Q&A with Maternity Photographer Olia Luis

As a preferred photography partner of Mama Bump Rentals, Olia Luis moved to the U.S. almost 10 years ago from Moscow, Russia. After working in the legal department of a large German company on the East Coast , she made a cross-country trip to Southern California, met her future husband and settled down in San Diego with their adopted husky. Read about what inspires Olia as a photographer and what advice she gives to expecting mothers in capturing the magical moment of pregnancy.

Where do you find inspiration for your maternity photo shoots? 

I have shot a variety of genres since I started my photography business, trying to figure out not only what I enjoyed shooting but what I am good at shooting. Nothing inspires me more than producing an image that an expecting mom is going to cherish forever as a reminder of one of the most magical times in her life. Giving someone a great image of themselves makes me thrilled, and the inspiration is all around us really – in the way the light falls on your subjects, the interplay of light and shadows, connection between people, location highlights, weather conditions, and of course the work of others. Photographers are visual people and obviously platforms like Instagram and Pinterest dictate popular trends in maternity photography that we all pay attention to even if we don’t always want to admit it.

What’s your process for working with clients? 

My main goal is to make sure my client is happy with the end result. I do not take more than one client a day to ensure I can offer them the best time during the day in terms of lighting. There is a small window of good light within each day, when the light is soft and there aren’t harsh shadows on my subjects. This is one of the reasons why I disapprove of the mini sessions many photographers offer these days. I take time to get to know what my client’s vision for a perfect shoot, suggest the best location, make sure to find out how many outfits the clients are bringing the day of and allow extra time if needed for additional outfits and additional family members. I bring a changing tent for my clients’ convenience, as well as water and oil absorbing sheets on hot days.

What advice would you give a mom-to-be for creating the perfect maternity photo shoot?

Find a photographer whose work you admire. If you are shooting outdoors, request the golden hour (pre-sunset) time of the day. Check the photographer’s Yelp or Google reviews. Make sure the outfits of your group are coordinated and the colors go well together. If you can, scout the location a few days before the session. Bribe older kids, make sure they are well rested, and bring snacks. Try to enjoy the process!

What tips would you give a mom-to-be in selecting a dress from Mama Bump Rentals for her photo shoot? 

Take proper measurements to ensure the sizing is correct. Decide whether you are going for something more casual, more dramatic or boho. Loose or fitted. Will the color of the dress look good against the location you choose? Check @mamabumprentals Instagram account for inspirations.

What advice do you offer a mom-to-be for a studio portrait shoot vs. an outdoor lifestyle shoot? 

I feel like an outdoor session is more “natural” and captures more candid moments rather than a studio session. However, a studio session can be more intimate and allows naked or semi naked images for those moms looking to capture the “raw” side of pregnancy.

What is the most unique or wildest maternity photo shoot you’ve done? Please give details. 

One of the most memorable experiences this year was an opportunity to shoot at one of the most crowded locations in San Diego – the Balboa park – while it was closed for entry and completely empty. In the middle of Black Lives Matter riots, the police secured the park to protect the historical architecture from being destroyed but somehow allowed us to stay and take maternity pictures while there wasn’t a single person in the background – something I have never seen before.