Best time for maternity photoshoot (plus 8 quick maternity photography tips)

When a client books a maternity photo session she’s relying on the photographer to tell her when is the best time for a maternity photoshoot. Hopefully she hasn’t left it until the last minute to call, because like any successful photoshoot a maternity photo session takes planning.

The first step is deciding on when to schedule a pregnancy photoshoot and I wish I could tell you exactly which week is the week to book a maternity session. It’s just not that easy, because it depends on the woman, how her pregnancy is going and how many babies she’s carrying.

That said, the short answer to when is the best time for a maternity photoshoot is weeks 24 to 36. So the good news is that you have a big window of time to work with. But of course it’s more complicated than that, because the exact answer depends on the client. Here’s why…

example of best time for maternity photos

Which month is best for a maternity photoshoot?

If you’ve never had a baby it can be hard for a beginner maternity photographer to understand the timing and language used to describe the stages of pregnancy. So, here’s a very basic explanation:

A pregnancy is 40 weeks in duration and is split into 3 trimesters, each of roughly 3 months, or 13 weeks per trimester. As a maternity photographer, we only need to know about the second and third trimester, because this is when a maternity session will be held, depending on the client and how many babies she’s carrying.

  • Second trimester – week 14 to week27
  • Third trimester – week 28 to week 40

One of the first questions I ask every maternity client is when is her due date. From there we can work backwards and I always advise that the maternity session needs to be held by 4 weeks ahead of due date at the latest. So that’s week 36, or the end of the eighth month of pregnancy.

We don’t want to leave the pregnancy photos too late just in case the baby comes early. Plus the closer your client is to due date the more uncomfortable she’ll feel and she might not be sleeping well. Because of this she won’t be feeling her best and that’ll impact how she feels about her maternity portraits.

I also think that if there’s a toddler involved in the photoshoot, rather don’t leave it to the last minute as these sessions require more energy.

Further reading: 3 creative maternity photoshoot ideas with a toddler you can do at home

5 weeks between maternity photo examples
There’s a 5 week difference between the timing of these maternity photoshoots. The maternity photo on the left was taken t 34 weeks and the image on the right was at 29 weeks.

Is 30 weeks too early for maternity pictures?

Unless a client has a very small bump, as a maternity photographer, 30 weeks is my favorite time for a maternity session. So, unless they’re carrying twins, the time frame I always try to book my maternity clients in when they’re at 30 to 34 weeks.

By this point she’ll have a nicely rounded bump, perfect for photos, and won’t yet be feeling too tired.

A maternity session is actually quite hard work for your client. It might not look like it, but you have to remember that she’s carrying extra weight in front and her temperature is higher than normal. That’s only going to increase the closer she gets to due date.

So here are 8 quick tips for professional photos :

  1. Your client will really appreciate it if you have a fan in the studio. While fans are great for wafting flimsy fabrics so often used in maternity sessions, they’re even more essential for keeping your client cool, which will help to sustain her energy levels.
  2. Alternate poses to give her a chance to ease her back.
  3. For standing maternity poses her weight will be mainly on one foot, the furthest foot from camera, and she’ll be mainly side on to camera so have her face one way and then the other so that you don’t strain one side.
  4. Move quickly and efficiently so that the session doesn’t drag on too long.
  5. Plan your maternity session and poses ahead of the shoot, again for a more efficient shoot. Don’t get stuck photographing one pose for too long.
  6. It’s a special time for her, encourage her to book a professional hair and makeup artist for her portrait session to help her feel amazing.
  7. A few weeks ahead of the session send helpful tips on what to wear and how to prepare for her maternity photo shoot.
  8. Build up a client closet of maternity dresses and floaty fabrics for maternity sessions so that she doesn’t have to bring in a heavy bag of maternity outfits.
showing 2 maternity photos taken at the same time
Two different maternity sessions at 36 weeks. The women were similar in size and height, except for their bumps, and were both carrying one baby.

When to do maternity photos with twins?

Of course the more babies your maternity client is carrying, the bigger she’s going to be. So a maternity session when more than one baby is expected should be held earlier than usual. Plus, multiple birth pregnancies aren’t usually as long. So to avoid missing out altogether, the time period for maternity photos with twins, triplets should be earlier than the usual 26 to 36 week mark.

The second trimester, which is months 4, 5 and 6, is a great time for a twins or triplets maternity photoshoot. In weeks, that’s weeks 14 to 27. For twins or more I suggest scheduling the maternity session for sometime in weeks 20 to 24.

The later you leave it the more uncomfortable and tired the mother-to-be will be during her maternity session.

mixed timing examples of maternity photo shoot
To help you see how pregnancies vary, I’ve used the same pose from 6 maternity sessions. I did all these maternity photoshoots between 30 and 34 weeks.

What time of day is best for maternity photos?

The best time of day for maternity photography sessions depends on whether the photoshoot is being held in a studio or outdoors.

Best time of day for studio maternity session

I prefer to schedule studio based maternity sessions in the morning, which usually means a 10.00am start, unless the client prefers a slightly different time.

The reason why mornings are a good time of day for a maternity session in the studio are:

  • It’s a great way to start the day
  • The mother-to-be is not yet tired from a busy day
  • If she had a bad night’s sleep, she won’t yet be feeling the full impact of lack of sleep
  • If the mother-to-be has other children, 10.00am is between school runs, so she can take the time for herself without distractions
when to do maternity photo shoot at the beach
Late afternoon to early evening family maternity photoshoot at the beach.

Best time of day for outdoor maternity shoots

For pregnancy pictures outdoors, however, the best time for maternity photos varies according to the location.

Most ideal time for a beach maternity photoshoot

For beach maternity pictures the perfect time to photograph is in the evening golden hour, because the light is beautiful at this time. The morning golden hour is just as beautiful, but that would mean getting ready and being on location very early in the morning, which doesn’t suit most people. Me included.

Best time for a country maternity photoshoot

Mid morning, late afternoon and golden hour are good times for a maternity photoshoot in the country.

In the morning and afternoon you’ll need to be aware of the direction and angle of the sun to ensure that your maternity client isn’t facing into the sun as this will produce harsh shadows. If the sun is behind her she’ll be nicely backlit. Just make sure to expose for her face and exclude sky from the image to avoid a blown out white sky.

As with beach photography, if you plan on including sky in the image, the golden hour is the best time of day for a maternity photoshoot outdoors.

Best time for a woodland maternity photoshoot

Any time of day is good for a woodland pregnancy photo shoot, because the canopy of leaves filters sunlight so harsh direct sunlight can easily be avoided.

In fact, the only difficulty is too little light, depending on how thick the wood is and if the sky is overcast. For the same reason I’d avoid the end of the day, when light levels start to dip, for an outdoor session in the woods.

Further reading: Best time of day for outdoor photography – portrait tips

More maternity photography tips…

Most maternity poses work well for most women. Here’s an article I wrote for easy maternity poses you can try, even as a beginner maternity photographer.

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Many of my photography students are first time moms and dads. There’ nothing quite like the arrival of a new baby to spark an interest in photography. So if my maternity photography tips have helped you to plan the best time for your maternity session, or to start offering maternity photography professionally, let me know in the comments.

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