Studio Portraiture and Maternity Photography: Alannah's Study
The Ubiquitous Earth Mother
If I google maternity photography, I can find a plethora of "earth mother" type photos, where a young woman in a split toga, wearing a flower crown, is photographed standing in a field of wheat.
Or standing in some body of water.
Or the split gown is flowing out behind her, as if a breeze just happened when the shutter was pressed.
I am not saying that is a bad image. I just see it everywhere and I want to try something different.
Who Does Studio Portraiture Anymore?
The more I study photography, the more I think that classic studio portraiture is becoming rarer. I get that the gear needed - strobes, softboxes, flags, reflectors - is expensive and so as with regular flash, I have heard fairly new photographers complain that they "can't afford all that." So, they never learn. They never try. And besides, isn't it easier to just grab a 50mm 1.4 and use natural light?
It is. It's very limiting, but sure, yeah, it will work fine for some images. But I have had people say to me, "Your photo looks like a painting!" I know what they mean, even if they don't. The light has a "painterly" quality to it. There is detail in the shadows. The scene is in focus. In short - it emulates what a painter might do. If you look at, say, the work of a painter like Rembrandt, he did not paint with a shallow depth of field. He didn't "lift" or "crush" blacks. There is depth to the entire scene in his painting.
Recently, I had the good fortune to study with a master portrait artist, Tim Kelly. It upped my appreciation for studio portraiture, where the photographer controls the light versus having to "work with" the light as is the case when shooting outside or at a wedding reception. While I cam away a little poorer in the wallet (I confess, I bought some more softboxes and backdrops) I gained a treasure in improving my understanding of how to create a fine art portrait.
Is it easy? No. Can it be mastered quickly? No. Is it uniquely classic and beautiful? Yes. In some ways, I think it raises a person in the image. This is not a "shoot" or a "mini-session" - this is the creation of a piece of art. It is taking a new medium, photography (relatively new since it has only been around since the early 1800's), and continuing the tradition of people like Rembrandt, Rubens, Sargent, Hopper, and other great artists.
The Beauty of Pregnancy
A pregnant woman is a small miracle and a promise for the future. She is bringing the next generation into this world. It is not a comfortable time - as her body swells, there are aches and pains, so there is a factor of heroism in her, sacrificing comfort for her child.
And that deserves beautiful images.
Alannah came into my studio for her study in maternity portraiture. She is not the biggest of woman, at least not in stature. But she is utterly in love with her daughter yet to be born. And I hope these images capture that.
What will your masterpiece be?