Content And Community For Black Moms

Don’t let coronavirus keep you from capturing this beautiful moment with a DIY maternity photo shoot.

Photo credit: Stocksy

Ashley Cowling never thought she would have a DIY maternity photo shoot. She already had everything planned out from the perfect setting—a Birmingham, Alabama sunflower field—to the perfect photographer: a well-known local photographer to capture her in her third trimester glory.

But then… coronavirus. The global pandemic swept through and changed the way we all celebrate life’s major milestones. (How to make birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, and DIY maternity photo shoots quarantine friendly is on the minds of a lot of folks these days.)

“At first I was a little discouraged,” Ashley says of having to cancel her original maternity photo shoot plans. “[I felt like] I was lacking in some way because I wouldn’t have the same experience other moms promote so often.”

You can make the moment just as special as if a professional was doing it.

But Ashley decided to give at-home DIY maternity photo shoots a try after seeing a few women in her online support group for Black expecting moms show off their pictures taken at home. On Easter, Ashley posed in front of her apartment windows with books and items for her virtual baby shower serving as a backdrop while her husband snapped away.

”We didn’t expect it to be so beautiful the first time around,” Ashley says of her test run with home maternity pictures. She has plans to take more photos around her home.

If you’re wondering how to do maternity photo shoot at home, keep these tips in mind. (This advice can work for your pregnancy announcement photos if you just found out you’re pregnant during coronavirus, and to document your baby’s first days home after you leave the hospital or have a home birth.)

1. Accept that your maternity shoot won’t be how you initially envisioned it.

So many of the milestones associated with giving birth are about celebrating the life you’re bringing into the world with your loved ones—but we can all be real here and admit it’s also about getting some bomb pictures.

It’s ok to feel upset about not having the typical maternity photo shoot experience. But that doesn’t mean your maternity shoot during coronavirus will be worth any less than others’ photo shoots. While it will be different, it’ll be just as special.

“Be positive about the simplicity of the experience,” says Ashley. “You can make the moment just as special as if a professional was doing it.”

2. Come up with a theme or mood you want to capture.

What story do you want your photos to tell? Do you want something intimate and sexy like a boudoir photo shoot or something playful and silly? You can make it happen within your home.

Think of yourself as an art director and pull inspiration from Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, or magazines. Then figure out what you’d need to recreate the look for your quarantine maternity photo shoot at home. (Sidenote: If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of posing, these images can also provide some guidance.)

3. Work with a photographer through FaceTime or Zoom….

It may be tempting to find ways to still work with a photographer in person. “What if they captured us from the window? What if they promise to stay 6 feet away, and just zoom in?”

You can still benefit from the talent of an expert photographer while also following social distancing protocols. 

“Most municipalities are discouraging the ‘front porch’ sessions or sessions at a distance,” says Traci A. Delisser, a photographer based out of Philadelphia. “In some areas these sessions are a violation of the shelter in place—they are not essential—and the photographer could face fines and have their license revoked.”

You can still benefit from the talent of an expert photographer while also following social distancing protocols.

“A lot of photographers are doing sessions over FaceTime and Zoom as you may have seen on IG,” Traci explains. “It is a great way for someone to get maternity photos with their favorite photographer.”

So hit up your dream photographer and see if you can book them for a consultation through your phone, tablet, or laptop. They can coach you on how to get the best maternity photos at home and even edit your photos for you at a very affordable rate compared to an in-person shoot.

Photo credit:    @missenocha
Photo credit: @missenocha

3. …Or go the DIY maternity photo shoot route (but step your camera phone game up first).

Some of your favorite influencer’s shots were captured with the same phone you use to like their photos. How do they get those beautiful shots?

Well first off, they’re not using the camera on selfie mode. Using the “back camera” instead of the “front camera” gives higher quality photos. (You know how your selfies never look as good as when you get someone to take a photo of you? That’s why.)

They’re also using a tripod with a wireless remote. This can help if you’re at home by yourself or if your partner isn’t the best at taking photos—you can just set up the phone on the tripod and discretely snap away. (I used one to take pics for the ‘gram on a solo trip to Martinique; this selfie stick tripod by Yoozon comes highly recommended, but anything you find will do.)

Take advantage of the features that are already on your phone. Androids and iPhones have features you can use to take gallery quality photographs like portrait mode.

And you can add some oomph to your photos with a photo editing app like VSCO or Snapseed, or presets for Lightroom. (A lot of your favorite influencers probably sell their own presets you can use!)

“Stick to a natural looking edit to enhance the photos,” says Brooklyn-based photographer Chi Chi Ari. “Try editing some images in black and white.”

