Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Get the Goods: Maternity Photography Tips and Instruction

ⓒ Image by Robert Austin Fitch

The people who work at Photovision scare me sometimes. Their ability to send me an instructional DVD exactly when I need it to brush up for a new photo session is just damned uncanny. When I was nervous about shooting my first wedding, a DVD showed up in the mail offering suggestions on unique poses. Right before my first senior portrait session, a DVD showed up in the mail that recommended edgy locations for cool portraits teenagers would love.

My rational guess is that different types of shoots are cyclical in the photo industry....senior portraits, weddings, etc etc all happen at the same time across the country. So that has to be why the DVDs hosted by Ed Pierce all seem so timely. At the end of this month, I've got my first maternity portrait session, and you guessed it: a DVD showed up in my mail this week with a segment called "Belly Love," offering ideas on getting the most out of a maternity shoot.

The segment was hosted by photographer Brian Killian. Killian's lighting set-up was very simple. He used two Westcott Spiderlites, one as the main light, the second as back light. A third light lit up a muslim background.

The subject was placed in between the main and back lights, while a reflection was used directly to the side of her to help focus light on your stomach. The main subject is the woman's belly, so lighting and clothing should be simple so as not to distract from the belly.

Killian says it's not necessary to shoot a lot of these images because they aren't likely to be publically displayed in the home, but kept as private keepsakes. Aim for two or three images with a few different poses.

Here are 10 tips pregnant mothers can use for a successful maternity portrait session from Austin-based professional photographer Christie Stockstill, who specializes in maternity, newborn, baby, children, H.S. Senior and family photography.

ⓒ Image by Christie Stockstill

Christie Stockstill, owner of Christie Stockstill (pho.tog.ra.phy), is an Austin-based professional photographer specializing in maternity, newborn, baby, children, H.S. Senior, and family photography.

1) Schedule your photo shoot for between weeks 31 and 36 if possible. Your belly may be too small before then. Of course, you don't want to risk running out of time, either.

2) About two hours before your photo shoot, remove any clothing or accessories with elastic. Such items as bras, pants with elastic waistbands, even socks, leave marks on your skin that will show up in your pictures.

3) Discuss with your photographer ahead of time the look and style of the portraits you desire. Do you plan to be clothed the entire time? Do you love the intimate look of skin on skin? Will someone else be in the photos with you?

4) If someone else will join you in the pictures, be sure to select clothing and accessories for them that do not distract from the main subject: your belly. Bright-colored clothing and shiny accessories (watches, belt buckles, etc.) attract light and lead the eye away from the main focus.

5) What should you wear? Many women choose to go au natural, or at least topless with a pair of cute undies. If that's not your cup of tea, try to choose a fitted top-something that accentuates the bust line and belly. If your clothes are too big, your belly will not be highlighted, and that's the main idea of these pictures. Right? If you despise your pregnancy jeans, the ones with the panel, bring a pair of regular jeans and unzip them. That looks really cute with a tank top or a bikini top. Be adventurous! You don't get a lot of opportunities to take these kinds of photos!

6) You may want to bring a few of your baby's things to hold in your photos. Maybe you have already purchased an adorable pair of shoes, someone may have given you something at your shower that means a lot to you, or maybe there is a family heirloom that you would love to memorialize in your pictures.

7) Avoid rubbing lotions on your belly before the shoot. You don't want the light to bounce off the shiny surface of your belly. Do, however, consider moisturizing your elbows and feet.

8) Your hands will likely be in the pictures, so consider a manicure, or at the very least, be sure your nails are trimmed. This rule also applies for toes.
9) Bring powder and lipstick or tinted Chap Stick for touchups during the shoot. Bring your brush or comb and several changes of clothes.

10) Last, allow at least two hours for your photo shoot, and try not to schedule anything for immediately afterwards. Most maternity shoots, like weddings, cannot be re-shot, so don't rush yourself! Enjoy yourself!

ⓒ Image by Natalie Norton

Digital Photography School writer and photographer Natalie Norton shared these seven tips for taking great maternity photography:

1) The Great Outdoors:
So many maternity sessions are done in studio. Taking that natural beauty of a woman who’s ready to bring new life into the world and placing her in the majesty of the great outdoors is simply breathtaking.

2) At Home:
When you shoot a mommy-to-be in her own home she’s comfortable to let go in a way that she may not be otherwise. It’s wonderful for a couple to have a capture that truly shows what their life was like at the time their baby came to be a part of their family.

ⓒ Image by Natalie Norton

3) Simplify:
No matter where you shoot, studio, home, outside, 7Eleven, you’ve got to simplify your surroundings. The beauty of a mother anticipating the arrival of her child should be captured in a way that allows the miracle to speak for itself. Pregnancy doesn’t require anything “else” to be present in a photograph to help tell it’s story. Everything in the frame that may not belong will simply serve to distract from the story that’s already being told, naturally. Pay attention to background.

4) Help Her Feel Beautiful
Women don’t generally feel very sexy when they’re pregnant. Pull that beauty out of her. A good way to do this is by talking as you shoot. It’s perfectly appropriate to say things like: “That’s beautiful!” “Yes, perfect!” “Oh that’s just LOVELY.” “Pregnancy looks good on you girl!” Whatever works! I If she feels pretty she’ll look a whole heck of a lot better. It’s that simple.

5) Highlight Relationship:
Hopefully new babies are coming into a loving home. I always try to include photographs that highlight the tender relationship between mom and dad, because bringing a child into the world with someone is arguably love in it’s purest form.

6) Don’t Forget the Siblings… or the dog for that matter:
Remember that often a baby is coming into an established family unit. If there are siblings and they are available, make sure to include them in at least a few frames. Don't forget pets. They are as much a part of the family too!

ⓒ Image by Natalie Norton

7) Give ‘em Something Different:
Don’t just shoot what’s always been shot. This is a good general rule of photography. I really try to be “consistently inconsistent” Approach each shoot as it’s own and tailor each shoot for the subject you are photographing.

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