Oh Baby! Expectant Moms are Capturing the Mood and the Moment in Pictures by Marla Cimini
“Let’s show off that big, beautiful belly!”It’s very rare that you hear a spirited, enthusiastic request like that one from a professional photographer at a photo shoot. But not so in the world of maternity photography, a trend that has been growing in popularity across the United States for the last few years. Ever since that now-famous Vanity Fair magazine cover featured a very pregnant and extremely proud Demi Moore in August of 1991, women of all ages and walks of life have enjoyed being photographed while expecting, and that trend shows no signs of slowing.
Additionally, as more and more top Hollywood celebrities are frequently photographed just about everywhere with their bellies exposed — from the red carpet to running errands — it seems that women are becoming increasingly comfortable with the prospect of posing pregnant for artistic portraits. In fact, some entertainment-focused magazines refer to the pregnant celebrities’ round tummy to the “bump.”And, with the increase in maternity yoga classes, as well as the recent introduction of chic designer (and often sexy, form-fitting) maternity clothing, women seem to be enjoying their new sense of freedom when it comes to being pregnant and displaying bulging bellies.
So, many believe it only makes sense to document this special time in an expectant mother’s life.Washington Township photographer Kristine Ryan, (www.kristineryan.com) who has snapped photos of over 25 pregnant New Jersey women in the past few years, says “I enjoy pregnancy photography because it makes me feel good to be able to photograph such an important time in a couple’s life. Pregnancy and childbirth are miracles and we need to hold onto the memories they provide. The parents appreciate the pictures, but I think they take on a whole new meaning after the baby is born and the pregnancy itself becomes such a distant memory…that’s when those photographs become invaluable.”
With the growing abundance of maternity photographers, New Jersey women now have an array of choices regarding the style of their portraits – from artsy to more conservative. In addition, they have the luxury selecting a photographer who they feel will provide the photos that they want.Offering creative and private location options, photographers specializing in maternity portraits say these special photo sessions are not just limited to indoors in a sterile studio. Often, the shoots are held within a pretty, sunlit room in the woman’s (or the photographer’s) own home, or (weather permitting), the expectant mothers can be photographed in a picturesque spot outdoors such as a beach, garden, park, or even a private backyard.
Generally, maternity photography has an intimate feel, and features the woman (often with her husband) posing with the focus on the unborn child. Some examples of popular shots include the woman looking down lovingly at her tummy, or the couple in an embrace, or even the husband kneeling in front of the woman and kissing her belly.Styles range from casual, such as jeans and t-shirts, to more dramatic, like sheer materials or draped fabrics around the silhouette of the woman’s tummy. Photographers agree that the clothing should reflect the woman’s own style and she should always feel beautiful in the clothing choices for the photographs.Ideally, the optimal time for pregnant woman to be photographed is in her third trimester, but the general rule of thumb is that the woman have a nice, round shape to her belly. Most often, this translates to somewhat later in the pregnancy, but essentially, it depends on the individual. Patience is a virtue, however. Photographers will probably turn away women who don’t have a shapely belly to emphasize.
And how bare do they go? Nude, semi-nude or covered? Well, that all depends on the woman’s personal preference. Ryan points out that she has seen a definite shift in the style of photographs that women are requesting.”In the last two months of 2005, I suddenly started to receive requests from pregnant women who specifically wanted to do full nude portraits,” she said. “I was a bit surprised, because that’s a change from the normal photographs that I take, where at least some parts of the woman’s body are strategically covered.” Ryan started photographing expectant mothers about three years ago, after she became pregnant herself with her now two-year-old daughter, McKenna. She feels she can relate to the women seeking photographs because of their shared experience.
Absecon-based photographer Leenie Light agrees with this recent surge in popularity of women who desire to bare it all in their maternity shots. She says, “Pregnant women today are definitely requesting more risqué photographs – they want to show off more of their bodies — artistically of course. In my opinion, that is because these women are more health-conscious, and they are not afraid to display their shape.”With four children of her own, Light shows empathy for the expectant mom and strongly believes her own experiences make her more sensitive to woman’s needs during the shoot. She always takes this into consideration when trying new poses during the shoots.Maternity portraits are not only growing in popularity in New Jersey and the East Coast, but all signs point to this trend becoming more mainstream all over the United States. By simply “Googling” pregnancy (or maternity photography) on the Internet, anyone can find a number of photographers that offer this service in nearly every city in the country.
