16 July 2011, by Tan Yi Lin
On some weekday mornings, when I catch sight of my own reflection in the mirror before going to work, I find it hard to believe that there is a pretty side to pregnancy.
Same old work dresses. Because nothing else fits. Not even the maternity skirts and dresses that I bought earlier on in the pregnancy.
Same old flats and accessories. Although I suppose I should be thankful that my shoes, watch, engagement ring and wedding band still fit.
Same old big bag. Because it’s too much of a hassle to keep changing handbags. Thanks to my pregnancy “fun pack”, stuffed with items to combat all sorts of ailments should they crop up during the day.
Minimal make-up. Because I sweat it off minutes within stepping out of the bathroom. Perspiration beads are my new fashion accessory. I wear them with pizzaz on my nose, cheeks and forehead.
Throw in a big belly, a heavy ass, fleshy upper arms, chunky thighs and a strange waddle – and you wonder how your body can ever look good again.
But there IS a beautiful side to all of this.
You just need someone to help you find it, capture it and teach you to see it.
The idea of doing a maternity photo shoot came about when I chanced upon a directory listing of photo studios offering photography services for expectant parents in a parenting magazine. I visited some of the websites listed in the directory and was wowed by what I saw – photographs of heavily pregnant women looking absolutely happy, calm and beautiful. Most importantly, all of them looked completely at ease and comfortable with the extra pregnancy weight.
I was sold. Bump shots are a pregnancy must-have!
I scoured through online galleries showcasing various subjects, photography styles and techniques, and finally set my heart on The Studio Loft. I loved owner and photographer Maryann Koh’s clean and simple style: plain backdrops, gentle lighting and natural (some even au naturale too!) poses. At $250 for the maternity – known as the ‘Bloom’ – package, which comes with 6 large prints, I thought the rates were pretty reasonable too.
The Studio Loft recommends that Bloom photos are taken between the 33rd and 36th weeks of pregnancy. I made an appointment for early July (my 34th week), packed out outfits for the shoot and made our way down to the studio at Pagoda Street (the pedestrian mall along Chinatown) for our inaugural bump shoot!
(A note on punctuality: Be VERY punctual for your shoot. Don’t be like us – arriving late, hot, sweaty, flustered, messy and totally sans make-up. Even better, get there early and give yourself sufficient time to cool down in the air-conditioned studio, sort out your outfits, preen and most importantly, relax and stay calm. Calm is good.)
Taking It Off
Make that ALL off. What better way to show off the pregnant figure than in nude or semi-nude shots? Tastefully done, of course. So I stripped for the camera (yes, only me, husbands are not required to be fully naked, despite what he may insist.) With only Maryann and Dannie in the studio with me, there was nothing to be shy about. Maryann’s a mum herself, so she’s pretty familiar with the pregnant body. And as for the husband, well, he’s seen it all anyway. I find it best to do the nude shots first, so that you don’t get ugly marks on your skin left by clothes worn for the subsequent shots.
The photographs turned out beautiful, sensual and really sexy. Here are some of my favourite shots from the nude series:
(Click on the images to view each of them in larger sizes. So that this blog doesn’t get smacked with an NC-16 rating for this post, I’ve kept the first three images smaller than the rest, yah?)
Legs up in the air! Funny how the bump goes all conical when I engage my tummy muscles for this shot.
You don’t have to go totally nude to achieve the sensual effect. Maryann draped me in soft, flowing materials, which fell beautifully across my body to bring out the pregnancy curves.
You can try this at home with your curtains – but I’m sure the end effect won’t be quite the same!
As the shoot progressed, I gradually donned more clothes and accessories. Such as my stretchiest pair of jeans and the husband. Maryann recommends wearing pre-pregnancy clothes and leaving them unfastened to show how much you have bloomed. I spent the evening before the shoot trying to squeeze into two pairs of Levi’s but couldn’t even get them past my thighs!!! Thank goodness for some obscure-brand pair that I found at the bottom of my wardrobe!
We love this shot. It now adorns the desktop of Dannie’s MacBook.
Capturing Life In Motion
What I love about The Studio Loft is how they capture all the little moments in between poses. Like in the shot below – I really didn’t plan to scrunch up my face (who in their right mind would?!) But then, Dan somehow misheard Maryann’s request to “kiss your wife on the neck” as “EAT YOUR WIFE’S EAR”, which is really kinda gross, and I just.couldn’t.help.it.
And you know what? It turned out to be one of our favourite shots!
Slobs and slobber can be good
Maryann also gave really clear directions on how to position ourselves so as to present our best angles to the camera. Clear direction – right down to where you should place your hand – is really appreciated, especially when you’re stark naked, feeling slightly overexposed and rather awkward, and unsure of what to do.
