Three inspirational photographers share their unique insights on maternity posing. Explore their body positive methods for making heirloom images, telling memorable stories, and MORE! (Photos by ANDREA NIGH, JANAE MARIE, and VANESSA HICKS.)
Maternity Posing: An Unposed Approach
Photographer: Andrea Nigh | Kansas City, Colorado (USA)
“I don’t over-pose my clients. Instead, I have them walk, talk, and interact with their significant other and family because I want to capture the moments, genuine smiles, and laughter. I shoot a lot and move around a lot to get different compositions, light, and angles.” – Andrea Nigh
Andrea has perfected the unposed approach, preferring to casually engage her clients and inspire natural reactions. Most photographers would love a low-key lifestyle method, but aren’t sure how to implement the idea! Here’s how to start:
#1: Ignore the Baby Bump
The whole point of a maternity shoot is your client’s beautiful baby bump, right? But that belly is also her biggest source of stress! Many pregnant women feel awkward and unwieldy, and may not believe they’re especially photogenic as their session begins.
Put an expectant mother at ease by skipping over the belly shots at first. Instead, begin by focusing on things she is comfortable with: her connection with her family, the beautiful location you’ve chosen, or close-up shots that highlight her beautiful smile!
“A lot of people get nervous in front of the camera, so I don’t pose a lot. I direct my clients, but I keep them moving, talking, and laughing so they let their guard down and really enjoy the shoot. These images are so natural and beautiful; I prefer them over heavily-posed shots.” – Andrea Nigh
“Providing a lot of positive feedback during the shoot lets them know how amazing they are doing. This not only builds their confidence, but also allows them to relax and have fun. If a client is really quiet, nervous or reserved, I just keep asking questions and try to find what she loves in life. Once you find it, even the most reserved person will open up and relax!” – Andrea Nigh
#2: Step Back & Find the Moment
We all approach our shoots with a vision: maybe we have one specific image we hope to create, or we’ve set a goal of seeing the session published. If you get too fixated on one goal, however, you may lose sight of the bigger purpose: to make beautiful, heirloom images that will make your client feel incredible.
“Taking a step back allows me to observe the scene and make sure I am telling the whole story. If you are only focused on making a particular picture and never step back to observe the moment in its entirety, you may miss the way her husband is looking over at her or the way her child has a hand on mom’s belly. All these moments tell your client’s story!” – Andrea Nigh
If the moment you’re trying to capture doesn’t come easily, keep working for it!
Physically moving further from (or closer to) your subjects can drastically change your experience – and theirs. Don’t rely solely on your your zoom lens to navigate the distance. Explore the space with your own two feet, and feel the difference it makes!
“Don’t just stand in one spot and think you are good to go – move around! Look for the moments that tell your client’s story.” – Andrea Nigh
#3: Focus On What Matters Most (Literally)
Draw attention to your client’s favorite features, and consciously compose your images to highlight the most important elements of the story you’re telling!
- Lens Choice. Longer lenses (typically 85mm or longer) are the truest to your client’s form, and won’t add width. Be cautious of wide-angle lenses, which will skew the image and make your client appear wider than she is!
- Layering. A beautiful background is great; but what’s in your foreground? If your client has expressed concerns about her new shape, the thoughtful placement of foreground elements can distract from features she prefers to mask.
- Angles. A side-view or slightly overhead composition is typically best for a pregnant woman. This angle shows of her beautiful form without compressing the view of her belly into an indistinguishable body-blob. It also maintains a lovely view of her face – always the most important part of any portrait!
“Having kids myself, I know what it is like to be pregnant and not thrilled about my swollen ankles or other “lovely” side effects. The biggest challenge is to make women comfortable in front of the camera so they can be themselves and feel beautiful! I am always smiling and having fun, and I truly enjoy getting to know my clients. This goes a long way toward helping them relax.” – Andrea Nigh
Andrea’s Advice for Beginners:
“If this is your first time shooting maternity photos, my advice is to communicate a lot prior to the shoot. Find a great location that best fits your client’s personality so they are excited for the shoot, and discuss great wardrobe options. During the shoot, get to know them more. Ask about their family, life, what they love to do, what the nursery looks like, etc. Shoot a ton – and get creative!” – Andrea Nigh
Maternity Posing: Body Positive & Body Conscious
Photographer: Janae Marie | Upland, California (USA)
Janae knows that photography is half-artistry, half-therapy! She approaches every client with compassion and care, ready to address her unique concerns, and encourage her as she marks a new milestone in life.
“Just as I did for a portion of my pregnancy, many women feel uncomfortable, tired, and not their best. So having pictures made during that time can be a challenge. My job is to make my clients see their beauty during their pregnancy!” – Janae Marie
#1: Build A Winning Wardrobe
Every single one of us has put on an outfit that made us feel blah. How can we expect our clients to feel beautiful in their photographs if they don’t feel beautiful in their outfit?
Janae takes matters into her own hands by providing a selection of gorgeous gowns for her clients to wear for their maternity sessions.
