1. Don’t wait till the last minute
Six weeks before your due date is a good time to have your portrait taken, says photographer Fiona Cunningham, who specializes in pregnancy portraits. “You’re certainly past the stage where people sometimes wonder whether a woman has gained weight or is pregnant. But it’s before the very end where you might be retaining water.”
If you go earlier than the third trimester, your belly may not have that full, ripe look. “The form isn’t developed yet,” says photographer Steve Stober, renowned for his portraits of families, children and pregnant women, “so you don’t get that beautiful half-moon shape when the belly is positioned sideways.” However, if you wait much later than six weeks before and your baby comes early, you may miss your chance. Or you may go into labour during the shoot. Don’t laugh. According to both Cunningham and Stober, it does happen.
2. Make clothing optional
Sure, there are shots au naturel like the famous Vanity Fair cover of Demi Moore. But if doing the full monty seems daunting, don’t sweat it. You can do a shot that reveals your belly, but uses your arms and legs or lighting to cover parts of your body you’re not too keen to expose. Or you can go bare belly and drape other parts in swaths of silk or muslin.
There are lots of clothing options too. “You can wear something casual, with a big smile on your face, like a pair of jeans pushed down under your belly and a tank top pushed up,” says Cunningham. You can wear a blouse, and unbutton it to drape around your belly, or a sarong. And if you don’t want to show any skin, you can wear a tight T-shirt or form-fitting sundress that shows off your belly’s curves.
Thinking about why you want to do the photo can also help you style the shot. For example, do you want your portrait to be a surprise gift for your partner? A keepsake for your unborn child? A celebration of motherhood that captures and records the amazing changes in your body?
3. Make it a family affair
The keys to a wonderful portrait are feeling comfortable and letting your personality shine through. Kidding around in front of the camera with your partner, or any siblings your baby-in-waiting may have, is a great way to loosen up. “It’s always a lot of fun when there’s a child who’s two or three years old,” says photographer Nancy Falconi, who does pregnancy photos for magazines and ads. “I took these really fun shots of a mom and her two-year-old little girl both showing their bellies.”
On the other hand, posing with your partner can lead to shots with a very intimate feeling. “A lot of men have taken their clothes off as well and I’ve done some beautiful bonding pictures and very emotionally charged pictures of couples together,” says Stober. Even just having your partner’s hand on your belly can be very moving.
4. Find the right photographer
Style, personal rapport and price are the three things to look for when choosing a photographer. Ask friends and look on the Internet to find a photographer whose style appeals to you. Many photographers have portfolios and prices you can view online. “You definitely want to see a range of women in their work,” says Falconi. If all they have in their portfolio are models, they may not be right for you. The next step is to meet the photographer and see if you feel comfortable with the person. “Choosing a photographer is totally about comfort level,” says Stober.
5. Have an open mind
Don’t like having your picture taken? Relax. “Ninety percent of people are extremely nervous and uncomfortable having their picture taken,” says Falconi. Go to the shoot with an open mind and just have fun. When you step in front of the camera, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and try to let any tension go as you exhale. “You’d be surprised how that really helps a lot,” says Falconi.
“At some point, you have to trust the photographer. A good one will know how to flatter you,” says Falconi. One time she did a shoot of a pregnant plus-size model. “We did all these shots of her in stylized clothes. At the end, I finally convinced her to put on a tight-fitting undershirt and a pair of spandex pants. She was so uncomfortable — and those turned out to be her favourite shots.”
DIY like a pro
Want to do it yourself? Use these tips from the pros to get a great shot:
• Use available light from a window instead of a flash. “It’s more pleasing,” says Stober.
• Wear form-fitting simple clothes, such as jeans and a T-shirt, in a solid colour. “If you wear something loose, it will make you look much bigger,” say Falconi.
• Stand rather than sit. “It’s much more flattering and the side profile is best,” says Falconi.
• “Look at how the light mottles on your body,” says Toronto’s Liz Floyd. Turn to different angles in the light and take lots of photos to see what you like best.
• “If you’re trying to chart the progress of your pregnancy month by month, make it a series and keep all the pictures consistent,” says Stober. “Stand against your bedroom wall and shoot it the same way every month.”