5 Tips for Flattering Maternity Photography.

5 Tips for Flattering Maternity Photography.

People’s interest in maternity  photography has really exploded over the last few years. 8 years ago, when I was pregnant with my first son, you couldn’t have paid me a million dollars to document myself in that “condition.” Pregnancy kicks my trash. I don’t just do the “basketball under the t-shirt” look. . . oh no. Oh good mother of Phineas, no. That belly   b l e e e e e e n d s    into the the rest of my poor, sorry self. Head to toe, I’m puffy. Imagine the Pillsbury Doughboy, pregnant.

It ain’t pretty.


The recent surge in the popularity of documenting this exciting time in a mother’s life is causing me to rethink. The images I see (and take) of these women, are beyond description. They’re beautiful in the kind of way that there simply aren’t words to describe, but that’s OK, because you don’t NEED words. These images make you feel.

But the fact remains, it simply ain’t comfortable to have a camera all up in your space when you’re 9 million sizes more woman than your normal self.

Here are 5 ways to be sure to flatter your mommy-to-be:


Getting up high and shooting down on your subject is a sure fire way to create a slimming portrait. It creates the illusion of elongating the body and thus it has a wonderful slimming effect (pregnant or not, I might add).

Above, I focused in directly on the belly, and the feet respectively, to highlight some of the details of the pregnancy. It’s clearly flattering in the above example, but even when especially when you’re taking a full body shot, you’ll find the same holds true.

Shooting from above simply flatters the physique. High fives, girls! High fives.

2.  Angle Your Subject

If you turn your subject, even ever-so-slightly, you’ll notice that the angle is much more flattering. Notice Jane, above, by simply having her move her left leg a hair closer to the camera, her right hip naturally pulled back, thus hiding the booty. . . just a little. Every pregnant gal will thank you for that. Every.single.one. Unfortunately, Sir Pregnancy doesn’t discriminate in the distribution baby weight . . . belly, booty, boobies, it’s all the same him. (Did I just say boobies on DPS? Don’t anybody tell Darren.)

The beauty of this pose is that it hides the booty, while still maintaining the slimming angle of the stomach. Shooting the stomach from the side is almost always more flattering, as it allows you to see the curve of the back, thus making the subject look pregnant, not simply. . . well, just. . . not pregnant. . . you know? Gosh, this post is A LOT harder to word than I thought it would be. . .

3.  Try Some Abstract Shots

The image at the top of this post is a great example of an abstract maternity image. That darling belly poking out from behind Daddy? GOSH, I love that shot. It is artistic while simultaneously telling a story. Love.

Here (left) is another version of the image referenced above. The second image (right) uses abstract depth of field to produce a similar flattering effect. We can draw the eyes away from the belly as the focal point, while still telling a powerful story. It feels like we’re peeking in on some beautiful, intimate moment between mother and her unborn child. I love the way this image makes me feel and the story it tells.

4.  Distract with Dad

Adding Daddy to the equation makes the images more about relationship and emotion than they are about Mom’s body. Looking at these photos, you find yourself completely immersed in the love and JOY of this couple. . . and oh, she just happens to be pregnant. These are the kinds of maternity photos that I really resonate with. They’re alive, joyous and REAL. They are more about capturing memories of a special time in a family’s life than they are about highlighting a state of the body. Side note: when I explain to my clients that this is my goal, to capture this special time in their lives, not simply to photograph her pregnant, it always puts Mom at ease. And when mom’s at ease, EVERY image you take of her will be more flattering—she’s comfortable, because she no longer feels like there’s a spotlight blaring in her face on her figure.

Aaaaaand I’m just including this one (above) because it makes me laugh. Hard. Look at Jane’s face. She doesn’t know quite how to react. Ha!

5.  Take it Seriously

Hind sight truly is 20/20. I wish so desperately I could go back in time and love my pregnant body. I’ve had 4 beautiful little boys, and I hardly have any photos of myself pregnant with any of them. That’s tragic. The bigger they get, the more I wish I could hold on to those treasured times when they were tiny. . . all the way back to when they were dancing around inside my belly. . . . this is especially true of my little Gavin.

Gavin died in 2010. I want desperately to forever remember every second I had with him, and guess what? I have a total of ONE image of myself pregnant with him. It’s a cell phone picture my husband caught one night at dinner (and I just spent the last hour looking for it— I can’t even find it).

