11 Pro-Level Tips for a DIY Maternity Shoot
How to DIY a Maternity Photo Shoot Like a Pro
December 29, 2020

How to DIY a Maternity Photo Shoot Like a Pro

How to DIY a Maternity Photo Shoot Like a Pro.
Photo by @msvaniarios
How to DIY a Maternity Photo Shoot Like a Pro

A maternity photo shoot is something plenty of pregnant people look forward to—the chance to show off your bump (and any pregnancy glow you might have going on) after months of hard work can feel really rewarding. And the photos make for an exciting pregnancy announcement, too.

But with a photo shoot comes a professional photographer…and a professional price. Whether you’re trying to keep costs down or you’re planning your photo shoot during the pandemic, hiring a professional photographer might not be in the cards for you.

But that doesn’t mean you have to skip the shoot! Even if you don’t have a professional camera, if you have a phone or tablet with a camera, you can DIY your maternity photos (for free) and make them look like you paid a lot of money for them.

We talked with Babylist’s own Maddie Eisenhart, who has worked as a professional wedding, family and portrait photographer for 10 years, and gathered her top photography tips so you can shoot your own maternity photos with little to no help and little to no cost.

In general, how would someone do their own photo shoot if they’re by themselves?

One of the best things you can invest in for DIY photos is a small cell phone tripod. You can get them for around $20-$30 on Amazon and most of them come with a wireless remote that lets you snap the photo from far away. For outdoor photos, a flexible tripod can be really handy because it lets you wrap the legs around objects, like tree limbs or fence posts.

If you are going to use a tripod, you can basically get one setup with one angle and then just move your body around a bit. Position your tripod so that you can move your body around (close up, far away) to get different angles. If you constantly have to reposition the tripod, it’s going to take forever and probably get frustrating.

My recommendation for the most natural photos is to use the remote and set your phone to timer mode. That way you can get into position, click the button, and still have a few seconds before the shutter releases.

Is an assistant (like a partner or a friend) really necessary for a DIY photo shoot?

It is 1,000x easier to do DIY photos if you have someone else taking the pictures. Your best bet is to ask your most Instagram-obsessed friend to help out. Pick someone one who is going to be your best “Instagram Husband” equivalent.

If you have a helper and want the effect of a full maternity shoot, have them shoot lots of different angles of the same scene. Far away, close up, just your belly, from above, from the side, etc. It will look like you did a lot, when really you just had your helper moving their feet.

How do you DIY an outdoor shoot?

The two most important factors for good photos are lighting and location. When you’re taking photos outdoors, look for open shade (that’s when it’s generally bright outside, but the sun isn’t shining directly on your backdrop. Under a tree or in front of a shaded wall are tried-and-true standbys for open shade.

But if you want a wide open image in the great outdoors, just time your photos for the “golden hour” (that’s the first hour after sunrise or the last hour before sunset). Without the harsh glare of the sun, you can take pictures pretty much anywhere, and the golden glow will make them look professional.

One pro tip: If you don’t have the option to shoot in golden hour and it’s too bright outside, put your body directly in front of the sun. It’ll block the harsh rays and give you a nice glow.

So location is super important. But how do you decide on the best location?

Simple is often better! Cool lighting and epic backdrops might look amazing in professional photos, but they can be frustrating to work with if you’re not a pro yourself. Often the best photos will come from a simple backdrop (like a colorful wall in your neighborhood or just the comfort of your own bed) where you and your bump can really shine.

How does lighting come into play with taking photos, and how can you make sure you’re getting the best lighting?

Lighting is probably even more important than location for good photos. If you’re shooting indoors, find a bright room with a decent amount of window light and turn off any overhead lights or floor lamps. The warmth cast by overhead lighting can make your photos look orange. Then play around until you find a spot that has enough light. Depending on where you are in proximity to the window and how much light is in the room, you can end up with bright and airy photos or cool moody ones.

DIY-photo-shoot-3-resize

(Photo credit: Maddie Eisenhart)

For both indoor and outdoor images, there are a lot of beautiful maternity photos that are backlit (when the light is behind the subject). You can still do that with DIY photos, but phones and cameras on auto mode might have a harder time figuring out how to light them. If your pictures are coming out dark, try increasing brightness before you take the photo or opt for a non-backlit photo.

What should you wear for DIY maternity photos?

Unless you feel really comfortable with your camera, you generally want to avoid all white or all black outfits (they can be hard to photograph in challenging lighting). The other rule is to avoid any really small patterns (especially pinstripes) as they tend to warp on screen. Otherwise, have fun with your outfits. Tight fitted clothing is more likely to show off your bump.

And if you’re going to wear makeup, apply about 20% more than you would in real life, like a slightly heavier foundation than you might normally wear, or maybe a more dramatic eyeshadow. But it’s really dependent on your baseline. If you’re not a makeup person at all, you might wear a tinted moisturizer and some Burt’s Bees lip gloss. Photos tend to downplay makeup, so the extra will make up the difference.

