Non-cheesy maternity shoot ideas

Photo by Tenley Clark. There's even more library cuteness in this post!

Last summer, when I started thinking about doing a maternity photo shoot, I went sniffing around online looking for maternity shoot pose ideas. I found a lot poses repeated over and over again — especially "hands on the belly in the shape of a heart" and preggos wrapped in fabric. I really only found one image that inspired me, and that was this one. Other than that, I was flying blind at the hands of our photographer, Jenny Jimenez.

So, I asked some of my favorite offbeat photographers for maternity shoot ideas to share. Here are their favorite photos as well as tips for what shots try, and what tired poses to skip.

1. Feel at home

Photo by Jenny Jimenez
I love images that convey intimacy whether it be serious OR silly. This diptych of Seattle makeup artist Erin Skipley was taken in her bedroom about two weeks before she gave birth to her son Isaac. –Jenny Jimenez, Seattle
Photo by Jenny Jimenez
…I asked Erin to focus on her growing son and what she'd like to teach him when he's born and as he grows up, then took a few steps back and shot these within only a few frames. I think our entire session took 15 minutes. –Jenny
Photo by Milestone Images
I like to shoot maternity sessions in the expectant couple's home. I usually take at least some photos of them in the baby's room, even if it's not done yet. In fact, I kind of love when it's not done yet. -Angela from Milestone Images, New York
Photo by Element of Photography -- see the entire series here.

Go for natural light and natural smiles

Photo by Jenny Jimenez

My favorite maternity images were all taken with natural light. Early morning and later afternoon are the best times to shoot and the light at that time is most flattering for your skin. Whether it's outside, in a daylight studio or in your own house, you are going to get incredible images if your photographer knows how to use natural light to highlight and shape your body. -Jenny

Photo by Jenny Jimenez

Photo by Amy Ann Photography -- see the entire series here!
Photo by Velvet Owl Photography -- click to see more!
Photo by Rachel Ford -- you can dig on more of the series in this post.

3. Avoid these cliches & weird shots

  • I definitely avoid silhouetting bellies, hand-hearts over belly, and just anything that is overplayed. I think just having a pregnant woman in a picture qualifies it as maternity so I don't really need to push her to do anything that specifically points to the belly since it's already so obviously there and beautiful. -Leah
  • I suggest you steer clear of those cheesy muslin studio backdrops. You know, the crinkled tie dyed looking variants of gray or maroon. They don't look natural and neither will you. -Jenny
  • Remember that what works with your clothes on doesn't necessarily work with your clothes off. There is the classic shot of one partner behind the other in a big group hug around the belly. Take your clothes off and it is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT IMAGE. Stop for a sec and think about it. Yup. Don't let that be you. Ick. -Jenny

4. …or don't avoid cliches

As for tired poses like the hands in the shape of the heart on the belly, well… Call me a loser, but I like that pose! My clients almost always ask for it. My thinking on it goes something like this: if there's a pose or a shot that you've seen before and love, make it your own! Why not? For you, it's once-in-a-lifetime image. -Angela from Milestone

5. Dress comfortably and colorfully

Dress as comfortably as you can while still feeling like you look your best. I think that tight fitted tops or something that really shows off the bump is the way to go- and don't be afraid of color! I see too many pictures done in a studio with the mama wearing white over a black backdrop and it makes me sad. Put some color on and celebrate! -Leah
Photo by Evol Photography -- and there's more where that came from!
Photo by Evol Photography.
Photo by Zoe Gemelli -- see more in this post.
If there is even a slight thought that you might bare your belly during the shoot, be sure to wear non-restrictive clothing all day leading up to your session. Waistbands from underwear and elastic pants leave marks that take hours to go away. -Jenny
Photo by Jenny Jimenez

6. Connect with your baby and your body

Connect with your baby, connect with your partner and connect with the moment. The image of Ariel twirling is an AWESOME example of this. Focus on your feelings towards them and it will help make authentic images with genuine emotion. -Jenny Jimenez
Photo by Jenny Jimenez

Pregnancy is a time to proud of your body. You're growing someone's spinal cord today! As a person struggling to make peace with own body, I know the journey to self-acceptance is long and ever-changing. If you want to do maternity portraits, do them! Seriously, if there's ever a time to be proud of your body, it's now. -Angela from Milestone

See more of Pushba's maternity session here.

