How to choose the right maternity photographer

You’re in the middle of a life-altering experience as you prepare to welcome your child into this world. Your body is rapidly changing – we’re talking about you, cankles and stretch marks– and soon, your life will too. Understandably, you want to mark such a momentous occasion with photos that will become cherished keepsakes.

But, with so many photographers out there, how do you know which one to choose?


Couple looking for a photographer on their laptop


To find the right fit, you need to look at what’s most important to you. Come up with your non-negotiables. What is it that you can’t compromise on when it comes to a photographer?

There are five areas you should consider before deciding:

  • Price
  • Style
  • Overall experience
  • Quality of work
  • Personality



Pregnant woman shopping at her laptop with a credit card

A girl should always keep her eyes on her bank account. Perhaps you’re feeling the financial strain from buying all that adorable baby gear and maternity outfits and you’re worried about money. If that sounds like you, you’re going to want to focus on finding a photographer whose fee is in your price range.

While a photographer’s price may seem, at first glance, higher than you wanted to pay, it can be a good measure of their experience and quality of work. Value-priced photographers are generally less specialized, often engaging in all types of photography, from headshots to weddings and everything in between. They may not always have the needed skills for properly posing and styling a maternity session.

If price is your main concern, there is nothing wrong with choosing a value-priced photographer. You should be aware, though, the quality may not be as high as it would be with a photographer specializing in maternity shots.

Channel your inner Nancy Drew to do a little detective work to ensure you understand what’s included in the price your photographer quotes you. Otherwise, you might catch yourself flying into a pregnancy-hormone-induced rage when you get your final bill.

Some photographers advertise a low initial price to bring new customers into their studio. But that can be deceiving. You’ll need to consider if they offer packages or a la carte pricing, as well as any hidden fees they may charge. A la carte pricing can sound appealing, but it can be more expensive than you anticipated, especially if your photographer gives you dozens of great images – you might buy more than you expected.

That low price your photographer offers also may not include digital files or prints. This can be an extra expense you didn’t anticipate.


Black and white image of a pregnant woman in a photo studio

Some mothers-to-be have no idea as to the style of photographs they prefer. Others, though, have a firm idea of what they want. If you know what you’d like to see in your maternity photos, you should focus on finding a photographer whose style matches your vision. If you want a fine-art vibe for your photographs, can they pull that off?

Matching your taste and vision with your photographer’s creative preference and ability can result in some out-of-this-world photography that can bring your photoshoot to the next level.


Photographer in a busy studio checking her laptop

While there are some extremely talented new photographers out there, you want to be assured you’re in good hands with maternity photos. You only have a small window of time to work with and you’re already likely feeling the strain from your busy schedule. You want your photos to be done correctly the first time, and for this objective, there’s no substitute for experience.

Ask to view a photographer’s portfolio and pay attention to what you see there. Do you see a wide variety of photos, such as school pictures, weddings, and more? Then they might not specialize in maternity photography – they might only dabble in it. It’s nice that a photographer can shoot an amazing landscape picture, but that doesn’t tell you anything about what they can do to minimize the bags under your eyes since you haven’t have a good night’s sleep in weeks.

Here are some questions to ask before deciding on a photographer:

  • How long have they been shooting maternity portraits?
  • Do they specialize in maternity & newborn portraits, or are they more of an all-purpose type of photographer who doesn’t specialize in anything?
  • Do they know the best time to capture maternity portraits?
  • Do they use lighting modifiers that best accentuate a pregnant figure?
  • Are they familiar with poses that may not be safe for pregnant women, such as reclining on their backs?



Woman curating her photographs at a desk

When looking at a photographer’s portfolio, concentrate on your gut reaction – if you can feel it with your baby doing all that kicking. Sometimes people have trouble putting into words what makes a photograph great, but everyone knows a fantastic photo when they see it. They may not be able to explain why it’s an outstanding picture, but they can feel it.

What do you feel when you look at your possible photographer’s portfolio? Do you feel the emotions leaping out of the picture? Are their images magazine-worthy? Do you think they use too many filters, or that the photos are excessively retouched? Are you happy with the lighting they used in the images? Do they take high-resolution photos that lend themselves to adjusting for various-sized framing options?


Fun photographer with a camera

A photographer who can put you at ease is priceless – if you choose correctly, it can feel like you’re hanging out with your best friend and they’re taking some informal pictures of you.

