As a portrait photographer that specializes in Motherhood & Young Family, much of my work involves maternity imagery. I think this season of life is amazing and SO important to capture on film but lots of new moms couldn’t feel less into the idea! I get so many moms pregnant with their second child telling me they wish they had just gone ahead and made maternities during their first pregnancy. They usually say they didn’t feel beautiful at the time, were so uncomfortable or just didn’t see a good reason to do it at the time but now have a lot of regret over missing out on those memories.
When I was first starting to try to conceive, I remember calling my mom and asking her for any photographs she might have of herself pregnant with us kids. She laughed and said she’d look. A few days later, she sent me an email with one attachment that said, ‘Oh honey, I looked and looked but this seems to be it!’ My mom has three children so I thought for sure it was maybe a collage or PDF containing a few images. It was, as it turns out, a single image of my mother in a lawn chair with my older sister standing in front of her, looking young, tired and beautiful and most definitely NOT pregnant. I wrote her back asking if she was even sure this was a pregnancy image and she said yes, just early along…. She thought. I was surprised by the emotional reaction I had. I wanted so badly to see my own mother in the same season of life as myself. I wanted to connect to her in that moment and I couldn’t. This was the motivation for me to really focus on images for mothers and their daughters in the future that show the story of that season of their life.
When I talk to mamas-to-be, we talk about the legacy of the images we will make, why we are making them is so important. These portraits aren’t for Facebook or Instagram; they are for our children, for our grandchildren. These images are part of a family legacy, so this baby and any others can peek back in time to see what their parents looked like and felt like at that moment. They are a little window into the love that turned a couple into a family; they are more than just an image, they are forever.
I have a pretty involved process to create these stories. I meet with moms-and-dads-to-be first in person and we chat for an hour or so. We talk about how they met, why they love each other, and then we get into the heart. I ask them to tell me what kind of parent they hope to be, and what kind of parent they think their spouse will be. I am often moved to tears during these chats and we all enter into a circle of love and trust. The foundation is laid for an honest connection during our time together. After our first chat together, I connect with mom a few times to plan out clothing together ( I always add a few pieces from my client wardrobe to help out) and I hire a makeup and hair artist to make sure mom feels amazing. When I arrive at the couple’s home, I already know a lot about them and what’s important to them so it’s easier for me to create images that are honest and true. I’ve had outdoorsy couples that felt most at home immersed in water, book loving couples that wanted to be surrounding by their home and library, gentle mamas whose truest nature was revealed in her care for her firstborn child and couples who are so in love that that love just covers them in a blanket of beauty and where they are literally ceases to matter.
I think if I’m going to give advice on making maternity portraits, the most important thing I can say is ‘Make them honest.’. Know your clients; get to know them well enough to make images that directly reflect who they are right now. Mountains and fields and pretty dresses are all beautiful but hollow if they don’t connect to your reason for making the image. This isn’t an easy task and of course, some people are more shy than others. Have I ever had awkward clients? Yes, so much yes. I’m also fairly awkward, so I make it work by pausing in my process to take the time to warm them up, connect and laugh over the nerves and awkwardness. Be gentle to your clients and connect to them with honesty. I have an open heart policy, I am just as vulnerable and open as I hope they will be. I also make sure I’m totally present in the session. No worrying about other clients, if the work is ‘good’ or not, if I’m doing everything right. I show up and then completely become present. That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about all the parts that go into a great image ( light, settings, framing, etc) it just means that I’m more focused on my client’s emotional state.
My name is Keziah Kelsey and I am a portrait photographer that specializes in motherhood & young families. Becoming a mother changed my heart, my mind, ( yes my body too) and my whole world. Before my son tipped over my universe, I made photographs of families. Now, my eyes look for the strings of love that connect families and I make portraits of your hearts. See more of my work on Instagram and Facebook.