Underwater Maternity Portraits Article written for NAPCP Inspired Magazine

And we just let it go

I am honored to share with you that the NAPCP, the National Association of Professional Child Photographers, published an article submitted about Underwater Maternity Portraits in this month’s issue of Inspired Magazine. I am proud to represent this esteemed Professional Photography Association as both an Ambassador for the Charlotte NC region as well as a Master Photographer.

Our bodies are transformed in the water.  

The weight is lifted.  

We move with the flow of the water.  

We just let go.

And that, my friends, is where art is created.  

In the letting go…

NAPCP Inspired Magazine Cover July 2021
What an honor to share feature space with the amazing portrait photographer Danielle Trina of Colorado Springs, Colorado!
NAPCP Inspired Article by Renee Stengel Photography Underwater Maternity Portraits
NAPCP Inspired Article by Renee Stengel Photography Underwater Maternity Portraits

Underwater Maternity Portraits

An Article by Renee Stengel Photography

Published in NAPCP Inspired Magazine, July 2021

Is there anything more beautiful than a glowing Mama to be? The joy. The Anticipation. All of the wonder of new life growing inside…

Underwater Maternity Portraits have been growing in popularity over the last few years.  There is something about an expecting mama being able to relax and move with the flow of the water that creates an almost ethereal portrait. 

The expression of movement and art, combined with the bold colors and flow of the fabric and dresses, creates a uniquely special and beautiful experience.

To be honest. I have pursued Underwater Photography precisely for that reason.

I love being able to create Maternity Portraits and Photographic Artwork that stands out from the crowd. In a world that is saturated with imagery, being able to create truly unique portraits thrills my creative spirit!

And from beginner swimmer to advanced, from mid second trimester to late third, from my tiniest Mama to my curviest, every expectant Mother who enters my pool is thrilled that they did so.  

NAPCP Inspired Article by Renee Stengel Photography Underwater Maternity Portraits

So.  How does it work?

NAPCP Inspired Article by Renee Stengel Photography Underwater Maternity Portraits

Safety first.  Always.  I never work with fabric or props in the water without a trained safety swimmer as my assistant in the water.   Maternity gowns look incredible in the water.  The flow of the fabric.  The bold colors against the blues of the water.  It is truly amazing.  But those fabrics are heavy.  And they can weigh someone down or get caught up around a model’s legs far too quickly.  

And the most important thing in that pool – every single time I get in – is that everyone gets out safely.  Every time.

I have experimented and learned which fabrics work well in the water.  I now have a studio closet full of dresses, fabrics, and accessories available for my clients to choose from.  A maternity session typically lasts a couple hours with two to three outfits.  It takes a lot longer to change in and out of wet gowns than dry ones!

Go with the Flow

NAPCP Inspired Article by Renee Stengel Photography Underwater Maternity Portraits

And we go with the flow (pun intended). I let each Mama get comfortable in the water as we begin working.  I give them guidance on how to sink themselves, how to stay safe, how to pose, and on facial expressions in the water.  

Some models are ready for an active session in the deep end in the first ten minutes. Most need the first ten to thirty minutes to warm up to the idea of relaxing in the water and letting go.  It is my job to show them that they can trust me.  That my assistants and I are there to take care of them and keep them safe.  Once they understand that, I have had clients who are barely able to swim actually relax and have amazing underwater sessions.

But I never push.  I have a long list of posing options.  Many of which do not even require my clients to put their head under the water.  And when they do go under, I am in place and ready to grab that shot in under thirty seconds – sometimes in as little as five seconds.

And then?

Water, as a medium, is nearly 800 times denser than air. 

And when shooting through any medium, you lose clarity and sharpness.  So, underwater photographers must learn to deal with that in post processing. 

Contrast, Clarity, Luminosity. They all play an important role in achieving a final edited Underwater Fine Art Portrait. 

Underwater Editing is a bit of its own beast, but the final result is always worth the effort.

The magic solution to figuring it out?  Investing the time.

NAPCP Inspired Article by Renee Stengel Photography Underwater Maternity Portraits

Just Breathe

I always find it fascinating that when life gets hectic and I feel like I can’t breathe deeply enough, going under water is what solves that.  I hold my breath to breathe.  It’s how I know this is in my blood.  Just thinking about the water – just writing this – I start breathing deeper, the world starts to slow down, the to do list fades away a bit…

People often think you should hold your breath to sink under water.  The truth is, you need to let it go.  That ability to let it go is what helps you sink.  Sink.  And make magic.

This is where I heal

Sitting at the bottom of a body of water, taking in the peace and solitude, is the most magical place on earth for me.  This is where I heal.  This is where I soar.  Where I let it all go – and just breathe.

The more complicated the session – the more adults I have on deck!  Sometimes it can get pretty busy out there, but that gives me the freedom to sink under the water and enter my own little world and allow everyone else to do their jobs – while I do mine. 


NAPCP Inspired Article by Renee Stengel Photography Underwater Maternity Portraits
4 Tips for Great Underwater Portraits

4 Tips for Great Underwater Portraits!

  • Have Fun and Let the Water Guide You
  • Don’t be afraid of Props – bold jewelry, light weight fabric, flower or metal crowns, sunglasses, and high heels. Even everyday objects like a vintage telephone or a violin!  They can all add personality to the session and a little surprise to the viewer when they see ordinary items out of their element and used underwater.
  • Use bold colors, fun patterns, and billowing fabric – anything but neon yellow!
  • Do a creative session just for you every season.  I have found that these sessions are not just fun, they are critical to both my growth as a photographer and to my mental health.  They are the sessions where I let my imagination run wild, push myself beyond any boxes I have created, and have any restrictions of “being professional” around clients lifted.  In that freedom – I learn, I create, and I thrive!

Renee’s Must Have Gear Accessories

~Weight Belt – I use 10 to 12 pounds of dive weight to help sink and stay on the bottom

~Dive Mask – you won’t regret investing in a well-fitting one!  RX brands are available.

~Baking Soda – It helps keeps my alkalinity at the top of the range and my salt water pool crystal clear

~Silicone – Keep those O-Rings lubricated and the leaks out!

~Swim Socks – to protect my feet during long sessions (I stock up in off season and go through several pairs every summer)

~Dive Skin – I love my SlipIns – Fun patterns, fits great, and keeps me protected without sunblock (which contributes to decreased water clarity)

Top Gear for Underwater Maternity Portraits
NAPCP Inspired Article by Renee Stengel Photography Underwater Maternity Portraits
NAPCP words of praise introducing Renee Stengel Photography
Thank you for such kind words on your social media account NAPCP.

I wrote an article titled “Let’s Dive In” for Inspired Magazine in their 2019 summer water themed issue. I am so proud to be able to continue to contribute to this beautiful professional photography magazine.

Much love,

Renee Stengel Photography | Charlotte Underwater Photographer



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