5 Keys to Taking Beautiful Maternity Portraits

5 Keys to Taking Beautiful Maternity Portraits


Maternity portraits can be slightly trickier than regular portraits – and by “regular”, I mean people who aren’t carrying 20-50 extra pounds around their belly, and experiencing indigestion and sharp kicks to the ribs!

Here are a few keys to taking beautiful maternity portraits:

1. Location

First, decide on a location that the mother-to-be feels most comfortable in. Some prefer the comfort and privacy of her own home. Some prefer a studio for a more formal vibe. And some are open to doing the photoshoot outdoors. Personally, I prefer using only natural light, so unless their home has a wall of glass and sky lights or there is a hail storm, I will almost always choose an outdoor location.

Keep in mind that an outdoor location for a maternity photoshoot has its own set of potential issues. Mainly, you have to deal with the public staring at your pregnant client. This may not be an issue for some, but I know many moms who consider their protruding belly to be a private body part, even if they used to be regular bikini swim suit wearers during their pre-pregnancy days!

This leads me to my second point…


2. Sensitivity

There is something about growing a human life inside a womb that redefines how a woman perceives her body. It is with this level of understanding and sensitivity that is integral in having a successful maternity photoshoot. For instance, you may need to read her body language and facial expressions to know how she feels about exposing certain body parts.

Once, I did a maternity photoshoot of a woman who was pregnant with her second baby. She had stretch marks that she was embarrassed about and did not voice until the middle of the shoot. It was an outdoor shoot. The lighting was soft and warm. It was perfect for some bare belly shots. During the pre-photoshoot consult, she said she had wanted to do this, but when it came down to it, she was embarrassed about the weight she had gained and her stretch marks. I figured this out because when the first passerby walked maybe 30 feet towards her, she quickly covered up and waited for the person to pass. She was fully clothed, with the exception of her belly.

Be prepared for this by allotting more time for pauses. If your client wants more revealing shots and/or you are in a more private setting, you can have her wear a translucent robe, her husband’s button-down shirt that she can unbutton around the belly, a snug-fitting tank top or shirt that she can pull up, or a solid-colored cloth that drapes well for a Grecian look.


3. Highlighting Features

As a good photographer, you need to know how to highlight your subject’s best features. In the case of maternity portraits, you always need to consider how the belly will look its best, not just the pregnant woman.

Try different angles to get various perspectives of the belly. A top-down view will highlight the mom’s face and the roundness of the belly. This view will also hide “imperfections” under the belly where stretchmarks often lurk. A bottom-up view will highlight how large the belly is, which works for almost all pregnant women. I find this perspective to be perfect for pregnant moms who carry low or have a smaller bulge. This perspective gives the appearance of a more rotund belly!


4. Timing

The best time to schedule a maternity photoshoot is when the belly is large, but they’re not in the Oh-My-Gawd-I-Think-The-Baby-Is-Coming period! This is typically in Months 7 and 8. I usually avoid Month 9 altogether because you don’t know if the baby will decide to make an early appearance. If your client is a first-time mother, you could more comfortably choose a date in Month 8. If your client is a woman who has already had a child, then I’d be safe and go with Month 7.

The other reason for choosing to do a photoshoot in Months 7 or 8 (and avoiding Month 9) is because pregnant women usually still feel their best then. In that last month of pregnancy, there is a greater chance of the mom retaining water, getting hormonal skin issues, or just not fitting into any of the “cute” maternity clothes!

And this leads me to the final and MOST important key to capturing beautiful maternity portraits….


5. Feeling Beautiful

I think the absolute MOST important thing during a maternity photoshoot is to make the mom feel beautiful. She is growing a LIFE in there! And very soon she will be holding her little baby in her arms! Tell her how great she looks and remind her how amazing the creation of life is! When your pregnant client connects with her baby emotionally, there’s a good chance she’ll forget about the on-lookers and the stretch marks.

Sometimes I ask my pregnant clients to close their eyes, put their hands on their belly to feel the baby, and think about the baby. The smile and the twinkle in their eyes when they take that moment to connect with their baby is all I need to get the perfect shot.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Annie Tao is a Professional Lifestyle Photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area who is best known for capturing genuine smiles, emotions and stories of her subjects. You can visit Annie Tao Photography for more tips or inspiration. Stay connected with her on her Facebook page

Some Older Comments

  • Kathrin Stahl October 29, 2011 05:23 pm

    Will have my fourth maternity shoot in a few hours and was searching for fresh ideas: Beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing! In fact, doing outdoor sessions with pregnant women is a wonderful thing. I was as lucky as to have a pregnant balet dancer in front of my camera once. If you like to, you can find some pictures on that shoot here: http://stahl13783.c4.cmdwebsites.com/blog/?p=204

  • Andrea February 21, 2011 04:01 am

    Thanks for this! Have been doing some semi-pro photography of children and families for a year or two now. Getting ready to do a group maternity photo shoot of 4 moms expecting around the same time. So excited! I know this will help a bunch!