The point of the matter is: these images matter. They do. And if you approach them as such, you’ll do better work, your subject will feel more comfortable and connected, and those factors will always lead to more flattering images overall.

Happy shooting!

 NOTE: The subject in these photos, Jane, is one of the tiniest, most lovely pregnant mothers I’ve ever shot. This post is in NO WAY meant to highlight her as needing flattering poses to look like the hot pregnant momma that she is. I chose her for this very reason, because it would clearly be evident that I was not using her as an example of why creative posing is necessary in maternity photos. I’m simply using her to illustrate universal principles.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Natalie Norton is a writer and a lifestyle wedding and portrait photographer who shoots across the globe. She is based off of the North Shore of Oahu and out of Gilbert, Arizona. Enjoy more of her photography and writing at www.natalienortonblog.com. You can also connect with Natalie via Twitter or on Facebook.

Some Older Comments

  • Emily May 19, 2013 05:04 am

    Dang, I wish I could shoot in Hawaii every day.
    Loved these photos and tips!! Beautiful images, and beautiful couple! Thank you for posting.

  • Emily April 24, 2013 07:11 pm

    I LOVE the dress this lovely lady is wearing! Any chance you can tell me where she got it? I'm preggers at the mo and finding it so hard to find stylie outfits :)

  • Patty February 24, 2013 07:19 pm

    Great article and beautiful photos! I am shooting some maternity photos tomorrow for a lovely friend and will try to incorporate these ideas. Thanks!

  • Maatzey April 14, 2012 08:08 am

    I have tried to use many of those tips... I hope I have managed... but it was not rasy. Thanx for advices!

  • Lisa March 27, 2012 11:04 pm

    Lovely pictures and IMO she totally rocked the horizontal stripes. I really appreciated the thoughts at the end, giving weight to the importance (for the parents) of the pictures. I was in tears by the end of it. Thank you for sharing.

  • Valerie March 20, 2012 05:43 pm


  • kps Oberoi March 20, 2012 05:03 am

    I recently did a shoot with a friend. let me know if you like it and point out deficiencies.

  • ruditsu March 17, 2012 12:39 pm

    Very nice article. Touchy at the end.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Liz March 17, 2012 12:27 pm

    I'm so sorry about your boy. My son was born too early and didn't make it past two days. We lost him a little over a month ago. I now wish I had gotten more pictures of my belly. I just felt huge and fat, so I didn't. I won't make that mistake again. Thank you for sharing your tips and story.

  • Archisman Sengupta March 17, 2012 02:03 am

    this artical is really great and the best part of it is that the writer tells about what really a photograph is all about . its not that how the subject looks but its about the moment and the story that it captures

  • Frank dos Santos March 16, 2012 09:15 pm

    Thank you for validating what I have been saying for many years, There is nothing more beautiful than a woman who is happy to be pregnant. They have an inner beauty that no amount of make up or designer dress will ever cover or camouflage. Remember that each individual pregnancy is a once in a lifetime experience, so relish it.

  • linda March 16, 2012 12:44 pm

    oh my GOD. i literally cry on your 2nd paragraph of number 5. I'm pregnant with 2nd baby (33weeks) & i'd lost my 1st one 10 month ago. the good news is next week i will have my maternity shoot. wish the pictures will be great.

  • Alison March 16, 2012 10:30 am

    Oh AMEN sister I am really over photographers with the notion that oh you want a maternity shoot ok lets get you nude and tie a ribbon around your belly oh yes & dad take your shirt off too!!!!!!!! I am out to prove to the pregnant community that you don't need to be nude or down to your undies for a maternity shoot. This was an awesome read thanks so much xoxox

  • rayleigh leavitt March 16, 2012 09:25 am

    Really great tips! I especially like the part about highlighting the special time rather than how her body looks.

  • Natalie Norton March 16, 2012 08:48 am


    I do offer direction to my clients in terms of what to wear. There is detailed information to that end in my pricing/session information PDF. The last couple of sentences of this read: "Ultimately the overarching prioity should be that you feel like YOU. All of these recommendations are simply informational. My ultimate artistic goal is to capture you, authentically. Dress comfortably, and be yourself. You're perfect; just the way you are."

    My priority is authenticity, and my clients resonate with that and hire me to that end.

