Bronwyn Pickering doesn’t like shooting in any ordinary old location.
So it’s lucky she lives in Mildura… a rural town in a pocket of Australia known as the Sunraysia region. The name couldn’t be more fitting… when I think of the area, I picture its golden light, orange earth, dusty tracks and warm tones everywhere.
This means she’s spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing backdrops for her photo shoots. For that reason it’s not surprising she rejects your average, ordinary, typical locations and opts instead to think outside the square.
Bronnie is also known in our community for her artistic frames, her love of movement, and her ability to render light magical. Those skills, combined with her determination to hunt for unexpected locations, elevate her photos to something seriously special.
And so it was Bronnie was the perfect choice for an article that shows you how to take really creative maternity photos. Read on to learn how to take yours from good to OMG-did-you-take-that?!
When scouting locations, Bronnie looks for:
Check that locations aren’t privately owned and if they are, get permission to shoot there.
If locations are council or city owned, you may still need to request permission. Also bear in mind some public owned areas may even require a fee for commercial and family photography. However this is more common in places where the public are charged a fee to enter, eg. historic homes open to the public.
This dilapidated house with deliciously textured features, and the surrounding overgrown garden (for lack of a better term!) was an irresistible location. It provided a perfect backdrop for a glowing mama-to-be… new and loved, juxtaposed against a scene of old neglect. Fresh and weathered. Future and past.
If you walked into a location like this, the light is likely the very first thing that will appeal to your senses.
So be true to it when deciding how to expose. Embrace the shadows, and resist the urge to attempt to fill them. Aim instead to showcase the light as its presented to you.
Bronnie has done exactly that. She made the most of the light near the windows and doors, exposed for the highlights, and let the shadows be, resulting in images with depth and drama.
Always place your subject in the best light you can find, preferably at an angle to the light source so that you include shadows, which add depth.
Alternatively, backlight them.
Encourage couples to always be touching and connecting in some way, and try these ideas to ensure that connection:
Try these prompts along with the abovementioned poses to draw out natural connections and emotion:
Bronnie is known for her thoughtful compositions, particularly for the way in which she uses natural frames.
Windows and doorways make perfect frames, so once you’re done inside, head outside by yourself and get some shots in this way.
Also look for naturally occurring frames in the environment. These shots below are a great example of how in doing so, you create a sense of intimacy between subjects. It works best when shot from a distance.
Another way to create that feeling in your composition is to shoot around the corner of a doorway or window.
Also… don’t forget the close up details!
Vary your framings from wide to close to get variety from one single set up. Note this shot below is simply a close up of the shot above, taken from a different position. The couple didn’t have to move at all.
Get a tonne of variety by using the outside of the building as a gorgeous backdrop. When subjects have something to lean on, it helps them relax into a natural pose.
These were shot late in the day when the sun was low in the sky and the light was golden.
Once you’ve got all the shots you want inside and out of the building… go for a wander.
Bronnie starts all her shoots late in the day, in the 1-2 hour window before sunset, so that she can end the session by making the most of those last rays of light.
This session began at 4.30pm and ended just after sunset at 6pm.
Bronwyn’s gear and settings for this shoot:
Bronnie is unusual in the world of professional photography in that she always shoots everything at f/1.8. Whilst the depth of field she achieves is stunning and her love of f/1.8 plays a bit part in creating her recognisable look…
…you really need to be confident with your focus to nail it at such a shallow aperture. So if you’re new to photography, or you’re not confident with focus yet, try f/2.8 to 3.5 and work your way toward shallower apertures.
Related: Master Your Focus
Now we’ve inspired you with regard to unusual locations and dramatic light, grab some more inspo here for creative maternity compositions, then go scouting!
Much love to the fabulous Bronwyn Pickering for her generous use of her images and tips to help write this article! Love ya Bronnie! If you want Bronwyn to capture your own maternity session (or your family!), you can find her at Essie+Elsie.
Our 8 Week Enthusiast Photography Course is starting again SOON! You'll learn how to get the most from your DSLR & take photos you LOVE!