How to Do Your Own Maternity Photo Shoot

One of the funnest days during my pregnancy was getting some of my girlfriends together, hitting up a giant street art mural for a maternity photo shoot,  and going out to lunch after to eat all the things.  It was a day full of inside jokes, swollen ankles, and was strategically planned in advance.

At the time, I suffered from severe “pregnancy brain” and had utilized to-do lists on a near daily basis throughout my 2nd and 3rd trimester.  What a great, and totally legit excuse; I used it often.  Thankfully my normal memory eventually returned, but I still use lists to help me complete projects. I love ’em!

In my planning stage, I knew from the get-go that I wanted to have a photo shoot in front of a super dope mural. After all, I had discovered I was pregnant after completing my first large scale mural. There are tons of amazing street artists and murals in my area, and after some research, I found the perfect one created by No Kings Collective. Once that was figured out, everything else fell into place quickly thanks to the list.

Here’s a nutshell of a list you can use to help put together your own maternity photo shoot, followed by more details to get your brain churning out some ideas:

  • Research
    • Locations/themes
    • Props/Wardrobe
  • Plan it
    • Choose location
    • Ask for help if needed
    • Set a date/time
    • Gather props/wardrobe
  • Do it
    • Setup camera/take test shots
    • Have fun and take a ton of pictures
  • Edit
    • Pick out the best of the best shots
    • Edit if needed
    • Share with the world/get a print for your home
Mural by No Kings Collective

Step 1:  RESEARCH! 

Do you know how you want your images to look?  If you don’t already know, do some research, and you may have a “eureka!” moment just like I did. Everything will fall into place quickly after that.  Take a look on Pinterest or Instagram using #maternity #maternityshoot and get an idea of how great shots are laid out.  Some key features you should keep in mind are:

  • When do you want to take the pictures?  I ended up taking mine around 29 weeks of pregnancy, so right at the turning point of the third trimester. It was definitely the best time for my ankles, which were perpetually swollen every day after that!  But my bump also grew significantly by 31 weeks. I’d recommend aiming to do your photoshoot between 28-31 weeks based on your comfort.
  • Where do you want to take the pictures?
    • Outdoors? Brainstorm areas that will make for a stellar background. (Waterfall, beach, farm, apple orchard, music venue, large mural, backyard, forest, landmark, ballpark, cool architecture, where you got married, on a boat in the middle of nowhere, etc.)
    • Indoors?  Maybe you have a window space that sheds great light. Or you could do an awesome theme shoot by creating a backdrop on an empty wall and create a space that is totally you. (Star Wars, 80’s couture, Wonder Woman, pop artist, fav sports team, the Simpsons, etc.)
  • What do you want to wear?  This shoot will be all about that lovely bump you have, so I’d recommend emphasizing it with something fitted, or flaunt it in the buff.
  • Do you want to include props or your partner?  Bubbles, a hula hoop, a lazer light show, the possibilities are endless. Maybe you could use this shoot to also reveal the sex/gender if you so choose, perhaps with balloons, flowers, or a painted belly. Oh… a painted belly sounds like an amazing bump portrait in general, hmm, uh-oh baby fever is upon me. ANYWAY, maybe your partner or family would like to join in on the photo shoot. Brainstorm with them some fun poses you could do together.
Mural by Kelly Towles

Step 2: PLAN IT!

Hooray! You have figured out everything you’d like in your maternity photos. Now to get it all laid out and finalized.

  • Location:
    • Do you need a permit? This may be the case for some landmark parks. If it costs too much, think of another location, unless its your dream background.
    • Do you need to schedule a day/time to use the area?  If it’s a business or private property, try and reach out to management/owners to see if you can take some pictures there.
    • Are you legally allowed to be there?  I think pictures outside the gates of Area 51 are fine, but on the other side, watch out! Seriously though, be wary of trespassing and abandoned buildings.  Guerrilla photo shoots are great,
      It looks empty, but the sidewalk was beyond overcrowded. 39 weeks!

      but it’s harder to escape with swollen ankles and a third trimester belly.