Photo credit:    @decluephotography    and    @ericalovejones
Photo credit: @decluephotography and @ericalovejones

4. Pull props from your home (or order online).

“Props are important for visual storytelling,” says visual storyteller Asiyami Gold in an IG TV post. “It gives life to your photo, it helps you evoke the right emotion, and it helps you really tell that visual story that you want to tell.”

Do you have a green thumb? Bring your plant babies into the shot and channel an Earth Mother goddess look for your maternity photo shoot.

Have fairy or Christmas string lights in your home? Plug them in and use them as a backdrop for your photo. (You can get some inspiration on how to use string lights for your maternity photo shoot here.)

A bedsheet or quilt can become a backdrop, a kitchen stool your throne.

Don’t have the props you want at home? See what you can order online, but be aware that there are shipping delays on items that are considered non-essential.

5. Practice your poses before your maternity shoot.

If you’re not quite sure what to do in your photos, go on Pinterest and Instagram and start saving photos that capture poses you’d like to try.

In the meantime, New York City-based wedding photographer Petronella Lugemwa has a pose to get you started.

“Place one hand on top of your belly and the other underneath your belly to accentuate the shape of belly and connect with your baby in utero,” she says. “It’ll make for a more emotional moment.”

6. Let yourself get emotional during your pregnancy shoot.

“One way to create more meaningful photos is through emotion and feelings—what you think or feel always comes through in a photo,” Petronella says.

“During the shoot, think about how much you love your baby and what you wish your baby will always know about you and who they are.”

Creating a mix of emotion stirring and “I’m a baddie” posed photos will give a range of memories and images to look back on once your baby is here.

7. Do what makes you feel beautiful during your DIY maternity photo shoot.

Whether you’re outside or at home, you want to feel comfortable and beautiful during your maternity photoshoot. So invest in making that happen. Do a full beat or go bare faced! Rent a maternity gown from places like Rent the Runway or Mama Bump Rentals if you want to create a glam moment at home, or wear your favorite PJs.

Whatever supports you in feeling gorgeous and photo ready, do it!

8. Take advantage of natural light.

“Find the light,” says Chi Chi. “Photography is really all about light and natural light is very flattering. Make sure the light source is facing you or to the side—not behind you.”

Great lighting made all the difference in Keyona Bridenstein’s at home maternity photos. Keyona didn’t do a maternity shoot for her first pregnancy, and wasn’t planning on doing one for her second pregnancy—”I’m extremely shy and not a girly girl at all,” she explains. But a friend, who also happens to be a professional photographer, convinced her to do a FaceTime maternity photo shoot that turned out beautifully thanks to natural lighting.

“She just had me turn my house lights off and stand in front of my window for good lighting,” Keyona explains. “I set my phone up on whatever I could and moved it around as she wanted me to.”

The results speak for themselves!

9. Capture your home life.

When we think of capturing our pregnancies, it’s usually focused on the big maternity photo shoot. But what about all those small, intimate moments that make up this special time?

“Document the days at home using whatever you have,” says Traci. “Set up your phone on a tripod or against something. Use a timer app—I use Photo Timer—to have the phone capture several images in intervals, capturing you as go about certain activities or just relaxing on the couch, loving on your kids or with your partner. Move from room to room and repeat.”

You can use your phone, or a Fujifilm Instax for a vintage Polaroid feel. (Make sure you get lots of lots of film!)

 
 
 
 
 
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10. Turn your kids into your DIY maternity shoot photographers.

Recruit your little or not-so-little ones to photograph your at home maternity shoot. You’d be surprised at the images your kids can capture, and it will make your maternity pictures even more special. Imagine telling your baby when they’re older that their sibling took this photo! (Added bonus: It’s a good way to keep them occupied during the quarantine.)

The photo above was taken by Jaselyn De Geneste-Wilson’s daughter.

“I washed my hair and started blow drying it… but my arms were done by the time I got to the second half,” she explains. “Called hubs to help and he did what he could. My 10-year-old daughter snapped this shot and sent it to me.”

Photo courtesy of Keyona Bridenstein
Photo courtesy of Keyona Bridenstein

11. Enjoy yourself!

One major pro of an at-home maternity shoot is that you don’t have to worry about being on anyone’s clock. You can take as many pictures as you like! Knowing that can reduce some of the pressure associated with in-person maternity photo shoots.

“Relax and have fun,” says Keyona. “It’s about the memories you’ll have and be able to share with your baby one day. [My friend] just kept reminding me that I’ll be able to show my son when he’s older.”

“It’s an intimate moment,” Ashley agrees, “so be present.”

Have fun with your at-home maternity photo shoot, and tag us in your Instagram posts (@matermea)!

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Tomi Akitunde is the founder of mater mea.

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