5 Super Tips for Taking Ultra Professional DIY Maternity Photos
I adore the professional maternity photos I see on Facebook and Pinterest. The poses, the lighting, the look of serene contentment on the expectant mamas’ faces — professional maternity photos are a wonderful way to capture a mom to be’s journey. The only thing I don’t love about professional photos? The price tag. Now, please, don’t misunderstand. I think professional photos are worth the cost. I have some photographer friends and deeply appreciate the skill and mastery that goes into the craft. But with a toddler, home expenses, and another baby on the way, we just couldn’t prioritize the cost of professional maternity photos within our budget. As a do-it-yourself mama who loves research, I spent some time digging into tricks for taking great at-home, low-cost pregnancy pictures. Because at six months pregnant, I want to capture this time in my life! Do you, too? Keep on reading for five super tips for taking ultra professional DIY maternity photos on a budget.
DIY Maternity Photos Tip 1: Beg, Borrow, or Steal
When it comes to good photography, it’s critical to remember that your inputs lead to your outputs. What do I mean? You can’t bake a good cake with bad ingredients. If you want to end up with amazing maternity photos, you must start out with good equipment. Sure, there’s a lot you can do to boost an okay photo (and we’ll talk about that more!). But if you want ah-MAZE-ing maternity photos, you need to put down your smart phone and pick up an actual camera.
Here’s the thing, camera equipment can be expensive. At Home Beautifully, we rotate between two cameras, a little pocket camera (a Canon) and a big bad DSLR (a Nikon). Yes, I know we own both a Canon and a Nikon … GASP. It’s true. People usually fall on one side of the aisle or the other. This is the camera stuff we bought, linked with affiliate links:
We first bought the Canon Power Shot for a trip we took overseas. (It was a Christmas present for my husband that I’ve since kinda taken over.) I love it because it fits into my pocket and I don’t need to be SUPER careful with it. Plus it mounts to a tripod and takes crystal clear videos, which is awesome.
When I finished my doctorate, I bought myself a Nikon 3400 DSLR as a congratulatory present. For me, spending over 500 bucks on anything is a BIG DEAL, and I did lots and lots of research before I purchased it. Do I love it? ABSOLUTELY. The picture quality is astounding. While 80% of the time, I shoot on auto, I get some pretty neat photos on aperture and speed mode, too. Also, because of the amazing resolution, I can do a lot more with post-production and can much more easily turn a meh photo into something extraordinary.
We also have a cheapie tripod (Yay, Amazon Basics) and cheapie remote shutter (Amazon for the win again!), which makes taking selfies about a thousand times less awkward.
Now, I’m NOT saying you need to go out and buy a DSLR to get some DIY maternity photos. Not at all! But maybe you have a galpal or family member with a nice camera who’ll snap some for you or loan you their stuff. Or maybe your trusty old pocket camera has been collecting dust while your iPhone’s been out to play. Bottom line: for profesh DIY photos, use the best you have. Set your smart phone aside and pick up something with a little more UMPH.For professional DIY photos, set your smart phone aside and pick up something with a little more UMPH. Click To Tweet
DIY Maternity Photos Tip 2: More is More
I’m not a beauty blogger by any stretch of the imagination, despite watching hours of makeup tutorials on Instagram and YouTube. (Don’t judge! I find them SO relaxing!) Here’s a rule I’ve picked up along the way from my ad-hoc makeup education and limitless selfie taking: you always, always need more makeup than you think you do on camera.
Don’t get me wrong: natural beauty is tops. We’re all born amazingly beautiful in the rainbow of skin we have. We don’t need makeup. …But does it help keep our features popping on camera? Absolutely.
When taking these photos, I felt like I was wearing a TON of makeup. Like, gobs and heaps and loads. But in the images, I just look like myself. Well, perhaps a rested, bright-eyed version of myself, considering I’m typically found in yoga pants and a messy bun, but still.
Bottom line: like Mae West said, “too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” Same tends to be true when wearing makeup on camera. Don’t believe me? Spend some time putting on a little more than you’d usually wear and take some selfies in outdoor lighting. Play with the process. You’ll find the right balance for you!