Final tips, courtesy of Jenny Jimenez!

  • Clear your schedule the couple hours before and after the shoot so you can be completely present.
  • Have an iPod handy with music that makes you feel good.
  • Bring a variety of snacks to help with any cravings that might come up and clothes so that if you don't feel comfortable in something you can swap it out for another dress/top/pants at any time.
Photo by Leah Muse

Thanks to Jenny, Angela, and Leah for taking the time to share their shots and wisdom!

Want TONS more non-cheesy maternity shoot inspiration?

CLICK HERE!

  1. Thank you SO MUCH for posting this. We're getting maternity pictures taken next weekend and I was slightly freaking out over how to pose and not make it a typical cheesy photo session. I'm going to go make my partner read this now so we can figure out what will be best for us.

    1 agrees
  2. Love this post.
    We took our maternity pics at the Zoo..my husband and I love the little zoo by our house so we went there it was so much fun.
    I can not wait to take my daughter there which we are doing in just a few weeks.

    4 agree
  3. Love this. What a wonderful post. I'm getting a bit tired of profiles against a wall pictures. Yes it shows how big your belly is, but there are so many other more exciting ways to do that.

    2 agree
  4. My boyfriend and I use the 'hands make a heart' symbol as both a joke (like when I catch him playing video games instead of homework) and as a silent way to convey to the other person that we're thinking about them (like when we have tons of people over and it's awkward to say 'I love you' out loud). Obviously, for us, using it in a maternity picture would have additional meaning, but I can see where other people would see it as contrived. Who cares?! It's my belly picture, so there. 😛

    13 agree
  5. A friend of mine and her husband did the hands in a heart over the belly pose, but with a twist. She did the heart, and then he did a bigger heart (because his hands were bigger) around her finger heart. It was pretty awesome.

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  6. i love all the outdoor shots. what a nice change from the typical studio pics! great job!

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  7. I think something else to consider is that the DADS need to be more involved! We always make sure we include both partners (when applicable)–all too often, it seems like photographers make it all about the mom. As a mother, I understand why this happens–I mean, you do a LOT of growing in a short amount of time–but an engaged, supportive, and loving father is just as important.

    And I am guilty of the hands over the belly! But I agree, you can own those photos and they'll be great. Sometimes a client specifically wants something, and you just have to roll with it.

    2 agree
  8. This is great advice for almost any photoshoot, sans the belly specific tips, but still…I'm doing a shoot tomorrow and I love using natural light and letting the 'model' be comfortable and in charge.
    Great post!

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  9. Don't forget the siblings. Of all the pregnancy pics I have of myself, my favorite is of my two boys hugging my huge belly.

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  10. As the client I knew I did not want the hand-heart-belly photo, but when my husband and I showed up to the shoot the photographer told us to do it. I went along with it (as I'm not the very assertive type) and knew when I ordered the pics I would just pass over those. Well, surprise surprise, I ended up loving them! You know never know what is going to work.

    1 agrees
  11. thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you! I've been scouring the web without much success in my search for some momma shoot ideas that weren't so run of the mill, this is totally what I needed! I am a plus size prego momma that was scared to death of the typical pics… I've mostly seen moms that were skinny minnys before pregnancy and they're adorable little pregnant people, but dammit, I'm cute too and those pics with hubby's dress shirts just aren't for me! My husband's button down shirts wouldn't fit around my boobs pre-knock up, so they sure as hell won't now! I was afraid that I would have to skip this super memorable, ultra rad, most exciting so far part of my baby having experience because I couldn't find and full figure friendly poses, but thanks to OBM I;ve found the inspiration I'd been searching for all along! Thanks again Offbeat Mamas!