What poses do photographers usually rely on for natural-looking photos that parents can easily replicate at home?

For a basic stand-and-pose picture, put your hands on top and bottom of your bump if you want it to stand out and pose with your bump to the side instead of straight-on. Bending a knee or shifting your hip can also help make the pose look a little more natural. (There’s a saying in photography that if you have a body part, bend it!)

Otherwise, movement is your friend when it comes to natural-looking photos. If you have someone helping you take pictures, practice walking slowly towards them, making eye contact with the camera and then looking away. If you’re taking photos with your partner or your children, focus on each other instead of the camera. And get creative with your body. If standing and posing feels weird, try sitting or lying on your bed and shooting from above.

DIY-photo-shoot-1 (Photo credit: Maddie Eisenhart)

About Babylist

Looking for the best items for your growing family? Add all your favorite baby products to ONE registry with Babylist.

Have you seen any maternity shoot themes trending lately? What themes can you suggest for those who want to keep things simple but still look great (and Instagrammable)?

If you’re doing your own photos (or having a partner help), the simpler the better. Find a clean backdrop that’s not too busy (a nice wall, outdoors in nature, or somewhere in your own home that isn’t too cluttered. Beds work really well for this).

Though if you’re feeling ambitious, the milk bath trend is not too difficult to replicate. All you need is a bathtub, some milk and fresh cut flowers. Though you should only try this in a bathroom with a decent amount of window light and with a helper to take the photos. The last thing you want is for your camera to slip off a tripod and into the bathtub!

Any advice on including props?

Props work best when they serve a purpose. A clever letter board or a pair of baby shoes can give your hands something to do and add some visual interest to your photos (especially as a close-up). Or you can also use props to give you a distraction for more natural looking photos.

Sometimes posing and looking at the camera can feel awkward, but having an activity—like throwing confetti or looking down at a set of letter balloons—makes it easier to get a natural shot. Just remember that if you’re taking the photos yourself (aka using a timer or remote) you’ll need at least one hand free to press the shutter button.

How can you do DIY maternity photos with kids and/or pets?

The less posed, the better when it comes to kids and pets. For small children, it can help to give them an activity or direction (kiss mama’s belly, talk to the baby, sing the baby a song, etc).

DIY-photo-shoot-2-resize

(Photo credit: Maddie Eisenhart)

And manage your expectations around how long they’ll participate. Get your photo all set up, and ask your little one to join in only when you’re ready to hit that shutter button. Then expect them to lose interest after a minute or so. If your phone or camera has burst mode, use it! You’ll have a better chance of getting one solid photo if you take 50 rapid fire in a row!

If you want to involve your kids or pets, they probably will want to be involved if there is something exciting going on that they aren’t part of. But if you don’t want your kid to be part of your photo shoot, then find a way for them to be somewhere else so that you don’t have to play toddler wrangler and model. Otherwise half your photos might involve a three-year-old wielding a wiffle bat (just me?).

What are your favorite photo editing phone apps or computer software that are fairly easy to use (i.e. parents won’t have to spend a ton of time working with)?

Editing photos on your phone is easier than it’s ever been! (And the results are surprisingly high quality.) VSCO, A Color Story and Lightroom Mobile are all available on Android or Apple and are really solid options for quick and easy editing. VSCO is great for more natural or film-like presets, A Color Story is good for bright images with strong colors and Lightroom Mobile has a lot of flexibility for natural editing.

Pro tip: natural presets are easier to work with, but sometimes it takes a few tries to find one that works best with your photo. And when in doubt, increase your brightness and contrast (a little, not a lot) to make your images pop.

Maddie-DIY-photo-shoot (Photo credit: Maddie Eisenhart. Edited using Lightroom Mobile and Madison Short Presets)

Overall, what are your top tips for DIY-ing a maternity photo shoot?

  1. Keep it simple. If you look around at some of the best maternity photos, good lighting and a clean backdrop are what they have in common.
  2. Move your body if you can.
  3. Remember you don’t have to look at the camera! Look down, to the side, at your partner or longingly off into the distance.

Let's Recap: 11 Tips for a DIY Maternity Photo Shoot

  • Get your partner or friend to move the camera to different angles
  • If you don’t have help, move your body, not the camera.
  • Invest in a small cell phone tripod
  • Use timer mode, plus a wireless shutter remote
  • Lighting is the most important thing. Use bright, natural window lighting when indoors and open shade when outdoors.
  • Keep your background clean and simple
  • Natural, comfortable poses work best. Moving your body helps.
  • Use props if you feel awkward just posing on your own
  • Wear whatever you want, but keep in mind that all white, all black or patterned clothes are more difficult to capture on camera
  • If you’re including kids and/or pets, set up the shot beforehand to minimize in-between time.
  • Photo editing apps are super easy to use and can add an extra touch of professionalism
This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content.