4 steps to easy maternity photoshoot poses anywhere

When photographers first start maternity photography it can be quite overwhelming, because it feels like there are so many aspects to consider in maternity photoshoot poses. While a pregnancy photo shoot is all about the baby bump, we also want to consider and flatter the expectant mother. So it helps to break down maternity photoshoot poses into four parts.

They are:

  • Bump (of course)
  • Hand placement
  • Leg position
  • Head

Everything else flows from there.

The third trimester, 4 – 6 weeks from due date, is the best time for a pregnancy photoshoot. However, bear in mind that, at 4 weeks away from due date, a pregnant woman often feels uncomfortable and not at her most attractive. Even at 8 weeks from due date she won’t be too comfortable. So good maternity posing and professional photos are a great way to show expectant mothers just how gorgeous they are.

I love photographing pregnant women, because of their beautiful curves for light to sweep over. So I’ve included a few lighting tips at the end for your next maternity session.

Lying down maternity pose with standard hand posing

In maternity sessions it helps your client to change from standing poses to ease her muscles. This lying down pose is one of my most popular maternity poses for full body photos with my clients in the studio or at an outdoor maternity photoshoot, especially the beach

The 4 parts of all maternity photoshoot poses

If you do a Google image search of maternity poses, you’ll see that the vast majority of photos have these maternity posing techniques in common for:

  1. Bump
  2. Hands
  3. Legs
  4. Head

Master these aspects of maternity posing and you’ll have a good basis for all maternity photoshoot poses, whether formally posed in a studio, relaxed beach maternity poses or maternity poses with husband, older siblings and/or family members.

Close up maternity photo with hands posed above and below

An important factor in maternity photography sessions is how you pose hands

1. Baby bumps in maternity poses

As the bump is the star of the show, the first maternity pose is all about mom’s belly – close up shots. To make the most of her beautiful baby bump, avoid photographing pregnant women facing you.

For standing maternity poses, pose your subject so that she’s mainly side-on to camera. While I do some, I prefer her not to be completely side-on in most maternity poses, because it’s too two dimensional and not the most flattering angle. Plus, you need to really show off the roundness of her bump.

So, once she’s positioned side-on to camera, ask her to turn back to you slightly.

Pro posing tip – when she turns back to you, it’s a good idea to then ask her to move her feet as well. If her feet stay side-on to camera, she’ll naturally drift back to that position. Plus it’s uncomfortable. This applies to any standing pose, not just maternity posing.

2. Hands in maternity poses

Hands are a very important part of maternity posing, because they frame and draw attention to the baby bump, especially in close up shots of hands on bump.

This applies to studio maternity poses, relaxed beach maternity poses, standing, sitting or lying down maternity poses (as in the photo at the top of this article). How pregnant mothers pose their hands is crucial.

The standard hand placements for maternity shoots are:

  1. Both hands above the bump
  2. One hand above and one below the bump
  3. Both hands below the bump

But positioning hands requires a bit more attention – here’s how…

3 hand positions for maternity poses

The middle pose is my favorite way to pose hands in a maternity photo session

1. Both hands above bump

Placing hands above the bump is a really simple pose for natural-looking photos. However, you can see, in the first image of both hands above her bump, that the veins on her hands are obvious. This is because the light is coming from camera left and slightly behind the subject.

No woman wants veiny hands emphasized in photos, so pay attention to your subject’s hands. If she has more prominent veins, you have to be really careful with side lighting your subject when posing both hands above the bump.

2. Hands above and below bump

Placing your subject’s hands above and below her belly is a classic maternity pose. Notice that in the middle photo the hand closest to camera is below the bump for two reasons:

  • It frames the bump
  • If the far side hand were below, all you’d see is floating fingers below the bump, which looks odd

For the same reason, make sure that her far side hand above the bump is further over than she would naturally place it so that you can see more of the hand.

3. Both hands below bump

For great maternity portraits you need to pay attention to small details. For example, make sure that she doesn’t interlock her fingers when posing with both hands below the bump. When fingers interlock they make hands look huge in photos.

So be prepared that when you ask her to place both hands below her bump she’ll automatically lock her fingers and you’ll need to demonstrate how to pose her hands. (This will happen whenever you ask anyone in front of the camera to join their hands together, not just in maternity sessions.)

three quarter length maternity photoshoot pose

The dynamic leading lines created by leg and arm positions help to make this maternity photo interesting

3. Leg position for the best maternity poses

Like with all female posing techniques, in maternity photography posing we want to accentuate curves and flatter a woman’s shape. And leg position makes a big difference for more flattering poses.

Pro tip for posing legs in maternity pictures: The leg closest to camera should be bent and her foot raised slightly, resting on the toes, so that she’s not flat footed. By resting her foot on the toes or the ball of the foot at least, in a full length shot it looks more elegant and lengthens the leg.

This works particularly well with the hand above and below maternity pose, because the line of the leg leads into the leading line created by the arm. Plus, diagonal lines make a more dynamic and interesting pose.

2 maternity photoshoot poses with just head placement change
Posing her head at different angles is an excellent way to show different emotions. On the left the mood is thoughtful and inward thinking, especially as her face is hidden by shadow. On the right it feels as if she’s excited and looking to the future when her baby will arrive.

4. How head position alters a maternity pose

Head position says so much in portrait photography, not just maternity photography. With just the change of head position you can create two different images with different moods.

  • Looking down towards bump or to the side – thoughtful, introspective
  • Looking forward – expectant, future thinking
  • Looking towards camera – engaging with the viewer

Aside from this, one of the most important factors to bear in mind with head placement is how to avoid a double chin. When you ask somebody to look down, there’s a chance they’ll have a double chin and nobody wants that in a photo. So, I always say that it’s a fake look down and here’s how you do it:

  • Tell her not to actually look straight down at her bump
  • but rather to push her chin forward a bit and raise it a bit higher

While of course in real life she’s not looking directly down and her baby bump, in the photo it looks like she is and you’ve avoided giving her a double chin.

To maximise the variety of images in a maternity photoshoot, remember to change head position before moving on to the next pose.

Really important point for maternity photoshoots

As a maternity photographer you have to pay more attention to your client’s comfort than with other types of portrait photography. Remember that your pregnant client is carrying quite a weight, she’s tired and uncomfortable and you’re asking her to stand with her weight mainly on one foot for most of the maternity session.

To make the photo session more comfortable:

  • Alternate which way she faces to give her a break and ease her muscles
  • Change up the poses from standing poses to sitting poses to lying poses

Lighting tip for better maternity photos

While this post is about maternity photoshoot poses, I just want to mention lighting briefly. When you’re photographing form, light direction is extremely important.

Regardless of whether you use natural light or flash for maternity photography, the best ways to light a maternity photoshoot are:

Basically, anything other than frontal light. You need to create shadows to show the bump, and lighting her from the front will result in flat light, the least shadowy lighting.

If you liked this article…

Are you planning a maternity photoshoot with a toddler? You might also be interested in these creative maternity photoshoot ideas you can do at home with a toddler.

And if you’re wondering when’s a good time for a maternity photoshoot, the short answer is 4 weeks ahead of due dates, but there’s more to it than that. So here’s some advice to help you decide the best time for a maternity photoshoot (including 8 maternity photography tips).

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