Alternatively, you can come up with your own pose and funny expressions….
I’m sure she’s telling daddy that mummy would like a diamond ring upgrade as a push present…but why does he look so amused?
The heart-on-belly pose. Some may think it cheesy, but we like it!
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
One of the things that impressed us was how such a simple studio set up could produce such nice photos. Of course, there’s the photographer’s professional skill to thank for that too. But we were posing against paper – like this brown sheet you see in the pictures below – look how nicely the background turned out!
Brown paper to lovely illuminated backdrop – it’s MAGIC!
His way of creating a prod-igy in making
We had so much fun during the shoot! Maryann gave us some pretty challenging poses to do – but not without checking if we’re okay with them first, of course. She sent Dan on a weightlifting mission – to carry the 8-and-a-half-months pregnant wife.
HE DID IT! (and without dropping me too!)
I think it must be pretty fun for her too, to give every couple she photographs similar instructions and see what they make of it. Like sitting us on a bench and telling us, “Now, just do what you would do if there was no one around.” No prizes for guessing what Dan gets up to when given an instruction like that!! But she seemed pretty amused when he interpreted that as:
a) grab wife’s butt cheeks
b) grab wife’s boobs
c) dry hump wife
I, on the other hand, was quite mortified that it all got caught on camera. But just slightly (‘cos after six years of marriage, you kinda get used to it.)
Sheepish expression after getting chided by the wife for inappropriate behaviour on a bench.
Our next series of shots was really simple. We just had to look loving.
Looking lovingly at the bump
Looking lovingly at each other
Well, we tried. Couldn’t quite maintain that lovin’ feeling though!
Letting it all hang out
Personalising Your Shoot
That’s not the end of the shoot yet. We did one final series – but you’ll have to wait for Dan to post his entry to find out what that entailed. I’ll just say that it’s quite an epic. Like us, most couples would want a customised slant to their shoot beyond the nude and standard clothed photos. The Studio Loft has seen themed shots – suggested by clients themselves – involving a swollen belly painted as a basketball, a Subway sandwich used as an edible prop, Halloween costumes and so on. Whatever the chosen theme, it is clear from their portfolio that everybody had a huge load of fun during their shoot.
When we were finally done with the shoot (it takes about an hour), Maryann’s partners at the studio, Wen Lin and Joanne, sat us down in front of the computer and showed us the photographs from the shoot. As part of the Bloom package, we could select six photos to be touched-up and printed (1 x Super 8R and 5 x 5R). Additional prints are charged at $15 each. We had more than 200 images to choose from!
We picked our favourite shots from the session…. and decided to buy ALL the unedited images at an additional $250. The Studio Loft goes the extra mile to share with you simple photo editing techniques using Picasa (which is free to download) so that you can touch up the images on your own instead of paying them to do it for you. They showed us how to apply different effects to the images, such as Black & White, Sepia, Antique and so on. I thought it was really nice of them, because “sharing is caring!” (a phrase I picked up from reading Maryann’s blog!)
You can expect to collect the prints two weeks from the shoot. We were pleasantly surprised to receive a call just one week later telling us that our prints were ready for collection! Woo hoo!
Back home, we eagerly downloaded the raw images to our MacBooks and set about doing some simple edits using the iPhoto software. I soon realised that the images required very little improvement, if any at all. The lighting was perfect and all the images, sharp. I had been rather apprehensive about not being sufficiently made up (I only had enough time to brush on some blusher and a dab on lip gloss) but I’m very happy with how my natural complexion turned out in the end. All I needed to do was to digitally remove some minor blemishes, such as small scars on my elbow (from a fall) and belly (from an old piercing)…and Dan’s angry little pimple 😛
We’ve shown the photographs to family and a few close friends and everybody agrees that they were very well taken. We gave others a sneak peek by each setting a photo from the shoot as our new profile picture on Facebook and those garnered many positive online comments as well. Looking at the photos reminds me – and makes me focus on – the wonderful aspects of being pregnant, and I soon forget the niggling pains and daily discomfort of a growing bump… until the next urge to pee hits (in approximately 30 minutes since the last toilet trip!)
So if you’re looking to capture and immortalise the beauty of your pregnancy, we would highly recommend engaging a professional photographer to help. Of course, there are many different ways and styles to photograph these precious moments, but if you’re looking to do something like what we did – a mix of sensuality, sweet lovin’ and casual fun, do consider approaching Maryann and her team at The Studio Loft!
Maryann and her family (tree)
(Haha, sorry, couldn’t resist that corny dig!)The Studio Loft 58A Pagoda Street Tel/Fax: 6235 3639 Mobile: 9790 7276 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.thestudioloft.com.sg/index.htm Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/thestudioloft