Intro by Chamira Young
You know you're looking at an amazing maternity portrait when it makes you pause, suck in your breath, and just stare as you soak up the beauty with your eyes. Photographer Casey Dittmer regularly creates such images, which is why it's such a blast to feature her work today.
Check out her beautiful maternity portraits below, as well as the meticulous way she plots each photo shoot for her clients. They will definitely make you stop and have an awe-filled moment. As you'll see, rather than going the traditional maternity image route, she puts her own unique spin on the photo sessions, while emphasizing the comfort and safety of the mothers-to-be.
Whether it's a high school senior portrait, corporate headshot, or maternity photo shoot, every photo session you do should be an experience for your client. I love that Casey acknowledges this, even going so far as to very appropriately call her maternity sessions the "Goddess Experience". And for all of her different photography styles, Casey relies on the two main lenses in her arsenal: the Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 VC G2 and the SP 70-200mm F/2.8 VC G2. And for those who want to know the lens settings she used, we've included those as well.
Get ready to be inspired!
By Jenn Gidman
Images By Casey Dittmer
Casey Dittmer has been taking pictures since high school, when she worked for a portrait studio. College came next, followed by starting her own family—and that's when Casey decided to launch her own studio instead of buying the one she was working at. "We had a new baby, so we started our own business so we could control it and go at our own pace," she says. "We built it from the living room up, from nothing to where it is now."
Located in Grand Junction, Colorado, Casey's studio specializes in portraiture, including family, high school seniors, boudoir, newborns, and maternity, the latter of which Casey has been paying special attention to for the past five years or so. "We've been trying to carve out our niche and change the conversation in maternity," she says. "For so long, maternity photography has centered on a cozier, softer, touchy-feely kind of look, which some women really like. But other women aren't as cool with it. It's just not their personality, or they're not as comfortable in their pregnant bodies as some other women may be."
That's where her studio's "Goddess Experience" comes in. "What we honor is the women's strength in that moment," she says. "We find it's very empowering to celebrate you're having a baby, but also to make a note of what you're accomplishing in bringing a new life into this world. At no other time are women's bodies such a dynamic shape, so we try to showcase them in beautiful gowns."
For all of her different photography styles, Casey relies on the two main lenses in her arsenal: the Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 VC G2 and the SP 70-200mm F/2.8 VC G2. "These have both been fantastic from the get-go, with always consistent performance," she says. "Because I started from nothing and didn't have the budget to buy a ton of equipment, I needed to find a lens that could do everything I needed to do. I love that with these two I can get wider, sweeping shots like the ones you see with my maternity work, but also take advantage of the telephoto end of things to zoom in for more detailed shots on my newborns, giving me the ability to capture just the belly and the hands. Plus, because I shoot completely handheld, the Vibration Compensation (VC) feature on both lenses helps reduce camera shake and keep my images sharp."
Casey creates most of the gowns for the Goddess Experience herself. "We do have a few vendors we purchase gowns from, but 80% to 85% of the gowns you see are custom creations I've created for them," she says. "We style at least one look for each session." And the backgrounds she scouts are often ultimately selected to lend a grandiose feel befitting a goddess. "We want each photo to be unique, almost like an event," she adds.
A well-laid-out plan is required for a successful maternity session. "I need to know exactly what I'm going to do and how we're going to get there, so I'm not fumbling during the shoot," Casey says. "We need to pull off the session as quickly and efficiently as possible."
This became especially important, for example, when Casey and her team captured the maternity photo shown here in the famous Dark Hedges of Ireland. "When you're doing on-location shoots like this, they're overrun by hundreds of tourists on buses," she explains. "You go in with your plan, get the shot, and get out. We got lucky, because when we scouted the Dark Hedges, it was super-busy. But when we came back for the actual shoot, there were only a few people there. Using natural light with a bit of fill for her face, we were able to pull off this photo in a half-hour."
How maternity shoots differ from many other types of photography is the added effort needed to keep Casey's subjects comfortable and safe. "Sometimes I have these amazing ideas, but then I realize it's not really feasible to do them without some risk of possibly hurting or exhausting the mom-to-be," she says. "We also try to take breaks as often as we can. When we get excited and are in that high-energy shooting mode, we have to stop once in a while and let our subjects sit, relax, and breathe. Our models aren't just models—they're there as moms-to-be, and you have to be mindful of what their needs are."
That element came into play during her beach shoot in Ireland. "It was cold and blowing rain that day, though you can't necessarily tell that from the photo here," she says. "It wasn't fun for anyone involved. Not only did we have to get her out there safely, but we also had to get her out there and back in fairly quickly, for comfort's sake. It took less than half an hour to walk across the sand, get her into position, fire off the photos we needed, and then get her back down."
Safety and comfort were also paramount for a bucket list–style shoot Casey calls "Bump and a Hump," a photo she'd wanted to do for years. That image finally came to fruition recently in eastern Utah, with the help of a camel called Cosmo. "His smile kills me every time I pull up this image," she says. "We found a place that has camels available for things like this, but many of the national parks that have sand dunes don't allow professional photo shoots. We finally found a place called Little Sahara Sand Dunes that didn't mind us coming in."
Read more and enjoy Casey's additional images...
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