Underwater Photography

4 Tips for Shooting Underwater Maternity Portraits

Underwater maternity portraits are a unique and stunning way to showcase a pregnancy. It also has the benefit of allowing the subject to feel cool, weightless and graceful underwater which is more challenging on land. The best time to shoot is between 28 – 38 weeks gestation when the belly is nice and round.

1. Props and Fabrics

Props and fabrics can really enhance an underwater maternity shoot. Light-weight fabrics such as chiffon are great and the floating fabric creates beautiful shapes as it moves, almost like an angel or butterfly wings. Fabrics can also be used as a backdrop to get a clean background such as black or white. It’s also fun to include props that have personal meaning such as baby shoes, a toy or even writing on the belly such as ‘baby boy’ or ‘baby girl’.

Beyonce helped bring underwater maternity portraits to light with her iconic underwater shoot to celebrate her twin pregnancy. She managed to look ethereal with her long flowing hair and natural facial expression. The shoot made good use of props with lots of coloured draped fabrics and floating flowers. 

See Beyonce’s Elegant, Naked Underwater Maternity Photos

2. Safety and Comfort

People often ask if it’s safe to shoot underwater while pregnant and it’s a fair question. It is certainly more challenging to hold your breathe for long and to stay submerged as the pregnant belly makes you more buoyant. Being in the water is safe and encouraged as it relieves stress on your back and joints and swimming is a great form of non-impact exercise. Holding your breath underwater is safe for a few seconds and you can just take it slower with plenty of breaks.

If the Mum-to-be isn’t comfortable underwater, you can concentrate on neck down shots, over/under shots where the image is split between above and below the surface. Her husband and son also got involved which was great and we got some beautiful shots of their interactions. I’ve even had underwater maternity (and other) shoots where the client can’t swim which is obviously challenging but I always send them some tips and techniques to practice before the day so they are comfortable underwater and we can still get some beautiful images.

3. The Setting – Pool or Ocean

The setting, whether pool or ocean can really impact the overall look of the image. Obviously clarity is a big issue, particularly in the ocean but also the colour of the tiles and the depth of a swimming pool. It helps to have a reasonably deep pool ie over 2m to allow for more movement and full-body images. If you are lucky enough to live near the ocean it is beautiful to shoot in the natural environment. However, there are more variables and challenges to be aware of such as the weather and conditions on the day, visibility, dangers eg currents and sea life. In this case it would help to have an assistant on hand. 

4. Editing

Underwater portraits generally require a decent amount of editing, using software such as Lightroom and Photoshop to improve the colour balance and get natural skin tones. 

The colour of the water, background distractions etc can also be altered in post production

Sometimes, I like to change the background completely, if the pool lines are too distracting or if I think it would look great in an ocean environment. I like to combine photos i’ve taken in the ocean with the portraits to create a digital artwork.


In summary, there are many factors that go into a successful underwater maternity shoot… the subject and their comfort levels in the water, the pool, the conditions and your own equipment etc. It’s challenging and fun and hopefully will provide the mum-to-be with some beautiful memories to treasure forever.

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Vanessa Clementson

Vanessa grew up by the ocean and has always had a love of the water and water sports. After years of taking photos as a hobby while scuba diving, she decided to create her niche in photography with underwater portraits whilst living in Singapore 4 years ago and hasn’t looked back. Now based in Sydney she looks forward to bringing the portraits back into the ocean environment.
Vanessa Clementson

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