Fake it till you make it, they say. Although the motto does not fully pertain to this shoot, the story could serve as an inspiration to other adventurous creatives, I suppose. And to my other readers, it’s an opportunity to see what else a photographer with Photoshop skills can do besides retouching. Enter maternity digital art.
Maternity digital art, as part of my fantasy art direction, is a dream idea for expecting moms, along with an even hotter area of children fantasy art. Two reasons: 1) under the right conditions, a mom-to-be may fulfill any creative photographic dream, and 2) thinking of a maternity photoshoot, she may only dream of such an approach because this is not what a typical photo studio offers. Those who do, understandably, add a significant digital art fee on top of the traditional maternity photography. Back to dreaming… [sigh]
Those high fees come from the extra time and effort required and I’m telling you, sometimes hours, if not days. It gets below the minimum hourly rate. Once I transformed one cool expecting couple into a museum statue. Here are some examples of my maternity digital art:
Bragging about the dream potential of maternity digital art shoots me in a foot, though. You may look at some other pregnancy work I sweated to set up and create in real life, and downplay them as Photoshop trickery. “Look what this couch daredevil did!”
I’m saying it’s good to offer options—creative stuff requiring adventurous thinking and commitment, and tapping into the digital art potential. Cool moms may be eager to climb a snowy mountain or diving into a Mexican cenote, but flying there could stop them. There could still be a budget for fantasy.
To my client now. Back in September 2021, a lovely African-American expecting mom from DC wrote this to me:
Do you offer maternity shoots? I’m amazed at your work but I don’t know if you accept clients or only do magazines?Rakeeia
Yes, I work with regular people, most of the time! I can’t do only magazines, that hype does NOT pay! “You’ll get a ton of exposure,” editors would say. Can’t pay bills with it, so it’s only good for fun. I did it but can’t link any paying client to my magazine publications.
However, you can shoot regular people so they look like in a magazine! Sleek, glam, fashionable, dramatic, eye-catching, unique. Well, only some magazines will want all of it because many are safe and traditional… one might say, boring. Make up your own cool magazine in your mind and work for it. I’m trying for such results, and that’s where Rakeeia’s question possibly comes from.
Our expecting mom was eager to take a 5-hr drive and come to me in NYC and pursue a visual impact both in real life and in maternity digital art. You wouldn’t think she’d go with a basic 2-hr shoot, and you’re right. An all-day project—my creative vent—without hesitation.
She wanted a real underwater maternity, and I’d give it to her if not for the off-season. Pools are closed, the indoors is scarce and difficult to approach. Imitating underwater is tough even for a Photoshop digital art guru (whom I’m not). You look like nothing else underwater… You can try jumping while being blown at with a fan and have some success, but your OBGYN will panic. Passed on that idea. She was considering a wintery theme, and we planned for that. January differed from September, so she dropped that idea on the day of the shoot, too.
Buuuuut—she was all for the Antelope Canyon digital concept! That I could do, and it wouldn’t be “fake it till you make it”. I shot there in real life several times, including my pregnant wife on the action-packed cross-country ZORPHOTOUR trip. There was also a stylish NYC blogger, and an engaged couple from Georgia.
With the images from Antelope Canyon at hand, I could create maternity digital art for her. The key to a successful digital manipulation is to shoot with the final product in mind. Most importantly, you need to match the light (intensity, direction, diffusion). I used studio strobe lights with various modifiers. Then comes posing, integrating the props, meticulously cutting out, scaling, focus matching, liquifying, multiple replacements, masking, color matching, regular retouching, light and shadow painting, blending, and finally giving it all an overall filter treatment. Not kidding you, this image took me the entire day. If you can’t be focused, would turn into days.
The flowing fabric is real. We kept throwing it around until I got the pretty lines and shape (see the “before” image at the end). The dust effect is real, captured in camera. What they do is wait for the right time of the day when the sun creates that narrow beam of light and throw sand into the air. I manipulated it for better form and definition.
That maternity digital art image could be called the highlight of the photoshoot. It’s hard to compete with it. Even if this were the only goal of a (shorter) session, some pregnant ladies might be content with the outcome already. We did more, of course, and the rest of the images are cool on their own. Here are a few:
I don’t have any behind-the-scenes here, but a raw “before” shot could come in handy for the comparison.
And with that, I bid my farewell and invite the offbeat moms-to-be to explore the wonders of the maternity digital art with me.