You’re at a stage in your life when you might not be looking or feeling your best. If that extra weight has seemed to go straight to your face instead of your belly, you might hate having your picture taken. And those pregnancy hormones we mentioned? They can leave you feeling more emotionally fragile than usual. Don’t worry about your imperfect appearance – a great photographer can find all the right angles to flatter your figure and face. You may want to keep them on speed dial after your pregnancy ends because you’ll love their expertise so much.

Having a photographer who makes you feel comfortable is a key element to how you’ll feel when you look back at those photos years from now. If you remember how indifferent the photographer seemed, you’re going to be annoyed when you see those pictures. And instead of hearing about how you couldn’t wait for them to be born, your child will roll their eyes as you launch into your hundredth story about how rude your photographer was.

Also, people tend to stiffen up or act less naturally when having their picture taken. If you want to look like a supermodel and not a celebrity police mugshot, it helps if your photographer can put you at ease or make you laugh.You’ll end up with photos that look much more natural.



Woman holding her pregnant belly while searching on a laptop

Decent photographers are easy to find, but great ones aren’t as common. Remember, anyone with a camera can call themselves a photographer.

You can find an expert through word of mouth from friends or through online channels such as Yelp, Google Search, Facebook, and Instagram. But when you find one you’re interested in, don’t rely solely on one social media channel, such as Instagram, when checking them out. An established photographer will have a presence across multiple channels.

If a photographer’s only means of communication is through Facebook or Messenger, we suggest you move on. In today’s world, that’s simply not professional and super sketchy. The majority of high-quality photographers will have their own website, an official email address, a physical address, and a phone number.

If you call and they seem abrupt or annoyed, they might not be the best fit for you. If you leave a message and they don’t return your call promptly, you should also move on. Your pregnancy will pass quickly, and your time is too precious to spend trying to chase someone down. In your single days, did you spend all your energy chasing a guy who didn’t seem interested at all? Nope, and you shouldn’t with a disinterested photographer either.

Make sure to check out any reviews you come across online through Yelp and Google. Concentrate on the most recent reviews as they reflect where that photographer is at now professionally. You should also read the bad reviews because that can give you a complete picture of the experience you might have.



Pregnant woman smiling while holding her phone

A nine-month pregnancy might seem like an eternity when you can’t wait to see your baby’s beautiful face or hold your precious child for the first time. But you’ll be surprised at how quickly the time passes, and you’ll always want to remember every kick you felt and the emotions brewing in you as you waited for your baby to draw its first breath.  Read our article discussing 5 reasons why every expectant Mom should do a maternity photo shoot.

That’s why taking the time for maternity photos and finding the right photographer will be one of the best investments you’ll make as you prepare to welcome your child. No matter how many decades have passed since you’ve given birth, your maternity photos should take you right back to those months and emotions. And someday as your child prepares to have their own child, they’ll look back at those photos and understand exactly how you were feeling at that moment.

5 reasons why every expectant mom should do a maternity photo shoot

Pregnancy is a beautiful thing, but it doesn’t always feel that way. While you may be lucky enough to enjoy some perks, like glowing skin, luxurious locks, and a cute baby bump, you’re also going to see the downsides of pregnancy – swollen ankles, newfound tiger stripes, and a rollercoaster of mood swings.  Sounds fun, right? Since expectant moms often aren’t looking or feeling their best, they may question whether they should take maternity photos at all. As they scroll through Instagram, they can feel huge, especially as they compare themselves to that perfect-looking Insta-mama.  She walks ten miles every day and brags about it in her stories, so it’s hard not to feel inferior as you polish off that sleeve of Oreos.

If you don’t feel like you’re rocking this whole pregnancy thing, you should still have maternity photos taken. Even though pregnancy can have its less-than-enjoyable moments, your body is doing an incredibly beautiful thing. You’ll never regret documenting this change with maternity photos.  Here are five good reasons why every mama-to-be should schedule a maternity photo session.



Pregnant woman taking a selfie in her bedroom


From the moment you see those two parallel lines on a pregnancy test, you start dreaming about the day you’ll get to hold your newborn in your arms. At first, it feels like time is inching by, and you find yourself saying things like “I am so tired of being pregnant.”

You’ve probably complained about your aching back, sleepless nights, and frequent heartburn to all your friends and family. “There is no way I’m going to miss this,” you state matter-of-factly while sweating buckets on a relatively cool day.