    Additionally, Jane looks BEAUTIFUL in her horizontal stripes, thus further solidifying the fact that the tips above WORK as it relates to flattering the figure. ;)



  • jackie March 16, 2012 08:35 am

    Love Love Love this article and the voice that you gave it, Natalie. I greatly admire you for your strength and for your insights as well. I do not have many photos from either of my preg moments, and I SOoo regret it. I have taken some maternity photos and they are the MOST fun and creative images - I love it. I wish I could take more...it's a precious moment that needs to be kept close.

  • Ann March 16, 2012 07:18 am

    I think the horizontal stripes are fabulous! I see a woman who is delighted with her wonderfully pregnant body and LOVES her favorite striped maternity dress and the way she feels when she wears it. In years to come she'll be so grateful some pushy, bossy photog didn't influence her to abandon it. But then again, some folks just don't have the sensitivity to see or understand all of this. . . I guess it makes sense that you felt comfortable using the word 'diplomatic' in such scathingly rude comment, Mr. O'leary. These shots are beyond priceless. Just ask their subject.

  • Scott Stahl March 16, 2012 07:05 am

    Very nice Natalie. I also enjoyed the 20/20 hindsight, which is a standard option in most human beings but especially photographers.

  • andrew lambert March 16, 2012 05:33 am

    This is my latest maternity shoot


  • Dayna March 16, 2012 04:59 am

    Wow. Fat shaming much? Why can't a woman be as proud of her booty as she is of the baby she's growing? Why do photos of women have to be slimming?

    I'd like to see a photographer who can embrace the curves, not hide them, particularly during pregnancy. The baby affects all parts of the mother. It is the photographer's job to capture the puffy feet and the swollen ankles with a warm, embracing, appreciative perspective, not try to hide them or minimize them in any way. Photography - particularly maternity photography - should capture the beauty in the woman as she is, not the beauty she or others might wish she had. When a woman is feeling down on herself because her body is changing, it is our job as photographers to show her that she is beautiful and valuable - and all that other good stuff - just the way she is.

    The images in this article were interesting and creative, but not for the reasons given by the author.

  • Kimberly Mufferi March 16, 2012 04:48 am

    Great article! I personally think the horizontal stripes look great on Jane. I know that stripes can be tricky for some, but she definitely wore them well, and I feel like they fit the scenery. Great work and great style! I love seeing maternity shots that are different and stand out. I did a shoot once with a mother dressed a bit more on the sexy side, and I definitely got some mixed emotions about this, but this is what my client wanted, and I think they turned out wonderfully, and so did she!

    Thanks again for sharing this great article!

  • Ross Griffiths March 16, 2012 04:44 am

    I have been following these articles for over a year now as I have been really getting into my photography and overall I have found them interesting, inspiring and top quality however I have to say on this particular one, which is if special interest as my partner gave birth last week I found very disappointing. I guess it just shows that a photo means different things to different people, I didn't find any of these shots particularly flattering or good to be honest! Hope this is just a blip on the usually high quality articles published on here.

  • Mark O'Leary March 16, 2012 04:18 am

    I think the idea that the photographer has no control over what the subject wears is ludicrous. It's a visual medium, and as a professional (or dedicated amateur) it is your responsibility to bring your knowledge and experience to the session. This is especially important in a case where the mom-to-be is sensitive about her appearance. A pro who wouldn't diplomatically tell a paying client that her normally fashionable choice is all wrong for this shoot doesn't deserve the fee.

  • Jo March 16, 2012 04:05 am

    I really enjoyed this article thanks and there are some great tips in it - as well as beautiful photos. I, like you, wish I'd had more bump photos taken. My daughter is 9 now and I've forgotten what that special time was like when she was in my tummy... I am so sorry to hear of your loss. x

  • Dunja0712 March 16, 2012 03:57 am

    I just love the way in which this article is written! Full of humor, yet very useful. It is touchy at the end, I'm really sorry about your little boy. :(

    Thanks for the great tips.

  • Janet March 16, 2012 03:39 am

    What perfect timing! I will be shooting my very first maternity session tomorrow. I will definitely be following some of your advice - especially about minimizing the booty. :-)

    The young lady is as game to try anything as I am. She is also a performer, used to the stage and attention so I do not have to worry about a shy subject for my first time out. She has also asked for some of the more risque shots for a 'private' album for husband. I feel so blessed to have her as my first maternity client!

    I know you must be very busy, but I would love your feedback on my images after I get them, if you would be willing.

    You can follow me on Google+ if you like.

