Guide to Maternity Photography – Capturing the Beauty of Pregnancy

maternity-photography

Pregnancy is a strange and wonderful experience. It brings with it so many questions, expectations, and yes, physical changes.

It’s no wonder so many women want to immortalise the memory with a maternity photo session.

Maternity photography has its own set of unique challenges. Among them, making every client look and feel both beautiful and comfortable – an art that requires you to pay attention to the subtleties of the pregnant form.

So, if you’re a photographer looking to get into the genre, this guide is for you!

We’ll look at photography tips and maternity photo ideas, as well as some tips for pregnant women who might be considering a maternity photoshoot long before the arrival of their baby.

Let’s get started.

12 Maternity Photography Tips

Whether you have your glowing, pregnant subject all lined up and ready to go, or you’re researching for future projects, these maternity photography tips will help you get some great maternity photos at your next session.

1. Get the right gear

Gear of maternity photographer kelly marleau

Photography equipment of maternity photographer Kelly Marleau.

For photographers wanting to add maternity portraits to their list of offerings, gear is obviously a big consideration.

The good news is that you can start out with very little and still take excellent shots – especially if shooting maternity photography outdoors rather than in a studio.

  • Camera

There’s no specific type of camera needed for maternity photography. That said, if you’re shooting professionally and want to offer prints, a DSLR or mirrorless camera with at least 20 megapixels of resolution is best.

One handy feature you might want to look out for is eye autofocus, which makes it easy to keep your subject in focus. Many mirrorless cameras offer this feature.

A full-frame camera will also help you make the most of every pixel, while offering more latitude when it comes to post-production. Here are some affordable full-frame options.

  • Lens

Lenses will be the most important consideration when putting together your maternity photography kit. Invest in the best quality lenses your budget allows.

As for focal length: A 50mm is a great portrait lens – especially since you’re going to be focusing on three-quarter and full-length portraits rather than headshots (you want to capture that belly in all its glory, after all!).

Anything wider than that will create too much distortion – not what your maternity clients want from their images!

If you prefer a zoom lens, a 70-200mm will give you plenty of versatility in capturing both wide shots and smaller details.

  • Flash

Flash is completely optional but can come in handy depending on the location and lighting of your shoot. If you’re shooting indoors with limited natural light, you will need either a flash or some other additional lighting source.

  • Tripod

Another optional piece of gear, a tripod can be useful for several reasons. Firstly, it can help you get sharp images, especially if you’re shooting in low light. Secondly, it can keep your camera in position while you move around and interact with your subject, making it helpful when posing females.

  • Remote shutter release

A remote shutter release can be used in conjunction with a tripod for the same reasons. Because you don’t have to touch the camera, you can move around freely and spend more time directing your subject, which can be great for building rapport.

It also minimises camera shake for clearer shots in low light.

2. Nail your camera settings

Pregnant woman on a beach

Credit: Anthony Tran

The camera settings you use for maternity photos will obviously depend a lot on the situation, but here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Aperture

Portraits look great with a beautifully blurred background and, for that, you’ll want a shallow depth of field (i.e., an f-number between roughly f/1.4 and f/4). This will help to isolate your subject and prevent any background elements from becoming a distraction.

That said, there are times where you may want more of your image in focus – like if you’re shooting a very wide shot that incorporates some landscape. In those cases, opt for a higher f-number, like f/8 or above.

  • ISO

Keep your ISO as low as you can to avoid noise. Somewhere between 100 and 400 is best. Using Auto ISO is also a good way to keep your focus on the subject, rather than fiddling around with camera settings – just be sure to set an upper limit to the ISO, though.

  • Shutter speed

Set your shutter speed to the fastest possible that still allows for a correct exposure.

If you don’t have a lot of light available and your aperture is already wide open, you can either bump up your ISO or slow your shutter speed. Just be aware that a slower shutter may result in camera shake unless you have a tripod.

