In my exploration of different types of photography, one of my many goals was to try maternity photography. I was all set to shoot Crystal, who was also the subject of my first wedding shoot (I thought it would be fitting to shoot her again), but as I explained in this post, life took an unexpected turn and that opportunity passed. Back to the drawing board. I asked my wife if she knew anyone and she presented me with one of her clients, Tamara.
The challenge was to explore the different popular poses, lighting methods, and themes in maternity photography while looking to create something new. I started off by searching through popular photo sites like Flickr and 500px for the work of other photographers to see what they are doing. I also wanted to prepare Tamara for what I expected from her, so my wife and I picked our favorite photos and shared them with Tamara. I was hoping that by attempting the tried and true in maternity photography, but applying my style and lighting techniques, I’d get inspired to expand on what’s been done before and find something new. Get inspired, build on that inspiration, and then veer off into a new direction with what you’ve learned. That’s been a pretty good road map for me creatively.
This shot above has been done a million times before. The old “heart hands” as I like to call it. It’s cute, it’s got hands (which are always interesting photographically), and it’s got a touch of sentiment behind it. If you search the internet for maternity photos, you’ll find hundreds of the same type of photo. Still, I set up the shot and do it almost as if it’s an exercise. While I’ve got Tamara and her husband in front of my camera, I’m able to work with what I see, and because I’m liking the hands, I setup another tried & true photo of dad kissing mom’s belly. This time, I want to see their hands. This photo is all about the hands graphically.
Another shot I see usually taken from the mother’s perspective is the shot of the belly with their feet up against a wall and crossed. I decided to try a variation of that and had Tamara look back at me while lying on her back with her feet up and legs crossed. Since I was using a backdrop, I had no wall! This was a situation where help is 100% necessary and my wife Amy was playing the part of photo assistant. I had Amy hold up her legs and on the count of three she let go and I quickly snapped the photo. As you can expect, this position is anything but easy for a girl just weeks away from giving birth to pull off!
Building off that shot, I grabbed the blue bed sheet that we later used in the photo at the top of this post as well as baby blocks. This time I let her keep her feet down as the blocks were now a major element in the photo.
Since we had the blocks out and the mother on her back, I got her 1st born involved. He had just taken a bath and didn’t finish getting dressed yet, but I though it would be cool if he left the shirt off, just like mommy! We spelled out his new brother’s name and had him play with the blocks. His smile is genuine, because what kid doesn’t want to play with blocks?
I also have him pose with his brother in this shot as he listens for little Gabriel’s heartbeat. I love the contrast of his hand with his Tamara’s as well as the catchlight in his eyes.
Another shot I really love is the low-key rim-lit shot of a (seemingly) naked maternal figure. The photo up top is one example using two lights, and the one just below is shot using one light source to create a dramatic image with shadows. The beautiful curves of an expectant mother is one of the most stunning subjects one can photograph. I say seemingly because she’s got her bottoms on as well as being fully taped up on top. The illusion is always more interesting as it leaves more to the imagination! Sorry to spoil that for ya…
The rest of the shoot was done using natural lighting. I set up this scene in her front window with the theme of waiting. At this point in her pregnancy, it’s about all she can think about – the waiting.
The sun was getting low in the sky, so we took advantage of the golden hour and hurried outside for a family shot. As I was shooting the family together, we got one magical moment where the dogs stopped, looked at the camera, and posed. It was amazing!
Tamara was spent. She was such a trooper as we tried different poses, set-ups, and wardrobe changes. After hours of shooting, she was ready for one last setup – the bubble bath.
This leads me to what I think is my most successful shot of the day. This photo screams maternity. An exhausted mom relaxing in the tub, feet up, candles lit, and a grin on her face that glows with the anticipation of the chaos that will be upon her and her family in the coming weeks. Right at this moment she takes a minute to enjoy the best part about being a woman, the gift of life.