by Elli Cassidy Published 01/12/2016
Maternity, pregnancy or bump photography, whatever you choose to call it, if you photograph either babies or families then I would definitely consider adding these sessions to your repertoire. Primarily it’s a great way to increase your newborn clientele. To date, I’ve only ever had one client book in for a maternity session and not return for a newborn shoot, every other client has always brought their baby in, even if they weren’t planning on a newborn shoot beforehand.
You can either offer them as stand-alone sessions, or combine them with a newborn session; I offer them separately and then give an incentive discount if they book both at the same time. The main benefit of this is that it encourages them to book their newborn session before baby arrives so it secures them as a client and helps you schedule them in within the first few weeks.
An unexpected advantage, I discovered, is that maternity sessions help build a much stronger client relationship. You become part of their journey and when you welcome them back for their newborn session it’s almost like seeing friends again. It’s genuinely special getting to meet the baby that was the bump, and share in their excitement. I’ve found that returning clients are so much more relaxed at their baby session too; they already know me and have been to the studio so know what to expect. The more relaxed the parents, the better the experience and ultimately the higher the sales.
Ideally I like to schedule maternity sessions between 32-36 weeks' gestation. Clients usually have a beautiful bump whilst still having some energy and aren’t too tired or swollen. I’ve been caught out before when a client delivered her baby the day before we had scheduled her session so I try to hold them a few weeks before her due date. My preference is to hold these sessions in the mornings, again they have more energy and their legs and ankles are less swollen.
Preparing your client before the session can make a massive difference to the final portraits you can achieve. I advise my clients to consider having their hair and make-up done, and to either have clean bare nails, or a neat manicure. Experience has taught me to always have nail polish remover on hand in case they turn up with old/chipped nails. (It’s easy to forget about toe-nails when you can’t see them underneath a baby bump!)
My portfolio features a lot of nude pregnancy portraits so I also ask clients to ensure they are 'well groomed' before the session, (a neat bikini line can save some unpleasant editing). I generally photograph my clients in a nude thong and then just edit out the side lines, and I always have a robe on hand for them to wear in between photographs. I ask them to bring nude underwear with them for this, but I also have a few new pairs on hand that I can give them if needed.
On the day of the shoot, I ask the clients to rest beforehand, to drink lots of water and to wear loose clothing to help reduce imprint marks on their skin.
The props and clothing you provide for your clients will very much depend on your own style of photography. I have a selection of wraps and fabrics to drape my clients in, and I’ve found these easier to use than maternity dresses. I do have a few tops and dresses, and my tip there is to always buy large and then just pin it around the back to fit your client.
I keep my studio warm as my clients aren’t usually wearing much, however, I’m always careful not to overheat the room. I ask my clients throughout the session how they are feeling and I go off their body temperature, not mine, as pregnancy can almost create a completely new internal thermostat.
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