Journey to Motherhood: Maternity Portrait Photography & Birth Day Sessions


In the August 1991 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, Demi Moore graced the cover nude and pregnant. This memorable portrait beautifully broke down the barriers that had women hiding their pregnancies under shape-less clothing. Annie Leibovitz was the photographer for this iconic image that started a slow upward trend in maternity photography. I simply love the write-up Vanity Fair has on their website regarding this cover image! All of a sudden what had been considered “grotesque and obscene” was out there and it was elegant and beautiful. 🙂 When Demi Moore bared her bump, I was still quite young, however as I went through my schooling for photography, the image stuck with me and was essential in forming part of the current style in my own work at North Photography.

For years I have loved everything about pregnancy and babies. In my early years at college I considered switching majors to start studying midwifery or at least become a doula. Perhaps it is because I have never been pregnant myself that I find the whole experience enchanting and magical. 😉 Maybe I’ll have a whole different idea of things when I have my own stories to share! 🙂 But right now, hearing other’s stories is enough to draw me in and continue to drive my interest in documenting such a beautiful time in a woman’s life.

Despite the current popularity of maternity portrait sessions, many women still do not feel as empowered as Demi Moore. They feel uncomfortable, overweight, dull, and just plain not pretty. It is always my goal as a photographer to show my clients the beauty that I see in them. It might be cliché, but a woman who is carrying a child truly does have a certain look to her despite the obvious. Her face is softer, her eyes are bright, her smile is full of dreams and ideas for the life she is carrying. With the right clothing, the right setting, the right mood, and the right photographer, anyone’s natural beauty can shine through in a maternity session.

So, why invest in maternity portraits? Number one, it makes moms feel really great about themselves. 🙂 They are able to see themselves as perfect and beautiful minus all the aches and pains and discomforts that they might be feeling. And later when their children are grown, they have these amazing portraits to show them! True family heirlooms. One of my favorite photographs of my mum is when she is pregnant with me. She is standing in the living room wearing overalls that are tight across her full belly and she is giving my dad a little sassy look. She is so young and beautiful and smiling! It always just makes me so happy when I see it. 🙂

It is also the beginning of your child’s story and another chapter in your life as a family. Pregnancy is no longer hidden and should be celebrated just as much as the child it delivers! Many of my clients choose to do a series of sessions, documenting their pregnancy, their child’s birth day, their baby as a newborn, when baby is just starting to crawl, and then at their first birthday. It is such a joy and pleasure to be a part of a family’s life during some of the most joyous moments! Which leads us into Birth Day Sessions.

Birth photography has taken a great upward swing in the past couple years. It is a documentary form of professional photography that captures the labour and delivery of a child, be it in a hospital or home setting.

Labour and delivery can be a complete whirlwind  journey for the parents, particularly mom. At newborn sessions I would hear women’s birth stories and they would say, “It took 14 hours, but is a bit of a blur.” The only photos they had were ones that their partner or nurse had taken and they were blurry and unflattering to say the least. 🙂 As I was hearing these stories from my clients, I came across a photographer in Texas who did birth photography and I was hooked! With my background in photojournalism it was the perfect way to once again pursue my interests and also be able to offer my clients more great memories.

When people hear that I do birth photography they sometimes *gasp* and say, “Do you photograph down there?” My response is, “Yes, but only after discussing it with the parents and receiving a specific request from mom for those photos.” I do not just book a Birth Session and then wait for “the call”. 🙂 After a family contacts me we will meet and talk about their birth plan, their back-up birth plan, any emergency plans (particularly for home births) and then what they would like documented. (The down there question.) It is an honor to be invited to witness such an intimate moment in someones life; my goal is to be as unobtrusive as possible during the whole process. I have been very lucky that all of the doctors and midwives I have worked with have all been very kind, offering me better vantage points and more lighting. 🙂 Mostly though, I am a fly on the wall, documenting as the moments happen.

Almost everything is done with the available light. I do not utilize flash because I want to maintain the tranquil setting of the birth room as much as possible. If using extra light would make a perfect portrait, I do use it with the express permission of the mother. This is her journey with her partner and it is my job to document it as it happens.

Day or night, confirmed birth clients are allowed to call me for their delivery. It sounds a little crazy, but I love the adrenaline rush of getting my gear and hopping in the car. Several times I have arrived just in time. Knock on wood, I have not missed a birth yet. 🙂 Due to the extended commitment of these sessions, I am only able to accept so many each year and have to limit them, especially May-December when weddings are booked. I do love them though and am always excited when a couple contacts me regarding a birth session. 🙂

And even though this post is about Bellies & Births, I could not leave you without the final part of the birth journey: the beautiful baby.

Oh my goodness how I love a newborn baby! Newborn portraits are best done within the first 10 days of life. Anything older than that and baby is just not as interested in snoozing while we snuggle them in to the cute curly poses that everyone loves. Sessions are still doable, however I will just adjust some poses to allow for a safer session for the baby. All portrait sessions are done on-location at your home so you do not need to worry about packing up your new baby and traveling so soon after delivering. I am there to make life easier for you!

SPECIAL OFFER!! As a valued reader of BVTMB I would like to offer you $75 off any maternity or newborn sessions that are booked by February 1, 2013 and take place by May 31, 2013 and $150 off any Birth Day sessions that are booked by February 1, 2013 and take place by May 31, 2013. Please contact me at [email protected] for more information and to confirm availability. I look forward to chatting with you! 

And thank you. We really appreciate your support and feedback here.  You make us who we are! Be well & Smile Often, Kathleen


  1. Kathleen photographed our home birth. We are so grateful to have these amazing photos. She was a valuable part of our birth team…more than just a photographer. She has a beautiful and supportive presence. I highly recommend her!


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