“I meet with each client prior to her session so she can view and try on my gowns. At this point we discuss her concerns: body image issues, maternity posing worries, or her fears that nothing will fit her. I reassure every client that I will pose her to compliment her unique body – and remind her that I can provide retouching if she wants it. And because I provide a wide variety of sizes, colors, and styles of dresses, each woman is always at ease after she meets with me; no more worrying about what she will wear!” – Janae Marie
Pro Tip: Janae’s gown collection comes from Sew Trendy Accessories!
#2: Compliments Are Critical
Don’t just snap away, smiling to yourself and inwardly rejoicing in the rockstar images you’re making. Bathe your clients in compliments!
- “You are so beautiful!”
- “You may feel nervous, but you look incredible!”
- “I can’t wait for you to see how stunning you look!”
- “I’m so happy with these photos. I know you will be, too!”
“I compliment my clients a lot, taking a shot and immediately remarking on how beautiful it is. After a few photos, I show them an image, and they’re always in awe of how gorgeous they look!” – Janae Marie
A quick peek at the back of your camera can make an uncertain client breathe easy, too! If you have a “no peeking” policy, make it a priority to send your client a quick preview immediately after her session. Even if you only share a single image preview to Instagram, it will reassure your client that she rocked her session – and that you’re a maternity posing master!
#3: Movement In Maternity Posing
Just because your client is becoming a mother doesn’t mean she’s lost her moves! Encouraging the same body positive movement you’d incorporate into any other form of portraiture:
- Walking, swaying, and slow spins
- Hugs, snuggles, and sweet touches with her significant other
- Chin up… Gaze down… Bend that elbow… Extend that leg… Guide and pose gently and encouragingly to bring out the best in your beautiful subject!
As your client releases her worries, her body will relax, and your photographs will reflect the love and excitement every expectant mom experiences.
Janae’s Advice for Beginners:
“If you’re new to maternity sessions, my first piece of advice would be: get to know your clients. Not all women are the same. Some are uncomfortable with certain poses. Many women prefer simpler posing styles, while others are more confident and enjoy adventurous maternity posing. Make ALL your clients feel comfortable, because any discomfort will show through in the images!” – Janae Marie
Maternity Posing: Planned & Perfected
Photographer: Vanessa Hicks | Honolulu, Hawaii (USA)
#1: Schedule for Success
As women progress in their pregnancies, maternity posing may become awkward and difficult, and the risks of navigating outdoor terrain increase exponentially. The ideal time for most expectant mothers to be photographed is between 33 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Every woman should consult with her doctor about what is best for her body!
“The biggest challenge I face when photographing expectant mothers is letting them know that they deserve to have this amazing time documented! I want my clients to feel good when they see these images, so I try to make sure they don’t wait too long to get their maternity photos made. It’s important to schedule their session when they are still feeling good!” – Vanessa Hicks
#2: Showcase Her Silhouette
Straight-on, front-view photos of expectant mothers can make baby bumps look flat. Silhouette shots are the perfect solution, celebrating the delicate arch of the back and round swoop of the tummy.
Maternity photographs should be a visual reminder to each woman that she is beautiful and deserving of the photographs she’s having made. Identify closely with her concerns, and work to alleviate them with your body positive approach to maternity posing!
“I didn’t take any maternity images when I was pregnant with my daughters because I had the same fears most of my clients have: I felt unattractive, and the thought of taking pictures was so far from my mind. My clients come to me with these same fears, and I understand those fears. I remind them that they deserve to have this special time documented!” – Vanessa Hicks
#3: Standing vs. Sitting
Depending on your client’s height and how she’s carrying her pregnancy, sitting may be incredibly uncomfortable for her. Side-view standing poses make allow for beautiful silhouette shots – especially with the outer leg slightly bent, and one hand lightly cradling her belly.
Be sure your client’s clothing clings to her baby bump – even if only a little. A too-loose gown will flow away from her body, merely suggesting a large middle. There’s nothing wrong with a big belly, but your client’s goal is to appear clearly pregnant! Be sure your maternity posing emphasizes this life stage.
#4: Encourage Self-Care
Before the shoot day even arrives, prepare your client to feel her best with some self-care!
“I help my clients with outfit selection, and remind them to do whatever it takes to make them comfortable and relaxed for their session. Sometimes, it’s getting their nails or hair done, buying a new dress, or getting a massage! I do my best to remind my clients that they are beautiful – both inside and out. I love seeing the way they feel when they see the final product!” – Vanessa Hicks
Outfit changes and hairstyle refreshes aren’t required if your client feels her best from the start. A simple half-hour session can yield a series of incredible images she’ll cherish for the rest of her life!
Vanessa’s Advice for Beginners
“If you’re new to photographing expectant mothers, be extra-conscious of posing your maternity clients in a flattering way! Most pregnant women already feel a bit self-conscious about their new shape, so thoughtful maternity posing is key. Make sure they feel comfortable during their entire session, and remind them why they are taking these images. The adventure they’re embarking on is a wonderful one!” – Vanessa Hicks
How do you make your maternity clients feel great in their own skin?
Tell us in the comments below!