How to Prepare for Your Maternity Photo Session


Maybe you are pregnant and trying to plan for your own photo session, or maybe you are a photographer looking to start shooting maternity sessions.  This post will help you prepare for a Maternity photo session.

As a mother of four, and as a photographer, I know a lot about Maternity Photography. I have shot plenty of maternity photo sessions and I have had my own maternity photographs taken as well. I think having  Maternity Photos taken is such a wonderful idea and here is why. Of course, it is an amazing way to document your pregnancy journey. And getting dressed up to have pretty pictures taken can be a lot of fun! But I think the number one reason that you should take maternity photographs is not for yourself, but for your unborn child.

Hands on Pregnant Belly

This child will be able to see how excited her whole family was to meet her.


Thats right! How many photographs do you have of your own mother pregnant with you? I don’t have a single one and I know how much I would love, love, love to have one. It is the beginning of your child’s life story and his or her first family photo. How amazing would be it to have a beautiful photograph of your mother, pregnant with you, that you could hang on your wall? Or treasure in the front page of your baby book?

Maternity Portrait

One day I think this child is really going to treasure this beautiful photograph of his or her mother.

My oldest daughter is 8 and she absolutely loves looking at the photos I have of her in my tummy. I didn’t even realize how sad I was that I didn’t have a photo of my own mother, pregnant with me, until I saw how much joy it gave my daughter. I realized what I was missing. So if you are on the fence about having maternity photographs taken, then I hope this swings you in favor of having them done.


So, the first thing that I recommend is deciding what style of maternity photographs you want. Everyone is different and has different ideas of what they think looks best. There are so many different kinds of maternity photo sessions you could have; at the beach, in the woods, on a city street, in your own home. Do you want a magical/etheral look to your photos (think flowers crowns and long, flowing maternity gowns). Or do you want a more traditional, family shoot? The options are endless and I could go on and on…

Pregnant woman at the beach

A beach maternity photo session is going to have a completely different look and feel than a more urban setting in the city.

I have worked with clients who really enjoyed using different props (think ultrasound pictures, chalk boards, baby shoes) and clients who prefer a more minimal approach to their photographs. Think about how you want your photographs to make you feel when you look at them. It’s up to you and what you like. A good photographer will work with you to achieve your goals.

Do your research

Pinterest is an amazing resource for exploring your unique style. Find maternity photographs that resonate with you and create a board that you can use as a reference or share with your photographer.

Be aware that some photographers might be sensitive to being told that you want your photographs to look like another photographer’s work. But I think a good photographer should be open and willing to work with you and want to truly understand your vision for your shoot. Actually, I prefer it when clients have photographs to show me of what they like. Then I can truly “see” what they want for their shoot. I can do my best at making their vision come true and infuse it with my own style of photography (they did hire me because they like my work after all). Something to consider when hiring your photographer!

On the flip side, I often have clients who have no idea what they want, but they know that they love my work and they trust that I will produce photographs that they will be happy with. When that happens I am always excited because they I can really unleash my creativity and shoot what I want. These are questions you might want to ask potential photographers you are looking to hire. Ideally, you want to find someone who is flexible and willing to work with your unique needs, but who can also take charge if you are undecided.


The next thing to consider is timing. I think one of the biggest regrets I hear women say about their maternity photos is that they had them taken too early. They wish they had waited until their belly was bigger. A large, round belly definitely makes for amazing maternity photographs. I find that right around 36 weeks is the best time to shoot. Your belly is definitely getting to max capacity but (hopefully) you still have some time before baby comes. It’s no fun to plan your shoot so late in your pregnancy and then surprise! Baby comes early!

Maternity Photo Session

This was shot very early in the pregnancy and you can see how much smaller the belly appears in the photo.

Another reason I don’t recommend scheduling your shoot too far past 36 weeks is because once your belly gets that big, you start to get more and more uncomfortable (sorry to be the bearer of bad news!). Posing for the camera can be a lot of fun, but it can also be exhausting, especially when you have that baby inside of you to haul around. I will frequently take photos of a pregnant momma sitting on the ground and it can be a lot of work for her to get up and down several times.


