How to Take the Perfect Pregnancy Photo

Megan Van Schaick

maternity photographyWomen either love or hate taking photos during pregnancy -- probably because one minute you feel beautiful and the next ... just plain ugly. But photographer Rachael Ruffin knows how to capture the beauty. I have long admired Ruffin's work, after seeing the photos she took of my friend Alicia during her first pregnancy -- and again with her most recent.

Based in Kansas City, Missouri, Rachael owns Goody Two Shoes Photography (I know, cute, right?). She has three beautiful children and a husband who serves the country in the active duty Army National Guard. She specializes in newborn and maternity photography and has a flawless aesthetic -- simple, a touch of vintage, always stunning. She was kind enough to impart some of her knowledge and advice on when to take your photos and how to get the best result at home.

When is the best time to be photographed?
The best time to have your maternity pictures taken is between 30-34 weeks. Of course, this is just a rough time line. It honestly just depends on how big and comfortable you get, and when! Generally, it's not best to be photographed when you're past 35 weeks. I have found that the further along a momma gets, the more self-conscious about her body she becomes.

Which comes first: picking your photographer or picking the style of photography you want?

Oh, this is kind of like 'what came first, the chicken or the egg?!' I think that if you're drawn to a photographer ... that means you love their work and you appreciate their style/art.

What is the best way to pick your photographer? How do you know you've
got the exact right one?

I don't think it's about the exact right photographer, but the one that makes you feel the most comfortable. The only advice I can give about how to choose a photographer is look at their website, blog, and social networking sites. Do they have a working presence? If not, are they building their portfolio so they can? If the answer is no to both, I would shy away from them. When we are talking maternity shoots, most of the time these things can NOT be redone. You need to choose someone based on their ability to perform the job, not on their price scale.

maternity photographyWhat if you hate your photos?
I have actually never had someone hate their pictures (at least, that they would admit!), but I would have to ask the client if they just hate my work or if they hate the way they look in the pictures. So many times we just look at ourselves in the photograph instead of looking at the portrait itself.

I would encourage people to take a day, sleep on it, and look at them again. If they're not on par with what the photographer represents on their website, ask if they would offer a re-shoot.

If I feel I wasn't up to par on a certain session, I wouldn't hesitate to offer another session at no cost. Any worthwhile photographer would do the same.

Moms love to document their pregnancies -- can you offer a few tips on how to get the best pictures possible out of even the most simple point and shoot?
This was one I was very bad about with all three of my pregnancies! I took bathroom-mirror pictures and called it a day. My advice would be pick a spot in your home that is very plain, with no clutter. Using a wall as a backdrop is great. Have your partner take the pictures, or use the timer on your camera.

If moms want to do their own home "studio" shoot, what are the essentials for getting a good shot?

It really depends on the type of camera someone has and what they are looking to get out of their DIY studio shoot. Things to avoid are using sheets as "backdrops," and the use of a strong flash. Most cameras have the option to turn the flash off (check your manual!), so pick a spot where natural light is coming into your home the strongest and shoot there.

Any tips on outdoor home shoots?
The best time of day to take outdoor pictures is the early morning hours and the evening,  about an hour before the sun is setting. I use a great website, to see when the sun is setting. Just avoid the noon/afternoon sun -- it is often very harsh.

Keep clothing simple. Some people choose to put on their pre-pregnancy jeans and one of their husband’s button up shirts (leaving it un-buttoned at the belly) to show off their belly in a more prominent manner. I am not a huge prop person, but I do think it's cute to show baby shoes, sonograms, and onesies held next to a pregnant belly.

maternity photographyIf the couple wants to be in the photo together, what's the best way to accomplish this without that awkward look?
Have someone else take the picture! Really! That is the only way not to have someone running to get into the shot. Ask a neighbor or friend to just quickly snap one for you. If you have a digital SLR camera, you can buy wireless remotes that allow you to pose yourself, then just push the button on the remote to take a picture.

Any other bits of wisdom or advice regarding maternity photography?
For those searching for a photographer, pick a maternity photographer that offers newborn  photography as well. Often they create packages for their maternity clients that include newborn photographs and into the first year of your child's life.

For those wanting to travel the DIY photography route, take as many pictures as you can -- you can only improve with every session! It can be a long, frustrating road but it is worth it at the end. One thing that has helped me get through it is Clickin' Moms. There are women on there with simple point and shoots and others that are full time rockin' pro photographers. It has been nothing but a helpful and rewarding experience for the two-and-a-half years that I have been a member.

Okay pregnant mamas -- when is your next photo shoot?


Images via Rachel Ruffin/Goody Two Shoes Photography

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