Maternity Photography - Studio or Location?

Maternity Photography – Studio or Location?

19“Everyone loves someone who’s pregnant” -Knocked Up

When you do maternity photography sessions, are you more likely to do them in a controlled atmosphere or do you take your momma on-location?

Any type of photography presents it’s own challenges, pros and cons. Maternity photography has it’s own set of challenges and knowing these ahead of time can help you prepare for your session.

note: check out our previous Maternity Photography tips.



  • Controlled environment. No sun to fight with.
  • More private – especially important for a mom who feels uncomfortable ‘gettin’ it out’ in public
  • Once you get things set up properly, you can focus purely on the mum-n-bump and not worry about location challenges


  • Studio shots can be samey if you don’t have some pretty brilliant ideas to shake things up. Yes, every bump is the most special one in the world, and all parents should get the typical hands-on-bump shot, but for your own sake, studio photos can all start looking identical the more you do.
  • Studio shots are great when it’s just the bump, but when you’re trying to catch emotion (or even just relaxed facial expressions), studio can be really difficult. Unless they’re used to being photographed and are comfortable in front of the camera, the parents don’t generally know how to ‘just act natural’.

The short of it

  • In my opinion, studio is best for the isolated bump shots. Towards the end of the session, when they’re comfortable (or they think you’re only photographing the bump) you might catch some raw emotion or tenderness, but I usually use these sessions purely for the beautifully lit shots of the belly.




  • Location shoots offer a more bespoke service which can incorporate their individual style. Locations can be urban or country, formal or casual.
  • For couples who just can’t relax in front of the camera, location photography can help them just pretend you’re not even there and this also lends itself to more romantic, emotional events.
  • You don’t have to have many ideas for location photography. In the studio, all eyes are on you to come up with the next pose or concept but on-location, you can just capture the precious moments as they unfold.
  • Pregnancy is an organic, natural event. Sometimes photographing this in the studio feels…well…just uncomfortable. Even when just viewing maternity photos, I feel more at ease looking at the natural location photos because it just seems to fit the occasion better.


  • You attention is divided. You can’t focus just on your mom, but have to keep considering your camera settings, positioning of the sun, weather, etc., etc.
  • “Everyone loves someone who’s pregnant”. And that means that most people don’t think it’s inappropriate to just stand there and watch your session. This can be really uncomfortable for your mom and dad and unless you have a strong enough personality and a few ready-made lines (exe: “Do you have tickets to this show?”) you’ll have to pick a really obviously private location. Note: I think I need some better ‘move on’ lines. Any suggestions are appreciated! 🙂

The bottom line

  • The bottom line on location maternity shoots? I focus most of my attention on these types of sessions. They’re harder work and they greatly test your ability to be creative and adaptable but when they work, they are so very rewarding.

Personally, I give my couples both sessions. I go to their house with a couple lights, do their studio shots and then take them out on location. They have more to choose from and that makes them happy!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Elizabeth Halford is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

Some Older Comments

  • rupert November 3, 2011 08:09 pm

    I think the topic must not be a question.. it may be "Maternity Photography – Studio and Location." because the choice is still for the clients to decide.. and for the whole article.. I like the ideas... thanks Elizabeth.

  • jon June 24, 2011 02:10 am

    Anywhere but the delivery room!

  • Cathrine March 14, 2011 01:47 am

    @ Salahuddin : Those were beautiful photos. I especially like the fact that they are natural, and the mother is dressed. Getting undressed is a private thing, and I remember when I was pregnant, how annoyed I felt when people thought it was appropriate to feel my stomach, just because there was a baby there. Your photos are so respectful of the privacy, but still intimate. Maybe the most lovely maternity photos I have seen. They certainly appealed to me, maybe because I don't consider pregnancy a public event ;-)

  • Salahuddin Ahmad December 22, 2010 09:30 pm

    Another outdoor

    [eimg link='' title='The last day' url='']

    The last day


  • Salahuddin Ahmad October 22, 2010 09:00 am

    Can be both; here are something that I did

    Heavenly lights
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    Looking forward
    [eimg link='' title='Looking forward' url='']

