’s so easy to just focus on taking pictures of your kids as they grow through all their firsts, but don’t let yourself disappear from your family’s photographic history. Even if you didn’t get a chance to put on your makeup, do your hair, or get out of your sweats, even if you feel awkward or aren’t comfortable with the current state of your body, your kids and your future self will thank you later. A shoutout to Allison Tate and her article, The Mom Stays in the Picture, for inspiring this action. 

And then the one thing you can do for the rest of us is when you post on social media, get into the habit of adding a description for the image for people who can’t see or access that photo. We are still getting into this habit in our own content, but it is a relatively simple action that makes your feeds more inclusive for the blind, for people with processing issues, or even those with slow internet connections where the image doesn’t load clearly. You could also volunteer by lending your eyes and a bit of time at 

Lozada: Birthful was created by me, Adriana Lozada, and is a production of Lantigua Williams & Co. The show’s senior producer is Paulina Velasco. Virginia Lora is the managing producer. Cedric Wilson is our lead producer. Kat Hernandez and Ronald Young Jr. contributed to this episode. Thank you for listening to and sharing Birthful. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, and everywhere you listen. Come back next week for more ways to inform your intuition.  


Lozada, Adriana, host. “Pro Tips for Photographing Your Unique Birth Experience.” Birthful, Lantigua Williams & Co., October 27, 2020.



Karissa Raya's headshot

Image description: A portrait of Karissa Raya, who is a brown-skinned Person of Color, sitting in a dry grassy field with hills in the distance. Karissa’s dark hair is short and she is wearing glasses with rounded frames, dangly earrings, dark ripped jeans, and a black t-shirt that says “Birthworker of Color” in white text

About Karissa Raya

Photography has always been a love of Karissa’s. Her very first paycheck, from her very first job as a teenage lifeguard, was entirely spent on her own digital camera. It was the birth of her own child in 2016, that started a beautiful re-birth of herself as a full-spectrum doula, placenta medicine maker, and photographer.  

Birth and family photography for Karissa is a way to document life’s fleeting moments. Memory constantly fades, photography is one way of preserving moments we don’t want to forget. Birth leaves an important imprint on birthing people, to document what Karissa considers ceremonious and sacred, capturing the birth of a child is an honor she holds in the highest esteem. Karissa’s heartfelt purpose with her photography is to help keep a family’s history. For the families Karissa photographs, she imagines generations from now, their family members looking upon the photos and telling stories,  being thankful they have photos that keep their family story alive.  

Karissa Raya has been featured on Oprah Magazine and Voyage LA

Learn more about Karissa and her services as a doula and birth photographer by visiting or connect with her on Facebook and Instagram @olivelavida. For birth photography inspiration visit her Pinterest page.

All images courtesy of Karissa Raya of Olive La Vida


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