I always encourage my clients to come prepared. Posing for the camera can be a ton of fun. But when you are carrying around another person it can be exhausting. Your photographer may want to take some shots of you sitting or laying on the ground. Getting up and down over and over again can wear you out much more quickly than it would have pre baby.

Make sure you have snacks and water. That way you can stay hydrated and keep your energy up. Dress appropriately depending on the season in which you are shooting. You don’t want to be a sweaty mess in the summer, or freezing cold in the winter. And if it’s summer, bring your bug spray!

Bring something comfy to wear on the car ride home after your shoot. That maternity dress you bought is gorgeous, but I guarantee you will be excited to slip into a comfy pair of yoga pants when it is all said and done. 

Pregnant Woman in the forrest

I did this maternity photo session when I was pregnant with my third child. It was HOT HOT HOT and I was wading through tall grass and the bugs were intense. It was definitely worth the effort but I was glad I was prepared.


This brings me to my next topic. Location, Location, Location! Having been pregnant four times myself, I have done maternity photographs in a variety of locations including the beach, in a field in the summer, outdoors in the freezing cold in the middle of February, and finally indoors.

Each of these locations has its own set of pros and cons and I could probably write an entire blog post around locations. But when it comes to maternity photographs, I think that one of the most important factors to consider is your own comfort level and how private you want your photo session to be.

Let me give you an example… I did maternity pictures for a lovely friend who was in one of my birth classes with me. She had purchased this gorgeous, white, romantic maternity gown online. It was the kind that splits down the middle so that you can open it to reveal your stomach if you choose.

She definitely wanted outdoor photos and I had chosen a location that I thought would be perfect for what she wanted. It was a Sunday afternoon and I knew that the location wouldn’t be very crowded, but there might still be people about. Well once she got into her gown we both realized that it was very, very see through. You couldn’t tell on camera, but up close it was impossible not to notice.

I had planned to shoot a photo of her on this large rock outcropping and wouldn’t you know it there was a guy parked right next to it working on his computer. Now my friend was an amazing trooper and she didn’t let it bother her and we went to work and got an amazing shot of her.

Maternity Pictures

This sweet mamma was so brave and she did an amazing job!

Obviously, I don’t know if everyone would be as comfortable with that scenario as she was. I definitely learned a big lesson that day and I hope it helps you too. Think about how comfortable you are shooting in public, especially if you are planning to show a little skin. Do you require a very private outdoor location?  Or do you want to be completely relaxed and shoot in the comfort of your own home? If you want photos taken at the beach be prepared that there will probably be other people around.

When I did my shoot in the middle of February I was outside, barefoot, wrapped in a flimsy piece of fabric. To say I was freezing would be an understatement, but having that photograph was worth it to me. But thats just me! So definitely take the time to consider where you would like to have your maternity photo session and what level of privacy you are comfortable with.

Maternity Photo

This is me when I was pregnant with my fourth child. I was trying so hard not to shiver…it was soo soo cold!


Since we are on the topic of privacy and “being comfortable,” you definitely want to think about how revealing you want your photographs to be. A good, professional photographer is going to be happy shooting you completely naked or fully clothed. In my opinion, a pregnant woman is such a beautiful thing and her body should celebrated for all the amazing work it does to create life.

Maternity Photo Session

You may want to photograph intimate moments in a more private setting.

So, if you feel like stripping down to your birthday suit then I think you should go for it. Your body is amazing, it grew another human life and then it gave birth to that life. I love having photographs to remember the amazing process I went through.

On the other hand, if that just isn’t your style, or you just aren’t comfortable bearing it all in front of a stranger then don’t do it. You won’t be comfortable, you won’t be able to relax, and it will show in your photos. And you might be limiting the number of people you feel comfortable sharing your photos with! So just do you…but know that anything is acceptable and finding a good photographer who is flexible is key!


