Staging Your Own Maternity Photographs
A lot happens, and doesn't happen, with subsequent pregnancies. Those of you who are mommas to more than one know. The first go around you had the whole name board or chalk board with the name announcement and weight and time, or the perfect gender reveal party complete with balloons out of a box or colored smoke, maybe it was the ideal maternity capsule wardrobe with designer stretchy tummy jeans and a whole undies drawer of new bras to support your new cuppeths that runneth over.
For me, this second pregnancy has actually been identical to my first as far as the symptoms go, but a LOT of other changes have come this second time around. There is still the excitement you and your husband share, of course, but somehow the thrill and the curiosity from neighbors and friends dissipates. Maybe it's because I had them SO CLOSE together? Maybe it is becasue I am expecting another daughter... But for whatever reason, I definitely sense that the goo-goo, ga-ga, sort of fades away. People assume you have been there, done it all before and care less about asking if you felt the baby kick and care more about asking themselves, "how in the heck is she going to handle two under two?!" OR, will you try for a third to "have THAT boy?"
For me, for US, though, we are very much excited and definitely want to celebrate and document this beautiful pregnancy and babe just as we did with our firstborn, even though it is so soon after we just had our first child. Another baby, another blessing, and YES, another baby girl! I AM THRILLED!
Very much a hyper-planner, I set out right away to set up a a little cozy sleeping nook for babe number two, and also started pondering names. I don't think I could ever be that girl to wait until the birth to find out the sex of the baby, but who knows, maybe there's a third in the cards and I'll go crazy and DRIVE EVERYONE ELSE CRAZY by NOT finding out the sex Who are these people?! This second time, the nesting and planning have still been on my mind as early and as often as it was the first time around, but finding the TIME to get it all done is just is not what it once was when we were a child-free home.
With my first, the stroller was purchased in the first trimester, and the nursery was done by the early part of the second trimester. This time, we just now decorated a nursery nook within our master bedroom. To be fair though, part of the lag time was due to my indecisiveness on how to decorate this nursery area while blending it in with our room. The other thing that happens is that you end up doing things later because you realize it all comes together in the end and the stress isn't as palpable and taxing the next time around. You will have a bed for baby to rest their noggin on and a pair or two of jammies for them to be clothed in and a blankie or swaddle folded up in a drawer, you get yourself some diapers (however you decide to cover that tush to catch the mess) and you're set. I am still a very big planner and list maker so it bothered me a little that I didn't have her room ready earlier on, but I am happy we got it done these past couple of weeks and love the results.
Oh, another big, BIG change the second time around- budget! The first time around I had just finished working, so I still had my income to prepare a nursery and help contribute financially to get a lot of EXTRA things before I stopped working (i.e. fancy things my husband would have never agreed to purchase like $30 organic cotton bodysuits from boutiques and $45 organic cotton muslin swaddles blanket sets). EEK! BUT, I will say in my defense, they were investment pieces because I STILL have all of them this time around as perfect hand-me-downs for this babe! SO there, you get what you pay for! Were they necessary? Probably not. Did I also have a ton of run-of-the-mill Target and Carters in the mix- you betcha! Oh, and not to mention I am an uber-thrifter! Husband DOES thank me for that.
Another BIG ticket item we carved out for the first time around was a professional maternity photo session! I wasn't even going to THINK about it this time, or ASK about having one. I felt a little guilty becasue again, this is an irish twin situation and we have the costs from the hospital delivery and raising a toddler happening now. BUT, costs aside, you cannot take away the love I have of photos, so I made sure to get something done. I decided to do them on my own!
I had a vintage nightie, just as I did for my first maternity session, and I drug my sister and niece out to a site I had driven past to help take my photos. I am so, so glad I was able to do that and document my pregnancy! It was such a memorable day, and the images came out incredible. BIG thank you to my sister! Love you!
I know some mommas who just didn't have time because they delivered earlier than anticipated. Some mommas just hate pregnancy and would rather sooner forget it rather than immortalize it through photos. I think I would very much regret NOT documenting my pregnancy and carrying my children in some capacity! It doesn't have to be photos from a fancy DSLR camera, use your phone! Borrow a camera or a phone with a nice camera on it and get them e-mailed to you! Tehre are so many photo editing apps out there now that you can edit images right on your device and they look INCREDIBLE! Just be in it and be HAPPY and thankful for the blessing you are able to carry! So SNAP yourself when pregnant! Get that dark light, terrible bathroom selfie at the doctor's office, get in that silly family photo at the family events, pass a reflective window on the street, catch yourself big and round looking back at you and make the effort to fumble around your purse for your phone and TAKE THE PICTURE. You won't always be pregnant, some days you'll MISS being pregnant, God forbid you are not able to get pregnant again if you wanted to, YOU NEVER KNOW THE FUTURE, but know this, love your body, your belly, that baby inside making that form, that puffy reflection and embrace it and LOVE it. Some day you, or your little one, will want to look back at this incredible time in your life when you are growing a human! Swollen ankles, acne and all!
So this time, one thing I wanted to be sure to do again was a maternity photo shoot. However, the budget this time around was just not there. I was devastated, and frustrated. I wanted to celebrate and commemorate this baby just as I had the first time around. I was SO close to being able to swing it with the same photographer from last time, but then something unexpected came up, as life happens, and out went that idea. Husband suggested I have someone I know take a few. I put on my thinking cap and put aside the comparisons of what I did BEFORE, and I decided to do just that.