  • Julie October 12, 2010 12:53 pm

    Thank you so much for these tips.
    I am taking my first mother to be photos for a firend tomorrow.

  • ~ Ann James Photography ~ July 3, 2010 02:55 am

    haha, that was supposed to be a heart there at the beginning not a ? oh well :)

  • ~ Ann James Photography ~ July 2, 2010 03:41 pm

    I ? when I get the chance to do Maternity photo shoots!
    I remember what it was like when I was pregnant for my daughter.
    ....Feeling and connecting with a baby growing inside me was incredible!

    On my most recent shoot with a 1st time "Mommy to be" we went to a few places that were special to the couple - for instance, she brought me to the place where her husband first said "I love you"
    When we got there...I noticed there was nothing extraordinary about the scenery around us. Just a typical south texas neighborhood next to an old oak tree and a fence. But as she stood there, so much emotion was in her eyes ~ it made for some stunning close-ups!

    My advice would be to:
    ? Talk with your client about memorable locations.
    Perhaps she'll be more at ease and you'll see a different more emotional side of her.
    ? Be sensitive to her emotions, and her personal boundaries.
    ? And definately engage in a friendly conversation with her about the baby while you're shooting.
    Much better than awkward silence interrupted with shutter clicks.

  • Jacqui June 16, 2010 08:03 pm

    I have my first maternity shoot in a couple of months time and in fact this lady will be having two maternity shoots as she will be getting married a month later! She's a lovely bubbly lady and I know we will have some fun and the examples you have all given through your websites are wonderful - I'm not so worried and have now got some great ideas. Thanks everyone.

  • TERESA BERG February 22, 2010 01:30 am

    I specialize in maternity portraits....but unlike many of the people I see writing about it on the internet, I like the studio shots. I play soft "spa" music, offer bottled water and make the mom and dad-to-be as comfortable as possible. We really get to know each other! I know many photographers that only do maternity sessions to get expectant mothers in the door for the newborn sessions - but I love making them feel beautiful.

    We use gowns designed just for maternity photography but always finish with a few fun whimsical shots. Their favorites are usually the full length shots where we wrap them in fabric and do silhouettes or photograph them reclining in their husband's arms. I want my subject to feel like a work of art.

  • Nichole December 11, 2009 06:06 am

    Do you have any ideas or suggestions for snowy outdoor maternity shoots?

  • yvonne September 3, 2009 07:03 pm

    I really liked the guide so far .... but would (being a mom of 2 and discovering many pregnancies around me)
    I would consider the 6th and 7th month of pregnancy for shoots! The 8th is coming to a very large belly size already, and most woman do not feel comfortable with that anymore .. so is the 7th

    with the 6/7th month you will capture the perfect time of pregnancy when they have a nice size belly, if lucky even no skin marks yet, also its the moms happiest time of pregnancy .... and like I say, does not need to be the uppersize bellys for pictures, the fact of the time and being pregnangt and having pictures of a nice size belly is important

    Cant wait to my fotoshoot of maternity i am waiting on these days

  • Jennifer June 16, 2009 07:01 am

    I have a different experience with maternity photos as the creator of customized photo jewelry.

    Most of the photographers I work with who sell my jewelry tell me that couples request shots for the jewelry that do not include mom's bare belly.

    Although such shots can be nice, it's a good idea to have couples think about whether they will want the focus of all their pictures to be the bare belly later on. Some of my favorite shots to work with are ones that show the excitement and the family aspect of the upcoming arrival. Ones where older siblings are included and there was even one once where the grandmother was included.

    Jennifer Kirkpatrick

  • Tiffany May 25, 2009 06:27 am

    I thought this was very insensitive. You don't know the bond a mom-to-be has with the growing baby inside her and you probably never will. Thankfully not all men think like you
    Peter M Says:
    May 6th, 2009 at 6:00 am


    The belly dealio is a fad that needs to go away soon

  • Pat Bloomfield May 16, 2009 12:37 am

    An excellent informative article Annie!

    I think your article is spot on concentrating your attentions on the pregnant client. You idea of looking at ways to emphasise the stomach and make it look as beautiful as possible had not occurred to me in that sense. I would have probably thought more about the aesthetics of the woman rather than the unborn child, which is the real subject :-)

    I've been photographing boudoir & nudes for a while now but have yet to photograph a pregnant subject or new born baby. You guide here will be a great help when the time comes. Thank you!

