Maternity Portraits of Jacquelyn and Shaughn

Jacquelyn and Shaughn

On 2009-09-30 I shot some studio portraits for my friend Anita Cohen at Daytona State College, of her pregnant daughter Jacquelyn and her daughter’s husband Shaughn. Even though I’ve been a photographer since I was 13 (5 years), this was my first time working formally. Thanks to Prof. Joe Vance for letting me use the photography studio at Daytona State College even though I’m not in the photography program (I’m a computer science student).

Jacquelyn is due to have Shaughn Brady Jr. at the beginning of Nov. 2009. Sadly, Shaughn has to return to Iraq for his second tour in Apr. 2010, so he’ll miss his son’s growth from the age of five months to over a year. Here, he is wearing his camouflaged U.S. Army uniform. He’s a driver rather than front-line infantry. I hope he stays safe and doesn’t have to kill anyone.

We had a white background. Anita helped me figure out how to set up the hot lights and deflectors. I used one incandescent light (warm a.k.a. yellowish) on the left and one fluorescent light (cool a.k.a. bluish) on the right, which worked well. While some maternity photographers exaggerate the size of the woman’s belly or emphasize deep, brooding poses, I did not do that here. I prefer realistic, upbeat portraits showing love and joy.

Jacquelyn and Shaughn

Shaughn kissing his wife’s belly. I wasn’t sure about Jacquelyn’s facial expression, but I think Shaughn’s outfit balances the discipline of the army with the love he has for his wife and first son.

Jacquelyn and Shaughn

The only portrait of Jacquelyn and Shaughn I used the flash on. This is a conventional rather than artistic portrait, but portraiture is about the people in the portraits, and not necessarily innovation of the medium.

Shaughn is covering a red birthmark above Jacquelyn’s belly button. On the first portrait I edited it out, but on the second it was easier to leave it. I like to remove most blemishes to make people look how they’re supposed to look. My goal is to discreetly present an idealized version of reality. I don’t want laymen to say “this is Photoshopped!” Photographers will always say it, but non-photographers should not notice. However, depending on the angle and lighting in can be hard to clone out blemishes, so I have to balance art vs. time. I don’t air-brush; I either remove blemishes well or I don’t remove them at all. In my portfolio I have done difficult edits requiring hours of work (i.e. removing twigs, power lines, and houses), but elsewhere I re-shoot or leave it.

Jacquelyn and Shaughn

Our couple standing together, with Jacquelyn showing her tattoo saying “Shaughn” in cursive with a Hibiscus flower. The tattoo is for her husband and her son. I like it.


Anita (Jacquelyn’s Mom) calls this the “Marilyn Monroe” shot, in the style of an actress from the 1940s and ’50s famous for poses like this. For all the portraits, Anita wrapped the green sheet around Jacquelyn. Underneath Jacquelyn had a blue bathing suit on. Unfortunately that came through here (on her hip), but we didn’t notice it at the time. It’s not a big deal.

I shot all these portraits using my Canon Rebel XTi with my EF 50mm F1.4 prime lens in RAW mode. I edited in Adobe Camera RAW 5.0 (vignetting and color) and Adobe Photoshop CS4 (spot-editing), which is industry standard. I brightened the photos and made the colors warmer by shifting to a white balance with a higher Kelvin temperature, because I used automatic white balance in camera which was too blue.

Incidentally, a Daytona State College photography student asked to shoot Shaughn while he was in the lobby, but Anita shouted out “he’s already taken!” :grin:

Big thanks to Anita for making a $100 donation to my photography fund. I opened a checking account recently and deposited it there. I will use it for whatever photography or non-photography purchases I need to make in the next months, or bills.

I give well wishes and lots of love to Anita, Jacquelyn, and Shaughn, and I want the United States to leave Iraq, Afghanistan, and every other country we occupy, as soon as possible, never to return. :smile:

11 thoughts on “Maternity Portraits of Jacquelyn and Shaughn

  1. The first one has to be my favorite, She looks peaceful and he looks like he is there for her. That photo says so much. You did a really great job, I also like the one with her hand up and the shadow behind her. I know that shadows are sometimes “not favored” in portraits like these, but that one looks like it’s meant to be there.

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  3. Love the creative posing! Yes, getting a hold of pro lights will make a difference, but you definitely captured their ‘spark.’ Did you get a chance to follow up and take the baby pictures too?

  4. These are very good photos, you did a great job! I just got a Nikon D40 in order to start experimenting with photography but the lighting has been my major problem so far. I never realized how much of an issue it is for photographers until I actually started dabbling in photography myself. I hate that blinding flash from the built in flash because it washes out the colors and makes annoying reflections. I’ve read that a bounce flash is a good idea for indoor shots. But definitely for a portrait session such as yours, you needed some real professional lighting and I think you did a very good job with that, as well as with the editing. I like to throw my shots into Photoshop to see how I can make them better but I’m still learning at this. Have you tried HDR photography? -Felix

    • I’ve never done HDR (high dynamic range) but I know it involves taking multiple stationary shots at different exposures and blending them together in Photoshop or another program… It should actually be called compressed dynamic range. The purpose is to show a wider range of light than digital photo-sensors can process at once, so the sky gets darker and nearby scenery gets lighter… Some HDR photographs look awful and unnatural. Make sure whatever you do makes sense to the eye.

      The principle reason to upgrade to a DSLR is so you can use higher ISO speeds like 400-1600 with much less grain… also, you can get faster lenses. If you’re at a play or concert you can’t take good photos without a DSLR, generally speaking. The flash is useless because the performers are so far away. You need a lens that goes down to a low F-stop (large aperture like F1.8) and a camera that can go up to a high ISO speed (high light sensitivity).

      I looked at your page; nice JavaScript with the rotating photos of signs. You should try getting further away from the signs and zooming in. It doesn’t reduce the image quality because the zooming process it entirely analog involving glass elements in the lens. In fact, most lenses are sharper in the mid-range… my 28-135mm lens is pretty good around 50 or 70mm, for example. At 28mm you have barrel distortion which makes everything appear wider. It’s very unflattering for portraits. Going all the way to 100mm or 135mm is good for portraits, which means you have to back way up and use no flash. Then you have pincushion distortion (compression) which looks much nicer for portraits.

  5. Hey Richard,

    I’ve had to learn as much as I can about photography with a backdrop and artificial light. In fact, I’ve not succeeded with artificial light since I don’t have the equipment. So, we take all of our pictures outside on cloudy days. Here’s an example of a Pennsylvania German paint decorated blanket chest. It’s gorgeous, but I could only do this outside. What tips do you have for achieving this on a budget with indoor lighting?

    • I used to sell electronics on eBay. I’d just take photos of products by laying them in the grass in my yard. I was dependent on the lighting and weather—I took photos on cloudy afternoons for the best light. But they were much better than the normal overhead shots of items against carpet with a blinding flash.

      It’s hard to take good photos of large furniture items indoors because you have to get far away or use a wide-angle lens. A wide-angle lens gives unflattering barrel distortion. Getting far back and using the medium or telephoto range requires a big room. You should keep doing what you’re doing now… your photos are good.

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