Getting ready to jump head first into maternity photography?! Read on for our 18 tips to success!

Maternity photography is such a beautiful opportunity to capture the glowing pregnant woman right before the arrival of her new baby! You have the opportunity to make her feel like a million bucks, but you also need to take care to ensure her comfort during what can be quite an uncomfortable time in her life.

Preparing for these maternity sessions can reduce the amount of stress for the pregnant woman and everyone else, so it’s essential that you plan and have your arsenal of tricks, poses, and tips in your back pocket.  So let’s get down to business! Here are our 18 maternity tips for making sure you get the perfect images that will make a lifetime of sweet memories!

1. Be on Time!

The best time to do a maternity shoot is typically between 33-36 weeks into pregnancy. BUT consult with your client about any special circumstances surrounding the timing of her session.

Any pregnant client expecting multiples or who have experienced complications in their pregnancy or who may be facing an early delivery may want to schedule their session a little bit sooner, so they don’t miss out—that’s okay too! Be flexible to each pregnant client needs.

maternity photography

2. Prepare Lenses for Maternity Photo Session

I LOVE to shoot maternity sessions with my 50mm lens because it gives me so much versatility to handle a variety of angles, poses, compositions and lighting situations.

Maternity photography sessions can offer you much variety in lens choice—long lenses will work just as well and provide gorgeous compression, and wide-angle lenses can let you get in the whole scene. Just be careful of distortion with wider angle lenses—we don’t want to make pregnant mothers look disproportionately large.

Some of the best lenses for maternity photography sessions include:

35mm

This kind of photography lens provides the right amount of focal length, not too long and not too wide. In effect, it gives a realistic vantage point of view, minimizing distortions in the mother’s body. 

50mm

If the couple wants to get creative with maternity portraits, a 50mm lens can let you create a shallow depth of field. This means you get to blur out backgrounds and get a sharper focus on the pregnant mom and her belly.

85mm

This focal length should only accompany your 35mm or 50mm as you wouldn’t want all of your portraits to be close-ups. Still, an 85mm lens is good for capturing more details on the body. 

24-70mm or 70-200mm

Great for outdoor maternity shoots with low-light environments.

For more tips on how to choose a portrait photography lens, check out this great tutorial!

3. Practice Different Camera Settings for Maternity Shoots

These sessions can be a great place to practice shooting pretty wide open. Nothing like a gorgeous bokeh to place the focus on the pregnant woman and her beautiful belly!

First, remember to set your camera in manual mode to gain more control over the camera settings. In general, your camera settings should be in these ranges:

  • Aperture: Anywhere between f/5.6 to f/8 for group portraits, then f/2 to/4 for maternity portraits. 
  • Shutter speed: This depends on the maternity poses, location, and overall effect. Faster movements need at least 1/1000, while 1/50 to 1/60 should be enough for any stationary maternity pose. 
  • ISO: Set a low range like 100-400 on your camera. Go higher if you need a faster shutter speed. 

Just be careful to close up with your camera when needed to get all the important aspects and people in focus (like the dad to be and any siblings!) 😉 Check out this awesome link if you want to read more tips about camera setting!

4. Use Props Appropriate for a Maternity Photo Shoot

Suggest to the parents before the session to bring along a few special moments of their pregnancy like an ultrasound photo or a special object with the child’s name on it!

These can add a special personal touch to the portraits. This is a great question to ask when they inquire about your services or when you send a client questionnaire!

You can even have a few on hand that you bring to a session just in case they can’t think of anything they’d like to include! Get creative and personalize it for each client.

5. Prepare Comfortable Clothes

Like in other kinds of photography, maternity portraits need to consider the subject’s comfort in terms of clothing. The clothes may depend on the couple’s decision to follow a theme or peg. 

For example, some pregnant mothers would want a high fashion style, while others prefer a casual setup. Regardless of the theme, it’s crucial to remind the mom to wear clothing, usually fitted ones, that can accentuate the baby bump while guaranteeing comfort.

6. Plan Your Compositions

Composition is vital in portrait and maternity photography as it guides the viewer’s eye towards the essential elements—the mom and her baby bump. Even if the mom wants black and white images or laidback maternity poses, a good composition can change the mood of the maternity photographs. 

These are some of the ways you can change compositions as a photographer to capture unique maternity portraits.  

  • Up high: Get your subject to lie down on the grass or a blanket. Stand on a stool to highlight the belly while making the mom look flattering. 
  • Straight on: This is ideal if the mom already has a big belly, as you won’t have problems accentuating the baby bump. 
  • Side: If the baby bump isn’t evident yet, guide the subject to twist to the side or up to a 45-degree angle to make the belly more prominent.
  • Silhouette: If the client feels shy facing the camera, this is the perfect chance to do silhouette maternity photos. Make sure to angle the body away from the camera while still seeing the mother’s profile and making the belly pop out of the portraits. 

7. Determine the Right Lighting

If you’re shooting maternity portraits in a studio or any indoor location, you can use a big soft light to flood the image with ethereal-like lighting. 

For an outdoor maternity shoot, it’s best to take advantage of natural light, especially when doing the shoot around sunrise or sunset. 

Additionally, a good photographer should make a habit to bring a flash or reflector to control the fill light and emphasize the bump. 

8. Include the Siblings

It’s a great idea to include the siblings to be in the photos—but it can also be tricky to manage if they’re very young. Give the parents tips like bringing along something for them to do while the woman is having solo shots done, like an iPad or a coloring book with crayons.

If the sibling(s) are toddlers or babies, ask if a friend or family members like Grandma can accompany to assist. Older children that can take direction can hug or kiss mom’s belly, making for a adorable loving pose.

