Boise, ID photographer
Newborns • Families • Maternity • Couples • Education

Hannah Mann

Making the most of your session :: how to look and feel amazing in maternity photos

January 10, 2017

I’ve been wanting for a while to start blogging some tips for clients – brides and grooms, families, everyone – but thanks to a busy fall (seriously, it was wonderful and I appreciate you all more than you know!), I am just now finding myself with barely enough time to blog more. I have so many clients who have never had professional photos done before or who haven’t had them in years, but even if my clients do have photos done faithfully once or twice every year, I certainly don’t expect them to be the ones with all of the knowledge about how to put together the perfect photo wardrobe, what to do when your kids are going nuts during a session, how to feel comfortable in front of the camera, how to plan for and select the perfect prints and products, how to put together a wedding timeline and a family shot list, etc. Especially for brides and grooms – I mean, usually the goal is to only get married once (right??), so most couples have little or no experience planning a wedding! And guess what? That is completely fine! After all, it IS my job to not only take great photos, but to take great care of my clients and prepare them to have the best experience possible. 😉

So, that brings me here. Part one of a many part series covering some of my most frequently asked questions and other helpful tips, in order to give you peace of mind about your wedding or photo session. I’m not really sure what to call this series and I totally hate trying to come up with catchy (corny) names for things, so this series has no official name, but you’ll find plenty of helpful advice and any guides I publish over time in the blog category ‘advice + client guides’ (see the top of the blog post for this label, or check under the ‘archives’ menu at the top of the page). I’m keeping it simple over here!

And so, the first topic we’re going to cover is…. looking and feeling great in maternity photos. I’ll be doing separate posts on engagement, family, senior, and newborn session wardrobes, because they’re all different, and weddings will have plenty of posts of their own, but at the moment I am trying to get together my own wardrobe for my own maternity photos so that’s what we’ll start with!

First and foremost, I have to start with this: expectant mamas, I know many of you probably feel large, uncomfortable, and maybe kind of like a whale – or at least I’m guessing many of you do since that’s how I feel and how I’ve heard plenty of other women say they feel. In this culture of the fitness obsessed, six pack abs, and tiny skinny Instagram mommies who are in a bikini at two weeks postpartum looking more in shape than I’ve ever looked, let me just say, I totally get it. If you feel glowing and full of life and totally comfortable in your pregnant body, that’s wonderful, and I wish every pregnant mama could! But personally I’ve been thinking for days about what to wear for my photos, looking at everything in my closet hoping I don’t have to buy something new, and in the process reminding myself how I fit in so little, how much weight I’ve gained, how I want to hide certain parts of me that look way chubbier than I want them to, etc. Believe me, by baby #3, I really really get it! And going out in public and being subjected to the opinions of total strangers who think they have the right to comment on how small or large you are, how you look, etc.? Just makes it that much more wonderful, huh? 

Why am I going on about all of this? Because I want you to know that as someone who has struggled with insecurities about my pregnant body (or anything else you want to name, ha!), I know how to photograph yours. I know what to highlight, I know what to minimize. I know how to convey the beauty of a woman who is growing new life and giving so much of herself to another in this difficult but miraculous journey of pregnancy. Basically, I’m going to make you look fantastic. Whether you feel it or not, you’re going to look it. I promise! You already do, and I will portray your beautiful self in its absolute best light.

Okay, so now that you know you can trust me, because I’ve been there and done that pregnancy thing (three times now) and because I know how to show off how amazing you actually do look, there are still a few things you can do on your end to make your maternity session experience the best it can possibly be. 

