Growing up, Lola Melani was mesmerized by the strength and elegance of the women photographed by iconic photographers, she says. But “I rarely felt beautiful or truly self-confident with my own body image, especially when I compared myself with the perfection of the images of professional models in photographic media.” As a professional photographer, that memory led her to focus on creating editorial style portraits of everyday women who weren’t models. When she moved to New York in 2012, she stumbled across the maternity niche and couldn’t find any photographers doing that style of photography for pregnant women. Bingo. Her business was born.
Keep the lighting simple. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective, says Melani. “You can capture stunning maternity portraits and silhouettes with just one light.” She recommends mastering two or three straightforward setups that work well for most situations. Once you get your set up nailed, you’re a step ahead of the game. “You will spend more time creating and capturing the emotion instead of trying to figure out the lights and settings,” she says.
Create an efficient workflow. Pregnant women tire quickly. You need to have a plan and move through it at a good clip before your subjects become fatigued. “I recommend having a mood board and a shot list of necessary studio equipment, props, and wardrobe items prepared beforehand,” she says. “Having a pre-session consultation and a clear plan will help your shots run smoothly and efficiently.”
Be you. Don’t do exactly what other photographers in your area are doing. “When you create based on your own ideas, your work becomes unique and powerful, and you become unstoppable as an artist,” she says.
Delegate, delegate, delegate. “When I started doing photography, I didn’t realize that taking photos actually represents a very small part of what most professional photographers do on a daily basis,” she says. She nearly burned out by doing everything herself—communicating with clients, making photos, keeping the books, editing, marketing. “I was on the brink of closing my studio.” Instead, she started building a team and delegating some of those tasks. “In the beginning it wasn’t easy because I strongly believed that nobody can do what I do better. I was mistaken.”
Amanda Arnold is associate editor.
It wasn’t a straight shot, but the path she took to portraiture suits Shannon Squires-Toews just fine.