  • Focus Mode

Unless you’re shooting close-ups of your client’s blossoming belly, you’ll want to make sure their eyes are in focus at all times.

So, if you have eye autofocus on your camera, you can use that. Otherwise, for static shots, use a one-shot/single-shot autofocus mode. Make sure you manually set the focus point on the subject’s eye each time you take a portrait.

3. Have some flattering poses prepared

Pregnant girl with halo crown

Credit: Marlon Schmeiski

The right poses are everything in maternity photography. You want to show off that belly, while at the same time presenting your client in a flattering light.

Getting the mom-to-be to cradle her belly with her hands is a popular maternity photography pose for a reason: it draws attention to the bump, accentuates the shape, and makes an emotional connection between the mother and her baby.

Beyond that, pay attention to the rest of the body. Turning three-quarters from the camera with the front leg bent (as in the example above) makes for a highly flattering shape.

Sitting poses are more difficult in maternity photographs because the belly shape gets obscured and limbs can get squashed together. By all means, experiment with them – but if sitting poses just aren’t working, opt for standing poses.

If you want to learn more general tips on posing people for photographs, check out this guide.

4. Comfort and safety first

Side angle of baby bump

Credit: Janko Ferlic

This might actually be the most important takeaway from all the maternity photography tips: Whether you’re doing this professionally or not, the comfort and safety of the mom-to-be should always come first.

Get to understand the intricacies of pregnancy. Every woman’s symptoms are different – be aware that they can encompass everything from back pain to swollen ankles (and many things in between!).

The key is to be empathetic toward your client and always check their comfort levels with every location and pose.

And, yes – there will be plenty of bathroom breaks, so factor those into your schedule!

5. Pay attention to wardrobe

Credit: Marlon Schmeiski

The client usually makes their own styling choices for their maternity session. Still, it’s beneficial for photographers to be able to offer guidance on what to wear.

Be prepared to offer your clients some tips on which maternity dresses will look best in photos, or to offer some ideas on tastefully covering up if they’re keen on semi-nudes.

After your mom-to-be has chosen her wardrobe, it’s up to you to photograph it in a way that fits with the style. If she’s chosen a billowy evening gown, make sure your backdrop and composition choices do it justice (above is a great example).

If she’s going for lingerie or bare skin in a studio setting, be ready with poses and lighting that will look flattering and make her feel comfortable.

6. Try a milk bath

Milk bath with expecting mother

Credit: Apostolos Vamvouras

Pregnancy is a perfect time to try out milk bath photography. Not only do milk baths make for dreamy, sumptuous photos, but they also make a strong visual link to the idea of motherhood.

As always, just pay attention to comfort and safety – you’ll need to ensure the water is at a moderate temperature, for example.

7. Play with silhouettes

Pregnant form in silhouette

Credit: Mustafa Omar

Silhouettes are a beautiful idea to include in your maternity photography session as they really highlight the shape of a pregnant woman.

Stand your subject in front of a window or outside with the sun behind her for a gorgeous silhouetted shot.

For more ideas and tips you can read our guide to silhouette photography here.

8. Get siblings and partners involved

Mum-to-be and sibling

Credit: Alice Alinari

A new baby is an exciting prospect for the whole family, so do offer the option of getting partners and other children involved in the photo session.

Coordinate the styling and pre-organise some poses or activities that work with multiple people.

9. Consider documentary

Little brother giving kiss to pregnant stomach

Credit: Jeffy

Another way to involve family is to forgo the posed maternity portraits and opt for a documentary-style instead.

Get your mom-to-be and her family to interact in a natural way or to simply go about their day-to-day business as if you weren’t there.

Maternity photos done is this style can really capture the beauty and raw emotion of the last weeks of pregnancy.

You may still need to give some thought to a shot list (download a free template) or prepare some sample photos, just to make sure you go into the session with some ideas of what you want to capture.

