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Putting my photographer hat on & helping you choose the right photographer for your maternity/family shoot

I am sorry I have been missing in action! Kalani had a horrible flu which knocked her about and that turned into a horrible cold which has grumped her up big time.  It’s all still going by the way!  I have gone from being happily enslaved to not so happily enslaved as she has caught on that mummy is happy to do everything for her when she isn’t well!

So, in my previous post, I mentioned I’d put my photographer hat on for this particular post.  As some of you may know, I was a humanitarian photographer prior to being mummy to Kalani.  I documented contemporary issues mainly in developing countries and worked in my own capacity, with grassroots charities as well as larger organisations like the United Nations World Food Program alike to tell the stories of those in need.  So a very different cattle of fish to lifestyle and portrait photography.  I didn’t have to make people look beautiful.  I just had to document what I saw, through my eyes of course.  These images can be found on or @lltphotography on instagram.

Being a photographer however means that I’m usually the one behind the camera (which I find much more of a pleasure) and there’s hardly very many photos of the 3 of us together as a family.  I procrastinated as I thought about getting some maternity/family shots done as I have no real idea how to pose and I know hubby would dread it!  Naturally, I started looking into photographers in Melbourne, since that’s where I live.  I even looked into wider Victoria. Whilst there are some great photographers out there, I felt everything I saw was a bit same same.  There was very little variety regardless of which photographer I looked at, an expensive one or a less expensive one.  Plus, I must admit too that I wanted to go somewhere slightly warmer so I can put on that pretty dress for the shoot.

Instagram certainly is a superb source of inspiration.  I am constantly inspired and awed by fellow bloggers and the amount of talent out there.  I especially loved the photographs that Jas from @quin.and.theo has posted.  Being the avid, slightly obsessive researcher that I am, I tracked down the talent who has been documenting Jas’ family, @anjamcdonald_photography!

Ok more to the point, why did I choose Anja who is situated 4 hours away by plane in Western Australia.  Surely it would be easier to make do with a photographer in Melbourne rather than ship the entire family to WA for a 3 hour shoot!?  The perfectionist in me just couldn’t do it.  So here are the reasons why:

1. Light

Anja knows her light! What does that mean?  Light to me, is one of the most important factors of photography, whether for outdoor or studio shoots.  Understanding light means knowing when to take a photo, how to place the subject and if having an outdoor shoot, whether to take the photo at all.  Light is one of those factors that, in my opinion, has to be correct to begin with.  Light either compliments an image and gives it punch or completely washes it out.  I think many photographers out there rely heavily on photoshop to correct the image, which in many cases would be totally fine. However getting light right makes or breaks the image, both in a studio and outdoor setting and quite often cannot be salvaged in photoshop.

So you may ask, not being a photographer, how do we know if a photographer understands light?!  Let me give you some examples of what Anja did on the day of our shoot:

– We met up at about 3.30pm when the sun is lower in the sky and not directly overhead.  This means that the light is softer, more “controllable”, and not going to wash out the subject, ie where the subject, typically the face is completely blown out and devoid of details. 

– Anja found a location where there was filtered light.  Lots of trees, filtering out any harsh lights and enabling light to hit just selected spots on the subject, i.e. moi. 

– We also did a shoot at the beach.  As romantic and beautiful as beach pics are, especially those gorgeous sunset shots, it is possibly one of the most challenging locations to get right. This is where the photographer’s skills or lack thereof really show.  It was actually a really gloomy, rainy day but the sun decided to show itself just at sunset, displaying a beautiful side of WA we haven’t had the opportunity to witness with all the rain and all.  This however also meant an added challenge for the photographer as the sun’s rays even though low in the sky, was quite strong.  Even though we were freezing our backsides off waiting for the perfect light, doing so really paid off.  I don’t want to give away Anja’s trade secrets so won’t go into too much details here.  It is trickier than one thinks to pick the right moment to capture the sunset as well as the subject(s) and getting both right!  Getting the moment wrong could mean the subject’s face and hair is completely blown out, like it was totally pointless wearing any makeup whatsoever or looking squintingly bald!  Getting the moment right means capturing all the beautiful spectrums of colours in the sky, soft natural light on the subjects and an all round wow.  The name of the game is WAIT.  It’s a waiting game.  

2.  What type of pics do you like?

I prefer candid outdoor shots to studio photography.  I also prefer natural looking images as oppose to one that has been touched up to death in photoshop, where my face looks super extra smooth, more so than a baby’s bottom! I quite enjoy that little bit of imperfection in photos.  That’s a personal preference more than anything else.

Hubby is always trying to get our attention when taking pics of us.  Whereas I absolutely love capturing the moment which to me captures not only the image but also the memory of what’s happening at the time.  That said, maternity photography will require some degree of posing but a good photographer is still able to pose you without the end effect looking like you’re doing a shoot for Vanity Fair.

You may like the perfect Vanity Fair look and if that’s the case, that’s the type of photographer you must hunt down.

3.  Rapport with your photographer

One of the most important things is to make sure you and your family are able to form a good rapport with your photographer.  I would recommend meeting up with your photographer prior to the shoot where possible. In our case, I chatted to Anja on the phone and we hit it off straight away.

Both my daughter and husband are not great with getting their photos taken.  I was actually quite worried that they both wouldn’t play ball or are over it within 15 minutes!  Anja however won them both over and was able to bring out both their personalities.  I think it is so important that a photographer is able to do that without having known the subjects forever.  The worst thing which I’ve heard so many people comment on post shoot is, “I don’t feel like they’ve captured my daughter’s personality” or ” that smile on my son is so unnatural”.  Kalani was strutting for the camera like it was her job for the last decade and hubby was asking why he wasn’t in many of the shots!

So there you go.  My top 3 most important tips for choosing the photographer for your maternity/family photoshoot.

Xox, Liz


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