Maternity Photography: How to Photograph Pregnant Women

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Maternity Photography: How to Photograph Pregnant Women


This post is by guest blogger Pascale Wowak.  She is a professional photographer who specializes in natural light portraiture. She has been operating her own successful business for the past four years. She places a special emphasis on capturing TRUE LIFE imagery that accurately reflects the spirit and personalities of the people she is photographing. She is particularly adept at capturing pregnancy and newborn imagery.

Her greatest pleasure is getting to watch her clients and their children grow and evolve as a family unit; from blushing bride to glowing mama to be to exuberant (but exhausted) new mom! Pascale prefers to use natural light and brings her reflector along for an added boost at every shoot.


Capturing the interactions and bond that naturally occurs within a family unit is much more important to her than trying to strictly pose a shot. She has creative and fun ideas that she implements into every shoot but then lets the situation and interactions dictate the end result. Ultimately, it is the intimate and playful relationship between Pascale and her subjects that results in the images seen here and on her website.

Pascale also is author of the book “Getting started in the Photography Business from Head to Toe.” This 80 page full color book covers the basics of digital photography in simple, easy to understand language. She covers everything from shutter speed, aperture, ISO to focal length. She also covers such topics as all the steps she took to launch her successful photography business as well as tips on juggling motherhood and running your own business. She delves into tricks of the trade for photographing pregnancy and newborns, including little known secrets that will save you time and money!


“Images of Maternity” Blog Post:

Hello Readers of MCP ACTIONS! I’m delighted and honored to be able to guest post here for Jodi and share some knowledge and experience with all you wonderful photographers out there! Make sure to leave a comment with your thoughts or questions.  I will stop by and answer these as I have time.

My blog post today is about Maternity Imagery. We all know that a woman is absolutely amazing while in the process of creating life. That pregnancy glow is REAL! That said, there are aspects of being pregnant that can put a damper on how a woman feels about herself and her body when she is “with child.” I personally believe that a woman is at her absolute MOST gorgeous, stunning, amazing and empowered when she is pregnant. I take that inherent belief with me to every maternity shoot I do and I tend to think my conviction that this woman is INCREDIBLE just sorta rubs off on her, even if she is feeling less than sexy, glowing, wonderful at that time in her pregnancy. As it turns out, pregnancy and newborn imagery are my absolute favorite stages to shoot. My excitement is probably palpable. I’m fairly certain that my subjects would sense that from me even if I didn’t open my mouth.

But, I’m a talker, so I also let them know how much I love this particular stage and how magical it all is to me. I think being able to share with them how impressed I am with this stage in their lives and the mechanics of what that woman’s body is doing in there just helps get them all excited about me capturing it all on film. Of course, if I weren’t genuine about how I felt, that would also be obvious so don’t say anything you don’t mean! I happen to love it and I think my images really showcase just how enthralled with the pregnant body I am.


Before every shoot I talk to the mama to be about her own personal preferences and comfort zone in regards to how much “flesh” she wants to show. My clients run the full gamut from being totally covered up to completely nude. I am totally comfortable with either end of the spectrum as well as everything in between. By knowing beforehand what they are comfortable with I can start pre visualizing the shoot before we even get there. I really like to get a strong vibe for each client’s OWN vision of the shoot. I ask them what images of mine they are drawn to in order to get a feel for their personal sense of aesthetic and style. This helps me best achieve the results that I know will make THEM happy. It also very frequently happens that someone will say to me that they do not want any belly showing and by the end of the shoot they are practically naked, of their own accord! It’s all about making them comfortable and establishing TRUST. If your client knows she can trust you with her big pregnant belly and that you are going to make her look GOOD and accurately represent the wonders of what her body is doing she will be comfortable letting her body become a piece of art.