    World awaits outside

  • M Fergy August 17, 2010 04:48 am

    I think it's narrow-minded to say "all" studio shots are generic. Some are, and some are similar to other clients' images, but I shoot strictly in the studio and I have such a variety of backdrops, fabrics, wraps and clients that I can shake it up and no one gets exactly the same thing. I think outdoor maternity images are counterintuitive. What pregnant woman goes out and randomly lifts her shirt up in the park? None. So why do it for the sake of a photograph? So, no, I don't think that indoor is worse (or better) than outdoor. I think the outcome of the images lies with the skill and vision of the photographer, and that the studio isn't as limiting (creatively) as one would think. I had a client refuse for me to come to her house because she felt that pictures in her bedroom, or just in her home period, were "weird" and she insisted on the studio experience.

    That said, I *love* location photography and utilize as much natural light (as much as possible in the southeast Texas heat. So I'm not bashing outdoor photography in the least; It's just not my primary choice for maternity images with the bared bump. Tightly fitted clothing over a 36-week belly? Any day of the week and twice on Sunday, but not necessarily a bare belly.

    Overall, I think Elizabeth's article was insightful and brought up some food for thought. I wish to shoot outdoors sometimes, but clients usually put the kibosh on it because they are uncomfortable at passersby who just want to point and gawk.

    Great points and feedback, everyone!

  • Ashley D August 3, 2010 02:49 am

    While I agree with Greg, some of us don't have studios just yet so outdoor shots are all we can offer. I fit right smack in the middle of this category. I am hoping to have a studio sometime in the next year or two, but for now, my clients get the great outdoors or in their own homes with natural window lighting and every one I have shot so far, is ok with that! :)

  • Cass July 14, 2010 07:46 am

    Great article, I agree that most of the time the client will fall back on what you recommend and my shoots are all location based because i love the natural element when clients forget you are there and do their own thing. Andy - i make sure i have my web address printed on my workshirt across my shoulders - so all of the oglers have it imprinted on their subconscious by the time they wander away!

  • Ron Gibson March 22, 2010 03:48 pm

    @ Yvette. I think you said it yourself- "In general I go with the “whatever they want” attitude because it helps me get work".

    Don't take me the wrong way. The client chose you becasue they liked something about your images. But if you impose your own views on a client ,you are going to do your client a disservice and your phone will stop ringing.

    Whatever you do, there will be something in your image that only you were able to bring across. Just as any artist, there is a technique that you have that (hopefully) sets you apart from everyone else. No matter what shoot I've done I can tell the image was taken by me- because it was taken by me and I did the post processing. It is my image. But I might dislike the idea, or the look, or the clothing choices, etc, etc. But in the end this is not an image for me. This is an image for my client- and as a professional I care more about my clients feelings about the finished product than my own. Nine times out of ten the client will choose an image that I might have tossed.

  • Yvette March 18, 2010 03:22 am

    Good points to consider.
    I don't agree with some responders who insist everything is up to the client. We, as photographers, are providing a service, and yes, we want to please our clients but we must also have a vision of our work and which conditions best suit that vision. Our job, as business people (which we are as well folks) is to sell ourselves in the best way we can to achieve our look. My client is the person who wants what I do. The client I want is the one who understands they are paying me for my talent and my time. Of course I collaborate with my clients but, I won't do something that diminishes the look I'm after. In general I go with the "whatever they want" attitude because it helps me get work but guiding clients to the right choice is very's what makes us professionals.

  • Antoine Lovell March 13, 2010 03:36 am

    I definitely enjoyed this post. Elizabeth, you have me wanting to give it a try.
    @ Ron Gibson: I enjoyed your response fully. I don't care about the length of it. It was helpful. You have it laid out to a science. Also, I'm still smiling over the term "Lookiloos". Nicely said with a hint of comedy. Yet, like you, I don't much care them either. They just get in the way.
    Either way, I enjoyed your response.

  • Keri March 12, 2010 03:45 pm

    I am a maternity photographer, and I think that there are a lot of important issues to address, that really make you stand out as a maternity photographer. I definitely believe that studio shots are very generic and don't really capture your client. I shoot on location only. My location is the clients' home. This was not even mentioned in the article. I shoot all of my maternity shoots at my clients home. There is something special that evokes feeling, when you look back at your photos and see the home you lived in when you carried your child. You may or may not live there in 5 or 10 years, but it is where you lived at that time. I have shot in one bedroom apartments as well as large homes, I always get good shots. It keeps you on your toes, as a photographer, and you never get bored. It is personal and your client feels comfortable, at home.