    3 agree
  12. Is it sad that I never realized until just now, that the hands over the belly was supposed to be hearts? I thought people were just touching the belly.

    :-S

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  13. Gosh, reading the posts beneath the beautiful photos brings tears to my eyes! I am almost 11 months post partum and still so emotional! Ha!
    I just am so excited to be pregnant again. It's a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL thing.

    2 agree
  14. Ohh, goodness, those are beautiful!
    Can't wait to put those tips to use someday–for sisters, friends, and hopefully for me:)

    1 agrees
  15. As far as maternity (and birth) pictures go, can I just say I love love love my big beautiful belly and I want it in the shot, but seriously….I may be pregnant but I still have a face! I see the belly pic, the belly plus dad, belly plus sibling, but does mom have a head? I don't need to be annonymous in my own maternity pics!

    11 agree
  16. where was this when i did my shoot 2 1/2 years ago? HA! A friend of ours (FH's best friend and son's godmother) had just opened a studio and asked us if we wanted a maternity set, so she could beef up the studios portfolio. we had an ongoing joke that there were to be no "sears" poses. Well…perfect timing and BEST photo came from one of those traditional shots, we laid down side by side, and i had some preggo farts. resulted in THE BEST PICTURE OF THE DAY!

    1 agrees
  17. Not gonna lie, before this I TOTALLY stuck to these "cheesy" poses. Hands in a heart-did it. Lol "Preggos wrapped in fabric" is probably the funniest thing I've heard during my pregnancy LOL This all makes sense, and I'm trying some out today. Thanks for posting!! =)

    1 agrees
  18. Our wedding photographers do a hella classy job with just about everything, and I'm hoping they're willing to be flexible and allow for some utterly tasteless goofiness when it comes our time. Lots of great ideas here, and some great giggles.

    2 agree
  19. We've been taking weekly (or sometimes every-other-weekly) shots since about 12 weeks just when we're out and about doing our normal thing, and it's been a nice way to showcase my changing body and my maternity style–I hate maternity clothes, I'm a big fan of how regular clothes look and fit differently over a growing pregnant belly. If a little bit of belly peeks out because I'm still wearing a regular size small from Old Navy, so be it. I'm determined not to buy any unflattering potato sacks that seem to want to hide the pregnant shape. It's also been a great way to showcase our lifestyle–we've taken pictures at the zoo, out to dinner, in our own driveway, at my favorite antique store, the splash park, and even in front of a waterfall on a trip we took at the beginning of the pregnancy. I try to take all of them outside, though, because I think natural light is always more flattering. If you do things that are uniquely you and give a taste of what you're into, it'll be hard for them to turn out cheesy!

    1 agrees
    • Please tell me where to find these potato sacks that hide the belly. I'm NOT pregnant but with my PCOS & Endometriosis I look like I'm at least 6 months in. I have been checking out a lot of maternity wear to try to find something that has room for my belly instead of hugging it like so much women's and even men's wear does, but all the stuff I've found has been solidly "celebrate the brand new life you're growing!" I have XXL boobs & thighs, XXXL belly, and Medium everything else. Nothing fits! I'd prefer a potato sack!

  20. I love the maternity photos people make their own! I just wish I could find more examples of descent plus sized sessions. For the most part the ones I do find are generally awkward and the photographers don't seem to be able catch a good angle. Any suggestions for a plus sized mamma-to-be wanting to join in the maternity session goodness?

    3 agree
  21. The hand heart over the belly amuses me because I first came across it as a body acceptance project on a livejournal community. The point was to make the heart over whatever body part you needed to love more (assuming you can reach it of course). In that context it was really powerful, so it's odd to for me to see it lauded as cutesy or cliche.

    I didn't have a formal maternity shoot done with my first, but my favorite shots I took of myself are just me in the bathroom mirror making goofy faces. It just fits my personality, and when my daughter is a teenager complaining about why I'm so weird all of the sudden, I can prove to her that I've been odd since before she was born!

    2 agree

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