When most think about maternity photography, the visual is light airy looks with flowers wrapping the soon to be mother. However there have been many changes in the way photographers are shooting this genre and many photographers want to break the stereotype. Remembering back 16 years ago to maternity clothing options, it was if the fashion industry wanted a pregnant women to cover and hide the most incredible time of a woman's life. Layers and old patterns that flowed over the baby bump as if it were a table cloth, were most of what was available. Nowadays, women are in form fitting attire showing off the force of nature she is. In the same light, maternity photography has changed since then as well. Women are replacing the flowers with wings, and the bare feet with stilettoes.
"Gone are the days where a maternity session only meant light and airy images of expectant mammas in flower crowns and pastel flowing gowns" wrote Shawn Black of Couture Black. Today we are seeing soon to be mothers who want to not only capture the beauty of the baby bump but celebrate the strength inside them as well. Black explains that "they want to celebrate the fact that they are beautiful, sexy, badass women at this special time in their lives".
When Black is having his pre-session consults for a maternity client, he has a few specific questions that would not pertain to most other boudoir inquiries. Being pregnant can give a woman a whole new idea of their bodies and Black is determined to make sure this is always a positive perception. Pregnancy is taxing on a woman not only physically but mentally, so creating images that can capture the strength can be incredibly meaningful to your client. With any maternity session you should know ahead of time of any complications they have had to make sure you do not overdue the time.
His clients (who he will refer to here as Mrs. M and Mrs. S) wanted to see themselves as they had never before in previous pregnancies. Mrs. M explained that she wanted to stop her own body shaming and celebrate this stage of being beautiful. Mrs S wrote that "what I came away with from my session was some of the best proof of my life. Proof that I am a BAD. ASS. MOTHER.”
Both women chose wardrobe options that gave an edge to theirs sessions: from spiked Steve Madden stilettos and traditional boudoir session lingerie choices to being wrapped in fabrics or Black's studio custom angel wings. Wings are a trending option for maternity and many other types of sessions. They add a completely different look to the image and make the client feel incredible. His clients intentions with booking were to not only capture this time but to break the preconceived notion as to how they should look or act at this point in their lives.
The optimal time to shoot most maternity sessions is between 32-37 weeks depending on the comfort of the client. You also want to make sure the bump is showing well without it being unbearable to pose due to size. It will be too much for some expectant mothers to pose for long so make sure you have your game plan ready prior to posing. The last thing you want to do it have them in a position while you decide to set up your lights. Have your set ups ready to go and then pose.
The difference between shooting traditional boudoir and maternity boudoir is the sessions are definitely longer with a lot more stopping and starting to rest. Ideally Black prefers to shoot in the 7th month as generally the bump is fully pronounced and energy levels are still somewhat there. Both of these clients were in the final weeks before their due dates. He approaches every boudoir client, maternity or not, with the same priorities. "I am going to safely pose them the same until they tell me they physically cannot do something as they want the same experience as every other client. We have had extensive conversations about how they would like their images to look leading up to shoot day and through the session communicate how they are feeling so that they can feel and look their best" he writes.
One difference with boudoir maternity is that they generally will need to bring more lingerie wardrobe options, as some may not work come shoot day. This can be either not fitting, not fitting comfortably due to how the baby is positioned, or just for whatever reason just not feeling that look that day.
Many feel boudoir is meant to convey the sexual appeal of the client, which if you ask any boudoir seasoned photographer, is not the case. Boudoir for the client is about finding the confidence in their own skin, and the power that resides within them. For expecting mothers this could not be more true. Women can feel vulnerable in their looks at this time due to a rapid change in their bodies, so having a session where she can embrace this change as a powerful reminder of how much she is taking on in her body and mind.
While light, floral and airy is still a beautiful way to shoot your client, if she is looking for something a little more bold, maternity boudoir is a fantastic option. Showing off the bump and a little more will give her the confidence she has been looking for during this time.
Black uses a Canon 5D Mark IV. His choice of lens is a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8. A Geekoto GT-400 is paired with Westcott 1x4 Rapid Box with grid. He uses the GT-400 at 1/4 power for most of the images here with a range of f/2.8 to f/6.3 and 160 shutter. His ISO ranges from 100-160 depending on the shot.
All images are with permission and courtesy of Shawn Black.