Photographers: Don’t Forget To Document Your Big Life Moments

All Photos: Casey Cosley

It’s been almost 17 years since I first picked up any kind of camera and it feels like all of that time spent behind the lens has been training for the day of my son’s birth. As a professional portrait and wedding photographer, newborn photography isn’t my comfort zone. I, like many, am someone who is paid to document the lives of others and their families, not my own (although if anyone is willing to pay me to take photos of my own family, I’m listening). That being said, I’m here to remind photographers of something that can slip our minds: Just because we capture the lives of others, doesn’t mean that we should skip out photographing our own.

Almost a year and a half ago, my wife and I got incredible news: We were becoming parents for the very first time! While we both read the Mayo Clinic’s “Guide to Your Baby’s First Year” and prepared our lives (and home) for a new addition, I started thinking about how, as a father and photographer, I would document the first moments in our son’s life. In Julia Kelleher’s CreativeLive course, Family Photography: Capturing Connection, she said something that really stuck with me and helped me find inspiration for the look and feel of what I wanted these images to convey. “It’s connection. I made this image to connect with you. I spilled my heart about love, motherly love and to think about my experience with motherhood.” Granted, I’m a father, not a mother, but the sentiment is still readily applicable; make it a personal journey.

On October 17th I woke up my mother-in-law touching my shoulder and saying, “Casey, it’s happening.” My reaction wasn’t exactly deer-in-the-headlights as much as it was the feeling of breaking out of a coffin with a huge inhalation of air, eyes blinking rapidly trying to gain an idea of what the hell was happening. Oh. Right. My wife must be in labor. MY WIFE IS IN LABOR?!

This is not the moment I grabbed my camera. To be honest, I wasn’t thinking of anything farther than, “Was this contraction 10 minutes apart from the last one? Was it 7? 6?! WE NEED TO GO!” Then I grabbed the camera. With it and our overnight bag ready to go, we hit the road.

So when we were admitted to the hospital room, what kind of photos was I looking for? 

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I first started looking for moments like these when I shot weddings. I describe it as “The calm before the storm” or “a soft stay of silence.” This mindset allows you to look into the heart of the situation and is a phenomenal place to start storytelling. Use the downtime to build composition and explore the space so that you can be ready for anything at the drop of a hat.



There is strength in numbers and power in laughter. Seek out unexpected joy inside an instance of stress and it can surprise you with how genuine it will be. The memory of that moment will accentuate the photo and in turn make it that much more compelling to your audience (good composition doesn’t hurt either).



Straight-forward emotion at an event like childbirth is always available. A-l-w-a-y-s. I knew I wasn’t only interested in showing what it’s like to cry (lots of happy tears in that room), but something more than that. Something unique and special that would exhibit the strength of that day. During a contraction, my mother-in-law leaned in and quietly whispered to my wife, “I am so proud of you.” I’m tearing up just remembering it.



Get close, get comfy, and wait. Oh, the waiting. The years of training and hours spent changing settings on your camera getting to the point where everything is a dull reflex in the back of your mind. Deep breath guys, here we go. This is when we take a step back and anticipate the moment. For me, it was the first time my wife held our new son and whispered to him with tears welling in her eyes, “I love you.”

Don’t be afraid to get close; don’t be afraid to step back; don’t be afraid to be a part of the moment. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to put the camera down. Being a photographer has been such an amazing part of my life. I’m excited that being a father can be part of that experience now, too.



C’mon, you guys didn’t think I’d leave you hanging without including a photo of the baby did you? Everyone, meet Sawyer Cosley!


RSVP Now for Lifestyle Newborn Photography with Emily Lucarz and find more ways to capture your clients memorable moments. 

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Casey Cosley

As a Seattle-based photographer, I incorporate the culture and style of the city into the sense and attitude of my work. I deliver a stunning and vibrant body of work for my clients, and am available for commercial & editorial travel and/or location photo assignments worldwide. Check out my work on Instagram.