But as time goes on, you’re going to miss that bump!  It won’t be at first, but as the months pass and your baby starts to crawl, you’ll scroll through your monthly pregnancy photos on your phone while absentmindedly rubbing your belly.

You may find yourself uttering those words you never thought you would: “I miss being pregnant.”

The truth is, while pregnancy is hard, there is something simultaneously magical about it. You’re growing a new life, and you’re the only one your child is depending on. You feel their every hiccup, every kick, and every headbutt to your ribs. You’re completely connected.

Once it’s over and done with, you’ll find yourself wandering down nostalgia lane and remembering all those baby kicks (and the ability to eat whatever you wanted guilt-free). So, it’s especially important to capture these moments because you won’t be pregnant forever, and your pregnancy will fly by quicker than you anticipated.

Having maternity photos to look back on will be a standing reminder of that magical time when new life was gestating inside your belly. When you see those beautiful pictures of yourself, you will always smile.



Pregnant woman in a black bodysuit posing for a maternity photo


You’ve probably heard the phrases “You’re glowing!” or “Pregnancy suits you!” from various people throughout your pregnancy.  Between the cankles, the urge to eat everything in sight, and the fact that none of your clothes fit anymore, pregnancy doesn’t always make you feel beautiful.

In fact, most women experience a decline in self-confidence as their pregnancy progresses.  Your ever-expanding tummy may seem like the perfect excuse to avoid taking photos for a solid nine months, but it’s just the opposite!

You see, at the end of the day you come to realize the beautiful truth – you’re growing a human being – and that is enough of a reason to celebrate!  Dressing up in a way that accentuates your bump, putting on some makeup, and pampering yourself (hello, pedicure!) for a photography session may be just what the doctor ordered for a case of the pregnancy blues.

When you see your pictures after the shoot, you may be surprised at just how beautiful you look.



Lifestyle image of a pregnant couple hugging


Being pregnant can sometimes cause tension in a relationship, due to mood swings and the anticipated change in lifestyle. The financial pressure can intensify that stress. What you need is a way to keep your eyes on the bigger picture, not just focus on the hardships you’re currently experiencing.

Taking maternity photos together with your partner is a great way to strengthen your bond and celebrate the new life you’re bringing into this world. It’s that final chance to document how your dynamics are changing – you’re morphing from a couple into a family.

Many fathers experience a delay in bonding with their child when they’re in utero. They don’t experience pregnancy in the same way as their spouse, so it can be harder for them to build the attachment to their infant until it is born.

They often don’t build a connection to their newborn until they’re able to interact with it. That’s completely different from mothers – they often experience a deep attachment to the baby while pregnant.

Taking maternity photos can help new fathers develop a strong emotional bond with their growing baby. Helping your spouse bond with your infant will also help you both re-establish your connection.

If this isn’t your first kid, you can bring along your older child to the maternity shoot as well.  Many older siblings find it challenging at first to adjust to a new baby in the family. Taking pictures with their pregnant mommy can help them understand that a new person is coming and even get them excited about the baby’s arrival!



Silhouette of a pregnant woman on black


A professional photo studio specializing in maternity portraits has an array of lighting modifiers available at its disposal. These modifiers allow the photographer to illuminate as much or as little of you as you want.

While many women choose to celebrate the changes their body undergoes during pregnancy and document them in photographs; other women are more conservative.  An experienced maternity photographer will work with you to understand your needs and your level of comfort.

One of the popular trends these days in maternity photography involves flowing fabrics that tastefully cover parts of your body while revealing the rest.  As you browse Instagram and look at some prospective portrait studios in your area, take screenshots of the photos that appeal to you.

These visual cues will help your photographer better understand the look you want.  In the end, it’s about making you comfortable and happy with your pictures.



Mother looking at an album with her children


From the day your infant is placed in your arms, time starts to go by fast!

One minute a nurse is teaching you how to swaddle, and the next, you’re chasing a toddler through the aisles at Target.

You’re going to miss the calm days of pregnancy where you didn’t have to keep tabs on the diaper bag or wipes every time you head to the store. You’ll miss that your baby bump couldn’t talk back to you when you get into an argument with your toddler over whether they should eat a popsicle for every meal.

