Ideas for Great Maternity Photo Session Locations
Some of my FAVORITE photo sessions to shoot are family sessions that center around a maternity session.
Not only are they fun, beautiful and uplifting to do, but they are each so unique no matter how close or even in the same settings, they may take place.
In this blog post we’ll discuss tips for potential favorite locations for any maternity photo session, characteristics of a potential perfect spot and how to make a lackluster session location a great spot for a beautiful family photo session.
Picking Spots Around Town
Let’s start with popular favorite spots around town that you may (or may not) be thinking of.
Now, as a photographer, one of the things I absolutely HATE is going to a popular spot that is crowded with people and yes, other professional photographers.
Before you think I’m a hater, let me briefly explain.
I used to think that the known favorite locations around town were overused, too known and really, just too “popular” to result in unique, one-of-a-kind images for my clients. This, coupled with my discomfort in having to jockey for position or “take turns” with my photography colleagues gave me the perfect excuse to try to avoid these areas.
But it wasn’t until I was pushed by my clients to take photos in these favorite spots around town that I realized these are favorite spots for a reason.
So let’s talk about practical tips on how to get the absolute best results from these favorite spots around town and describe some of these very same locations that are likely universal despite you living elsewhere than in my beautiful home town of San Antonio, Texas.
Now in every state, city, and town in the world there are always, always favorite spots for photos. One of the ways to find these locations is to just google it. Or use Pinterest and undoubtedly, these locations will be the first that pop up.
For example, some of the best locations known in the United States are the streets of San Francisco, downtown Jacksonville, the lovely Northern Virginia and the lush grounds of San Juan Capistrano. They’re so popular, they are very well known to photographers all over the states.
In San Antonio, Texas for example, favorites are the Historic Pearl, downtown San Antonio at the Riverwalk, the San Antonio Botanical Gardens and Japanese Tea Gardens.
These places are popular for a reason. They’re beautiful locations and serve not just as social-gathering places and entertainment spots for the locals but also for tourists.
So, nine times out of ten, these places are going to be packed with people.
Now, unless you use the people around your clients as part of the photo, you’re going to run into the issue of dealing with a lot of foot traffic.
#1 Choose Your Photo Session Times Wisely
Instead of avoiding these areas, the good news is you can still have a maternity shoot in these great spots by choosing unpopular times to schedule these shoots.
For example, as awesome as golden hour is, typically a sunrise golden hour during the week or even sunset golden hour during the first part of the week will have less people around than other times.
The end of the week and the weekend are typically the times when city and town-life is going to be busy. Selectively choosing the time of the week when most are at work is going to offset this and allow you and your clients all the time in the world to get that maternity shoot in.
#2 Another great option is to opt for spots where a photo permit fee is required.
You may be thinking, “um excuse me, what?” But yes, even though I personally hate paying the fee for a photography permit, this is likely a sure way to guarantee the success of a maternity photoshoot for your pregnant client and family within a coveted hotspot in your city or town.
When permits are required, that serves as a filter to sort out the many photographers and clients who are looking for a free location for their shoot versus the vastly smaller number that are willing to pay for their spot.
For example, beautiful gardens in your local area may have this stipulation. The San Antonio Botanical Gardens is a beautiful location that requires a photo permit. Within the stipulations of this permit are the requirements that the number of people within the group are limited to 8 (at the time this is being written) and lasts only two hours.
Here’s a short clip of the SABOT grounds. I filmed a wedding here that gives a beautiful first hand glimpse of the gardens in all their splendor.
The positive with purchasing a photo permit is that you’ll easily have a beautiful area and great opportunity to capture guaranteed beautiful photos. An ugly location is not going to require you to purchase a photo permit. But the negative is that you are going to have to charge more for your services to cover this cost or the client will have to pay extra for the booking. Either way, the client is going to pay more than usual.
Another example of a great location nearby that requires a permit is the Sekrit Theater in Austin, Texas.
Instead of showing you a photo of this location, I’ll show you a video instead. Yes, it’s of a wedding but the goal is to see the beauty of this location and the potential it holds for an awesome maternity photoshoot.
This is also a great example of a beautiful spot for photos at literally any time of the year.
The Sekrit Theater is an eclectic location. There are all types of things like statues, houses, rooms, open spaces, flower walls, even a green house where a photos can be taken. This is the characteristic that makes the Sekrit Theater a hotspot historical landmark. Any mother’s style can shine here. And for the photographer, it’s a dream spot for the exact same reasons.
#3 Do it at times of the year when less people are around
Think of when the weather is less than ideal, say rainy or even cold. Less people are around and thus less foot traffic.
Many times this will work perfectly in allowing you all the space in the world to work with your clients with and a great atmosphere to capture in your footage that will result in one-of-a-kind photos.
#4 Research areas that typically have less foot traffic
A great way to have a successful shoot at a popular location is to focus on those spots that have less foot traffic.
This will likely take time on your end before the scheduled shoot either as the photographer or the client, depending on whose responsibility it is to pick the shoot location. The goal here is to scout out areas where you know you’ll encounter less interactions with other people.
For example, the Historic Pearl here in San Antonio is a stunning location where historical landmarks and open spaces merge into one popular destination for both locals and tourists alike.
After shooting here multiple times, I’ve found that there are areas where beautiful photos are guaranteed despite how the busy season. One particular area consists of stone steps where I can position my clients comfortably out of the way of most foot traffic and I, myself, move around easily around people to get the shots we need.
For family maternity sessions with small children this is ideal because there is plenty of room to allow them to run around, then quickly gather them for a family shoot at a moment’s notice.
