Last year I wrote about why I wanted a maternity photo session. I wanted to follow up with some advice for those of you thinking of doing one as well.
I should start with a very simple statement to the first question I get asked – was it worth the money? YES. A thousand times over.
However, keep in mind you need to be prepared for something like this, especially if you’ve never done an individual shoot outside of your wedding. Maybe it’s a New England thing, but I know several friends that found themselves feeling very awkward and pose-y throughout their shoots. And it shows in their pictures.
Here are some tips on what I learned in doing my own shoot:
1. Find a photographer you will be comfortable with. This is essential to having a successful shoot. If you have a friend that takes photos, consider your relationship: is this person someone you feel completely comfortable with? is it someone you can goof around with? someone that understands pregnancy, babies, and the relationship you have with your growing baby?
If you don’t have an established relationship with a photographer, ask around for recommendations and do online searches. Wedding photographers often like maternity shoots because they are typically done on days that don’t conflict with weddings.
If you don’t have a previous relationship with your photographer, interview two or three over the phone. Once you have selected your favorite, set up a time to meet them beforehand. If possible, ask them come to you. A good photographer will get to know you by taking mental notes of who you are and where you live. Keep it casual. Let them get to know you.
I had a lot of offers and referrals from friends, but Chelle (Mello Rose Photography) is someone that I knew I felt completely comfortable with, that would do a wonderful job, someone I knew I could trust to offer a fresh perspective, and someone who would be able to capture me in a way that shows who I am.
2. Discuss the uncomfortable specifics: time and money. I know it’s uncomfortable, but you have to know ahead of time what is included in the price. You don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars only to find out afterwards that you have to spend twice that to get the digital rights.
Just as with any other business transaction, know your budget ahead of time and communicate that with the photographer. There is almost always a way to work within the limits of a budget. Just keep in mind: you get what you pay for.
Talk about when they can be available, what their preferable time of day is. Consider traffic patterns, especially in the city, and be respectful of their time as well.
3. Start a Pinterest Board and bring it with you to the shoot. Chelle and I both printed the boards we had made, compared notes, and used that as a take off for the shoot. It was really nice to have other ideas, to figure out what I did (and did not) want, and to get a sense of the feeling, space, and sentiment of this kind of session. Here is my maternity Pinterest board (which I still update regularly) to help you get started.
4. Think about why you want the photos and make sure you capture that on film. This seems kind of obvious, but as you can read from my previous post, it took a lot of self-reflection to understand why this was so important. Once I figured that out, it was a lot easier to decide which photos I knew I really wanted: photos with my husband, a family portrait with our dogs, and photos of my massive, awesome pregnant belly.
5. Make a checklist and use it. It sounds a little over the top, but when you are in the middle of a shoot, it’s easy to forget if you captured everything you wanted in the style/setting that you wanted it. Don’t miss out on what is most important. Write it down, refer back to the list, and take periodic breaks during your shoot to make sure you have everything that you wanted.
6. Pick a range of outfits. You want different colors and different tones for the shoot, especially for the photos that end up in black and white. Not only does it help to give you variety, it also give you a break in between sets of photos to grab some water, touch up your makeup, and decompress. I had 3 dresses and a really cute bra for the semi-nudes. Each of them had a different color, tone (dark versus light), and neckline which gave the photos overall a lot more variety.
7. Acquire props. I used a few different items that were important to me: a pair of booties my mom purchased at a small boutique at our annual family vacation destination, a handwoven white wrap that my friend sent me while working in India, and some wire letters that I handmade to say “baby” and “boy”. Ask your photographer what props he/she has and take the time to think about what you want.
8. Get comfortable: awkwardness shows. If you’re anything like me, the very idea of being the ONLY subject of a photo shoot is outside your comfort range. I look at photos all the time. I LOVE photography. And, yet, when I was in front of the camera I felt SO awkward. My eyes hurt from the bright sun, I didn’t know how to stand or pose, and it took a while to get comfortable in my own skin. If I had to do it again, I would definitely do some pre-shoot yoga, have a glass of wine, or find some other way to mello myself out. A relaxed person makes for a much better maternity subject than a wound-up awkward girl.
9. Start with your least favorite outfit. Let’s face it, no matter how much you try to relax before the shoot, the first few pictures are probably going to come out crappy. Knowing this, start with your least favorite outfit and work up to something more advanced, especially if you’re planning to do nudes.
10. Stay hydrated, and eat something. While we all like to believe that modeling is a gloriously easy job, it is actually a lot of work (have you seen those modeling shows?!). You have to think about each shot, what you want to get out of it, and how you look. It will drain you. And when you’re pregnant, you need a constant supply of water and food.
11. Take tips from your childhood photo sessions. Maybe I am the only one who experienced this, but every Christmas of my childhood involved an hour of sitting perfectly while my parents positioned my younger sisters. Throughout my maternity session I kept hearing “pick your chin up!” “look to the left!” “smile bigger!” “smile with your whole face!” Your posture does make a difference, so do yourself a favor and reposition, make micro-movements, and be conscious of your expression.
I hope these tips help you in your preparation for a maternity shoot!