There were so many beautiful maternity portraits I wanted to take during my pregnancy that I soon felt overwhelmed trying to decide on just a few for one photography session, so instead made an entire Pinterest board of Maternity Shoot Inspiration that I could tackle one at a time on a weekly basis. So my suggestion is to create an inspiration mood board as your first step to a self portrait, even if it's just a one-time shoot.
The second step is to have a positive attitude before photographing yourself. Most days, I do not feel like taking a portrait at all and the hardest days overcoming this feeling included morning sickness 24/7 the first trimester, feeling flabby and bloated but not showing confidently as pregnant the second trimester, and feeling a complete lack of motivation and energy in the third trimester. My advice is to keep your eye on the prize at the end, make a conscious effort in changing your mindset, and force yourself to get excited about creating one more puzzle piece in the series to complete your pregnancy album. I promise you it’s worth it!
Thirdly, set yourself up for success by having a simple go-to gear pack ready to go at any moment. Every single one of my shots has been in natural light so I nix any time-consuming lighting setup. I use one camera Nikon D750), one lens (Nikon 50mm f/1.8), and keep the SD card in the camera and batteries charged. I do use a tripod (Eddie by 3 Legged Thing) but you don’t have to if you just use a sturdy surface to prop your camera up on for your portrait. I keep this little “selfie kit” ready to go in my Lily Deanne Mezzo camera bag by Think Tank Photo so that I don’t have any excuses not to grab the camera and knock out a 5-minute portrait.
Now that you have a selfie portrait selected from your mood board, a positive attitude, and your gear in hand, find a location you feel safe and secure in to take your self portrait. I choose to do all my portraits in my own home so that I can feel comfortable in showing my own skin, take snack breaks whenever I want, and can accomplish a portrait on a whim even when it’s straight out of the shower, right when I wake up from a nap, or late at night just before bed. Find a spot with a simple background, lots of stuff adding to the shot supporting the narration of your portrait, or set up a mini-set if you feel the energy and inspiration. There is no right or wrong in the location, as long as you feel safe and comfortable!
Step four it to set your camera up, take a test shot and dial in your camera settings to your liking. Sometimes you may want to overexpose for really bright shot overall, or underexpose for a silhouette. Finesse the settings to the shot and mood you want to create. After your exposure is set, you will want to take your camera lens off auto focus and change it to manual focus. Then put an object in the frame where you will be posing, and manually focus on it. Put your camera on self-timer (refer to your camera’s manual or Google it) and press the shutter for one final test shot to make sure everything in the image looks good overall.
The fifth step is to put yourself in the frame! I like to practice my pose where I will be sitting or standing and get it down to where I can do it quickly. Once you feel confident in what you want, hit the shutter button on your camera and make sure the self-timer blinking light starts to flash, walk back to your mark and pose in the shot. Once the camera goes off, review the image on the back of the camera and adjust your pose or camera settings as needed. Always take a series, one to nail the initial pose you’re going for, and then loosen up and try different poses as inspired or thought of in the moment. It’s always a surprise to find your favorite image from the series is a pose you had come up with at the last second!
Getting up and down to check shots during a series of images can be tiring while pregnant, so if the pose allows for it, use a remote shutter so that you can remain in one place posing differently for a few shots before getting up to check to see if any of them are to your liking. The remote shutter came in handy especially during my “Jump!” shot captured for this years’ international #BumpDay that was featured on What to Expect’s blog. Regardless of using a remote shutter or the self-timer on your camera, continue checking the shots and modifying your pose and/or camera settings until you like one of them.
(A quick note here to let you know that you don’t have to use a fancy DSLR camera and lens to do a self portrait as nearly all smartphones and tablets these days have a self-timer feature. Just prop your smart device up somewhere that allows you to frame your shot, put the camera app of your choice on self-timer, get in your shot and do your pose as described above. You can choose to edit your photo using an in-camera app, or export it to your favorite editing software on your computer.)
Once you’ve got your series of images, import them to your computer and use your favorite editing software to process the image to your liking. For my base overall look, I use Lightroom CC with Totally Rad’s Lightroom Presets and do my final look using their TR Action Mix 1 + TR Action Mix 2 in Photoshop CC. I’ve been using these presets and actions for many years and have spent hundreds of hours editing thousands of images to create a custom recipe for my signature look, so have patience as you apply filters and effects in editing software. Like any good wine, it gets better with time!
Lastly, I cannot emphasize enough to be gentle on yourself, celebrate your body as it changes with time, and love who you are through the process of self discovery and healing with your self portraits. There is a silver lining in everything that happens in our lives, and as we go through challenges and face changes, we find a greater strength and purpose as we rise above and share our journey.
LaRae Lobdell is a Miami based portrait photographer, host, and instructor with nearly 20 years of experience photographing, directing, producing exhibits, and speaking in the photography industry.
Her curriculum vitae includes 21 photography exhibits of her own work, the curation of 15 exhibits for other artists’ and museums, the production of 13 private and community events, and two year’s experience as director of one of Seattle’s largest art walks. Her images have been published in The Huffington Post, Broadway World, Yale University Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine, and even aired on the Colbert Report.
LaRae’s position as lead host for online educational giants such as CreativeLive and Polaroid University gave her the unique opportunity as one of an elite group of professionals to connect a live global audience to top renowned professionals in photography, video, design, business, audio, music, software design, productivity, and lifestyle.
Originally raised on a small family farm in Otis Orchards, Washington, this Pacific Northwest gal now calls Miami, Florida her home and enjoys a quiet life with her boyfriend, dog, and two cats. She is due to deliver her first child, a baby girl, in October 2016.To view more of LaRae's work, visit her here: