For years, pregnant women used to wear the biggest, baggiest clothes they could find. The less seen, the better, the thinking was. But that perception began to change back in 1991, when a very pregnant Demi Moore posed nude on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. "Although at the time it was shocking for a pregnant woman to appear nude on the cover of a mainstream magazine, it really opened the door for today's women, who can now happily celebrate this amazing time in their lives," says Fort Worth-based photographer Diana Hall.
Hall began her career in 2003 as a wedding photographer, working with other local photographers. Although she enjoyed helping couples capture the memories of their wedding day, she was looking for something that would bring her more personal joy. So in 2004, she opened her own studio and made the decision to focus on modern maternity and children's photography.
"I love kids--they change so quickly, especially in the early years, and each one's personality is truly unique," she says. "I enjoy how happy the new parents are at their maternity sessions as they prepare to bring a new life into this world. It's such a special time, and I feel lucky to capture that moment for them."
Dress for Success
When Hall started her business, maternity photographers in her area shot mostly in black and white or had a very traditional style. Hall says she wanted to bring a higher-fashion, magazine style of photography to the niche. "I wanted to use color and modern poses to make my clients look like the fun, amazing women they are," she says.
Hall has a fashion-forward look to her photography and a strict policy of no maternity clothes. "I've always paid attention to how people pose and dress, both for maternity and non-maternity photos, and I use that information to help people look their best," she says. "When I explain clients should wear non-maternity clothes so I can really show off their bellies, and that we'll use their clothes to make them look good, I get less resistance."
Hall also talks with clients about where they will be displaying the photographs. "A portrait on a wall is a piece of art, and it should look good in the room where it will be hung," she explains. Hall feels that it's important to coordinate the colors in the portrait with the colors of her clients' dιcor. "It's not something most people think of, but once they understand why I ask about the colors in their house, they tend to agree with my ideas," she says. "Not that they always listen to me, but most of the time they do."
A Woman's Touch
Hall feels she has a distinct advantage as a woman photographer in this genre. As a woman and a mother, she can relate to how women feel about their bodies. "I think it's a huge advantage. I've seen it all and understand that women feel vulnerable--they're only partially clothed and, many times, not confident about how they look," she says. Hall likes to compliment her subjects throughout the session, because she feels that pregnant women are almost always glowing--the compliments help them see how beautiful they really are. "I just love shooting maternity photos--I think everyone should have one, clothed or not--and I think that shines through and makes my clients feel good," she says. "Also, as a woman, I know what bothers women and understand what they want and don't want to see in the photos so they can look and feel their best."
Hall usually requests to do a shoot two months prior to the due date. At that point, a woman really looks pregnant, but she's not down to those last two months where she can sometimes feel miserable and really start to gain more weight. Two months prior also takes away a certain risk when shooting a pregnant woman.
"Luckily, I've never had anyone go into labor during a shoot!" Hall exclaims. However, some incidents are unavoidable. "Like most newborn photographers, I've had my fair share of newborns pee and poop during photo shoots," she laughs. "That just comes with the territory when you shoot naked babies!"
Hall finds most of her clients through word of mouth and the exposure that her images bring. Many of her clients hang portraits on the walls of their homes and send birth announcements and holiday cards from her studio, so Hall's images become instantly recognizable to her clients' friends and family. "Eventually, when they're ready, they come to me because my style fits what they were looking for and they're familiar with my work," says Hall.
She also credits her website with helping to develop her business. "[The website] does a great job of showcasing my photography style, so people know if I'm the right photographer for them," states Hall. "I've also exhibited at baby fairs and have a few displays that introduce people to my studio."
A great selling point for Hall has been her Little Miracles Plan. It provides the client the opportunity to receive a maternity portrait, then newborn, 6-month, and 12-month portraits.
As part of the plan, Hall also offers the Little Miracles Book, which showcases the entire first year of a baby's life. Clients choose 15 images from each session for a total of 60 images. They can also send in poems, quotes, and even handwritten letters, which Hall will include in the design. "I think this has been a huge selling point for my baby plans, much more so than a 5x7 series panel would have been," states Hall. "Having the book allows me to charge $1,400 for the plan, which brings in a higher level of clientele."
The parents love the Little Miracle Plan, which opens the door to future business. "By the time someone has visited the studio for four sessions, come in for four ordering appointments, and picked up their finished portraits four times, we've gotten to know each other very well," explains Hall. "I know their children, and continuing our relationship is very natural. It's really wonderful to be able to document these children's changing lives. I know I've touched my client's hearts when they come in to view the portraits from their session and start to cry because they're so emotionally involved in the beauty of that moment in their child's life. It's a blessing to be part of that."
For more of hall's work visit www.dianahall.com.
Diana Hall's Gear Box
CAMERA & LENSES
Canon EOS 5D & Canon lenses
Canon 580 EX II Speedlite; AlienBees B800 and B400; Photek 60" Sofliter; Photogenic umbrellas; PocketWizards; Larson reflectors; Gary Fong Lightsphere-II; Sekonic L-358 Flash Master
AsukaBook; Leather Craftsmen; Art Leather matted iMount albums and iMount folios; Cornerstone proof books; Finao image boxes; Roma moulding; Southeast Moulding
Millers; ProDPI; White House Custom Colour
Adobe Photoshop CS3; Phase One Capture One; SuccessWare; Imagenomic Portraiture and Noiseware
LaCie Electron Blue Monitors
Canon Pixma ip5000 printer
SanDisk CF cards
Gina Alexander (photo purses)
Kimbra Studios (photo jewelry)