Haute Momma: Maternity Boudoir 101 with Casey Dittmer
There is no better boudoir client than an expecting mother. Most women are rocking a shape much curvier than they normally have and they love being reminded of the sexy, gorgeous individuals they are.
I find many similarities between boudoir and maternity. You have to be conscious of the individual’s body from head to toe. You are creating and controlling shapes using posing, lights and styling. Maternity and boudoir portraits are usually kept between the couple. They are intimate sessions. Crossing the two is a match made in heaven.
Those curves are made for boudoir. What an amazing thing to help boost an expecting momma’s confidence in her temporary body. Having someone trust you with such a vulnerable and exposing session is a big deal. It’s a great way to build a client bond. You can shoot these in your studio or in the client’s home. Make it a day of pampering and upsell them on hair and makeup services. They will enjoy the experience and look finished for the shoot. Encourage them to have a date night afterward since they will look so fabulous. This is a great promo for those colder months when you are not able to shoot outside. It adds a new element to your portfolio.
Here are four things to give you a head start on fantastic maternity boudoir sessions.
- Bring in the bling.
One of my favorite things in boudoir photography is to focus on the small details. It could be jewelry, shoes, an element of their wardrobe, any little thing. For maternity photography, I love blinging out the belly. The stark contrast of over-the-top statement pieces perfectly balances with the pregnant belly.
If you have a large unbroken, undefined skin surface, it will look large and heavy. So if you have a momma doing boudoir and you have her baby bump bare and front and center, chances are she will not like how large she looks. You have to use things to give the belly shape and cut the size. It doesn’t have to be a bulky piece of fabric. Just giving some defining lines and focal points will do the trick. She will feel superstar-gorgeous and love that it pushes her outside her normal box. Collect pieces from the clearance aisle, Amazon, anywhere you find them. Having them at your studio is a great bonus.
- Keep your hands off.
Push yourself to use nontraditional posing. It’s harder than you think. Essentially you are doing a normal boudoir session and the client just happens to be pregnant. You wouldn’t have a regular boudoir client hold their belly the whole time. So change it up for your mommas. Play with their hair, hold onto their clothes, find new purposes for their hands. Jackets and long necklaces are great tools. You can bring the arms across and break up the body without having to put your hands directly on the belly. You still want to be mindful of their placement. Look at the bodylines and think in terms of shape.
- Free the girls.
One thing I hear from nearly every pregnant momma is: “Man, my boobs have never looked this good.” Embrace it. Let them out. Free them. Use them. I’m not talking full-frontal tacky shit, I’m saying don’t underestimate the sexiness of a little side boob. It’s all about shape. You have this beautiful round belly and then the shape of the chest. It’s complimentary and balancing photographically. Most women’s nipples get larger and darker through their pregnancy. Keep that in mind as you pose and light. Straight on is not your friend—boobs will be distracting. Shoot side angles and use hands, hair and strategic placement of clothing to hide the nipples. I have always thought it sexier to leave a little to the imagination. That rule applies here.
Always ask your clients how much they are comfortable showing. I never start off with these poses in the beginning. Work up to it. I gauge clients’ comfort level and trust, and can usually convince them to do at least a couple of artistic nude poses. I reassure them that if they don’t like them, they don’t have to choose those poses at the viewing, but we should at least shoot a few and see how it goes. Hands down, it’s always one of the top 10 at the end of the day.
- Light the shit out of it.
This is so important for boudoir sessions, but even more so with maternity. If you do not light correctly, in flattering ways, it will be a disaster. Shape their body with light. Hide the unflattering parts in shadow. Accent and give the belly shape with highlights and gradients. It’s tricky because you must light the face and belly equally well. Flat light does not work. They will just look thick, not pregnant. Embrace shadows and dynamic light. Butterfly, Rembrandt and short light are your best bets. Rimming the belly is always beautiful. Get creative. Use gels and light temperature settings to change the mood. Silhouettes are amazing. Flares can be used to cut the torso and give illusion. Have fun with it.
Be in Control
You must have a plan. Guide your clients in choosing wardrobe. Do not be afraid to tell them no. Wardrobe pieces are important and you are the professional. Do your job and tell them what would be best. One-piece stretch garments are understated but photograph wonderfully. The texture of lace on the belly is a great detail to capture, and Mom will feel comfortable starting in something more conservative.
We are asking a lot for an expecting momma to bare it all. Guide her in her posing. Tell her she is doing great. Show her images as you shoot so she can see how beautiful she looks. You will see her confidence and trust grow, which will show in the images. If she is self-conscious about stretch marks, remind her of your editing process. Use her concerns to show her how much you care. It will mean a lot.
The small stuff matters. Slow down and check her head to toe, down to how she is breathing. It will show. Foot flexed the right way. Hand placement. Chin. Hair. Lipstick. Fingers. It all builds to the perfect image. Do it right. Watch for fatigue. It’s hard work when you are packing a human being in your midsection. Give her breaks. Watch for Charlie horses. Work efficiently so you don’t keep her in a pose for too long. Ask her how she is doing. Offer water. Be there for her.
Now you have shot a killer sexy momma shoot. So how do I sell it? The same as you would a boudoir. Think about how they will use these images. Books are perfect. I always sell a book. It’s private, secure, no fear of one finding its way out of the house by accident, and it’s a great experience for the individual viewing the images. All those little detail shots you took, the bits and pieces, artistic abstracts and anonymous body parts, will complement each other wonderfully on the pages of a beautifully designed book or album. Encourage wall portrait sales by shooting images with specific groupings in mind.
People struggle to visualize what to do with their images, which can kill the sale. Shoot to sell. Show to sell. You have no excuses now. Get out there. Market. Shoot. Sell these amazing sessions to add a great feature to your business. The sexy mommas are out there waiting for you.