Have you ever had that moment when you first start a session and your mind goes completely blank? You can’t remember any of the poses you had planned and you feel lost as you try to guide your subjects in front of the camera?
After seven years of photographing people, I still have those moments! But you don’t need to succumb to panic with every session. Instead, you can create a simple posing workflow that allows you to have go-to poses as you work through your sessions.
As a maternity photographer, I have developed five simple poses to prevent myself from getting stuck midsession. And you can use them too! They easily flow into one another and will give you variety in your galleries that both you and your clients will love.
Face the belly straight toward the camera
We all know that sweet baby bump is going to be the star of the show in any maternity session. But we still want mom to look her best while capturing her belly from every angle.
Start by asking mom to stand with her weight on one leg and then bend her knee slightly. Then have her move the bent knee over in front of the other knee. This will create a natural curve in her body that is flattering and womanly.
This is a great pose to start with because it is so versatile. It works against any backdrop and in any type of clothing. You can get three shots from this single pose: full body, three quarters (frame her from the knees up), and close up ( just the belly).
Pro tip: To prevent mom from looking wider than she really is, have her slightly lift her arms from her sides. This opens up the space between her arms and her waist to help define her shape rather than allowing her arms and torso to melt together.
Belly from the side
Photographing that baby bump from the side allows you to really capture the perfect shape of mom’s transforming body.
To capture this, have mom turn sideways and bend the knee that is closest to the camera. Then have her place both hands under her belly to frame it. Then you could have her place the hand that is closest to the camera under the belly and the other hand on top of the belly. Finally, you can shoot this alone or have mom’s significant other stand behind her with arms wrapped around her.
These hand positions combined with the various compositions you can use in this pose allow you to get a lot of variety with minimal adjustments.
Pro tip: When asking mom to look at her belly, have her look slightly down on the ground about two feet in front her. This will elongate the neck and avoid a double chin. This is important to do when mom’s face is posed away from the camera because more of her neck is showing.
Light can make or break a shot. But in maternity photography, I find that the light can do more than simply dictate your camera settings. Instead, light can set the mood for the session.
My favorite light for maternity photos is backlight. The dreamy haze and bright, blown-out backgrounds of backlight match the hopefulness and joy of a maternity session.
Clickin Moms member exclusive tutorial: Tips for beautiful backlight
To work with backlight, place mom in front of a large window and expose for mom’s skin. This will ensure that she is properly exposed while the window appears white behind her.
If you are outside, position mom with the sun behind her and expose for her skin. Based on your position and camera settings, you can get a rim of golden light around her, a haze of orange sunlight throughout the frame, or even a sunburst emerging from the background.
Avoid asking mom to look at the camera with her eyes open unless you have a reflector or a wall bouncing light back into moms eyes to see those catchlights.
Using diffuser fabric over the window will help create a softer, dreamy look.
Pro tip: Using diffuser fabric over the window will help create a softer, dreamy look.
Expecting moms work hard! It’s nice to let her put her feet up during a session and reclining shots add some beautiful variety to a final gallery.
Try having mom laying on one side and slightly bend her knees towards the camera. Ask her to place one hand on her belly.On a sofa, she can use the armrest to lean against and support herself. However, this pose can also be done on a bed or outside on the ground by using the other hand/arm to support her.
You can shoot this directly head on and at an angle from mom’s perspective to get variety from a singular pose.
Pro tip: Pay attention to which side of the face that moms hair is parted on. Have her sit so that the part side is the closest to the camera. This will help keep her hair from falling in front of her face.
I always add mom’s partner into each pose and work hard to create a sense of connection with both mom and baby through my direction.
For example, when mom is sideways to the camera I will have dad face her or stand behind her and wrap his hands around her.
Another pose I will create with the two of them is the v-shape pose. I ask them to start off by facing each other belly to belly. Then I have them touch hips and shoulders that are farthest from the camera and open up the shoulders and hips that are closest to the camera. This creates a “v-shape.”
Use minor variations in each pose
Many moms are feeling pretty uncomfortable by the time they have their maternity session. No one wants to do a lot of walking around when their ankles are swollen!
Using the same pose and same location with subtle changes will allow you to capture a full gallery without needing to wear mom out with wardrobe and location changes every five minutes.
Use the above 5 poses and then add these subtle changes to create a variety of looks for your clients:
Direct mom’s eyes and hands
With each pose, give directions to change things up by changing where mom looks and places her hands. Asking mom to look at the camera, then look at her belly, then close her eyes gives you three shots without her moving a muscle!
Then have her move both hands to the bottom of her belly, move one hand on top of the belly/one hand under the belly, look to the side, turn her chin to one side and have her sniff her shoulder (but keep that chin slightly pushed out). All of these tiny variations will create new photos with new emotions that will help you capture all of the love and excitement of expecting a baby.
Have siblings and pets going the fun
Just like it is a good idea to get mom’s partner in on action, be sure to get everyone in the family captured, too! Kids can hug the belly, kiss the belly, stand or sit next to mom and hug her arm. A toddler can sit on top of mom’s belly facing toward her.
And the furry family members count, too! Have mom bend down to kiss her pup or encourage the cat to come over to the sofa for a reclining shot. These are often the most unforgettable shots of the whole session!
Add props or change outfits
Simplicity is great in a maternity session, but if mom is game for changing outfits then by all means let her! It can be really fun to get her in a flowing gown and a pair of jeans to show more sides of her personality. Keep in mind that asking mom to change outfits too many times can wear her out. I recommend keeping it to 1-2 outfits.
If outfit changes seem too overwhelming, try adding easy props to the mix to add some variety. A blanket, floral crown, or even one of baby’s outfits can be sweet without distracting from mom or her bump.
Don’t be afraid to try something new
Clients come to us because they love what they see in our portfolios. It’s important to give them some of what they’ve seen from us in the past. However, I always try think of one new pose to try out at the end of the session. I leave it for the end to make sure that I have created a good representation of my work for the client’s gallery.
Doing this will allow you to explore your creative side without running out of time to create a full gallery for your clients.
Next time you have a beautiful expectant mom in front of your camera, remember to keep it simple and maximize every pose. Having a plan will keep you from getting distracted or overwhelmed and will ensure that you and your clients get the results you want.