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Using Maternity Portraiture as a Form of Self-Empowerment

Bethany Ellen

I hear it all the time. And it makes me really sad.

“Oh, I could NEVER look like that pregnant.”

I’m a photographer specializing in maternity portraiture. And one day I realized I was photographing every expecting mama in the same way. The same poses, the same props, the same locations. Each journey to parenthood was different, and yet I was capturing them all the exact same way.

Pregnancy is full of planning. You’ve got announcements for your parents, dad’s parents, plus doctors appointments and gender reveals and baby showers and baby moons. All while growing a tiny human! It’s easy to get overwhelmed and throw certain things on the back burner. You wouldn’t be able to survive if you didn’t!

About a year ago, I decided I wanted to offer more to my clients during this crazy new chapter in their lives. Photos are so incredibly precious, and really the only heirloom your little ones don’t outgrow.

I think we often picture a calm state with a lack of motion. We picture stillness, quiet, sleep. As someone who can’t ever shut her brain off, it’s never made sense to me. My calm happens behind a camera, working with my head and my hands together to create something, whatever that thing may be.

My clients often felt the opposite of calm in front of the camera. This was a temporary body, one that changed day to day. It was hard work! And here I was with a camera, capturing every detail.

The clash in headspace changed when we both changed our mindset on the point of a maternity session.

Maternity sessions weren’t something to check off the list just to say you got them done.

Maternity sessions were a time to celebrate my clients’ entire journey to motherhood. They were a time to embrace that temporary, but glorious, bump and remember what a dynamic duo mom and baby were together, even before the baby was earthside. Maternity sessions were just as much about the parents to be, their relationship with each other that literally created life. They were a way to celebrate the hell out of mom, who had given up so much of herself to share space in this life with someone she hadn’t even begun to know. I wanted mom to feel powerful, like a queen. Because she was one!

So we got a little bold.

I got gowns, big gowns. Gowns fit for a princess. We started traveling all over the country, looking for crazy cool locations for a baby moon. Moms got their hair and makeup done, dads got to dress up too. This really became an elevated experience for everyone!

Every pregnancy is unique and special. Going all out for one day in a photo shoot didn’t diminish the entire journey leading up to baby’s birth. It didn’t make the newborn photos any less special. In fact, these photoshoots gave mama a form of self-expression and empowerment she didn’t have before.

We are currently bringing forth the most photographed generation in the world. These kids will grow up with a plethora of visual history from their childhood. It’s perfectly okay to show kids how powerful, dramatic, and strong the pregnant woman can be. It’s okay to enhance your natural beauty with fun wardrobe and the experience of a full photoshoot. It’s a beautiful memory for you to share with your son or daughter later on.

In these moments, mom wasn’t buying art for baby’s nursery. She was becoming art. And it was so cool to watch that transformation.

If you’re reading this and you’re about to take maternity photos: I urge you to reflect on these last 30ish weeks you’ve experienced as a new mom. Are you proud of how far you’ve come?

We’re all proud of you. Let that show in your photos. Go all out, go the extra mile. You deserve it. You matter, mama.

  • More Articles by Bethany
Bethany Ellen
Maternity Photographer

Bethany Ellen is a nationally published destination maternity photographer based out of Cincinnati, Ohio.  When she’s not photographing radiant mamas, you’ll find her with her sweet dog, her crazy cat, and her supportive boyfriend Alex. Connect with her on Instagram or her website to see where she’s headed next! 

Find Bethany Online
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Bethany Ellen
Maternity Photographer

Bethany Ellen is a nationally published destination maternity photographer based out of Cincinnati, Ohio.  When she’s not photographing radiant mamas, you’ll find her with her sweet dog, her crazy cat, and her supportive boyfriend Alex. Connect with her on Instagram or her website to see where she’s headed next! 

Find Bethany Online
follow me
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