So, you know you want to do maternity photographs, now you have to decide who you want in them. Do you want to have your pictures taken alone or with your significant other? Do you want to include any older children you might have?

Maternity Photo Session

A Maternity Photo Session can be a very special moment for a couple.

I do wish that I had more photographs of myself with my other children when I was pregnant. It gives all the kids a time stamp and helps them understand how old they were when their siblings were born. Each of my children always ask me how old they were when so and so was born. And I wish I had this visual record to show them.

I’m always the one taking the pictures and I have very few photographs of me pregnant together with my older children. That being said, I will say that a solo (or just a couples) maternity shoot is much calmer and more relaxing than ones that include small children.

It can be overwhelming to spend the day getting everyone ready for a photoshoot and then trying to get them all to take pictures. Sometimes a solo shoot (or even just with your significant other) is a great way to make some special time just for yourself and your new baby. You can always take candid photos of yourself with the baby’s siblings later. You need to think about what is going to work best for you and your growing family.

Maternity Photo Session

This mother of five decided to take a day just for herself and her new baby. We had so much fun!


Now for the fun part! What are you going to wear? A lot of this is going to depend on the style of shoot that you chose in step one. Are you going for something more ethereal? Do you want something more traditional? I am going to answer this question in two parts.

Maternity Gowns

Maternity dresses have come a long way. You are no longer limited to the traditional maternity dress and there are now a plethora of beautiful maternity gowns available on the internet. There are gowns with long flowing trains, there are gowns that split down the middle so that you can easily reveal your belly. They come in long sleeve, short sleeve, cold shoulder, strapless…the options are endless. I definitely think that if you are going for more ethereal maternity photographs, then a maternity gown is the way to go. The long, flowing nature of the dress creates a surreal atmosphere.

Traditional Clothing

If the you have decided that you want your maternity photos to be more traditional and you are opting to wear everyday clothing, this is what I suggest.

  • Wear something form fitting that is going to hug your belly. You want to show it off! 
  • Make sure it is comfortable! It is extremely important that you are as comfortable as possible during your photo session. If you have chosen something that is too tight, or the straps don’t fit, or it pinches you the wrong way. then you will be uncomfortable and it might show in your photos. We all know that wincing face a person makes when they are uncomfortable. You don’t want that. 
  • If you decide that you are going to show your bare belly then you want to be sure you don’t wear anything with tight elastic bands around your stomach because they will leave a mark. 
  • Please do not wear stripes. I do not recommend that anyone wear stripes (especially large stripes) in any photos because they can be very, very distracting. They can be even worse across a large pregnant belly. A good photograph brings the viewer’s eye to the subject’s face immediately. So please, whatever you do, don’t wear stripes. 

For a more in depth explanation on how to plan your outfit for your maternity session please read my post here. It goes through all the steps of putting together the perfect outfit for any type of photo session.


So there you have it! Now you know what to expect when you are expecting to take Maternity Photographs! Remember:

  • Decide what style you want for your photographs.
  • Timing is Key! Right around 36 weeks.
  • Come Prepared! Do as much as you can to ensure you are comfortable.
  • Location! What kind of location is going to go well with the style you chose? How comfortable are you going to be shooting there?
  • How Revealing do you want your photographs to be? Do you want to shoot in your birthday suit? Maybe show your bare belly? Or is it turtle necks and long pants? Whatever works best for you!
  • Who is going to be in your photos? Is it just going to be you (and the baby in your belly of course) or do you want your significant other, or older siblings in the photos as well?
  • What are you going to wear? Think about what type of clothing is going to work well with your overall style that you have selected.

I hope this post helps you prepare for your own maternity photo session. You should now have a better idea of what to expect and how to plan for a successful shoot! I wish you the best of luck in your photos and with your sweet little newborn!

XO, Ruth

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Hi! I'm Ruth!

Welcome to my blog where I share all things photography related. I am a fine art photographer and photography instructor and mentor. I am also the mother to five wild little children who I homeschool. We love to explore nature while I take photographs along the way!

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