Well, if I’m gonna do this thing, might as well embrace it, right? The thought didn’t occur to me, until I was about 25 weeks in, that we should maybe do a bump photoshoot. After all, this was the one and only time I was gonna be in this situation (fingers crossed!)… Wouldn’t I want some belly pics to look back at?
After several web searches and phone calls inquiring about maternity photography packages, I was astonished that the absolute lowest quote I got was $900 – for the end product of five maternity portraits.
Are you effing kidding me??? This is not my wedding day. I don’t need the finished product on brushstroked canvas to hang over the fireplace. I just want some nice photos of the hubs and me with my beach ball. Sneak peek:
Sure, I’ll share some on Facebook… maybe I’ll print one or two… but, for the most part, they’ll just be for us to look at from time to time as we get older.
But the majority of the folks I spoke with had strict no-social-sharing rules and strict no-printing-copies rules. I’d have no rights, of any kind, to the images from my maternity photoshoot. A lot of them wouldn’t even give digital copies. I was kinda floored.
Luckily, I was just looking in the wrong place. There are photographers out there who offer services in-line with what I was looking for. After seeing some gorgeous family photos a friend posted on Facebook, I inquired about her session… And she introduced me to one of the best family photographers I could’ve ever hoped to meet.
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My Preggo Pics
Katie Rue let us do us. I wanted as many candid shots as possible as Steev and I kidded around in front of my grandmother’s barn, and I got just that. There was a little posing, and it could’ve all been staged had I wanted it to be, but I wasn’t comfortable with forcing it. So, I opted for something a bit more casual and got exactly what I wanted.
And afterward, I got digital copies that I was free to share and print however I chose! Like here, in this post – Katie holds the copyright to all the photos you’ll see here, but I have full permission to share them on the blog.
The results were better than I could’ve imagined!
Believe it or not, this was all done with minimal preparation on my part. I just told Katie I wanted simple maternity photos, we then agreed on my choice for location, she told me the best time for maternity photos, and we very briefly discussed maternity shoot outfits (like 2 short emails). If you want casual pics, like I did, here are my tips for maternity photo shoot sessions:
Maternity Photography Tips: Before the Bump Photoshoot
Find the Right Maternity Photo Shoot Package
Like I mentioned, it took a minute for me to find the right person for the job. I didn’t want some super-fancy enlarged portrait to hang on the wall (hell, I didn’t even do that for my wedding photos!). I wanted to share some pics and maybe print some, too. But, most importantly, I wanted digital images.
If you want printing/sharing rights to your photos and you want to keep the price down, you can still get the best maternity photography for your budget and vision. In other words, don’t be like me and make it hard. Since my advice is all about simplicity, I’m gonna steer you towards a less expensive path.
I started with a web search of local maternity/newborn/family photographers and was returned plenty of results. But those were for very established businesses whose prices reflected their longevity (aka: too expensive), who only offered a small handful of printed (or digital) images, and who could afford to lose potential clients due to their restrictive copyright (aka: no printing or sharing). After weeks of calls didn’t get me what I wanted, even on the digital-copies front, I’d almost given up on a pregnancy session.
I hadn’t thought of turning to social media, though now it seems so obvious. When I broadened my search, I quickly found that many talented family photogs had started using Facebook to advertise, either in addition to, or instead of, having a website. When I first met Katie, she didn’t have one (though she does now!). Her prices were great, the final product was exactly what I was after (50+ digital images), and I had printing and sharing rights.
So, start there. Do a Facebook search for local photographers in your area, and you’re likely to be returned plenty of results, complete with examples of some unique maternity photos, right at your fingertips (see my quick search below)!
Peruse the options to find a few photographers whose styles appeal to you. Contact them for info (especially any rights restrictions), rates and availability, and decide which one is right for you.
