Sunday, 3 April 2016

DIY maternity photography project

I was on the fence about having a photo session during my pregnancy. I felt okay about my body, but the kind of photography I like is very expensive...

I guess I could have asked Chris to help. However, his style of portrait photography is to wave the camera in my general direction and press the shutter. Glamourous! As a side note, he usually takes standing photographs of me with the camera at his eye level. There's nothing quite so stumpifying as a 165cm woman being photographed from 187cm high. It makes me wonder if he actually perceives me as a hobbit... Anyway, I digress.

So here were my requirements:

  • Photos, with make-up on and a flattering outfit;
  • Some photos where you could actually see my belly;
  • Ideally, nothing that would date too badly (with regard to poses, outfits, themes or post-processing);
  • Some that I would be happy to share or put on Facebook; and
  • Maybe some that would just be for me.

Quite basic. I wasn't fussed about locations, backdrops, fancy outfits, flowing swathes of chiffon, or anything else. It's not that I don't like those things, they just weren't mission critical. I didn't need Chris to be in the photos. In hindsight, the only photo of us together when I was pregnant is this one below! We're never in photos together. Whoops.

It's surprising how long you can make one glass of bubbly last when you're 8 weeks pregnant and keeping it on the down low!

The rest of this tutorial is a long post - if you just want to see maternity photos, they're at the bottom after the jump!

My restrictions:

  • Fatigue (I had problems with my thyroid, and I worked full-time until 37 weeks);
  • Money;
  • Space; and
  • Time (has to be done before the baby is out, but after you can tell that it isn't just a food baby).

The shoot was when I was 35 weeks pregnant. Luckily I didn't leave it much later, as Max was born at 38+5. I didn't have much of a bump until 28 weeks, so timing was important.

Space was one of the biggest problems. It was winter, so outside was not an option. Our house is very small (the main part of it is only 85m2, and it is three bedrooms!). When your house is that small, it's really difficult to find an uncluttered space, let alone one where you can set up a tripod and fit in the photo without using a fisheye lens! Our bedroom was the easiest place to "unclutter". It has a big west-facing window that lets in the cloud-filtered winter sun for most of the day.

My equipment:

  • DSLR camera;
  • Moderately wide angle lens (40mm);
  • A flash (which I didn't end up needing);
  • Cellphone with an app that connects to my camera (a wireless remote would do the trick);
  • Tidy bedroom;
  • My own maternity clothes; and
  • Lots of natural light and light-coloured surfaces.

My technique:

You can see that there is literally no space for the tripod other than where I put it! My whole room is only about 12m2.

I turned on all the bedside and overhead lights in the room, even though it was a bright/overcast afternoon. I was prepared to point the flash at the white ceiling for extra light, but I didn't need it. In general though, you want to have the biggest indirect light source that you can. Light coloured walls are perfect for bouncing light off. Consider increasing the ISO if you don't have a great light source - the slight softness of higher ISO can reduce the look of minor skin issues for portraits.

The tripod is the green circle. There's only one window, which faces west to the afternoon sun. It's a squeezy master bedroom for sure!

Firstly, I tidied the room and used the lightest linens that I own. Then I had a shower and tidied myself! This step is important - if you want to do photos with less/no clothes, do them first. Marks from elastic waistbands or bras won't look nice, so it's better to add more clothes as you go.

I set up the camera connection with my phone. If you have a wireless remote, that will work too. Set the shutter to a 3s delay. My camera has two useful features - a screen that can flip to face forward, and a phone app that lets you see through the lens. So I could line myself up, check what it looks like, press the shutter, and hide or drop the remote.

Take far more photos than you need. Experiment! Try poses that you've seen and admired elsewhere. Be aware that the most "model-ly" poses feel more awkward than they look. Push your jaw out, throw your shoulders back, thrust that belly forward, and so on. Do some smiling, some not. Face the camera, get a side profile. Just the belly, just the face, full body, curled up in a ball, holding some baby clothes... the possibilities are endless.

With regard to post-processing, do whatever you are comfortable with. I had very flattering lighting, so aside from some colour correction and cropping, there wasn't much to be done. If you have skin issues that you want to minimise, black and white is a simple place to start - you don't need extensive Photoshop unless that's something you want to spend time on!

I've added some of my favourite photos from my DIY maternity shoot below. Please feel free to ask questions!

The room is so small that it was hard not to crop off any limbs. Leaving off a hand or cutting yourself off at the knees can make your photos look a little strange. Black and white photos can be quite forgiving - but make sure there is plenty of contrast between the subject and the background or the photo will be very blah.

Sometimes limb cropping is effectively unavoidable - just be aware of it. In this case, I made sure some of the bed was visible at the bottom of the frame to make the crop look more natural.

You can also choose to use cropping creatively. The composition of this photo is not perfect, but the pose is natural looking and the contrasting colours are attractive.

Extreme cropping can bring attention to a particular detail. In this case, it's my giant abdomen! To think, I grew significantly more in the following three weeks (and gave birth early to a 3.9kg baby)...


  1. You did a fantastic job of these photos! I like that you made the most of the resources you had to hand because it makes the photos both special and natural at the same time.

    Katie @ Katie Writes Stuff

    1. Thanks Katie! I'm thinking now that I should do a follow up series of photos with Max and Chris, but in the same location. I searched for so many tutorials before I did my photos - but none of them suited. They were all outside, or in a huge beautiful well-decorated house, or had husbands who were excellent photographers... so I hope that some other lady in a tiny awkward house might find this helpful one day :-)

  2. How beautiful - thks for sharing. And I know you and DH are over the moon with your son. Congrats1

    1. Thanks for reading! Yes, we are so lucky and proud to be parents to our sweet boy.


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