    Pat Bloomfield
    Inner Beauty Photography

  • Sarah May 11, 2009 07:30 pm

    I meeting with my first maternity client today and all of this makes me feel a lot more prepared. And if I feel good, she should feel good. Thank You!

  • Glen King May 10, 2009 02:03 am

    Thank you for an insightful and we thought out tip sheet. I especially like the thoughts on the angles to take shoots from.


  • Becky May 8, 2009 10:37 pm

    I recently shot my pregnant friend, in month 8 and we used the bottom of her wedding dress to drape over her! You couldn't tell it was a wedding dress - it just looked like a nice piece of material, a nice touch though. She was positioned in front of her bedroom window for a subtle natural lighting effect.

    Another fun shot was having her lie down with her daughter behind her, peaking over her belly with just her eyes showing!

  • Kara May 8, 2009 03:07 pm

    Cool stuff! I've shot some pregnant women before and like u said, not a piece of cake!

    check out mine here: http://photography-kara.blogspot.com/search/label/Maternity%20shoot

    Appreciate any feedback n comments from the pros! :)

  • Kay Nny May 8, 2009 12:13 pm

    Great post and those highlighted keys are really a great tips! Thanks alot!

  • Kim May 8, 2009 12:08 pm

    Fancy meeting you here, Annie :) Great article.

  • Beria Charles May 8, 2009 11:53 am

    I loved the post! I just finishing taking some pics of my friend that is 38 weeks pregnant and I love the results! I wish I had a website to share them. Maybe I leave my picasa album link later. Thanks so much for the tips. They will certainly help next time!

  • Jose Dias May 8, 2009 11:19 am

    and I did my first maternity shoot last weekend

  • Ray May 8, 2009 10:14 am

    Great great tips. My wife is pregnant with our first baby and she is in month 5 almost (18 weeks) and I want to start thinking about these type of pics. thanks a lot!

  • Ross Goodman May 7, 2009 06:13 am

    If you want to see some fantastic maternity shots, check out my friend Amber's site:



  • Steffie van den Akker May 6, 2009 10:46 pm

    Did my first maternity shoot yesterday and then found this today! I had read about it a lot but it was much harder then I expected. My model was great though, she had a lot of ideas. In the end, I got some beautiful pictures of her, so I'm happy! Worked on the pictures all day today and now I'm going to have them printed. Hope she'll be as happy with them as I am!

  • Jam Samonte May 6, 2009 12:56 pm

    wow! "Galing" Great! nice subject for photography..

  • Peter M May 6, 2009 06:00 am


    The belly dealio is a fad that needs to go away soon.

  • Annie May 6, 2009 04:13 am

    I have another maternity photoshoot coming up, but this time, my mother-to-be is carrying twins! She has been on bedrest for months now, so maybe she won't feel as happy and "glowy" (as Lee mentioned) as the other moms I've shot.

    I agree it would be interesting to get the darker, non-cliche side of belly shots. I actually prefer editorial style photos in general, but during this particular type of shoot, the subject usually brings that glowing side of her out because that's what most women want to remember most when they're looking back at their pregnancy... even with all the morning sickness, uncontrollable gas, bathroom trips, waiting, and contractions!

    Plus, I think a lot has to do with my own personality too... I feel all warm and fuzzy about pregnancies, so I love capturing the happy, glowing side of a pregnant woman.

  • Roon-bop May 6, 2009 03:49 am

    Great post with good tips. Maternity is something I think I would like to get into and you have given me things I can take away to help prepare me if I decide to go this route.

  • Robin May 6, 2009 03:08 am

    This is very helpful, I'm supposed to do a maternity shoot soon and have never done one before. Thank you.

  • Eric Mesa May 6, 2009 02:25 am

    Really great suggestions. We'll have to see what happens when my wife gets pregnant.

  • Lee Milthorpe May 6, 2009 02:09 am

    As Ilan said, getting away from the cliché shots is a massive part of shooting maternity portraits! I think number 5 is a huge part too and often one of the hardest as it can be a time in the woman's life when she feels least beautiful.

    Does everyone want the usual happy glowing photographs though? It would be interesting to capture the darker side of pregnancy like the waiting, the impatience and the concern that often surrounds pregnancy. That could make for some very unique and interesting photographs.

  • Ilan May 6, 2009 12:55 am

    Beautiful portraits.
    I never tried to take a photo of a pregnant woman, but it's seems not easy to try to avoid cliche results.