As with anything, you can make a maternity shoot as simple or as detailed as you like. The outfits, the locations, the potential results could be endless! However, there are many excellent reasons for keeping it simple.
One reason may be that you don’t have much time carved out for the shoot due to the mother being busy preparing for baby’s arrival. Or maybe the mother is quite far along already and doesn’t have much energy for 2-3 hours of shooting. Maybe the mother wants to capture a few shots of her baby belly while on bedrest. There are numerous reasons to keep a maternity shoot simple and here I will outline ways to do so.
1 The Location
Choosing an outdoor location will all depend on how willing your expectant mum is on venturing out. Hiking out to a remote waterfall in the jungle might be out of the question! Do you have a beach nearby? Or a nice neighborhood park? Even somewhere as simple as the brick wall of a house can make for a fantastic outdoor venue with plenty of texture & contrast.
Your client might be one who’s on doctor’s orders to stay in bed. Your location is now chosen for you. You might feel ‘stuck’ creatively by being at someone’s home, but don’t let that get you down! There are many options at hand.
Think about using the nursery or a pretty window on the landing. Maybe it’s their house which has the nice brick wall! Or their garden, driveway, fountain, water feature, pond, library, kitchen.
Most of the time all a shoot like this calls for is your camera and favorite portrait lens. If shooting inside, consider bringing your flash, a small spotlight (or use a lamp already at the house). If outside consider a reflector...and that’s about it really! Obviously, don’t forget all your back-up bits and bobs like a spare battery, next favourite lens, extra batteries for your flash, and all the rest.
3 The Outfit
This will most likely depend on what the mother feels most comfortable in. You can of course make some suggestions! Dresses would seem the most feminine and depending on the fabric used can give off different sentiments such as romance, love, beauty, nurturing, etc. The way dresses fall over the body shows the expectant shape wonderfully and will flatter any figure.
Some other outfits might include a men's oversized shirt with buttons undone halfway down to show belly. Or for a more classy look go with piece of long cloth to drape over female form in various ways. For a more casual look, go with a tube top or bikini top with unbuttoned pre-pregnancy jeans to show off belly’s size & contrast. Think about jeans & a simple tank top, striking colour combinations, stripes/dots, lingerie or nothing at all!
In a maternity shoot as simple as this, you could really go to town in the prop department! Some ideas are:
- Why not incorporate the family dog/cat/guinea pig? Animals are often seen as cute and cuddly, not a far cry from a newborn baby!
- If shooting at the client’s home, how about using the kitchen timer to highlight that the countdown is on?
- Tiny baby shoes on the belly make for a very sweet contrast, even a little rubber ducky or special piece of baby jewelry could be used instead.
- If at the park or using a wall of some sort, think about bringing a chair/bench to work with. Chairs are versatile props which will also work in favor of a potentially very tired mum-to-be.
Simple lighting here is important because of your subject. Your goal is to keep your pregnant client as comfortable as possible (unless of course they have elected for the more hot light, studio photo shoot, then nevermind).
Sometimes a small reflector is all you need. Even having the windows in the bedroom wide open will bring in a lot of natural light. How about utilizing some tree shade if you’re at the park or in their garden? Partly shaded areas can give some beautiful effects on the skin and clothing.
What about a single spot light or a lamp with its shade removed? This could give some more dramatic shots which could be fun depending on your client’s style (or yours for that matter!)
6 Putting Your Client at Ease
Compared to most other shoots a maternity shoot has the potential to be a little awkward. Mainly because it involves showcasing the human, pregnant form. Not many people do this on a regular basis! Even if one is comfortable with their body (and not many are, let me tell you), they still might not be used to lying down and posing for the camera.
Here are some ways to relax the atmosphere:
- You could incorporate some music playing in the background. Even having the radio on is a nice distraction at times.
- Can you shoot and talk at the same time? If it doesn’t mess you up too much, ask your client questions about the new baby. Boy or girl? Due date. Nursery decor. Names picked out yet? We all love to talk about ourselves when given the opportunity!
- Crack the odd joke or two if you can. Keeping the atmosphere light-hearted will also show through in your photos.
7 Spouse/Partner Involvement
Just as during delivery the spouse/partner could play a very helpful role in your maternity shoot. Cracking jokes, talking through pose ideas, really considering your client when she might not think to, are all wonderful ways a spouse/partner can be involved.
Sometimes during a shoot, it’s hard to break the ice. It can also be hard for the client to say what they really feel and need. Say, if something isn’t working for them or a pose is a little uncomfortable, having their significant other there may help them to speak up instead of suffering in silence! All of this is quite important when dealing with a pregnant person.
8 Setting The Scene
Whether you’re shooting inside or outside a little extra effort setting the scene can have some dramatic effects. Especially when you have just the one location to shoot in and your client only has one outfit.
Are you somehow able to get your hands on 20 or so candles? Surrounding the bed, lining an outdoor wall or circling a picnic blanket on the grass could be lovely. What about flower petals? Petals in all different colours look wonderful. They could be scattered similarly to the candles’ layout, indoors or outdoors.
If you’re on the beach consider a little array of sand castles! Lucky for me it was Christmas time during this shoot, so sparkly decor was all around.
9 Focal Points
Along with the typical head-to-toe ‘I’m pregnant’ shot, maybe try to get a bit more up close & personal. Use that manual focus if you dare!
Here are a few ideas for close-ups:
- Have your client (and spouse/partner) put their wedding ring hands on the belly, focusing on the rings themselves.
- Grab a chair and shoot from up high to focus on a lovely smile shot with the belly in the background.
- Remain up high to shoot directly above the belly where the feet are tiny and in the background.
- Does your client play an instrument? Have them play you a song and focus on the belly with the instrument in the background or vice versa.
- What about utilizing some furniture from the nursery like the crib? Shoot through the slats with mum on the other side for a bit of depth-of-field action.
Simplicity in a maternity photo shoot is almost like a goal you want to achieve rather than an opinion of styles. By having just the one outfit and one location to work with, it forces you to get creative in other areas.
With the beauty of the pregnant form and the feelings it evokes (new life, innocence, babies), keeping it simple falls right in line with that same purity. The purity of back to basics; both in your natural subject matter and your simple approach to this kind of photo shoot.
If you're privileged enough to land a maternity shoot soon, I hope this tips help you. Good luck, and remember to have fun!