Don’t bother contacting anyone whose portfolio doesn’t appeal to you, regardless if they’re a better deal. If you want your pics to look a certain way, choose a photographer whose work already reflects your style. Others may say they can accomplish the look you’re after, but without a way to verify that, I wouldn’t chance it.
Some things to find out about:
- The photographer’s packages and rates and what they include (length of the session, whether wardrobe changes are allowed, how many final images you should expect and how they’ll be delivered to you).
- Whether a studio session or an outdoor session is better (outdoors is where it’s at, in my opinion!). Or, if you prefer the comfort of your home, whether they’ll come to you (and if so, whether they charge a travel fee).
- Whether the photog is better at capturing posed shots or candid ones (if you have a preference).
- Whether the photog is personable and if you’re comfortable with them – and this is important! The thing that sold me on Katie was that she was easy to talk to and bounce ideas off of. If she’d been rigid or unreceptive, the session would’ve been no fun and the pics would’ve reflected that.
Pick the Best Time for Maternity Photos
Katie, and most other maternity photogs, suggests post-32 weeks gestation, when you really start getting a good bump. You probably don’t want to push it too much past 37 weeks, though, or even 36. There’s always a chance you might not get maternity photos at all, if you’re like me and go into labor early! We did mine at 32.5 weeks.
I don’t take a lot of people photos, but I do dabble in photography, so I know some stuff. The most important being, if you do outdoor photos (which is my preference), early morning or late afternoon is best, so you don’t have the sun directly overhead. The noon sun, especially on a cloudless day, makes for really harsh shadows under eyebrows, noses and lips. Which makes foreheads and noses look huge. You don’t want that.
When the sun is low, it makes for great lighting, and colors and shadows are softer. Your photog may even be able to capture some great sunbursts in the photos! If midday is the only option for you, pick a location that has plenty of shade (not dappled light, but full shade) or, if everyone can be flexible, try to time the session for an overcast day to soften the harsh lighting.
Plan Your Maternity Photoshoot Outfits
Think about (but don’t overthink) your pregnancy photo shoot outfits. Since I’m all about simplicity, I say keep it low-key. And, also along those simplicity lines… don’t buy new maternity photo outfits just for this.
*GASP* What? No new clothes?? Okay, if new is what you want, go for it (though it kinda negates the budget nature of the shoot). Some people are into having super coordinated outfits and/or seasonal colors. But that’s a little too perfect for my taste and not at all “us.” And I didn’t want photos that didn’t capture the real us. If you’ve read this far, I’m assuming that’s not what you want, either.
I wanted an “everyday” look to the photos. I wanted to keep it natural and within our personality. Which is why I opted for simple maternity photos at the barn in our normal clothes, instead of those ethereal by-the-sea-in-a-white-flowy-dress-that-I’d-never-wear-in-real-life photos. We were living at the beach at the time, and that’s most of the examples I saw. No, seriously… check out what happens when you Google “beach maternity portraits”:
Any-hoo, Steev and I wore casual outfits that you actually saw us in on a daily basis. We were allowed 1 wardrobe change, so for the first part of the shoot we both wore jeans and casual shirts, and for the second, I wore a (very forgiving) maxi dress and he wore khakis. Special maternity dresses for pictures are gorgeous, I’m not knocking ‘em… but if you want a more “real” look, why not use one you already have, if it’ll work?
What to Wear
- Neutrals or muted colors – nothing highly saturated, because bright/bold colors are too distracting! (I pushed the envelope on this a little, with my royal blue dress. But I think it juuuuust worked.)
- For the guys: Dudes get a little more leeway since, let’s face it, it’s not really about them. Anything casual to dressy, depending on how formal you’re going. No loud patterns, though – you want the focus on you guys and the belly, not what you’re wearing.
- For the ladies: Fitted tops and/or fitted maternity photo dresses, so you can really see the bump!