DIY Maternity Photos Tip 3: Just Keep Snapping
Whether you have a remote shutter or whether you’ve corralled your partner into taking photos, I encourage you to snap, snap, snap away. The beauty of digital images is that they’re entirely disposable. Tell your honey (or your remote shutter) not to stop snapping, even if you feel super awkward when you’re posing. Take far, far more photos than you think are necessary. Yes, you’re going to end up with some terrible pictures. I did! But for me to get five photos I adored, my husband had to take about 200. No joke. Some of them were awful! But I could sort through all the photos at the end and find the ones that he snapped at just the right time.You gotta take far, far more photos than you think are necessary! Click To Tweet
Also, I encourage you to do some research on Pinterest before your photo shoot. Research a few poses you adore. For your shoot, have about five or six pose ideas in mind to try before you begin. Then when you’re in front of the camera, you’ll be able to move into your different poses more seamlessly. If you feel super awkward in front of the camera (Yep, like me!), print or share your poses with your partner so they have a better sense of how the shoot might go. He or she can help direct you.
Now don’t just stand like a statue. When you’re posing, make small adjustments while you’re snapping away. Shift your chin up and down, turn your head ever so slightly, smile widely then more serenely, laugh out loud, or rotate your shoulders just a little. Yes, you’ll feel silly. (I did!) These small adjustments within a single pose will help you end up with the perfect picture. You’re making the pose your own and might inadvertently find your most flattering angle within the pose.
DIY Maternity Photos Tip 4: When in Doubt, Go Neutral and Natural
Some of my favorite professional maternity photos have a soon-to-be mama in a gorgeous billowing gown against a fairy tale background, complete with twinkling lights. Now I don’t know about you, but our backyard isn’t exactly a fairy tale. It’s more like a garden that needs some weeding and perhaps a new patio set. The thing about our backyard, though, is that it has this gorgeous weathered fence, which I thought would make an interesting, neutral, and natural background for our photo shoot.
Stroll around your space to see what you might use as a background. Look for spaces that are uncluttered without too many conflicting colors and objects. (Sure, a professional photographer might be able to make our cluttered outdoor space look phenomenal, but we’re doign this DIY!) Find a beautiful fence, a plain wall, or an uncluttered couch without too much going on behind it. When it doubt, for great photos, keep the background simple.
Still struggling to find a great background in your home? Head to a park, a nearby lake, or a beach. Nature makes for gorgeous photography backgrounds. And if you’re feeling adventurous, play with the depth of field on your camera. I like using the aperture mode on my Nikon camera to make the foreground images pop and the background blur away. (And if you find this intimidating, we’ll cover some ways easily to cheat in post-production!)
DIY Maternity Photos Tip 5: Embrace Post-Production
Once you’ve wrapped up your photo shoot, you get to play with your new photos and digitally edit them. To be fair, there are a million ways to edit pictures, from Photoshop to Facebook filters. My favorite photos never look too processed, but appear to be slightly more improved versions of the originals. Rule of thumb: use a light hand with digital editing. You want to look like yourself, not like a humanoid.Digital photo editing? Don't polish yourself into a robot. Click To Tweet
When I edit photos, I use iPhoto on my Mac laptop, then do any touch ups using Google Snapseed. I’ve played with dozens of photo editing apps and packages, and I prefer Snapseed because it’s very beginner friendly, has loads of functionality, and includes super helpful tutorials. Plus, more often than not, I export my photos to OneDrive on my phone and end up editing them while my son’s playing with his toys. (Yep, motherhood multitasking. It’s a thing.)
Here’s an example of my photos pre and post digital editing. Big difference, huh?
Fave Snapseed Editing Features
Usually, I follow the same steps when I’m polishing up my photos. These are my tried at true editing steps:
First, I autotune my images using the little magic wand icon, which automatically corrects for things like brightness, contrast, saturation, ambiance, highlights, shadows, and warmth. I’ve found that Snapseed has a much lighter hand than iPhoto’s autotune. If I end up wanting more corrections, I can adjust any aspects of the photo manually until I get it exactly how I want.
Then, I use the brush function, set at dodge and burn, to whiten my teeth. You can click the little eye, which will highlight everywhere you’re whitening in red to make sure you don’t over whiten your lips and gums. I always go pretty easy on teeth whitening. When teeth look too white in a photo, I get a little suspicious that the photo’s been overedited.
Next, I auto adjust the white balance, which makes little but important adjustments to the photo’s tone.
The “face enhance” feature is awesome for making eyes clearer, smoothing skin, and adding a little spotlight onto your face. Again, use a very light hand when using this feature so the photo doesn’t look overprocessed.
Lastly, if I’m feeling saucy, I head to the curves or vintage buttons to play with filters. I like filters that give just a little touch of color or fading to a photo without distorting the overall image too much.
I’m so excited to see your DIY maternity photos. If you take some, upload them to Instagram and tag me so that I can give a shout out!
As always, lots of love, from my house to yours,