    • Is it a crowded area? Some areas may be flocking with tourists, such as landmarks.  Try to plan a time to be there when it isn’t too crowded. Or if that’s next to impossible, people will more than likely stay out of your way, or even help you out (you can get away with a lot whilst pregnant!)
  • Request Help (if needed): Are you going to a crowded area? Please bring a friend(s) or your partner! It’ll be a lot more fun, and they can be your photographer!  You’ll feel more safe and comfortable with familiar faces around, and not risk a potential theft of your camera/phone/tripod.
  • Set a date/time: At this point, you’ve got scheduling down thanks to all those doctor visits. So once you have a location chosen, and volunteers if needed, set a date and time, and have a backup in case of bad weather. Now things are getting real!
    • Timing is important if you are using the sun for your lighting. The “Golden Hour” to get some gorgeous ethereal glow is about an hour before sunset (or sunrise, if that’s more your speed.) If you are in a shaded area though, any time with sunlight will work, and I’m not opposed to use of flash.
  • Gather equipment/props if needed
    • What will you use to capture the images?  You could use your smart phone or a DSLR. If doing the shoot alone, I’d recommend a tripod, but if you don’t have one, a surface of anykind and a shoe-box to stabilize your phone will work.  Don’t have a DSLR, but have a friend who does? Entice them with cookies for a quick photoshoot. That might work.
    • Do you have the props you’d like to use? Go ahead and gather all those now while it’s fresh in your mind.
    • If you don’t have the outfit you’d like, buy it or make it now!

      The classic “my water broke” pose.

Step 3: GO DO IT!

Yay, it’s the big day! Well, not THE BIG DAY, but it is photo shoot day!  Pamper yourself like the supermomdel you are, have an energizing breakfast, rock a robe while you make yourself up, get dressed, practice faces and poses in the mirror, and then get your butt to set with all your gear.

  • Setup
    • Choose the spot you’d like to take pictures at your location.  Setup the tripod so it’s about the height of your belly and about 15 feet away from where you’ll stand.  If you don’t have a tripod, set up the camera on an even surface, or use a box to prop up the camera.
      • HACK: You can use binder clips to help steady your camera phone.
    • Set the camera’s settings to “self-timer.”
      • If using a DSLR, this will be in the Custom Settings section of the camera’s Menu. Go to “Self-Timer” and set how many shots you’d like and the timer delay. The delay will give you time to get back to your spot and pose. 
    • Take some test shots to determine where you want to stand, or if you need to move the camera. Experiment with angles, maybe a shot from the ground would look stellar.
  • Vogue! Work it girl, pose!
    • Hit the shutter button, get back to your spot and have fun! Recreate all those faces and poses you made in the mirror. Bust out the props, embrace your belly, you do you!
    • Take as many pictures as you want! Oh the joy of cloud space and large memory cards.
    • Look through your pictures and see if you want to try another spot at your location or try different camera angles.

Step 4: Edit

You did it! You have a plethora of images from your photo shoot! Now you’re ready to pick out the best of the best, and maybe alter some before getting prints and posting to every social media platform ever because you rocked it so hard.

I personally use Adobe Bridge to easily sort through photos. So once I’ve either transferred pics from my phone or uploaded from a memory card, I create a folder with all the images and pull them up in Bridge. I go through all of them and rate 1 star to shots that look good. Then I go through all the 1 star ratings and pick the best from that, giving them a 2 star, and repeat this with 3 star, 4 star, up until I have dwindled down the pics to 5 star shots.

If any of those images need some minor tweaks like brightening, cropping, or flaw touch-ups, I use Photoshop. But if you don’t have access to Photoshop, there are plenty of free apps to pick from. One of my favorites is PicsApp which I use for quick fixes on my phone. There are lot of fun filters on that too, but for a more “timeless” maternity image, I’m all about #nofilter!

When I sought out places to print out my maternity pictures, I scoured for deals on Groupon, specifically for canvas prints. There is usually always a deal on there.

Those are the basics of doing your own maternity photoshoot. It can be a lot of fun and money saving at the same time. I’m excited for you, and would love to see what you come up with!

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