Believe it or not it’s been nearly 22 years since Annie Leibovitz shocked the world with her groundbreaking nude maternity portrait of Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. (Some stores even resorted to covering it in a brown wrapper!) Now a beautiful maternity portrait seems almost de rigueur during one’s pregnancy.
These ladies made it look easy, however, there are countless ways women can carry a baby. What might look great for one mom could make another mother look terrible. Here are some ideas for making your maternity shoot a success.
Time It Right
When should the shoot take place? We want to ‘see the bump’ so this might depend on whether or not it’s a first pregnancy. The best thing to do is communicate openly with your client and decide together when the time is right.
If you do the session too early in the pregnancy you might not be able to tell there is a bump, which makes it difficult, since this is the point!
Ideally the beginning of the last trimester is prime portrait time (before 35 weeks.)
Waiting too long will often lead to complications with the mother having trouble just moving around! (If you’ve ever been pregnant, think back to trying to get up off the couch). Mostly likely she will not be feeling attractive or they may be complications that require bed rest.(2)
Where to Shoot
Now’s the time to take advantage of the fact that there’s no nap times to work around (yet!)
Get Mom’s Input
Talk with the new mom about what they expect and want – hi-key and neutrals, outdoors or a home session with bold and fun colors? Any place you choose, keep in mind your subject’s condition. Consider comfortable poses, no long bouts of standing and if you choose outdoors, no long hikes to that great tree by the lake.
Composition & Posing Tips
The Belly Shot
This is the most natural pose to try since it is an unconscious stance already for the mother. It also gives you subject something to do with their hands. Try variations with the mom standing and placing her hands on the hips, in pockets or one hand touching her hair. (1) Also, try to get a few of just the bump maybe with the skin exposed a bit.
Shooting up high can create some interesting composition. It’s flattering to your subject and elongates the body. This is especially great If their belly is on the large side (as well as other parts that may have grown a bit since the pregnancy.) Have the mom lie on her bed or a colorful blanket to make her comfortable.
Although this is a more serious shoot than your typical portrait session, adding a few casual, laughter shots can lighten things up. Enroll her partner by having them stand to the side and make silly comments or jokes to get a natural expression.
Don’t Forget The Other Half
Adding mom’s partner to the shot can add not only help create an intense emotional portrait, but add some variations to your compositions as well.
Move in Close
Get your couple to snuggle up to each other. Try a mix of shots — full body, half body and close ups of both of them together — minus mom’s belly.
What to wear is the one question I get the most from expectant moms.
Form Fitting is Good
Close fitting, casual knits work well to show off, not hide, the bump. Ask your model to bring several outfits to choose and you can help them pick on set. Just make sure your wardrobe changing area is big enough for them to maneuver.
Have her bring plenty of add-ons such as jewelry, scarves or favorite shoes. This maybe one of the last times she gets to be fashionable. Little hands can wreak havoc with all of these items. And, she’ll be so busy after the baby comes she won’t be thinking about styling her wardrobe.
Obviously the goal is to please your client so much with an amazing maternity portrait that when baby arrives they’ll be clamoring to get you back to shoot the new family together.