Making the most of your Maternity Photoshoot

Some of my most treasured photos are the ones from my pregnancy with Everly and a few weekends ago, we had a wonderful opportunity to capture the joy in growing Arlo with one of my favorite photographers, Cat Wilborne. I’ve found that a little planning can go a long way in getting pictures that truly capture you, your partner and the joys of pregnancy. I thought I’d do my best to put together some tips and tricks I’ve learned a long the way.

First off, I wanted a professional’s perspective on getting it right. I took some time recently to pick Cat’s brain - she’s a well seasoned maternity, family, and new baby photographer and has done dozens and dozens of maternity photoshoots over the years.

Here’s some of her best advice on getting the perfect maternity photos:

Using Props:  “I’m a huge fan and encourager of props, I think they can add so much to a photo session. I think the 2 most important props in a maternity session are your belly and the location. Props that I think are most successful are signage, baby props especially items with the name of the baby, etc. I recommend getting really creative with these and looking to etsy as well as magazines and websites for ideas and inspiration. One website that I look to for inspiration is they have some really great examples of some outside the box sessions.”

Examples: Brent and I used this same little chalkboard at both our baby’s maternity shoots. It was a fun way to personalize each one while keeping a common theme and now I wonder - what other important life moments will this little chalkboard announce?

(photo by Julie Michelle)

(Photo by Cat Wilborne)

Finding Locations: “Location is just as important in photography as it is in real estate. I think the best advice here is to think about what you imagine yourself looking like in the photos. Are you outside in a field or by water? Did you have engagement photos done in a special location? Are you envisioning being in clothes or do you prefer a more sensual look? Are you surrounded by flowers and trees? Or architecture? Thinking about these things will help you narrow down locations with your photographer. Photographers are a great resource for suggesting locations because they typically shoot so many different places. The sky can really be the limit here and even old abandoned houses can make for really great locations.”

Examples: We wanted a bohemian easy-San Francisco feel for Everly’s photos and this old log cabin in Golden Gate Park was a perfect backdrop. For Arlo’s shoot, I wanted to capture the sweetness of a spring baby and these golden colored saplings were the perfect compliment to my outfit.

(Photo by Julie Michelle)

(Photo by Cat Wilborne)

Getting husbands comfortable in front of a camera: “Husbands are often a bit reluctant to be in photographs and the maternity session is really about mom. I think it’s so helpful when dad is around to make mom laugh and help carry around her stuff and just jump in for some photos here and there. That tends to take some of the pressure off dad and help make sure mom is comfortable.”


Cat nailed this advice - Brent is much more game for these shoots when he can act as more of a support person and then jump in for a few. These shoots both lasted a couple hours as we changed outfits and locations, and if he had to be in all of the pictures, I think he might have gone a bit crazy! I asked Brent what advice he’d give to other dads on handling these sort of photoshoots- his words ” Keep in mind that a happy wife is always a good thing! Also, promising dad a good meal and a cold beer at the end of it never hurt either.”

(Photo by Julie Michelle)

(Photo by Cat Wilborne)

The perfect time in pregnancy to schedule a maternity shoot: “I recommend about 7-8 months for maternity photos. You want to have pictures done while you’ve got a nice round belly, but haven’t gotten to that uncomfortable stage of being pregnant. Plus it’s just a lot harder to move around for pictures.”

A few other things I’ve learned along the way-

Finding the right thing to wear:  I’d recommend changing clothes at least once so that you have some variety in your shots. I’ve typically selected three different outfits and tried to match them to the locations where we planned to shoot.  I’d recommend selected your outfits in advance and looking at yourself from all sides in a full length mirror to make sure that they flatter your bump and your body.  Go for bright colors or solid black or whites - color adds a dramatic pop against any background and solid black and white can silhouette your shape beautifully. Don’t be afraid of accessories! A fun hat, scarf, pretty necklace or quirky shoes can be the perfect “pull it all together” piece.

Examples: You want outfits that make you feel pretty and confident but If you’re feeling a little sassy, don’t be afraid to go for something way outside the box too. I wanted to do a bare belly shot with Everly but wanted something unique. I sprung it on Brent that we were going to dress up like gypsies (He got major husband brownie points for playing along!) For Arlo’s shoot - I really wanted at least one look that was elegant and understated - so I went for a black maxi dress & paired it with a pretty vintage lace parasol.

(Photo by Julie Michelle)

(Photo by Cat Wilborne)

How to personalize the shoot for your family: As Cat mentioned earlier - props are a great way to personalize a shoot. Bringing along a little pair of shoes, a special stuffed animal, a family heirloom baby blanket or outfit to incorporate into your shots is a perfect way to make your photo shoot unique. Selecting locations that have a significant meaning can also be a great way to personalize - the spot where you and your partner fell in love, a favorite family park, or even your own front porch can be a great way to tie it all together.

Finding the perfect photographer: As with most things, a personal recommendation is one of the best ways to find the right photographer for your family. If you like someone’s professionally taken photos (on facebook or elsewhere) - it never hurts to ask who they used. Most cities also have baby/kid related magazine and papers that can offer you some photographer options. Be sure to check out their portfolio (If they don’t have an online sample of their work - be skeptical) and get all of their pricing info upfront. Including:

  • Average length of time for photoshoot.
  • How many photos can you expect to receive
  • How long will it take them to send you photos after the shoot
  • Will they give you access to all/some of the image files? If so, how - (zip file, mailed DVD, ftp download site, etc)
  • Is there a minimum on prints you must order?

If you’re short on funds but still want photos you have several options too:

  • If you live in a city with a design school, call them up and ask if they have any students looking to build their portfolios
  • Put the word out with family and friends that you’re looking to help out a budding photographer
  • Have a skill or business? (jewelry making, local restaurant, web design, etc) Offer a photographer a trade for their time. (It never hurts to ask - you’d be surprised how many folks are up for this option!)
  • Ask a friend! If you know someone with an eye for photography, ask if they’d be up for taking some photos of you.

Most importantly - relax, let yourself linger on the happiness of bringing a new life into the world and feel confident that you and your children will treasure these special photos for years to come.