    It is also very convenient for your client to be at their home. To me it makes them much more relaxed. If you are doing any kind of tasteful nude, they can't wear their bra before hand, or it leaves marks, so being at home in a robe, works great. My clients love that I come to them.

    Angles, lighting, comfort level and clothing choices are the key to great maternity photos. You really need to know the best angles. I bring a stool to stand on so I am shooting from above. This helps your mom have great shape. I bring maternity clothes that are form fitting and photograph well. Mostly black and white. When they are looking down at their belly I have them angle their chin toward me, then look down, so they don't get a double chin, works like a charm!

    It is the little things that translate into amazing maternity shots, not just a generic belly with fingers shaped as a heart. Think outside the box and your clients will thank you.

  • meg campbell-back March 12, 2010 03:42 pm

    Oh also I think if you use their fave places or their own home the resulting images have more significance to them than the sterility of the studio environment....

  • meg campbell-back March 12, 2010 03:39 pm

    TOTALLY agree with the comments about taking it outside.....

  • Jenn @ CanvasPop March 12, 2010 03:41 am

    This is a great post. The pros and cons will depend on each client and the shoot should make them the feature regardless of shooting on location or in a studio. I agree that it is in short a summary of the overall pro's and con's of the Studio or Location. The choice depends on the comfort of your clients, and the vision of what they are looking for. I think each photographer should be open to working and shooting with the clients interests and comfort in mind and offer suggestions base on what you know about their personalities. If your clients are comfortable it will be easier to capture the moments for them that they are looking for!

    @Elizabeth Great post!

  • Ron Gibson March 10, 2010 01:07 am

    @Elizabeth. Good point.

    Keep up the great posts.

  • Andy March 9, 2010 09:24 pm

    If we do on location shoot at places such as park, that might be a perfect chance for marketing the photography? Have some business cards in hand and try to approach some of the people at the end, asking them whether they are interested or not, etc. That might works? Of course not during the shoot as it might make the client upset too.

    On location photography is always challenging but again the outcome will be amazing and sometimes out of our expectation, one might get exceptional results.

  • Elizabeth Halford March 9, 2010 08:29 pm

    @Ron: Than you so much for your well-thought-out reply :) I suppose I should clarify that this post was written based on the inevitable event that you ask them what they would like and they ask "what do you think?" We need to know what we consider to be the pros and cons of both situations and know where our strengths lie so we can recommend the best possible options for our clients.

  • Daniel Mollino March 9, 2010 03:58 am

    You know I hate studio shots so much I don't even offer them, I have lights and a backdrop I will use in someones home for a specific situation ect but other than that I HATE studio shots, Oh i also save a fortune not having a studio.

    But all studio shots in my opinion are so generic its like you just shot a stock photo for a company, now mind you when i say studio shot i mean shots that are against a backdrop ect, not the creative types that you could have just as easily forgon the studio and used the clients kitchen ect.

  • Annie March 9, 2010 03:23 am

    I agree with Greg that the location decision depends on the subject, the pregnant mama. It depends on her style and what she feels comfortable with.

    I always let my clients decide the location. Some maternity clients prefer to shoot in their own home rather than a studio because they feel the most at ease and comfortable there, so I think there should be a third category: at-home.

    Personally, I love capturing emotion and 'stories', and playing with natural light, so if I could choose, I'd always go with an on-location maternity shoot. To somewhat 'control' the light, I'd go with an early morning shoot or late afternoon shoot.

  • Ron Gibson March 9, 2010 01:37 am

    I apologize up front for the length of this comment, there is just so much to say.

    The choice of shooting in studio or shooting sans studio is really something that should be out of your control- this is the choice of the client. I find this a little strange to be the consideration of the photographer.

    I don't disagree that there are pro's and con's to shooting indoors/outdoors, and some of those are mentioned here- but this doesn't center on maternity shoots. The choice of indoor/outdoor is a decision for any shoot. This is a good start to a pro/con list for any type/style of shoot. If we are not talking about clients and just your wife or close friend then I understand that you have more say in the shoot location and style. But when someone is paying- they get what they want.