With younger children, you may not be able to direct the love as much, but just keeping them close to the woman and her bump can naturally get you some snuggly shots and the more candid interactions can be winners in the end!

9. Learn Several Maternity Poses

It’s going to be natural for Mom-to-Be to want to touch her belly— LET HER! Just make sure to give her tips and help her vary her hand positions and maternity poses while you shoot. Hands can go on top of the belly, on the bottom, one on top and one on the bottom of the belly (I like the left hand on top to show off the bling!), in a pocket if she has one and even one hand on the belly and one in her hair!

Make sure when posing her standing to help her lighten and flatter her figure by bending a knee and when sitting to shift weight to one hip and point the toes ever so slightly.

I love incorporating both profile shots and straight on shots and don’t forget to take a few close-ups of her belly! When adding in Dad and siblings, prioritize connection! Ensure everyone is touching and don’t miss the shots with everyone’s hands on the belly—it’s gold!

maternity photography

10. It’s All About that Bump

Casual or long dramatic gown, the most critical factor here is the FIT. Express to the mother-to-be before your shoot that more form-fitting attire is much more flattering on a pregnant woman and will show off that amazing baby BUMP—the whole reason we’re here!

I keep a handful of maternity gowns in my studio wardrobe from lace to silk and neutrals to saturated tones (try plum purple—gah gorgeousness!) that my clients can choose from for no extra cost. If you decide to stock up, go with a large in most dresses, you can always clamp in the back, but it’s much harder to loosen them for obvious reasons. 

Give your clients tips to coordinate Dad and sibling’s outfits, but not match. It is a great idea to send along a client style guide with visuals and tips of what to do and what not to do ahead of time, and you can even allow them to bring a couple of options with them and let you help them style in the first few minutes of the session!

11. Bring Out Emotions

Give the expecting couple tips to help them understand what happens when shooting maternity portraits. Ask if they have particular maternity poses they would like to avoid. 

Make them feel comfortable, so they could trust you with photographing them. In effect, it will be easier for them to relax and show real emotions. 

If they want to be silly in front of the camera, encourage them to do so! You can also suggest for them to imagine what they feel about meeting their baby. In this way, you would see the anticipation, excitement, and love in their faces and body language.

12. Choose a Location for a Maternity Session

The possibilities are endless with maternity sessions, from stunning outdoor locals like beaches and wide open fields at golden hour (the hour before sunset or after sunrise!) to incredible indoor masterpieces on seamless paper in dramatic gowns (we love Savage Seamless!) you really can’t go wrong!

Take advantage of the beautiful natural landmarks around where you live and don’t be too shy to get in the water or lay down low on the ground to get the shot!

Just be mindful of the comfort of the mommy to be and her baby bump— long walks uphill or over uneven terrain may be out of her comfort zone this late into pregnancy and you should never ask your clients to do things that make them uncomfortable or put them in any danger.

maternity photography

13. Set a Maternity Shoot Price

This is going to depend largely on your area/market, but I price my maternity shoots the same as all other portrait shoots using my same three package portrait sheet UNLESS they are being added to a Newborn session or 1st-year bundle (hello discount!) in which case the pricing varies slightly.

Try to incentivize your clients to combine maternity and newborn shoots, securing you a more substantial amount of revenue upfront and merging two life milestones that fit so seamlessly together! Here’s an example:

Average 30 min session: $200

Average 60 min session: $275

With Newborn Session as Mini Maternity (30 min): $650 (25% off)

14. Manage Your Time During a Maternity Session

I offer maternity shoots in both 30-minute and 60-minute length, however, I do not allow for siblings, pets, or other family members besides the mom and dad to be if the client opts for a mini session.

If this comes up, just explain to your clients all of the benefits of going with a full-length session when working with these additional variables.

If the entire family is included, remember that it will almost turn into a family session with the mother, but that she’ll also want solo maternity shots! Keep that in mind for both pricing and cost!

maternity photography

15. Take Short Breaks

Keep in mind that standing, doing several poses, and walking around can exhaust a mom with a huge belly. Allot time for mini-breaks between each pose and ensure there’s available drinking water on the set. You can also use this time for retouching and changing of clothes. 

16. Show Same Day Sneak Peek Photos

I do this for ALL of my shoots, and it can be especially fun if the parents to be are waiting to announce the pregnancy, the gender or the name—help them do so WITH your gorgeous maternity photos!

Sharing a same day sneek peak shows your clients that you are committed to their experience and SO excited to share their photos. This gets them pumped to see the rest of the gallery! You can even opt to write a blog post and share that with your clients 4-5 days later with some of your favorite images!

17. Use an Image-Sharing Phone App

Pixieset and Shootproof now offer a free feature allowing you to send a custom app to your clients to install to their phone. This is a great way for new parents to show off their maternity photos to all those anxiously waiting for the baby to arrive!

What’s cool is that they don’t have to log in to a desktop to view and share their photos with family and friends! Score! This is something that you can do in about three minutes that adds a TON of value to your service! Remember, VALUE is key!

18. Give Free Prints

Along the same lines as #17, consider sending a few FREE 4X6’s or 5X7’s a la Betsy to the new parents– they’ll LOVE you, and you’re making it easy for them to show off your work at their baby shower and beyond!

Conclusion

Maternity photography is such an excellent way to give your clients stunning images that they will treasure forever! Impressing your clients in this instance can also lead to future business, like newborn, milestone, and family sessions!

Knock their socks off with a “thank you” and stellar customer service plus your maternity pictures. With that and these maternity photography tips, you literally can’t go wrong! Happy session!