Maternity Portraiture for the Modern Mom

Maternity Portraiture for the Modern Mom

Maternity Portraiture for the Modern Mom with Karen Bagley

Maternity portraiture, along with just about every type of portrait photography, has changed. Why has it changed? Because times change, styles change, EVERYTHING changes. Is that a problem? Well it can be…If we, as professional photographers, are not making sure that we are providing a service, experience and portraits that keep up with the “times,” so to speak. Then yes, it’s a BIG problem, and you are more than likely losing money. So, what do we do to “keep up with the times,” yet remain timeless?

We need to constantly evaluate our business and our style and simply pay attention to what is going on around us. As an example, do you know what the color of the year is? Did you even know we have a color of the year? The official color of the year for 2019 is Living Coral. Why is it important to know or even care about the color of the year? Pantone Institute says, “The color of the year is a trendsetting concept for branding, marketing and the creative society as a whole.” Are we not creatives? Do we not need to know how to market? YES! Yes, to all of it. You need to know these things ESPECIALLY when it comes to your maternity portrait work.

The truth is simply this: if we want to make serious money in the maternity field, we have to give clients something worth booking us for. By keeping our maternity portraiture modern, we will attract the up-and-coming generation of expecting mamas. As a whole, the maternity portrait field still gets put on the back burner. I still hear it regularly…“No one will spend money on maternity pictures, they want the newborn pictures.” Guys, this is just not true. However, it will be true if we do not appeal to our modern moms. I still, to this day, have people look at me like I’m telling a lie when I say a little over 70 percent of my business is maternity…ONLY maternity. I am still not sure why it is that hard to believe. I have found my niche; I know it backward and forward. I have spent years learning about my field, my clients, and pregnancy itself. My clients can see this immediately and know they are in good hands.

So, what do we know? We know that modern moms want bold locations—not every mom wants to be in a wheat field with a flower crown. If you shoot in studio, don’t use the same backgrounds you have had for your seniors, babies, and everything else under the sun. Innovate! They want gowns that everyone will say “ohhhh, ahhhhh” at when they share their images. Not every mom wants a flowy off-white gown. Put them in a fitted gown, for goodness’ sake! Let them show some skin. Motherhood doesn’t mean we fold up shop and quit caring.

Becoming a mother is one of the most powerful and lifechanging times in any woman’s life. Pregnancy should be celebrated, not hidden. We know soon-to-be-mamas want posing that makes them feel like a model. Why do we pose every mom in the exact same way? They are pregnant, not handicapped—they can do other things with their arms and hands aside from holding their baby bumps. Try new things (always being safe, of course). Posing can be tough, because you feel limited. You may just not quite get it, because maybe you can’t relate to pregnancy, but that’s ok! Think of this: How do you pose (or how would you pose) a senior girl? Take some of those movements and positions, and incorporate them into your posing for your maternity sessions. Maybe try shooting from a different angle. Lastly, we KNOW these modern mamas want an experience they can brag to their friends about. Why would anyone pay more for your services if they are the exact same as the person down the street who is $500 dollars cheaper?

Now let’s focus on what we do NOT know. Which is HOW do we break out of the same cycle of those expecting mamas who want the dreaded “simple” images? The same images they have seen their friends do. The same images you have probably been shooting time and again. The answer is: You have to educate them, tactfully of course. You must play a part in every session you do. Why? So that you can guarantee the vision you have can come to life. For example, I bring one gown for every single client who walks through my doors. (Yes, I charge appropriately so that I can do that.) The reason for that is, if I have a client who tells me they want to take pictures in jeans and a white t-shirt, I will kindly explain that I will photograph whatever they want. I will make it clear that that is not my style, but if it is something they want for whatever reason, I shoot it. But you better believe we will shoot in the gown I have also! When it comes down to it, do you really think a picture of them in their jeans is going to overrule a picture of them in this amazing gown? No way! Plus, now you have marketing material to attract other expecting mamas looking for that more modern feel. Do you see where I’m going with this? You, in a sense, are forcing your client to see the difference between what I like to call “your mom’s maternity portraits” and “Modern Maternity Portraiture.” Your clients do not really know what they want until you show them. This rule applies in almost every area of photography, right down to sales and products.

What about posing? How do we break out of the posing that is in every maternity shot we see? Even further, how do we get our clients to do the poses we want them to? Well, my friends, again this falls on you. As the professional photographer, you have to ask your clients to move the way you want. I know you may be thinking, “Karen, I ask and they say it feels weird, or they don’t do it all. Now what?” I will use my own personal example. When I ask a client for a pose and they seem shy or act like they don’t want to do it, I simply say: “Let’s try it. You can always get rid of it if you really don’t like it.”

And boom, I’ve got my modern pose! Even with the small chance they do not like that image, you again still have marketing material for the moms who are out there right now, looking for you. Maternity portraiture will forever be a huge field of portrait photography. The same as weddings and newborns. It is up to us to make sure that we are not missing out on the huge amount of income we could be bringing to our studios by failing to improve our craft.

Everything falls on us as the professional photographers. That’s ok though, we are in this industry to create. We want everything to fall on us! Those modern mamas are waiting on you.


This mama was 30 weeks when photographed. She purchased this gown on her own from one of our vendors. She knew where to look for her wardrobe because I educated her well beforehand. I shot this image with my Canon 5D Mk4 and I used my Canon 11-24 lens. This lens is absolutely a favorite of mine, because I like to get surrounding landscape behind my subject. That look is what I am known for. We held our session in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. You can see I shot from a lower angle. You must be careful with this—shooting from a lower angle can cause the attack of the triple chin. You must be able to direct your client to avoid the unflattering side of shooting so low. If you look closely, you can see I had my client tip at her hip (just a little) to lean closer to the camera. This adds length when you are shooting with such a wide-angle lens. I also posed this client in a way to add depth. I did something with her left arm aside from holding the baby bump. This image was lit with a Profoto B10 camera, right at about one-half power. I diffused the light with a Westcott rapid beauty dish. My settings for this shot were focal length of 11, aperture f/10, shutter speed 1/100th, and ISO 200.

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To read the full article, launch the digital version of the June 2019 magazine.

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