At the shoot itself, I gauge how each client is (more introverted or extroverted?) and go from there with my approach. I spend a great deal of time engaging the daddy to be since he has most likely been dragged there somewhat reluctantly and is really just looking forward to getting this over with. By the end of the shoot the guys are sometimes even MORE into it than their partner. That makes my day. I encourage lots of loving, demonstrative and tender moments between the dad and mom which I know the men appreciate. 🙂


In regards to the actual posing I have a few set “rules” I live by and then from there, it’s pretty much a free for all. My first rule is that I NEVER have a mom-to-be squat down, with her bottom resting on her heels or sitting on a low bench/seat. All that does is compress her thighs and make them look twice their normal size. It is VERY unflattering to do that. You basically never want to “compress” the human body. It’s all about ELONGATING it. I love to do pregnancy shots from above. It really helps showcase the belly and make mom look and feel gorgeous. It also eliminates any “double chin” issues. Throughout the shoot I am very aware about constantly telling the mom how utterly gorgeous she looks. The more I tell her this, the more she glows. Again, I honestly believe that a woman is at her most beautiful during this time so it comes from the heart. My clients know I don’t say anything I don’t actually mean.


I have no qualms about cutting off heads and just focusing on the belly. I love capturing every conceivable angle. I have women lie down on the ground, lean against fences, lay on their sides, you name it. The absolute most important factor is to get a feel for each mom’s belly and body and eventually you will start to intuitively know which pose is going to work for which woman. Every pregnant body is different. Like fingerprints, no two pregnant women will have the exact same body type or dimensions. Some women are still able to fold themselves into a pretzel at 8.5 months along thanks to daily yoga sessions. Everyone is different. Throughout the entire shoot I gauge what will work and what won’t work based on the person I am photographing. Essentially, each shoot is very much custom tailored to that particular woman and her body. It’s my close attention to details and being able to “read” people and get a good sense of each person that allows me to get the kind of images that are so perfect for THEM. There’s a synchronicity that is at work, an intimacy between the photographer and her subject that allows for the magic to happen.

vintage pink

And last, but not least, there’s the lighting conditions at hand. We all know you are going to get totally different shots if it’s a cloudy/overcast day versus a sunny day. You also know that silhouettes are not possible on a cloudy day but work brilliantly on a sunny day. On my way to the shoot I run over all the different possibilities based on the lighting conditions at hand. I use a large round reflector on practically EVERY single shoot I do. I am starting to really move away from flat lighting. Yes, it’s a sure thing and easy but it’s also just so “blah.” So, I am very aware of direction of light and how I want to use it to my advantage. I look for natural reflectors everywhere I go (ie: big white wall facing the sun etc….). I look for “framing” shots such as trees, doorways and windows. I look for pockets of reflected light such as overhangs and porches. I look for areas where I can stand and shoot down onto my subjects. I look for natural props or anything that is going to make my job easier or give my images a boost. I’m constantly scouring my location for new and interesting backdrops. I am always aware of where my light is coming from and how I can use it to my advantage. If I can’t have the light I want in the location I want, then I simply MAKE the light do what I want it to do with my reflector/diffuser (or flash if necessary). I call it manipulating the light, creating the shadows I want where I want them and creating the catchlights that I am so fond of.


Lastly, and this is something that has just recently happened for me, if I don’t instantly like what I am seeing in my viewfinder, I don’t take the picture. I pull back and say: “we’re not quite there yet” rather than just wasting everyone’s time on a pose/location/lighting situation that is not ideal. I have to look in my viewfinder and think “THAT’S IT!!!” right away or I don’t proceed. And if that means trying three or four different angles until I get it “just right” then so be it. If you really start to listen to your intuition and respect it for what it can sense, then you will soon be able to know right away if that shot is worth taking. You have to have confidence in your ability to visualize the shot and know right away if it is working or not.

bw maternity

Feel free to peruse my online portfolio for more examples of my work. The bottom line is that it takes ALOT of practice to get to a place where you are really having a good handle on maternity imagery. I still consider every shoot I do “practice” towards me getting better and better. So, get out there and practice. Don’t be afraid to keep trying different angles and poses until you find something that works for you. Keep pushing yourself by stretching those creative wings of yours as far as they will go.


I hope this was helpful! Feel free to post questions in the comment section here and I will try to stop by and answer them.

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  1. August 13, 2009 at 5:16 pm —

    luv luv luv your enthusiasm-AND-wonderful tips!!!! A million thanks!

  2. July 1, 2009 at 10:26 pm —

    thank you for your info

  3. Sherri
    June 4, 2009 at 10:18 pm —

    That was very helpful – I have my first maternity session next weekend !