#5 Studio Sessions
Finally, my last tip for consistently great maternity shoot locations are studio sessions.
While I have not been a fan of studio sessions personally, I do believe that is changing. Why? Because you can literally make this whatever you want it to be.
A photography session in a studio can be the perfect location to let your imagination run wild. Don’t get stuck in the rut of thinking of those sterile, fake-looking studio session photos with the clients positioned stiffly that most of us probably think of.
There is a photographer whose work I admire who has done studio session photo ops at Studio 125 here in town, with maternity clients and his photos are stunning. While I don’t have any examples of his photos, you can check out his site for samples of his work.
Having a blank canvas of an empty room with possibly some windows, the ability to change the background color with different canvases, can make these sessions come to life.
Not only can this be a hidden gem right in front of your eyes and readily available to boot, but it can also be some of the best places for a maternity photographer and their clients by allowing them to be in a climate-controlled environment and a contained space to sit, relax, bring props and move about easily without obstacles or much effort.
With a studio session, you and your client are very much in control and the possibilities are endless. Different backdrops, perfect for any time of year, easily made comfortable for young children to combine both maternity photos with family photos. You name it. It all can be done in a studio session.
Characteristics of the Best Pregnancy Photoshoot Spots
Now, let’s move on to discuss the characteristics you should look for when scouting for the best photoshoot locations for your maternity sessions.
First things first, keep the comfort of your client in mind.
Remember, your client is pregnant and carrying more weight centered around her belly than usual. That means more pressure on her back, legs and undoubtedly her legs, ankles and feet. But ALSO her bladder!
Look for locations where the parking area is a short walk from the photoshoot location.
Better yet, those locations that have a visitor’s center is probably going to be ideal since a bathroom is likely to be housed nearby. In addition, optimizing to avoid a lot of walking is going to help your client’s mood and energy from being too depleted by the end of the shoot.
Next, remember, bigger is not always the best. A small area can end up being some of the best places to have those maternity portraits.
Early in my photography experience, I did a shoot at a local park that didn’t seem to have any great scenic views and even backdrops. It didn’t seem like a beautiful place at all.
But we found a small area with some trees and focused on that one spot. And as a result those maternity photos are some of the absolute best I’ve ever taken, in my personal opinion.
Another characteristic to look for are great nature scenes.
This can vary drastically from a small lake and grassy areas to large fields and tall grass.
You can find these ideal locations by visiting your local state park. Truth be told, these areas are likely protected as well to conserve the natural beauty already inherent, which means this could become a potential go-to spot for years to come.
Many times the surrounding areas of these places can also be just as beautiful and can become potential maternity shoot locations if you explore for just a little bit.
I did a shoot at a place called Espada Park here in San Antonio, Texas. It’s a local state park and tied to the famous river of the Riverwalk that threads through the center, eventually leading to downtown.
At first glance, this park was nothing to really be excited about. Yes, it was beautiful in most areas, but nothing that really stood out for photos. In my research beforehand, I had not found any examples of any photos taken here, much less a maternity photoshoot. It seemed to be more for local nature enthusiasts, hikers, bike-riders, etc. You get the gist.
Well, I ended up having a maternity shoot here with family that found a stone bridge that was one of their specific location choices. We did some shooting there, and then an old rustic bridge on the other side of the park, as well as some greenery I found off one of the walking paths.
Let me tell you.
Those images ended up being awesome. Her maternity portraits, like her silhouette and belly shots, were beautiful. And her family shots were incredibly sweet and unique.
The end story in all of this is to not write off a location because you’ve never seen it used for images before or at first glance doesn’t seem to have much potential to offer.
I learned that you can literally create beautiful, one-of-a-kind images anywhere. It just takes some imagination, planning and creativity. But let these locations push you to be better at your craft.
Espada Park has become one of my go-to spots for photos and for maternity shots, works beautifully well with reliable areas to shoot in, easy access to street parking nearby and bathrooms available.
Finally, here are my tips for turning a truly lackluster location into a great location.
Focus on close-up shots
…with mama’s belly.
If you’re worried about the background being ugly or having issues editing the background, then avoid wide shots.
Do a variety of close-ups focusing on the pregnant belly, mama’s hands on the belly, dad kissing mom’s belly, and so on.
Create moments and photograph them.
For example, again, focusing on close-up shots, incorporate family members doing certain things that focus on the “maternity” theme.
Not just dad kissing the belly, but other siblings. Or mom and dad kissing and shooting from lower on the ground to angle up and get mom cupping the underbelly and yet, the kiss at the same time.
These are moments that your maternity clients are sure to love and will undoubtedly have them returning as repeat clients.
For other tips for maternity photography, check out this great article by Cole’s Classroom.
Lastly, use a portion of the scene as the foreground.
These are some of my favorite shots to do, because even though the principle can be applied couple to couple, photo to photo, they are all unique. Depending on what props are available and locations, the differences in images can be stunning.
For example, I’ve used part of a bridge as foreground, tree leaves and even wooden fence posts.
Maternity Photoshoot Locations are VAST in options
To conclude, there truly is a ton of variety available to you and your clients when it comes to finding great maternity photoshoot spots.
Sometimes it takes a little imagination and a lot of creativity, but this will not only push you to be a better photographer, but provide irreplaceable photos for your clients.
Yes, will these beautiful locations make your job easier? Of course!
But some of your most distinctive shots could come from those places off the beaten path, if you will.
And what a shame to not expand your skillset by pushing yourself to shoot in these locations. Locations that could turn into your new favorite place for a maternity photoshoot.
So get out there friends. Explore, brainstorm and shoot some photos.