As your child grows, you will probably find yourself reminiscing about your pregnancy days and how quiet the house was. You’ll love reflecting on how you had such a tiny human growing inside you, and your maternity photos will be a wonderful reminder of a time long gone.

Your children will enjoy seeing these pictures when they’re older, too. They’ll absolutely love seeing how gorgeous theirmama was when you were pregnant with them.

They won’t notice those few extra pounds and the bags under your eyes from your lack of sleep. They’ll focus on something more important than that – the love in your eyes and the joy that was radiating from you.



Collage of photos on the wall


Scheduling a maternity photo session should be on every mommy-to-be’s checklist.

By having maternity photos taken, you’re giving your child a glimpse of a world they’ll never be able to see for themselves – the time their parents spent as a couple before they entered the picture. They’ll have physical proof of how excited you were to meet them.

As hard as it might be to envision now, time passes quickly. It won’t be long before your child may be showing these pictures to their own child. Your grandchild who might only know you as the gray-haired grandma who is always quick to offer a hug and a cookie will have the opportunity to see you in another light.

That’s a tremendous gift to give your child and the children who come into your family after them. And it’s a great present to yourself and your spouse as well. It’s something the whole family will cherish forever.


what is custom photography

CUSTOM PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY. The family photography you choose to hang on your walls is ultimately the result of the artistic vision of your professional photographer. This vision, coupled with what you wear to your session, the environment, the lighting, even the mood the subjects are in at the time of photographing creates the work that you will want to proudly display on your walls forevermore.

Your first step in the process is more about determining who you are, who your family is and then seeking a photographer that reflects your style. For instance let’s say your family is extremely outdoorsy and loves playing on the beach. You start determining what style you like, browse through photography website portfolios and determine if any of the styles exhibited there would be a good fit with your life and family style. You have already determined that you should probably seek out a beach type photographer (that is if you live near a beach) and then begin narrowing the field down a bit.

Finally after a bit of internet research, you have narrowed it down to two photographers who do what seems like solid work, the sort of outdoor beach look you desire. It is now time to ask yourself: Do you like photographer A’s style over photographer B’s style? Is it because the people in the images of A’s style are having a great time and it seems very caught up in the moment vs. B photographer more posed, looking in the camera images? If this is a case, you probably like lifestyle photography or perhaps even take it a step further and define your desired style as a photojournalistic photography style. The photographer you probably should choose is photographer A because their style is very similar to the style you desire.

What custom photography ultimately is all about is choice and experience (as in THE experience). Custom photography is about finding someone who will photograph your family, give you devoted 1:1 attention without worry of the next ‘in line’ or the feeling of a crowded portrait studio. A custom photographer will typically show you a fairly extensive gallery culled to only show the good images that meet the photographers’ creative sensibilities. Often the images are fully edited images-color corrected with blemishes and undereye circles removed. Custom photographers are also known as boutique studios, offering a range of products and unparalleled service. Think Lexus vs. Hyundai, think Nordstrom vs. WalMart. Custom photography should have you, the client and your experience in mind.

WHY DOES CUSTOM PHOTOGRAPHY COST MORE? The digital revolution has brought amazing flexibility and ability to control various factors during the image taking and making process. Photographers, the hobbyist, the professional, the amateur all benefit from this ability to manipulate pixels. However, with flexibility comes a price. Digital camera equipment is still considerably more expensive when you factor in its’ lifespan, the need for additional resources for processing those images, the time it takes to get a usable image and the effort that goes into creating a work of photographic art.

We all know that you can go to the local Walgreen’s and pay a $1.99 for a print – as a client you may wonder why you may pay upwards of $50, $70, $90 for a custom photography print. Photographers hear this statement every once in a while: “How in the world can you charge $50 for an 8×10 if it costs me less than $2 to print at a local pharmacy?”

The truth of the matter is the answer to this question is multifaceted. Much of the cost of a photographic print produced by a professional photographer has a lot to do with the time, equipment costs, artistic vision and reputation of the photographer not to mention expertise and the usual costs of running a legitimate business.

