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Pregnancy Photography: 12 Dos and Don’ts for Flawless Maternity Portraits

Pregnancy Photography: 12 Dos and Don'ts for Flawless Maternity Portraits by Sue Bryce via Click it Up a Notch

I’ve spent 24 years capturing the unique beauty of women around the world, and one of my favorite times to photograph a woman is during pregnancy. It’s an important, magical time for portraits, because you’re not only taking a photograph of the mother — you’re also photographing the little person in her belly.

For timeless images capturing this precious time for families, here are my dos and don’ts for working with expectant mothers:


– Pamper her with a professional hair and makeup stylist. Pregnant women often feel uncomfortable with their growing belly, and it’s your job to help her feel as gorgeous as possible in her own skin, to bring out that ethereal glow for your images.

– Work with your client prior to the shoot to define her style. Is it glam, edgy, or is she more classic? You want to make the images as lush and magical as possible, and you want her to feel like you have created an environment that represents her personal aesthetic.

– Ask how much nudity your client is comfortable with. Never push her to show more skin.

– If possible, show the expectant mother sketches of the poses you are going to shoot, so that she can see your vision.

– Start with simple wardrobe choices — a white tank or tunic — to create a classic Calvin Klein-esque aesthetic. While every expectant mother has their own style, it’s important to give your client something they can show everyone in their life, from their best friend to their coworkers.

– Start by posing her sitting on a comfortable blanket on the floor with her legs crossed, then move her into a standing pose after 2-3 sitting pose variations.

– Pose her arms around her belly, emphasizing the round baby bump while lengthening all other bodylines.

– When shooting more au naturel, always cover her with a robe or blanket when not shooting. It’s important to remember that she is the one in her underwear, you are not; take care to ensure her privacy and overall comfort throughout the shoot.

– Shoot the same pose with different backgrounds. You can very seamlessly move from classic glamour to a more edge fashion feel by switching a white background out for a matte black background — all without moving your subject or having to reposition her.

Pregnancy Photography: 12 Dos and Don’ts for Flawless Maternity Portraits  by Sue Bryce via Click it Up a Notch


– Make her hold 40 different poses. Instead, you should do most of the moving yourself, rotating around her to capture a variety of angles and lighting environments for every pose. Start by shooting head-on then move counter-clockwise around your subject as you shoot.

– Start with a flash or reflector. I prefer to start with the natural light available, often shooting at 640 ISO to create ephemeral images, capturing the natural glow of the expectant mother.

– Tip her head back. The most flattering angles for the face are either looking down or looking straight at you. Have the expectant mother tilt her head down towards her chest, gazing down at her belly. If you’re going for a straight-on shot, have her push her chin up and forward while looking right at you.

Pregnancy Photography: 12 Dos and Don’ts for Flawless Maternity Portraits  by Sue Bryce via Click it Up a Notch

Sue BryceSue Bryce – Guest Post
Sue Bryce is an award-winning portrait photographer. To learn the rest of Sue’s beauty whispering tips, tune in to her free 3-day creativeLIVE workshop, Bumps to Babies: Photographing Motherhood, at 9 AM – 4 PM PT daily from Friday, 8/23 through Sunday, 8/25.

  • August 24, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    Wonderful post!! I love Sue Bryce’s work and her advice is wonderful!!

  • Mary
    August 24, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    I’m pretty sure this is a little mistake on the article:
    “have her push her chin up and forward while looking right at you.”
    Sue Bryce’s mantra is “”chin forward and down”, never chin up!!

    “Sue Bryce’s Posing Rules
    Sue instructs all of her clients to push their chin forward, away from the neck, and down. This elongates the neck, defines the jawline, makes the eyes look bigger, and takes off 10 pounds from the face.
    She says that many photographers make the mistake of instructing their clients to lift their chin. What happens is that there is no definition in the chin line and it also makes the eyes smaller.”

    • August 24, 2013 at 6:01 PM

      Hey Mary :) I see what you are saying, however, this is what Sue wrote. Thanks!

  • October 19, 2013 at 10:23 PM

    Thanks for the heads up for how to pose a pregnant woman. Some of the things I already knew, but I never thought to have sketches made of the poses that I wanted to do. This will take some more planning on my part. :)

  • February 2, 2014 at 3:34 PM

    Good stuff. Thanks for the quick tips and reminders. Some don’t apply for me (shoot natural light first, etc), but they are still reasonable to remember.

  • February 3, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    I’ve photographed hundreds of pregnant women over the past 10 years – specializing in silhouette maternity photographs as opposed to maternity portraits. Something I’ve learned over the years is that my strongest images have the women looking down towards her tummy/baby, towards her partner or other child, or away from the camera (towards ceiling, floor, straight away, etc) but never directly towards the camera like a traditional portrait. Maternity photography to me is very different than portrait photography and generally speaking, much more intimate. When the subject of a photograph is looking directly into the lens, it automatically engages the viewer of the photo with that person. And engaging a semi nude pregnant woman is not the point of these images in my opinion. The point of maternity photography to me is to capture the bond between the mother to be and her baby, or partner or child. Or to be amazed at the physical transformation a weans body goes through during pregnancy.

  • May 20, 2014 at 12:14 AM

    What great pictures! I love your lighting techniques. Do keep the posts coming.

  • Vera Kruis
    March 21, 2017 at 9:58 PM

    Lovely photos. These tips are also very useful. Thanks for sharing them.
    Vera Kruis Photography

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