Simple tips for a magical maternity photography session & photos you’ll adore
April 30, 2020 update: I’ve added new must-have gowns for you to check out below, in addition to info on my maternity gown buyback program! After your maternity session, I’ll buy your gown from you to add to my client closet! More details below!
The first thing on practically every mama’s mind after booking a maternity photography session is figuring out what to wear. This is such a big decision – you probably have a vision of how you want to look as you celebrate your baby bump! Obviously what you wear is a big part of that.
After photographing so many maternity photography sessions over the years, I feel confident explaining what works well for expectant mamas, and what you want to avoid. Some of my suggestions come down to personal preference; you’ll find that all photographers have a particular look or style they like. That’s part of what attracts clients to my work.
In my case, I tend to favor dresses and gowns; the mamas I photograph almost never wear jeans, shorts or anything super casual. While there isn’t anything wrong with a really relaxed look for maternity photos, most of the venues I suggest aren’t a fit for that look.
Additionally, considering the investment that couples make in having custom maternity photography done, it’s one of those occasions where you want to spoil yourself and look your best!
Tips for selecting a maternity gown, skirt or dress
As a maternity photographer, I love to highlight love, romance and intimacy during maternity sessions. Most of my favorite venues are perfectly suited for a sweet couples maternity session. Here are a few guidelines for selecting a dress, gown or even a longer skirt for your session:
#1 – Floor length is super flattering!
No matter your height, shape or whether you’re carrying baby high or low, floor length gowns, dresses and skirts are my favorite. They elongate your body and flatter your pregnancy curves. Long lengths also ensure you’re comfortable and covered whether you’re sitting, standing or lying down during your session.
#2 – Floor length gowns, dresses or skirts hide comfy shoes that clash
I also like floor length options because you have more freedom with footwear. Sometimes mamas are already at the point in pregnancy where their feet are swelling if they stand for very long; this means flip flops or casual sandals are all that feel comfortable. We don’t have to worry about those comfy shoes clashing with your outfit if they’re hidden under your dress! It’s also easy to kick them off for some barefoot shots if some photos will show your feet.
#3 – Longer lengths are timeless and classic
You want to love your maternity photos now, when baby is here and in 50 years when you’re walking down memory lane remembering when motherhood began. I truly believe that the look of longer gowns, dresses and skirts holds up better over time than shorter options.
Want proof? Think about bridal gowns! The traditional look of a long bridal gown has been around forever. While your maternity session isn’t quite the occasion your wedding may have been, it’s still a huge milestone in your life! These are photos you’ll look back on forever, and they are memories you can hand down to your children someday. If you want images that will look amazing and classy through the years, opt for a long dress, gown or skirt.
#4 – An earth-tone solid color works well no matter what
Hands down, my favorite color for mamas during maternity photography sessions is ivory. It looks great with every skin tone and hair color, and the neutral shade looks incredible no matter where we shoot your photos.
Even if ivory isn’t your favorite, consider other earth tones or light colors. Navy, tan, cream, brown, light blue, light green, gray and black – all of these colors look great on everyone and usually photograph very well. They also tend to mix well, meaning if you’re in ivory and your husband wears jeans with a gray shirt, your looks complement each other and do not clash.
This doesn’t mean that bold colors don’t work – they definitely can look incredible! In fact, I have bold colored gowns in my studio closet. If you decide to wear a bold color, ensure it doesn’t cause color cast (this is when the color reflects back on your skin or your husband’s if you’re standing close together) and that your hubby is in something neutral. You are the star of your maternity session, and we don’t want your husband’s shirt competing with your outfit.
Here’s a quick example: when I was just getting started as a maternity and newborn photographer, I met up with the sweetest couple for a maternity photography session. I had given them some wardrobe direction – long length for mama, neutral shades if possible, mama is the star.
She showed up in a vibrant maxi dress in shades of bright red, black and white. I loved her look – until her hubby walked up! He was in camo shorts and a light blue shirt. Individually, they looked great (although he was dressed a bit too casually to complement her).
Together, though, the colors and patterns completely clashed!
In the end, they loved their photos – but had either one of them opted for a more neutral, solid color palette, their looks would have worked together instead of clashing.
#5 – Your maternity gown can look amazing for your newborn session, too!
I love the symmetry when a mama wears a beautiful dress for her maternity session, and then wears that same gown again a few newborn photos. Depending on the style you like, it can be really simple to find a dress, gown or skirt you could wear for portions of both sessions.
A few easy-to-find gowns I adore
I admit, I’m addicted to the ease of ordering gowns through Amazon Prime! Two day shipping, free returns – it makes it simple to find something you love very quickly and easily, with minimal hassle. The super-quick shipping time is ideal if your maternity session is just around the corner.
This is such a sweet, romantic gown. I recommend the ivory or soft pink. This dress falls to the floor with material to spare, meaning it can accomodate high heels. I love that the train is long enough to be used creatively during your session. (I actually have this gown in my client closet!) It also looks great for in-home newborn and breastfeeding sessions!
This gown is similar to the one above, but with more color options. Keep in mind your husband will need to wear a very neutral shirt if you opt for a bold color. This gown also looks great for in-home newborn and breastfeeding sessions!
Ivory lace long sleeve, very flowy, bohemian (you would need something underneath this – it’s totally transparent. See suggestions within reviews.)
Depending on where we are shooting your maternity session, this is a stunning option if you’re comfortable with the transparency. I have a gown similar to this one in my client closet, and most mamas have paired it with a knee-length, nude-colored slip underneath. A nude strapless bra is a must.
The long sleeves of this gown might be a turn-off for Houston summers unless we are shooting inside! i love how it drapes over baby bumps and falls to the ground.
This gown comes in more colors, but I’m always a fan of neutrals! I love how this dress combines two fabrics beautifully: spandex/polyester on top, with lace on bottom.
For the mama-to-be who prefers the simple, classic look, this dress might be just the ticket! It features a gentle ruffle along the top, with an elegant slim-fit. It comes in a wide array of colors.
You and your bump will be the stars of the show in this incredible gown! A sweetheart top, fitted bodice and tulle train will definitely make you feel like a queen for a day! It comes in three colors: green, blue and red. Any choice you make will be perfect for your dreamy session!
Maternity gown buyback program
If you order a gorgeous maternity gown but have no use for it after your photography session, let me purchase it from you! This helps grow my client closet, and you aren’t stuck with a gown taking up precious closet space!
Clothing to avoid for maternity sessions
– Clothing with holes, rips or tears – even if it’s trendy!
– Short dresses that fall above the knee. Keep in mind your bump will draw a dress, skirt or gown up a bit higher. It’s so easy for a short dress to rise too high if you wrap your arms around your husband’s neck, or if he hugs you and pulls the dress up!
– You and hubby in matching colors. You should complement each other, not match perfectly. This means you want to avoid wearing the exact same colors, even if you’re in a dress and he’s in pants and a shirt.
– Contrasting patterns. If he’s in a print/patterned shirt, you should be in a solid color, or vise-versa. In general, one print for every three people is a good rule to follow for any kind of portrait session.
Want more tips for a stunning maternity session you’ll love? This blog post goes over more what to wear tips for maternity sessions – with photos!