I called on my sister to help me with a maternity photo shoot of our own. I already had a location in mind, which I discovered back in May on my way to my niece's birthday party, and my sister had a great digital SLR camera and the creative eye. I had no clue what I was wearing this time around, up until the night before. It ended up being a vintage nightie that I had purchased for the first maternity shoot a year ago, but didn't end up using. This time, I didn't have a professional haircut prior, or a mani or pedi. I did my makeup myself, as I had done the last time, and I didn't gather up any props, and this time hubby stayed home to watch our other babe! It was a spontaneous, go-with-the-flow, sort of morning the day of the shoot, and in the end it was... perfect!
These are some of my favorite shots of the day, at 29 weeks, as captured by my talented sis, Stephanie Smith. They aren't photo shopped or edited, although she used a program on her end to edit a few favorites (not seen here). You can see that some may need cropping, or enhancing, and my blemishes on my chin need blotting and my bra straps need erasing, but you know what, I love them anyway! My sister, my niece and I had such a fun morning out in the sun, exploring this little abandoned piece of land, for now, and shared laughs and bonding and created amazing memories together. We spotted lady bugs, watched for snakes, listened to prairie dogs squeak out of there holes, photographed wild flowers and spotted a hawk. THAT is what a maternity photo shoot should be about, family, sharing a love and excitement for new life to make their appearance into the world around us as we try to comprehend and navigate it.
Here are ten tips if you wanted to stage your own, FREE, maternity photo session:
1. LOCATION: Find a place that is sentimental, or picturesque. Find a place convenient or a place that you think would be visually appealing in photos, but not too distracting so as to keep the attention on you and your bump. Of course public, and free are bonuses.
2. ATTIRE: Wear something somewhat form fitting to show off the main attraction- that BUMP! Check all angles, and factor in lighting. My nightie, in the shaded shots, when facing head on, made it hard to tell I was preggo! Think about how it would look in photos against the back drop you choose. Solids are best. Be aware of your undergarments. Nude and smooth. Maybe you want to use tape. I unfortunately have not invested in a strapless bra that fits me right now so I used one I had and pulled the straps down. Do better than I did! Slip dresses are great, and last year I found a couple, simple, solid color floor length dresses at American Apparel.
3. TIME: I remember my photographer from the first pregnancy told me it was best to do the maternity shoot around the six month mark. You want to be showing, but not too big and uncomfortable, or swollen. I probably could have done my first shoot later on in pregnancy and still enjoyed the process, but I decided to time this second shoot around the same month mark as the first so I didn't look disproportionately large the second time around. I did both shoots around 6/7 month mark. Also, consider the time of day for lighting and traffic! We went around 10 am, on a Saturday, at the end of June. If your shoot is outside, consider doing it before high sun, or later on in the early evening, not only to avoid harsh lighting, but also to keep yourself comfy!
4. PHOTOGRAPHER: This is usually your first decision. Ask a friend or family member if they have any recommendations for professional photographers, if it is in your budget, or ask someone you know who has a good camera and a somewhat clever eye.
5. HAIR/MAKEUP: Keep it simple and NATURAL. These photos are going to be timeless. You do not want to have a face that's painted on, or worse, melting off, or crazy, trendy, up-dos and hair dyes. If you wear your hair straight most days, wear it straight for the photos. You want to look and FEEL like yourself!
6. PROPS: The first time around, I had a stuffed dog and some baby blocks and a pacifier that made an appearance in some shots. This time around, I haven't really received or purchased any stuffed toys or items specific to this baby, so instead I used flowers or sticks that I found on site the day of the shoot to make it unique and special to THIS pregnancy. I even found a cool railroad tie and a unique black stone that I took home with me to put in the nursery as a reminder of that day.
7. POSES: You definitely want to hold your bump. Cradle it, but keep plenty of negative space too. Also, switch it up! You don't want to have your hands on your tummy in EVERY photo. SNOOZE! I thought the whole heart-hands thing was cheesy, up until actually doing it myself upon my sister's direction, and you know, I actually like that photo a LOT! Do things you wouldn't normally do. Have FUN! I took some super dorky poses and was spinning around and laughing and really soaking it all up. Take photos from different angles; we unintentionally did this! We were just exploring this location, but in the end we realized we had photos facing each direction, (north, south, east, and west) and in the end we had more photos and lighting to choose from! If you are taking photos with your partner or other kiddos, plan on doing some shots with them and also some solo. Play with focus! Have your photographer focus in on you and blur out the background, and vice versa. Also, do close ups of just your bump, some belly ups, and some full body shots. The beauty of digital photography is that you can take as many photos as you want. The more the better!
8. MOOD: Go into it with a happy attitude! Be thankful for the blessing you have growing inside and let that happiness shine through. Oh, and go on a full tummy!
9. ACCESSORIES: Consider your baubles. Don't detract from yourself, but highlight. Maybe a special pair of earrings from your grandmother, or your new name plate necklace, if you have baby's name picked out already, or a cuff you purchased on your last trip with your partner. Make it mean something, and keep it simple. Remember: big earrings, small, or no necklace. Statement necklace, do a stud earring or bare lobes.
10. EXTRAS: If you are planning to do a wardrobe change, bring a blanket or sheet to change underneath if you are out in the open without a public restroom. Bring your water bottle for sipping and staying hydrated! Lip gloss for reapplication. Bring along a little kit with a mirror, comb, hairspray, blotting tissues and bobby pins. If you plan on hiking to your destination, or in my case, traipsing through sticker patches, consider wearing sneakers or boots and changing into your dainty sandals or bare feet once you get situated.
So that's it! That's my little tutorial on how to capture your pregnancy on a BUDGET! Have you done a maternity photo shoot, professional or on your own? Feel free to leave your tips in the comments!
Wearing: Vintage nightgown, OR this very similar pale blue Christian Dior version found!