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.
How to Take Gorgeous, Professional-Looking 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.
DIY maternity photos are the way to go if you want gorgeous photos without the cost.
Update for 2020: Y’all, this post is BLOWING UP. If you’re an expectant mama in 2020, I GET why you want to DIY your maternity photos. It’s not exactly the time you’re able to leave the house and work with a professional photographer.
Let’s get you all squared away to get some AMAZING photos, okay? Because this beautiful time in your life deserves to be documented.
Borrow the Best Camera Equipment You Can
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 need to 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!).
If you want ah-MAZE-ing maternity photos, you need to put down your smartphone and pick up an actual camera.
If that’s not an option for you, a smartphone is just fine, promise! We’ll talk through some poses and edits that can boost phone photography so it looks perfect.
What Kind of Camera Did I Use?
When it comes to our photographs, 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.
For these photos, I corralled my husband into taking pictures with our DSLR camera. I pretty much told him exactly where to stand, how to hold the camera, how often to shoot, etc.
We did this whole shoot on our own. And even though he wasn’t a professional photographer, he was a team player, and I love the photos!
This is the camera stuff we bought, linked with affiliate links:
Usually, when taking selfies for this blog, I don’t bug my husband. Instead, I use this cheapie little amazon remote shutter, linked above. And then I smile at the camera, hold the button in my hand (usually tucked behind me somehow), and click the shutter myself!
Why Did We Buy the Equipment We Have?
Because I’m not a professional photographer by any stretch, I bought my camera equipment over time.
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.
I turn to this little camera A LOT. It takes really nice photos, is easy to use, and light to carry. Plus I don’t worry about dropping it like I do my more expensive camera.
What about an expensive camera? 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. I get that the word “expensive” is relative, and some cameras cost WAY, WAY more. But I think 20 bucks is a big deal, lol, so spending 500 was a major purchase.
Do I love our DSLR camera? 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 editing 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 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 family members 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. Take a good inventory of what equipment you have before you default to your camera phone.
Bottom line: for the best DIY maternity photos, use the best tools you have. Set your smartphone aside and pick up something with a little more UMPH.
[bctt tweet=”For professional DIY photos, set your smartphone aside and pick up something with a little more UMPH.”]
A Lot of Prep Goes a Little Way – Spend Time with Hair and Makeup
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.”
The 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!
Take Far, Far More Photos Than You Think You Need
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.
[bctt tweet=”For amazing DIY maternity photos, you gotta take far, far more photos than you think are necessary!” via=”no”]
If you’re roping in a friend or family member to play photographer for you, they might not be comfortable clicking the shutter so often. I had to tell my husband JUST KEEP CLICKING over and over while I slightly shifted the poses a little, raising and lowering my chin, twisting my body ever so slightly.
Speaking of poses…
Know What Poses You Want to Do BEFORE You Start
Poses can be so tricky! And honestly, the right pose can make or break a photo session!
I encourage you to do some research on Pinterest before your photoshoot. Find a few poses you adore. For your shoot, have about five or six pose ideas in mind to try before you begin.
Before we did our DIY maternity shoot, I made a Pinterest board with my favorite maternity poses that I thought I could replicate. Then I kept pulling out my phone to show my husband. “See honey? I would say. Make it look like this!”
Being able to show him the poses I wanted really helped HIM understand my v vision for how I wanted each shot to go. Plus, he felt more involved since he kinda got a general idea.
Here’s the thing about posing – it’s not a one and done kind of deal.
When you’re posing, you can’t just stand in one place like you see in the photo. When you’re posing, make small adjustments while you’re snapping away.
What do I mean by small adjustments? 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.
For Your DIY Maternity Photos, Choose the Right Background
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 photoshoot.
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 doing 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.
Are you 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.
(2020 Update: Sheesh, going outside right now is tough. Stay safe! Be sure to consider how crowded space might be before you go. You might consider asking around in some local mom’s groups on Facebook for pretty, uncrowded recommendations.)
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 that you can easily cheat in post-production!)
Prepare to Edit Your DIY Maternity Photos … A Lot!
Once you’ve wrapped up your photoshoot, 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!
Sometimes I need to actually walk away from my phone or my computer – wherever I may be editing – for awhile because I can get tunnel vision. I take a break, then come back. And then with fresh eyes, I can tell if I over or under edited a picture. Usually, I’ve over-edited and need to backtrack.
[bctt tweet=”Digital photo editing? Don’t polish yourself into a robot.” via=”no”]
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. And it’s free!
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?
How I Edited My DIY Maternity Photos on Google Snapseed
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,