Tips & tricks from Susan W. Peck, M.F.A., owner of Susan Peck Photography
Maternity portraits are one of my very favorite things to photograph. You’re at the precipice of this huge, wonderful change in your life and that energy is really palpable and so beautiful. Many pregnant mamas are nervous about the thought of a photo shoot featuring their changing bodies at a time when they don’t always feel their best- but with a little preparation and a photographer you trust, you will not only enjoy the process, but be SO GLAD that you took the time to document the beginning of your new baby’s story. Most importantly, think about how priceless these photos will be to your child one day- what better reason can there be?
When to schedule your maternity session:
For most mamas, anywhere between 32-36 weeks is ideal. The goal is a nice round belly while you are still feeling great and not too swollen or uncomfortable. However, listen to your body! Everyone carries differently and you should schedule accordingly. Moms of multiples will typically schedule their session a few weeks earlier.
What to wear:
The cardinal rule is to wear clothing that makes you feel beautiful. If you feel confident, that will shine through in your photos. Start with good undergarments! A well-fitted bra and supportive maternity shape-wear will make anything you wear look better. Solid colors, maxi dresses, and open necklines are universally flattering. Make sure that you choose fabrics and silhouettes that hug your curves and show off the belly. A thin belt just under the bust can give shape to looser dresses or shirts. Layers like scarves, cardigans, and jackets along with accessories can change up your look without the need for changing your outfit. Don’t forget to look for your session outfits in the “regular” sections of stores, too! There are beautiful dresses with high waistlines that look amazing on pregnant women. I have a maternity inspiration style board that is a great “jumping off” point for what to wear here – http://www.pinterest.com/susanpeck/maternity-style/
I always recommend that you hire a professional for makeup and hair the day of the shoot. A great makeup artist knows what products to use for camera and can do any look you choose from completely natural to more dramatic. A photo session is a fabulous “excuse” to pamper yourself! Your photographer most likely has a list of professional makeup artists they work with and recommend. Don’t choose a look that is drastically different than normal. You want to feel like yourself, only more polished. Treat yourself to a manicure a day or two before your shoot. Your hands will be featured prominently in many of the photos. A simple buff or clear polish will give you the most timeless look. At the very least, make sure nails are clean and trimmed! This goes for partners, siblings, and anyone else that will be in the photos with you. Drink plenty of water in the days leading up to your shoot and avoid excess salt for glowing skin and to avoid swelling. If you will be taking any bare-belly shots, remove or loosen anything binding (socks, underwear, elastic bands) a couple of hours before to avoid indentations on your skin. Be sure to bring plenty of water and a snack for yourself if you will be shooting on location. It’s always nice to take a break and recharge- believe it or not, modeling can be hard work (especially while pregnant)!
If you are working with a photographer that shoots on-location, you will need to decide where you would like for the session to take place. Many of my clients choose locations that have meaning to them- their home, a family farm, the place they got engaged or married, or a favorite park, for example. You can also give your photographer an idea of what kind of feeling you’d like in the photos- urban/edgy, pastoral/romantic, etc. and have them help you choose a location from there. You should also consider the time of day- typically the most flattering light is just after sunrise and just before sunset, although different locations will have great light at different parts of the day. Your photographer can let you know the best time of day to shoot for the best light at your chosen location. If you’ve chosen a location that requires a permit or fee, make sure that is taken care of well in advance of the session day.
Partners, Siblings and Pets:
Although some women are more relaxed being the only subject at their maternity session, many expectant mamas want to include their partner, other children, or even their pets. Personally, I think including people and pets you love is a wonderful thing for your portraits! Partners and siblings should take their clothing cues from mom- staying in the same range of tones photographs well (neutrals, pastels, darker tones), but matching outfits tends to look very dated. If you are including siblings and/or pets, it’s often a good idea to take photographs with them first (while they are “fresh” and most excited), then have a grandparent or friend pick them up so you can relax and finish the shoot with your partner or alone.
Relax! Your maternity session should be a lot of FUN. Hopefully you’ve chosen a photographer whose work you absolutely love- trust their artistic vision and don’t be afraid to try new things even if they sound a little crazy at first. You might be surprised at how amazing the light is in that “ugly” location or how lovely your reflection looks in the water or how beautifully your bump echoes the round hay bale you’re draped across. However, you should always feel 100% comfortable so make sure that you are communicating with your photographer- it’s always okay to say no, your comfort and safety should be to priority.