    As the photographer selling a shoot to a client you need to show them your body of work and determine what they want from a shoot. It's not really up to you (unless you don't have the gear or the experience shooting one or the other). Find out what images they are looking for- they usually have some idea before even contacting you. Ask what images they like and narrow it down. Ask them to look online at sites such as Flickr and Devinatart- tell them where to look- so that they can see what else has been done by other photographers around the world. It's almost like wedding dress shopping except they get to pick more than one.

    For maternity photography you need to decide on the comfort level of the client. Does she want these photos to be a surprise to her partner, or would she prefer to have her partner present. I usually try to get a few shots at the beginning with the partner just to ease into a shoot if they are available and it's not a surprise. This definitely aides in shooting more risque photos if those are required (more often then not this is the style of maternity I'm asked for).

    Have a second sit down to make sure you have the plan set, the date set, and especially a deposit (I'll tell you why later).

    Set a date- make sure you are close to the end of the pregnancy so that the "bump" is biggest, but not so close that you have a greater chance of missing the shoot because the baby came early.

    Make sure you have all of the props you require based on the selection and theme of the shoot. Also make sure you have the gear you need- if outdoors you will need to use mobile equipment and always bring plenty of reflectors.

    For outdoor shoots- watch the weather. It can change quickly. Make sure you have a backup plan to go somewhere covered or indoors if you day fails. If you don't have this plan you just lost out on a days pay. Not only that, you may lose out on the client- there is an expiration date on these shoots- the baby is coming.

    When outdoor- show up early. Not just to set up, but to clean. Make sure there is no garbage lying around, or items which will draw your eye later. It's always better to have a good photo than to worry about removal or adjustment in post processing. You will have enough post processing to deal with as it is. Maternity photos are just as important (in some cases more important) than wedding photos.

    I know most of my comments are about outdoor shoots- but when you are in studio these are less of a concern and you have more control.

    And make sure you and your client have fun. If you offer a great experience word will get around, especially for maternity photos.

    Be prepared for cancellations- set up a cancellation plan. Take a deposit. This is one of the most important things I can suggest for maternity shoots. You don't want to be out of a days work. You are looking to shoot pregnant women and issues arise quickly- sickness, hospital trips, stress, and simply last minute change of mind. One shoot I had a few months ago- the baby came early, that's just lost money.

    And my last one. If shooting nudes make sure to bring something to cover your client up between changes or during short breaks. Something warm and fuzzy (but not lint producing). This is good for all nude (or implied) photography, but even more so for maternity. In short make sure she is comfortable at all times- this is more difficult with maternity than with any other shoot. It's hard to be comfortable- period.

    As for 'lookiloos', I can't stand it. I think they upset me more than they do the client. I've never had to say anything to anyone to make them move on. I believe I have a look I give them. While I have had people stop to ogle at times, I just look at them and they seem to move on. It might be my 'get the hell out of here this doesn't involve you' look, but it works. I'm there for a purpose, and a pretty important one. And as I've said, the clients comfort is of utmost importance. I'm not to friendly with anyone who is not involved or take away from my clients comfort- I put everything into the client and hate to be interrupted. I do tend to choose quiet-private locations over busy ones. There is less likelihood that someone is going to walk into your shot and ruin your photos. But depending on where you live this may be difficult- as I am in Canada, I am afforded more scenic locations where people rarely tread.

  • Joshua Shipley March 9, 2010 01:28 am

    I just took my first ever "momma-to-be" shots yesterday afternoon. My wife posed in our backyard and I think we got some good images. She is only 17 weeks, but outdoor scenes may be limited when she is 8 months pregnant in late-July. The Memphis humidity will probably force us indoors for some shots. Even still, we will technically be on location.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Greg Taylor March 9, 2010 01:09 am

    I am a fan of maternity shoots. I think the debate over indoors or outdoors all has to do with the model and their comfortability. Some people will let their guard down a little more when in a sterile setting such as a studio.

  • Fotograf Trine Bjervig March 9, 2010 12:35 am

    great photos - and thank you for sharing your knowledge:)