How to DIY your maternity shoot

Amidst the many things that I’ve had to re-think and/or cancel during this lockdown, my maternity shoot was one. For those of you who don’t know me, before I took the entrepreneurial path and launched my kids-wear label ‘veronna, I used to be a stylist and fashion writer at an international fashion and lifestyle magazine, ELLE (India). I love everything about shoots, right from the conceptualisation to the execution and so putting together my own maternity shoot would have been all the more special. But, I didn’t want to waste time moping over not being able to have a professional shoot and instead decided that I would DIY my shoot at home. I knew I wanted to have pictures that would document this time in my life.
I got in touch with my friend and ace fashion photographer, Anai Bharucha to help me. If not for the pandemic, she would have shot these photographs for me herself. I’ve always admired her work and was thrilled when she agreed to guide me through the shoot with her tips and tricks. I love the way the pictures turned out. They may not be too professional looking, but they will be special nonetheless.
PS: The best part was that we got my husband to take all the pictures. I’d say extra brownie points to him for patiently taking all the photographs, and putting up with my multiple instructions. Gotta love him! Plus it was a great way to bond!

As soon as I finished taking my pictures, I knew I had to share this with you too. So many of you must be home and missing out on your maternity shoot too. So here’s my way of making sure you capture these special moments.
And to help you plan your own shoot, Anai and I put together a simple guide to DIY’ing your maternity shoot at home. Before we get into the photographs and lighting where Anai takes over, I wanted to share with you with how to go about prepping for the shoot.

 Your first step should be to create a mood-board with all references of moods and images that you like. This will help you understand what kind of images you want to create and will give you direction when planning your shoot. Say hello to your new BFF ‘Pinterest’.

Next would be thinking about your backdrop and the props you plan to use. Since we are all homebound, we will be shooting indoors. So pick a single spot or more around the house where you can shoot. My recommendations would be to also collect a few items from around the house that can double as props. Use houseplants, pretty throws, rugs, pillows, and some baby items like sonography images, shoes and onesies. The idea is to create a backdrop that you like or that will make for an interesting frame. Don’t think you’re creative with using space? Do not worry. Find interesting walls around the house, even a room with sheer curtains works. Stand in front of it and shoot.

One of my favourite parts of the shoot, the wardrobe – try to keep it simple. Use silhouettes and colours that help accentuate the bump. Plan your outfits in advance, and make sure to try everything on before hand so you are confident about how you feel in them. You must feel comfortable. Keep the jewellery minimal.

Hair and make-up is also not a worry – keep it natural! Your best bet is to go for a natural ‘no make-up’ make-up look. Keep the skin looking fresh and dewy. For your hair, I suggest go with whatever is most comfortable to you. Straighten or curl – upto you! I have naturally straight hair but decided to add some light waves to the edges.

I’m sure you all have a ton of questions about how to actually go about shooting the images – how to capture the perfect light, pose and edit the images eventually if needed. Not to worry, enter Anai – We've broken down the process into a question-answer format that I think should help.

MillennialMomTalk: What is the best kind of light to be shooting in?
Anai Bharucha: The most flattering light will be a soft natural light coming from behind your camera. For best results, use the light coming in from your window between 3pm and 5pm in the afternoons/evening or early mornings. Please don’t use your house and ceiling lights, make sure these are all switched off before you begin shooting.

MMT: What are the different ways to use this light to create beautiful imagery?
AB: This depends a lot on the kind of image and visual you’re looking to create. I would say most of all be patient, experiment and change your angles around and see if using portrait mode helps. Find what angles flatter you and the bump.
If you position yourself at an angle where the light is hitting you from the side, you might want to consider creating a ‘fill’ light on the other side so that one half isn’t too dark. This can be done with a white wall/ white bedsheet propped up in someway or with any other reflective surface.

MMT suggests – go back to your mood-board and see the different images you want to try shooting. This will help you understand what light you need.

MMT: Where and how do you place your camera and yourself when shooting?
AB: Be creative. Set up/use a backdrop of some kind in your house, if you can. Soft colours like a pale pink, beige and peach, etc. are all good options because whatever background you choose, tones of the colour will reflect in your skin’s undertones, so these are all some flattering options. Then, stand in front of it and place the camera at your eye level in front of you to start with. I’d say don’t feel stuck, move around and explore variations. Maybe stay away from super low/super high angels because these cause distortions

MMT: How can one achieve soft silhouette images?
AB: Silhouettes are a great way to highlight that baby bump and I think I would love to play with this aspect if I was actually present on set… So to achieve a silhouette, your main source of light has to be behind you and you need to be ‘back-lit’. This will give you an outline and when the shot is taken, chances are you will be in darkness. If it’s too much and you want to bring some details back bring your reflective surface friend back and place it in front of you to try and achieve some form of a soft light hitting you. You can also adjust shadows a little bit with the help of a photo-editing app.

MMT: What are the best editing apps out there for an amateur?
AB: I like Snapseed a lot, it’s efficient for colour adjustments and quite easy to use.

MMT: Any other recommendations to creating beautiful images?
AB: Keep the styling simple. Don’t overcomplicate any of it, using a good camera phone is fine, you don’t need a DSLR. I understand that documenting this time is important so make the most of it and take the whole experience positively. Also, make your partners or whomever you are quarantined with really work and feel free to instruct them around.

MMT: What kind of camera can one use? If one is using a phone are there any presets/modes you recommend shooting with?
AB: If you have a DSLR and are comfortable handling it, great! But if the buttons and manual mode confuses you, just store it away and bring out your phone. Sometimes light and just being creative can be more important than the lens. Try using portrait mode, sometimes it works great. I would say stay away from the wide angle lens(unless there’s a specific reason for it), this doesn’t do justice to portraiture.

I really hope this was helpful and that you all try shooting at home too. I hear the best time to shoot is typically between 30 to 35 weeks as your bump is most visible and you're still comfortable taking pictures and posing. 
I'd love to know if any of you do end up shooting at home and of the experience you had, in the comments below. 
Here are some pictures from my own shoot.
- Veronna D







Photo credits: Mitul Damani

Check out Anai Bharucha's work here