  1. Wear something that makes you feel great. (Duh.) Maternity sessions are not the time to try to squeeze into something that doesn’t currently fit or flatter, or to just decide you’re going to work with what’s already in your closet even though you don’t really like it or feel good in it. If you don’t have something you feel great in, for goodness’ sake, just buy something! Your photos are an investment, in remembering this truly special time in your life, the effort and energy and everything else you’ve poured into growing a child, and the last weeks of the life in your family before it expanded. It’s really important that you treat your wardrobe choices as part of that investment. This does not mean that you have to buy something expensive or buy new outfits for your significant other or the entire family. Chances are that they already have something that will work great, and their bodies aren’t changing on a daily basis. So focus first on yourself and finding something you feel beautiful in, and the rest of the wardrobe will easily be planned around that.
  2. Wear a flowy dress. Okay, this ‘rule’ can totally be broken with amazing results. But in general, a flowy dress is going to look absolutely spectacular on a pregnant mama, and will be beautiful in photos as well. If you just love tight dresses and want to rock one, go ahead. Can’t part with your jeans? That’s fine. But for the light and airy and feminine look I love and specialize in, a flowy dress is going to serve you really well. And a big bonus? You don’t have to shop for one in the maternity section, which means you have a lot more options! From cheaper options like Forever XXI, TJ Maxx, and Charlotte Russe, to more moderate or expensive options like Free People, Anthropologie, Nordstrom Rack, Asos, and Urban Outfitters, you have tons of adorable options to make you feel fantastic. Also, it’s fine if your dress is a little tent-like and doesn’t hug your bump – I’ll pose to flatter it, and draw your dress in around that bump in the perfect way. Wearing something loose does NOT mean that you’ll look like a blimp! If you do go with something tight, a flowy kimono or open sweater over the top can look adorable. And if you love your jeans, a soft, loose feminine top will look amazing.
  3. Choose the right colors and patterns. In general, for all photos (not just maternity sessions), I recommend soft, neutral, or muted colors, and softer/smaller patterns. Bright colors and large/bold/graphic prints tend to distract from the subject rather than complement the subject. Of course, there is always a time and a place to break these rules, so if you’re really wanting something that it seems like I’ve recommended against, send me photos and let’s chat! I also usually encourage clients to wear lighter colors rather than darker colors, since I think they photograph so beautifully, but I happen to looooove wearing black and dark colors so I kind of break that rule myself all the time. 😉 
  4. Show off what you currently feel great about. Maybe your bump really is what you love to draw attention to. Or maybe you still feel great about your legs. Whatever it is, pick one thing that you love, and dress to enhance that. It doesn’t mean you need to show lots of skin (showing more skin does not make you look skinnier in photos – just like covering up does not make you look larger), but focusing on a feature you really do love can help you figure out what will make you feel great.
  5. Don’t compare or compete. I feel like from the time you get pregnant, it seems way too many people have an opinion on whether your bump is big or small, on whether you’ve gained too much or too little weight, how you’re carrying, what you should name your kid, how you should give birth, how you should parent, and the list goes on and on and on and on and on. Then add in Instagram (which I love in so many ways, but hate in a few) and Pinterest and the internet in general, and you’ve got insta-famous fit moms telling you how they’ve had the perfect pregnancy and avoided stretch marks and only gained 10lbs and popped right back post-birth and everything else. For your own sanity, shut those voices out, or you’ll go crazy. This whole motherhood thing is hard enough as it is! So don’t look at photos of other moms and feel like you need to hide a massive bump, or worry about your weight, or whatever. Your maternity session is for YOU and your family. That’s it. You’re going to look fantastic. And decades from now – gosh, even months from now – you won’t be remembering the voices you have to currently work to drown out, you’ll be staring at those photos with tears in your eyes thinking how your babies have grown up so fast, and how for all the difficulties of pregnancy it was truly so short and so worth it, and how that pregnant you looked so beautiful and so excited to meet your precious child. And the blessing it is to be able to carry a healthy baby, when so many women long for it and are unable to? That is one humbling thought to keep me grateful and focused on the immense good in this process, particularly when I’m feeling like an ungrateful whale who can’t tie my own shoes.
  6. Don’t forget hair + makeup. If you can budget it, getting professional makeup, or both hair and makeup, is wonderful! Makeup artists know just how to do their thing to enhance your features perfectly for photos – it’s totally different than doing everyday makeup! If you prefer natural, and want light or no makeup, go ahead and stick with what makes you feel beautiful and what is true to who you are! But if you are someone who likes getting done up for a special occasion, and if it will make you feel good, either hire a professional or look up tips specifically for doing makeup for photos, and have fun! Remember, if you choose to do your own makeup, and typically wear a moderate amount or less, makeup that seems heavy compared to normal will most likely not look heavy in photos at all. So don’t be afraid to go a little out of your comfort zone, and take a few iPhone snaps of yourself or something to see how it photographs! 
  7. It doesn’t have to be all about you and the bump – or it can be. If you want a maternity session with just yourself, I’m always game! One of my favorite maternity sessions, recently featured on 100 Layer Cakelet, was just the expectant mama, a simple white dress, and a pretty outdoor location. But often, my clients want to be less the center of attention, and the session is really a family session with a little extra focus on mom. Whatever way you would like to approach it, whatever you’re comfortable with, is perfect!
  8. Talk to me. As your photographer, I am seriously here to help you through this whole process. If you’ve got everything nailed down and don’t want or need input, that is totally fine! But if you do have questions, I’m here to answer them and guide you through your wardrobe planning, location selection, and everything else. If that means texting me photos from the dressing room, or sending me different outfit combinations you’re considering, or meeting me a few minutes early and bringing a couple of options to the session – any of that is totally fine, and I really enjoy being able to help out and make the process easier and less stressful! Don’t hesitate to reach out, even if it feels like you have a thousand questions. I love the planning as much as I love the photographing, and how every piece comes together to create a look to suit each individual.

Well, that’s it for part I of this series. I’m sure there are questions out there that I haven’t answered (and I purposefully haven’t gone much into coordinating family outfits yet, since that will be its own post), so if you have anything else I should add to this, let me know in the comments! 

Above all, pregnant mamas, know that you are gorgeous, and that that will shine through in your photos. So relax, go easy on yourself, ask for help if you need it, and let’s make some beautiful memories of one of the most fleeting stages of motherhood. 

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i'm hannah

I'm a photographer and educator based in Boise, ID, where I live with my favorite guy ever and our two boys + two girls.

Since founding my business in 2014, I have relentlessly honed my craft and the experience I offer to each client I work with. My commitment is to always deliver industry-leading artistry and quality. READ MORE...