Speaking of sizzling trends, Los Angeles-based photographer Andréa Cimini (www.andreacimini.com) frequently jets to the east coast specifically to take pregnancy photos in New Jersey and the tri-state area. For the past five years, she has seen a steady upswing in this type of photography requests. It now makes up about half of her overall business. Throughout her career, she has photographed over 300 pregnant women on both coasts combined.
Cimini explains: “Sometimes it seems I get calls from New Jersey or Philadelphia-area women almost as often as I get calls from California clients. Most of them are drawn to the artistic but natural photographs that I specialize in creating for them.”Cimini attributes this increasing demand for pregnancy photographs to several elements. “Women are becoming more in tune with themselves and very accepting of their bodies while pregnant, and they really want to celebrate this special time in their lives. I love working with pregnant women to help them capture this amazing moment they will cherish forever,” she says. “In a photo shoot, there are several components that make it successful. It’s not just how the women look, but their state of mind as well.” Cimini continued, “So, it’s very important for me to create a warm, friendly atmosphere and take time to learn who the woman really is, and make sure she is comfortable and happy during the entire shoot.
Before I pick up my camera, I spend time with her selecting clothing, ensuring the temperature is perfect and the music is uplifting. Music is essential to generate the right mood.”The average maternity client should expect to pay approximately $750 to at least $1200 for decent portraits, especially if they choose to hire a hair stylist, makeup artist and clothing stylist for the shoot. Most photographers offer several price packages to choose from, and take time with the expectant couple to provide them with a consultation, ensuring that everyone is pleased with the final photos. Often, women ask to include their husbands, children or even favorite pets in the photographs. Prices vary depending on how many photos are taken and how many family members are being photographed.For those on a tight budget, photos can be done inexpensively, too. Because this trend is becoming so hot, even J.C. Penney is jumping into the action and now offering maternity photos, starting at $20.
Kamila Harris (www.kamilaharris.com), a photographer in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey, recently started to promote her pregnancy photography services. “Once I announced my services, it was like the floodgates opened,” she laughed. “I had so many calls the first week, I was stunned.”Although she has been receiving more calls than she has anticipated, she feels the need to fully explain the photography process to her potential clients. Harris points out, “Sometimes clients need to be educated about how much work really goes into successful and artistic pregnancy photography. For an hour of snapping photos, I spend about 8 hours at the computer re-touching and re-working the photos so they are a unique piece of artwork that the woman will absolutely love.”Harris, along with the other photographers, always encourage their clients to hire a professional hair and makeup artist for their shoot, because not only will it enhance the photographs, but they believe it adds to the whole experience of the photo shoot where the women can relax, feel glamorous and look their best.New mother Jennifer Garrison of Southern New Jersey chose to have pregnancy photos taken last summer. She says, “Normally I would not want photos of myself, but I felt it was important to document this special time for my husband and I.” She continued, “Many of my friends have had their maternity photos taken as well and we are all so thankful we captured such a precious time with pictures.”
And what do the clients do with their final photos? Some new parents wish to display the photographs in a main room their home, while others would prefer to keep the shots more private.Another new mom, Kristin Case, of Vineland, New Jersey, hired Kristine Ryan to take her photographs after seeing her promotional advertisement in her obstetrician’s office. She was thrilled with the results.Case says, enthusiastically, “This was my first baby and for me, the whole pregnancy was amazing. Why not immortalize it in photographs? This is the way I looked, and yes, I gained weight…but let’s celebrate this new life. My husband was photographed with me and he had a lot of fun, too!”She continued, “It was a wonderful experience. We both absolutely love the photographs and consider them works of art. We display them on the wall in our living room and have received so many positive responses from our friends and relatives. We are very proud of them and would do it again!”