What Not to Wear
When considering maternity picture outfit ideas, nix colors that are too contrasting or too “hot” (think hot pink)… for example, you don’t want to wear stark white on one half and midnight black on the other. Likewise, when getting pics with your partner, you don’t want one of you in white and the other in black. Same with those hot, overly-bright colors. It’ll distract the viewer from focusing on you (or y’all) and your bump, in all its glory.
Maternity Photography Tips: During the Bump Photoshoot
I don’t love posed photos, because they don’t look very natural sometimes. I know my pose-free stance is silly, and don’t know why I can’t get over it. Literally all professional photos are posed in some way. But check out what I mean. The following photo was uber staged – I got a lot of direction about how to stand, where to put my head, how to angle my chin – and I’m not really in love with it:
This is what I want to help you avoid – hence, my suggestion to find a photog you click with (haha, no pun intended!). Posed photos are kinda necessary to get the perfect bump shot. But if you’re comfy with your photog and your session is fun and relaxed, like mine was, your pregnancy poses won’t look as staged.
I told Katie the pose felt forced, so we quickly abandoned it. Keeping the stance, here’s what happened when she told us to look at each other and interact naturally (needless to say, I like these soooooooo much better!):
Here are some other suggestions for enhancing your maternity picture poses, that seem to be on trend right now:
- Get a complete profile shot holding your belly, preferably with one hand above the bump and one below, to really make it stand out. Look at your bump to add some extra sweetness.
- If you’re wearing a shirt, lift it up. (*gasp* Lift it up?? Yes. Even if you’re the only one who will ever look at the photo. It’s one of my most treasured shots.)
- Do the close-up belly shot with you and your partners hands surrounding the belly. Go on and do the hands-in-the-shape-of-a-heart thing, too, if you want. Cheesy, yes. But it’s popular for a reason. It’s damn cute.
- Get one with your dude (or your lady) kissing the belly. As seen below, Steev decided to take this concept a step farther…
Now, forget poses for a second. Because candids are where it’s at! I told Katie I wanted some belly shots that highly reflected how immature ridiculous playful Steev and I are. I didn’t really have something specific in mind, but silly comes pretty naturally to us, so I told her to just go with our shenanigans as it evolved.
When you’re having your shoot, focus on your partner rather than your photographer. Be natural and be yourselves. But also chat, joke, and do things that causes some good belly laughs. It’ll likely make for some of your favorite shots!
Right now, a lot of trending pregnancy photo poses incorporate props. We only used one, again, because I wanted to keep it simple. None would’ve been fine, too. I’m personally not into the little signs and banners and gender-specific props – I think they’re distracting. But some people go big, and that’s cool, too. Here’s what’s popular now in maternity shoot props:
- Blocks. To spell out baby’s name (if you know it), or boy/girl (if the sex is something you want incorporated in some way), or any number of cutesy-fartsy words or phrases.
- Baby shoes. Lots of folks do the holding-baby-shoes-on-top-of-the-belly closeup. It’s not bad.
- Flowers. For mom to hold during a candid walking-through-a-field-of-wildflowers shot. Or to add some whimsy to posed shots.
- A maternity sash. This is what we used, though it took some talking into by Katie and Steev. I’m glad they got me to put it on! It added a little air of whimsy without being too kitschy, and made for my favorite shot of the whole session.
That’s about all the “in” maternity photo shoot props I can recommend (simple tips, remember?). Most photographers will have props like this on-hand, but if you have more specific tastes, find something you like and bring it with you. Here are some options to start you off:
Have fun with this session! Don’t worry so much about getting the exact shot you want – leave that to the photographer. After all, you hired them because you liked their style, so it’s fair to assume you’ll get what you want. Tell them your vision, sure, but don’t nitpick every pose, or it won’t be an enjoyable experience.
I’m not great about handing over control, but I was so comfortable with Katie after our pre-session chats that I completely trusted her to give me what I wanted. And, it may sound silly, but the hour we spent with her is one of my favorite memories of my whole pregnancy.
We loved it so much, that we went back to her for Jack’s 1-year photos!