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?