Please can I have some tips for photographing pregnant women?
Q. Please can I have some tips for photographing pregnant women? I find it really difficult to handle these photo shoots – Alexandrina Satnoianu, Romania
A. My personal view is that the pictures should be a mixture of arty, fun and sensitive. They need to be a celebration of pregnancy – and you can cover all sorts of things in one shoot…
- Fun, laughing, happy shots running down a beach with their partner and other children, if they have them.
- Detail shots of the bump with her hands on it, plus hands of partner and kids too (with and without her face in the shots).
- Artistic shots in black and white, showing the shape of her bump.
The best pregnancy pictures I’ve ever seen are taken by Pascale Wowak who lives in California. She has the most amazing rapport with her clients and her pregnancy images are second to none, in my opinion. Check out her website and click on, “Portfolio” then ‘Duo” to find her pregnancy shots.
She incorporates beautiful, fun images together with artistic detail shots, and creates a sensitive, happy portfolio which really tells a story – I think she does it perfectly! If I was pregnant I know who I’d call!
Here are some of her images, which she is happy to share with you.
10 TIPS for shooting pregnant women
Its most important to make people feel at ease, as in any photo shoot, but you need to be particularly sensitive here, because she is likely to be nervous about baring a lot of flesh at some point in the shoot!
- Start by shooting some pictures fully clothed to help her relax – this will really make a difference later on, as she starts to realise it’s an enjoyable experience.
- Then take off some layers and perhaps show the bump while still fully dressed.
- Make sure she is warm when you do more semi-naked shots, because goose bumps do not look good on photos!
- Shooting with her partner and other children takes the pressure off her, and provides some natural interactive shots – try running down a beach, and shooting pictures which you would shoot even if she weren’t pregnant.
- Once you’ve established a rapport with your client and she’s happy to take more clothes off, try doing some shots which lookarty – shooting sections of her and looking at shapes, and trying out different angles.
- I also like to shoot pictures of her being practically naked but positioning her as if she is in lingerie – for many women this is a time in their lives when they have big boobs which they may not normally have 😉 and they love to show them off! Many people love sexy pictures of themselves pregnant, but they will soon tell you if they don’t want that. (Unfortunately I can’t show you these naked shots here as they are too personal to the clients – you’ll just have to use your imagination – think beautiful artistic nude or lingerie advert, never tacky!)
- Try asking her to wear a robe for the semi naked shots, and drape it around her body to emphasise the shape of the bump, and cover any areas she doesn’t want to see.
- A white duvet can be really useful to reflect light and even out the background – and it’s also very helpful to pull up bits of the duvet to slim areas of the body, such as thighs etc., unless she is toned and very slim, but most people put on weight in these areas when they are pregnant, so will appreciate you doing this.
- Think of this as a shoot like any other shoot, include all the fun shots you usually do, but with the added focus on the bump.
- Create a storybook feel, using lots of different backgrounds, clothes and angles.
Extra tips from Pascale
- Timing: pick the optimal “range” for most women, which is somewhere between 28-32 weeks. The trick is to get them when they are not so far into the pregnancy that they are “done” with being pregnant and feel tired/pudgy/achy etc. Bear in mind that every woman’s body is different. Generally speaking, the end of the second trimester is the ideal time for a pregnancy shoot.
- Ask her what she wants to achieve – is this a shoot with her alone? Her and her partner? Partner and kids? What is the MAIN focus of the shoot? Is it her desire that you focus mainly on her pregnancy or rather the interaction of the entire family, or a little of both? Have your client look over your portfolio and tell you which images of yours she is drawn to and has an emotional connection to.
- Ask her to bring many different outfit options to the shoot. She may have a favorite piece that she wants to wear but it may not photograph well or flatter her body in the way you’d like to capture. She may realize she can’t move freely in a certain outfit and do the type of imagery you had previously discussed. You don’t want to find yourself restricted by the clothing options so bring plenty of choices and work together to find the best combos.
- Be very very very astute and aware of your client’s sense of body image right now. Every woman, pregnant or not, has parts of her body that she wants to highlight and parts she would rather not be accentuated. Be aware of this and position her in such a way as to bring out her best features. Posing is absolutely CRITICAL in maternity imagery. Angling the body correctly can bring out a lovely S curve. Shooting from above and trying out different approaches and angles can create very interesting and artistic imagery that is different from the usual ho-hum stuff you see out there. You may have to ask your client to hold some not-so-comfortable positions for a few seconds, so be aware that this is not comfortable for her and get the shot quickly. Don’t do anything that would cause strain, but don’t be shy to try different poses. Every client is going to have different comfort levels with regard to partial nudity. Experiment. I have found that pregnant woman are absolutely more than willing to go along with any vision/ideas you want to try out. Let your imagination run free!
- The more you encourage and flatter your client throughout the shoot the more she will relax and loosen up. Be genuine. Pregnant woman are TRULY the most beautiful on the planet. When you’ve taken a really magical image, show it to her on your camera, right then and there. It will show her what you are seeing and she will realize how amazing she looks and how good a job you are doing. This will create more trust and help boost her confidence which only results in better imagery as the shoot progresses. Be flattering and kind and patient and excited about the shoot. This is a very special time for her. This also makes the point of trying to always get your shots as close to perfect in camera as you can. It takes great confidence in your ability and skills to show an unedited image to a client on the spot. This is what commercial photographers have to do and it’s my approach to photography at all times whether I am doing commercial work or portraiture. DO IT RIGHT in camera. Make her look amazing and show her how amazing she looks and she will let you do your thing and the more creative and artistic freedom you are given by your client the more magic you two can make together!
Note from Annabel: Pascale, I totally agree with you, and thank you so much for sharing your stunning images and very helpful tips!