Scott Stulberg: Capturing beautiful bellies

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The female body has been one of the most beautiful things to photograph since the camera was invented long ago. I love capturing the female form in different ways, in different lighting and that’s one of the reasons I have been drawn to photographing women when they are pregnant.

Watching their tummies grow month after month, I find it incredibly photogenic. I find that 7 months pregnant is usually the earliest I want to capture them as that is when their shape starts looking the best. After you plan a shoot, experimenting with different methods and locations can make pregnant women look gorgeous and provide some great memories for them.

In this article I want to share many different images and ideas on how I go about trying to capture these beautiful bellies in so many different ways. Shooting outdoors is completely different than shooting indoors, and each have their difficulties.

In the image above, at Santa Monica beach at sunset, I wanted to capture a silhouette of my cousin, when the sun just hit the edge of the water but also with the waves crashing against the sand. Knowing I was going to do a silhouette, I asked Leslie to wear all black, which definitely helped.

Posing is so critically important and as you can see in the example above, having my subject look down with her eyes closed and her hands wrapped under her belly gave me just what I was looking for. Many times I have ideas in my head before the shoot and this is key as those big bellies make women pretty tired. It’s best to come prepared with ideas in advance.

Using My Photoflex StarLite QL Continuous Light

When I’m shooting in the studio or someone’s home, I want to have good light sources so that I can experiment with different techniques. In the shot above, and in some of the others I will show, I love using my Photoflex StarLite QL Continuous Light usually in my SilverDome soft box.

Most of the time I have a grid in front of a soft box to give me more directional light and focus it just where I want it. You can see in the shot above that I also had my subject posed in a similar position to the first example on the beach (looking down and her hands under her belly). When your subject is relaxed, it definitely makes for a softer image overall, which is what I am usually going for.

In the four photos above, I also used the Starlite QL while trying different poses and ideas. I use all kinds of backdrops and fabrics when shooting images like this but as you can see, I really love how the female form works against black. It really isolates the form and enhances beautiful skin so you end up with nothing that is too distracting.

And as you can see, much of the time my subjects’ eyes are closed or their head isn’t necessarily always in the image. There are so many different ways to capture images like this and I just love playing around, as there are no rules and not a lot of photographers out there who specialize in this kind of photography. The sky’s the limit and it’s always a different experience each time.

The Softness of Window Light

Often, window light can be just what the doctor ordered. During the day, there are so many different ways to harness window light and capture exquisite pregnancy images. Your subjects can be close to the window as in the image below of my friend Laura, or they can be placed further away from the window and capture the soft, ethereal light quality.

The advantages of working with window light are many. You can shoot images in different rooms of your home and you don’t really need much equipment. I do use reflectors and diffusers with window light quite often and my Photoflex LiteDiscs help me soften or bounce light just where I need it.

Whether it’s filtered light through blinds or flat light in the bathroom, window light is one of my favorite light sources for capturing these beautiful bellies.

Shooting Outdoors

If she wants, taking your subject outdoors can produce some of the best images possible as you can take advantage of beautiful natural light at different times of the day. You can also include her family members and capture some beautiful family portraits. From my experience, images with the husband, like the image below, have a timeless feel.

If your subject has other kids, I love trying to include them in some beautiful ways for a few of the photos. So often, these tend to be the images that are framed and placed throughout the home.

You have to scout for the best light and best locations outdoors if you want to capture something that your subject will absolutely love. Below are a few different examples of using beautiful outdoor light. Don’t forget to always capture horizontals and verticals, as you might not know which one they will like best.

The next few images of beautiful Tiffany on the beach in Santa Monica, show me shooting in the direction of the sunset but I realized I wanted another light source on her left side. I asked her husband to hold up a Photoflex translucent umbrella with my off-camera flash shooting through it.

Using a radio transmitter on my camera, I was able to capture just what I wanted. The last image produced was exactly the feeling I was looking for. When you balance your exposures for the front and back light, you can produce stunning images. And having some good gear is crucial too!

Using the Photoflex Starlite QL With and Without a Large Diffuser

As I mentioned earlier, I really love using the combination of my Starlite QL with my SilverDome soft box and grid but I also love using them with my Photoflex 41×74 inch LiteDisc Oval reflector. I have created some beautiful images by incorporating all three products and the key to success I feel is experimentation.

You can see in the two images below how I set everything up for shots like this. I shoot towards the soft box with the diffuser in the middle so that I can create some soft silhouettes of their beautiful curves. I also play with camera blur at times just to try something different. Photographers are artists so I encourage you to play with that canvas.

The photo below uses both the StarLite QL and SilverDome soft box without the large diffuser. You can play with the distance of the light from your subject to get the quality and look that you want. It is the exact same set up as the images above except I added a soft box in front to light up Leslie and Jake. The diffuser has another light coming through behind to give me the soft white backdrop.

The first image below shows the StarLite QL and the SilverDome while I was shooting a very cool couple who wanted something soft and sweet.

The second image below shows the set up that night with the light coming from an angle. This image was shot without the diffuser at all and once again shows the versatility of this lighting set up. There is a lot of trust that builds up on shoots like this. When your subjects are relaxed and also realize how special the images might turn out, it often shows in the photographs.

Using a soft box can work great in many ways to create soft and even light for so many different kinds of poses. My friend Kara wanted a Victoria Secret kind of look so she went there and bought some colorful underwear before our shoot. We had fun with different poses that day, as you can see in the photo below and it is all about having a good time with it and trying different things.

You can also use fabric in different ways and I love looking for great pieces at fabric stores. My favorite colors for this are red, orange, yellow and green and the best fabric is called chiffon. It literally floats across the body and photographs incredibly well as you can see in this next photo.

Capturing timeless images of women and their beautiful bellies can be incredibly rewarding, not just for you but also for their entire family. It becomes memories for everyone, forever.

I have been photographing pregnant women for as long as I can remember and I never get tired of it. You just have to think outside of the box, have some decent gear with you and look for dynamic locations with great light. After that, it’s time to create some magic. Have fun with it!

Scott Stulberg is a travel and stock photographer who often journeys to distant lands to capture unique images. He is represented by many stock agencies, including Corbis and Getty Images. Scott is a contributing writer for Shutterbug magazine and EOS Magazine and also leads photo workshops in different locations in the US and around the world. Based in Sedona, Arizona, Scott’s photos have been used by Microsoft, Fuji, Newsweek, New York Times, National Geographic, greeting cards, calendars, book covers and are in private collections around the world. See more of his work at his website.

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