10. Use props

Lady cradling pregnant stomach on a cloud of tulle

Credit: Marlon Schmeiski

Props can take your maternity photography to the next level, so think about what you can bring to your next shoot.

They can be a simple way to busy your client’s hands – like getting them to hold a pair of baby booties. Go all out, and they can turn your mom-to-be into a glowing goddess.

Props can even inject a little humour into your maternity session – getting the client to snack on their number one pregnancy craving, for example.

The props you use will come down to the style of shoot your clients are after, so discuss it with them well in advance. That way you’ll have time to source your props.

11. Experiment with angles

Mother-to-be in red gown at the beach

Credit: Bia Sousa

It can be tempting to play it safe with maternity photography – after all, a huge belly can look pretty awkward from the wrong angles (I say this as someone who’s been there myself!).

However, the best way to find out what works and what doesn’t is by experimenting.

Try shooting from down low to give a sense of grandness to your model (getting her to tilt her chin up will help keep this flattering). Or, try shooting from slightly upwards looking down, such as in the image above.

(Shooting from above is a flattering angle particularly for females – why do you think most popular selfie poses involve holding your phone slightly above your face to take the shot?!)

Playing with angles can really add some uniqueness to your maternity shots.

12. Think outside the box

Pregnant model with leading lines

Credit: Roland Hechanova

Regular portraits are wonderful for capturing a glowing woman at the height of her pregnancy but don’t be afraid to experiment with some different framing and composition styles.

Use compositional rules like leading lines, symmetry, rule of thirds, etc., to create an image that’s more than a simple portrait. Photography is your art – be bold and create imagery you’re proud of.

Odds are, your clients will love them too. Just be sure to shoot a range of photos so you’ve covered all their expectations.

How Do You Look Good in Maternity Photos?

If you’re a pregnant mom about to have a maternity photoshoot yourself, you might have some questions such as, “How can I look slimmer in maternity pictures?” or “What is the best color to wear for maternity pictures?”

Here are a few tips for getting the best results.

  1. Avoid dark colours – Ok, there are no hard and fast rules about what to wear. But if you want your bump to really shine, don’t cover it with black or other very dark fabrics. These will hide rather than accentuate it.
  2. Coordinate with your partner – If husband or partner is involved in the pics, coordinate to ensure cohesive styling. Keep their wardrobe toned down so it compliments – not competes with – yours.
  3. Practice your poses – Rather than rely on the photographer to direct you, try practising your poses in front of the mirror first. That way you can work out how to stand or sit in a way that’s most flattering to your body. Try:
    • Turning your hips three-quarters from the camera
    • Lifting your chin up slightly
    • Keeping your arms away from (rather than pressed against) your torso
  4. Be yourself – At the end of the day, you want photos you love, and you want them to represent YOU, as you are, right now. So be yourself; choose styling you feel comfortable with, and speak up if you don’t like the way the shoot is going.

Maternity Photography FAQs

How much does a maternity photo shoot cost?

Prices vary, but the average maternity shoot costs anything from $400 to $1,000 (USD). The pricing will depend on how long the shoot goes for, whether it’s in-studio or on location, and what’s delivered at the end of it.

When should you get maternity photos taken?

The third trimester is best as that’s when the belly is really in full bloom! Aim for 30-36 weeks as a general rule – you don’t want to do the shoot too close to when the baby is due.

How do you take a pregnant belly selfie?

Standing side-on in front of a mirror is an easy way to take a selfie of your baby bump. You can also try a top-down shot by holding your smartphone above you and capturing your belly from above.

Final Words

I hope you’ve found these maternity photography tips useful.

If you have any questions or comments (or want to share your own maternity photography ideas or experiences!) please do so below. It’s an exciting and beautiful genre that deserves plenty of attention.

Tania Braukamper is an Australian-born writer who also loves to take pictures on her banged-up (yet surprisingly resilient) Canon 5D Mark III. She currently lives in Portugal.

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