The Cost of Time: Let’s imagine that you have hired a photographer whose style you love. This photographer is traveling an hour to your destination to photograph your session. Here is an example of a time break down:
• session prep time (30 mins – 1 hour, includes equipment and back up equipment checks + vehicle checks)
• one hour travel time TO session
• 15-30 minutes prep time at client’s home
• 90 minutes-2 hours with client photographing subject
• one hour travel time FROM session
• 30-45 minutes uploading time from digital cards from camera to computer
• 30-45 minutes time spent backing up the original images
• 2-5 hours editing time to present you with a diverse gallery of edited images
• 1 hour prep time getting ready for ordering
• 2-3 hours time with client for ordering images
• 1 hour sorting through and checking order
• 30 minutes-1 hour prep time for delivery
• 30 minutes-1 hour getting order shipped
• any additional phone time or time needed for add on ordering, shipment issues, quality issues

In this example, the time spent per client can range from just under 13 hours to 19 hours – dependent on the photographer’s level of service. This is time dedicated only to ONE session. When the photographer charges $300 for the portrait session fee, you are not just paying for the two hours of session time, you are paying the photographer for 12-19 hours complete time for your session.

The COSTS of Maintaining a Custom Photography Business: Regarding equipment costs, a good quality professional camera with a selection of good optical quality lenses and digital storage mediums and computer set up can run from $10,000-$30,000 costs dependent on the photographer. Even though you can purchase a really good quality digital SLR for about $2100 there are still other costs related to photography. A good lens for portrait photography can run from $900 to $2500. A dependable computer system with software loaded for business and creative usage can run $2500 to $8000 dependent on the photographer.

Then come lab costs for specialty products. A good photographer knows the lab is integral to their success. Photography labs dedicated to the professional photographer often cost more and offer a range of products that allows the custom photographer to continually offer new, innovative products for you, the discerning client.
Discussion other costs of running a photography business could take awhile so we’ll skip many of the intricate details. There is of course much more: including costs of running the business, taxes, studio rental/mortgage if the photographer has ownership of a dedicated studio, vehicular costs, costs of advertising/marketing, costs of sample pieces that the photographer will likely bring to your session, etc.

APPLES to ORANGES to BANANAS: Oftentimes clients will mention to their photographer that X studio in the mall/department store only charges $19.99 for an 8×10 “sheet” or they may mention other things related to discount photography chains. The fact is those discount chains make their money on volume, not on customized 1:1 service. In February 2007 leased photography retail space by a rather well known discount department store that started in Arkansas closed down 500 of their portrait studios across the nation? The reason is simple, you cannot make money on 99¢ “professional” prints if you do not sell enough of them. Interestingly enough – those same studios that offer the loss leader packages often charge much much more for their a la carte pricing (as high as $40-50 for an 8×10). The whole reason the big department stores began offering portrait services in the first place was to get you, the savvy consumer, in through their door so that you could spend more money with them in other departments. Your “PORTRAITS” are considered the “loss leader”.

Going to a chain studio, as a consumer, you don’t have the benefit of 1:1 attention for 2 hours at your home where your child is allowed to explore, play and be comfortable in their home environment, nor do you get the experience that many custom photographers are known for or the lovely captures of natural expressions. You simply get a bare bones, “SAY CHEESE” experience. Keep this in mind when selecting a photographer.

REPUTATION/EXPERTISE of the PHOTOGRAPHER: Being in demand, being well known for quality work, having a good reputation often costs time on the photographer’s part. Their expertise comes at a cost, their time learning their craft and learning the intricacies of lighting and the commitment put forth on their end to create a persona about their business that oozes professionalism. A great number of photographers go a very long time from the time that they purchase their first good camera to making money at the business of photography. Many photographers, when first starting out, rush in thinking that the business will be easily profitable in no time, how expensive could it be to get a camera and use it to create their dream? They often neglect to factor in the cost of business, the cost of equipment, software, back ups, etc.

Being of sound reputation, a better professional photographer knows that they must always reinvest in their business to create the reputation of being top notch. To create good work good equipment, reliable equipment, back up equipment is a necessity. The photographer who desires to be known as better/best/unparalelled reputation-wise knows that the most important thing they can do for their business is reliability and dependability. This is how reputations get built. Good work often is a wonderful side product of building that good reputation.
I hope this (lengthy) article helps shed some light on WHY a custom photographer is a better choice for your family’s memories. The photographs that are produced as a result of the professionalism and dedication that your photographer has will be cherished for a lifetime (or more) and great thought and consideration should be placed into hiring who is right for your family’s most precious investment.

All Info Written By Marianne Drenthe, content is inspired by discussions with other photographers, her own personal experiences and outline based on an article by San Diego Photographers Caught On Film Photography.


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