Golden Hour Maternity Portrait Session at Waveny Park

Inessa looked absolutely radiant during her maternity session at Waveny Park last week. We scheduled the shoot during golden hour to take advantage of the beautiful natural light. The best lighting peaked towards the end of the shoot which you can especially see in the shot on the right inside Waveny House

THE LOCATION

Waveny Park in New Canaan, CT has been my go-to park for the gorgeous scenery, beautiful gardens & trees, and of course, the old stone mansion. It's 300 acres of Connecticut countryside just minutes away from my home. I've been shooting there for about 3 years now and have found new areas that I love every time I visit . The park has so many spots that are fairly quiet and serene that allow for some privacy to capture intimate moments and a true glimpse into the soul.

PREPARATION

Whenever I have a shoot scheduled at a specific location, I will go and scout the area beforehand or arrive early to find the best spots for photographs. Since we were shooting at Waveny Park, I knew of all the key locations where I wanted to capture Inessa's maternity portraits, but also discovered new areas that worked perfectly for the session.

We discussed wardrobe or any props prior to the shoot and decided to go with a neutral palette and I recommend soft, natural fabrics with no patterns or distractions. Inessa arrived in a beautiful ivory dress that complimented the natural scenery really well. We also decided to bring a change of attire for the baby bump shots, so Inessa choose a black crop-top and white maxi skirt. 

GEAR

I carried my Nikon D800e and the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens with me to capture about 90% of the shots. I switched over to the 24-70mm f/2.8G ED lens for wider shots with mansion and the big tree at Waveny. I love shooting portraits with my telephoto lens to create a very flattering look and gorgeous, buttery bokeh (blurred background). It's also great to give your clients some space and to make them feel more comfortable and natural. I try to keep the ISO low since we had lots of light, but we were losing it fast. My camera settings were ISO 400-500, primarily shooting with a wide aperture of f/3.2, and at varying shutter speeds of 1/500 & up. I focus on my subject's eyes to create tact sharp images that really pop from the background.  

NATURAL LIGHTING

Before/after retouching. Left: Straight out of camera; Right: Retouched in Lightroom CC

I schedule my outdoor shoots during golden hour which varies throughout the year according to sunrise and sunset times. Golden hour is approximately an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. I met Inessa at Waveny Park in mid-September at 5:30pm for the session start time and we shot for about an hour until the we reached the best light for backlighting which was about 30 minutes before sunset.

Shooting in natural light is always a challenge because it's constantly changing so you need to also remember to set your camera and pose your subject for these settings. I love using back light right before a sunset to highlight my subject's hair and silhouette to create a stunning photograph. 

POST-PROCESSING

Always try to get your settings right in camera so you have less processing to do in post. I process all of my RAW files in Adobe Lightroom CC (2015) to give them that extra pop that makes my images stand out. I first correct the white balance by using a gray card during the shoot and then bump up the temperature to give the photos a golden glow. I make my way down the slider in Lightroom to make adjustments to balance the histogram, fill shadows, increase the contrast and blacks, and move onto local adjustments to remove any distractions and to soften the skin. Inessa's photos hardly needed any retouching so I didn't need to take them into Photoshop to work on the skin or any other areas. I finish my images by sharpening and enhancing the eyes. I sometimes add a vignette make it more dramatic and to bring the viewer's eyes onto the subject. 

THE RESULTS

The hardest part for me has always been the cull and selection stage to choose the best shots from the session. I learn from what my clients like and get better and better every time I hear their feedback. My husband also helps me whenever I need another opinion and he constantly hears me asking questions like, "What do you think, black and white or color?" I go through my RAW files on camera and delete the obvious misses before uploading the shots to my hard drives. Then after creating backups, I import them to my Lightroom library following the naming convention I created to keep my files organized. 

Once in Lightroom, I will go through the gallery and star the best shots. I will go through it 2-3 more times until I really narrowed down to the best of the best before I start processing the files. I will process one shot and then sync the settings with the rest of the shots that were taken in a similar setting and location to save some time. Then, I will make local adjustments on every image until I'm happy with the final product. After finishing edits on this session, I couldn't have asked for a better subject and setting to capture these outdoor maternity portraits for Inessa to cherish this special time in her life. 

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share this post with friends and family interested in natural light outdoor portraits. God bless! 

Maternity Portrait Photography by Natasha Miller ©Tashography 2015