  • Maximo Almonte March 16, 2012 03:26 am

    Outstanding Article Natalie. I too resonate with your emotions and the focus of shooting maternity. Is a moment cherished all through out time. When My wife was pregnant with my one and only Prince, thats all I did, capture every moment i had of her. Wish I could share one of the shots with you guys.

  • India March 16, 2012 03:24 am

    I'd like some shots where the Mother isn't holding her belly but maybe the father is. So many pregnancy photos show women holding their bellies. Time to pose them even more creatively than this but it's a start.

  • Natalie Norton March 16, 2012 03:17 am

    Of the horizontal stripes:

    These images weren't shot for this article. They were simply used to illustrate the tips provided. As a portrait photographer, you rarely have control over what your client chooses to wear, so your best bet is to be armed with knowledge that allows you to make them look their best no matter what they're wearing.

    Jane is very fashion forward. Her dressing in horizontal stripes is an authentic portrayal of her fashion sense. I'm glad she was brave enough to sport horizontal stripes. She rocked them!

  • Emily March 16, 2012 02:56 am

    Sorry for your loss. This is a great article! I hardly have any pictures of me pregnant b/c I was so sick and hated how I felt/looked. Anyway, just wanted to add that I would not have minded the pictures if they included my belly instead of just my fat face. :) And I was also a little bit surprised by the horizontal stripes.

  • Cathy March 16, 2012 02:02 am

    Thank you for the informative article. I look forward to shooting my pregnant daughter later this spring. Please accept my condolences for your loss.

  • Nada March 16, 2012 01:41 am

    I've done few maternity shots quite recently but all taken indoors (I do not like studios as they are not personal, I visit my clients in the comfort of their own house instead and try to work with available room/light) - here are few of them: http://bit.ly/Aq0G1S I would love to do some outdoorsy shots, thanks for inspiration! Gotta say I love the diptychs you did focusing on belly/feet, very nice!

  • Sas March 16, 2012 01:35 am

    Lovely - and timely article. Thanks a million :-)

  • Phil March 15, 2012 08:08 pm

    Agree with Mark O'Leary. If it can be avoided, stay away from horizontal stripes. Solid hues or colors would be best, although bare bellies would be quite memorable too.

  • Alicia Sault March 15, 2012 02:30 pm

    Always love your writing and pics!

  • Victoria - Washington Boudoir Photographer March 15, 2012 12:50 pm

    Great techniques, the angling is something I use in boudoir photography a lot, but the left leg forward is something I will have to try. I don't get many maternity request, the one maternity shoot I did that was my favorite is on my blog: http://oni-studio-photography.com/great-expectations-whidbey-island-maternity-photographer/ if you get a minute I would very much value your feedback on it. Thank you for the informative article!

  • ccting March 15, 2012 12:18 pm

    Very touching story and photos.. It is a .... great article..

  • gnslngr45 March 15, 2012 11:49 am

    Perfect timing. I'll be doing some maternity shooting in the next few weeks.

  • Scottc March 15, 2012 08:37 am

    Great photos and a great article!

  • Kent West March 15, 2012 05:28 am

    When I say refereshing, what I really mean is REFRESHING!

  • Kent West March 15, 2012 05:27 am

    I hope you are writing again for DPS, it's so dang refereshing.

  • RS March 15, 2012 05:03 am

    Natalie you always have great advice. I shoot these photos almost a year ago and my cousin is asking for a maternity shoot in a few months. If you have the time could I possibly get some feed back from you please? My site

  • Michael Dave Dizon March 15, 2012 03:26 am

    Hey Natalie! Thanks for the wonderful article! I'm actually trying to open up more of my photography in the maternity/newborn/family portraits (especially in the lull of wedding season in the winter). I will recognize and send my late condolences on Gavin. I'm sure he was a treasure to you, as was our Benjamin Joseph, who reached six months. A mother never forgets any child at any point of the pregnancy. And as a father from the outside, you can only fall in love with your wife, as she falls in love with her growing baby. Your photography is excellent & inspiring and I'm only happy to subscribe to your feed. All the best!

  • Ahmed Sharif March 15, 2012 03:00 am

    nice article indeed!!
    the last part is especially important...

  • raghavendra March 15, 2012 02:22 am

    When i saw the title, i didn't know what maternity is :)
    After seeing the pictures i came to know it
    I liked the side pose.

    i have not taken this maternity pictures

    my first pictures

  • Mark O'Leary March 15, 2012 01:28 am

    Nice article, touching bit at the end, really fills a need. Thanks for the great tips. But honestly...horizontal stripes?