Manhattan Beach Maternity Portraits – Explanation of Lighting Scenarios


This fall has seen some really high temperatures even at the beach, so it was a warm day and I still had some full sun on my hands for this beach portrait session.  To my dismay, coastal fog had not settled in.  So, as to not blind my subjects (never goes over well), I wanted to use anything but direct harsh sunlight.  To assist anyone who is curious, let me explain my thought process on lighting this shoot.

Front porch light: The overhang of a front porch and the shape of a doorway is always ideal for some great soft light.  If the opportunity presents itself, this is always my go to lighting arrangement.  You can see some beautiful catchlights in their eyes bouncing around as the light filters onto the porch.  If you want good lighting, look for a doorway or a porch.  You’ll be happy with the results.

Fill light with external flash: In the image below on the right, I used flash to fill in the shadows and underexposed my image to avoid a washed out sky.  Remember this underexposing tip to achieve a blue sky in bright day light.

Back lighting:  This type of lighting emphasizes shape (great for beautiful pregnant bellies), and to me, usually adds a romantic mood.  If you want to emphasize form or even do some silhouetting, use back light.  When I do most of my maternity sessions, I like to include at least a few back lit photos.

…and as my Final Tip,  when working with kids, a part of you always has to be prepared to shoot them in whatever light they want to run into!!  So, pay attention to your camera settings and remember to think on your feet.