  4. Jimmy Joza
    June 2, 2009 at 11:24 pm —

    I really appreciate the candid way in which you have shared your way of working and relating through photography. Your images truly reflect this. Although I am simply echoing what others have already voiced here, I wanted to also thank you for sharing.

    Peace and all good things,

    Jimmy Joza

  5. honey
    May 28, 2009 at 11:22 pm —

    Inspiring! Love the swirling of the first shot … tutorial anyone???

  6. May 28, 2009 at 7:33 am —


    Thankyou! This is really great advice and just in time too. My brother and SIL are about to have their first and I have never taken these kind of shots.

    Headed to check out your book!


  7. May 27, 2009 at 6:53 pm —

    Thanks Sheila!

  8. May 27, 2009 at 5:48 pm —

    I loved this article and the photos! I did my first pregnancy photo shoot last week ( and was having a hard time finding inspiring photos to draw from. Most of the photos I found all had the mom-to-be holding her tummy like a football (something that my client didn’t like). I find your photos refreshing.

    I have to agree on changing things up if you’re not seeing it through the viewfinder. That happened to me a couple of times during my shoot. I just decided that it wasn’t working and moved on until I was happy with what I saw through the viewfinder.

    I am looking forward to ordering your book.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. May 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm —

    The pleasure is all mine! 🙂

  10. May 27, 2009 at 3:58 pm —

    You’ve got it girl….great eye, images and great mind. I LOVE your work! Thanks so much for taking the time to ‘give back’….I know I’m speaking for a bunch of photographers when I say “we appreciate it”!

  11. May 27, 2009 at 3:29 pm —

    Hi Everyone! Thank you for all your comments, I hope this article was really helpful for you!
    Jennifer, yes, it cane be really hard to get the dad to loosen up. I have found that getting him in really close to mom and instructing her to “give him some lovin'” in a playful way really loosens them both up. I’ll usually follow that up with a sly “you can thank me later” comment directed at the dad and I always get a genuine response from that. If YOU are comfortable and at ease and having fun, I assure you that your clients will too. I’ve had people start out extremely stiff and uneasy and within minutes I have them laughing and being playful with me about the whole thing. If you come in with a light, playful, happy mood and approach, it will be contagious.
    As a reminder, for those interested, I did write a book for those new to the photography business where you can get a great deal more information not only on maternity shoots but also newborns, children and family etc… Jodi linked to it in the opening part of this post. It’s a really great book! ENJOY!

  12. Jennifer B
    May 27, 2009 at 2:21 pm —

    This was a great post, and SO helpful! I have done three maternity shoots so far, and the hardest for me has been getting dad more involved. I think I have felt more self-conscious than him at times! Are there any specific tips for making the father-to-be more comfortable?

  13. Flo
    May 27, 2009 at 10:55 am —

    Thanks as I am getting ready to do a maternity shoot this will be very helpful.

  14. May 27, 2009 at 10:28 am —

    Beautiful photos! I just shot my first big belly, and I love how the images came out. It was this couple’s second maternity shoot with me, they wanted to get all stages of her pregnancy:

  15. May 27, 2009 at 10:22 am —

    Love the article and shots. Beautiful images for sure. I know like was mentioned in the article about not shooting a shot for sake of shooting it when it doesn’t feel/look right I will say something like oh yeah just kidding was just checking your ability to follow directions…lol. It sometimes gets them not only to laugh but to relax…depending on how uptight they initially are I will do this in the beginning and dad who is usually the uptight one will relax a bit.

  16. Barb Ray
    May 27, 2009 at 10:21 am —

    Thanks Pascale!!! This is a very informative post and much appreciated!!!

  17. May 27, 2009 at 10:20 am —

    Thank you so much for this very informative post. I have my first maternity session this Saturday and I feel a little better prepared thanks to your post. You have amazing images!!!

  18. May 27, 2009 at 9:20 am —

    THANK YOU Pascale!! That was very informative and helpful and your images are beautiful!

  19. May 27, 2009 at 9:17 am —

    What a great informative post!!!I have only done one maternity to date.. this will be really helpful for my next session!! Thank you so much for sharing!

  20. May 27, 2009 at 9:15 am —

    Those are stunning shots, and so many great ideas! Thanks!

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Maternity Photography: How to Photograph Pregnant Women