Photos of pregnancies and newborns: interview with Donatella Nicolini

The weeks preceding the birth and those immediately following represent one of the most “spectacular” and wonderful moments of life: the genesis of a human being, its most important moment. Being able to capture instants of this phase, saving them forever on a photo, is an opportunity not to be missed. An opportunity that comes only  once in a lifetime .

By chance I happened to meet a young Italian photographer who, in my opinion, is destined to see her already considerable prestige and success increase:  Donatella Nicolini . Her favorite fields of action are pregnant women and newborns. You have tremendous respect for her work and, of course, she has a natural interest in the subjects she portrays. And it is for these reasons that I asked her if she was interested in exchanging a few words with us at Maternicity° . She gladly accepted, and it is therefore with great pleasure that we can now publish our interesting chat with  Donatella Nicolini !

Hi Donatella, you are still very young, but you already have a great aesthetic sense. Tell us something about yourself: when did you start specializing in maternity photos and newborn photos?

I became interested in pregnancy and newborn photography following the birth of my little nephew 3 years ago. I had already dealt with portraits before, but my subjects were all adults and in particular artists such as actors and dancers.

His birth upset my life and my interests, it made me discover a love and a curiosity that I didn’t imagine I could experience and so I started looking on the internet for ideas and inspirations to photograph the new little man of the house. From there, a world of sweetness and creativity opened up to me, which immediately fascinated me. So I decided to study and deepen the newborn photography sector, participating in international workshops of the greatest maternity photographers on the safety of newborns during photo shoots to pose them consciously and without risk, falling asleep and relaxation techniques, methods swaddling and much more.

It is a continuous course of study, full of updates and creative ideas.

After some time spent photographing newborns, I received a request for pregnancy portraits and that was the crucial moment, in which I decided to dedicate myself exclusively to maternity and newborn photos. In the fine art pregnancy portrait I discovered infinite artistic possibilities, combined with the incomparable emotion of such an important moment, so delicate and majestic at the same time.

You don’t take care of maternity and newborn photos just out of professional passion: you immediately see that you have a genuine curiosity and innate passion for mothers and babies. Can you tell us what you like best when it comes to photographing pregnant women and newborns?

I’m glad you see it, because it really is! The best thing about photographing pregnant women is being able to make them feel beautiful, radiant, strong and sensual in their new shapes. The moment they see their photos for the first time and find themselves more beautiful than ever. This is what gives me the smile and the desire to continue and improve more and more.

Photographing newborns is no less exciting. They are so small and for so little time! They change drastically quickly and we tend to forget the details of the early days, their funny hair, heart-shaped mouth, little hands and feet, perfect miniatures. These photos are certainly the most precious and are a priceless legacy to leave to one’s children and grandchildren. I don’t have children, but every time I hold a little model in my arms for my photos, I trigger that instinctive maternal love for which the most important thing becomes taking care of him and treating him as what is most precious.

Motherhood is often experienced as an illness rather than as a moment of extreme strength and courage for women: a psychological attitude which, I believe, has its origins more in our cultural tradition than in biology. In your photos, however, the women appear serene and strong. I’m wondering if it’s possible that the photo shoot during pregnancy has a therapeutic value, that is, it serves the woman to develop a better self-image. So my question is: have you ever noticed changes in the perception women have of themselves, before and after a photo shoot?

Absolutely yes! And this is exactly my mission: to instill strength, power, courage and pride in pregnant women. Showing their beauty, even when they themselves are no longer able to see it on a daily basis. During the photo shoot, I’m the one to guide them from start to finish in every way, from the poses to the clothes, I let every mother entrust herself to me with the guarantee of making her splendid in every photo. Often girls who have never entered a photographic studio before come to be photographed and following my instructions they obtain images in which they look like models already used to being in front of the lens.

You often photograph in your studio in Milan, with artificial light and with specially chosen sets and costumes. Do you ever travel to other cities to meet the needs of your customers?

I work for the major in the studio in Milan, but I also happen to travel to reach clients who contact me from all over Italy. I usually rent a studio on site or if there isn’t the possibility of having a studio I set up a mini set in the client’s home, bringing my own equipment.

Your photos appear to me very beautiful and with attention to the smallest details, from the light and composition, but above all in the choice of the moment to capture. What’s the secret to making people feel so comfortable when you work?

Each set is curated and studied in detail, I create the images in my mind first of all. I believe that the secret to making people feel at ease is the genuine love that I put into this work. Every time I photograph someone I instinctively create a connection and the moment I start setting up and shooting this magic happens where I feel connected by a particular kind of love for the person I’m photographing. It’s difficult to explain in words, it’s as if for those few hours of shooting I felt like a lifelong friend of these people, I’m not afraid to open up and behave as if I were working with someone I love and want to take care of treatment.

If I remember correctly, your photo shoot involves two hours of filming. But then I imagine that you will also have to do all the editing of the photos, and possibly printing. How much time does this second part of your work take?

That’s right, a classic pregnancy shoot lasts about two hours. The photo selection and post-production process takes much, much longer! Each service is different but on average I need at least a week, sometimes even two, to post produce all the images to be delivered. That’s because I’m not satisfied with quick and rough editing! What I want is to bring my vision to life, faithfully, with precise post-production in the smallest details for photos that can be printed even in large dimensions without defects. It takes time, but it’s worth it!

If you were pregnant with a baby, would you have your picture taken? If yes, do you already have a photographer in mind to whom you can entrust this important and delicate job?

Without a doubt, I would have myself photographed and I already know by whom: my highly esteemed and talented colleague Lola Melani ( ), a photographer from New York whom I know personally and love for her refined taste and exceptional skill, as well as his being an extremely lovable and helpful person.

Some personalities from the world of entertainment such as Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland have chosen to communicate their pregnancy to the world with portraits taken in the studio by photographers of the caliber of Awole Rizku and Kelly Rowland. This is a fact that in some ways validates the medium and photographic print and puts it a step above other  mediums , such as audio and video **. On the other hand, a photo can be printed and framed, a video cannot. The photo, even if digital, always maintains its roots in the physicality (of the print). I saw that you take great care of the printing** of your work. What are your favorite photo formats?

I love large photos, for example a 60×90, to hang at home like a painting.

It is very important to choose the material on which the photo will be printed. I always recommend choosing a 100% certified cotton fiber Fine Art paper or a print on canvas.

What are the best weeks to immortalize an ongoing pregnancy? And for babies, which months are the most suitable?

For pregnancy photos, the best period is approximately between the 30th and 36th week, when the belly takes on a more rounded and visible shape, while for newborn photos, the timing is more rigid and ranges from 7 to 14 days as recommended period.

I have also successfully carried out newborn sessions for babies over 14 days old, but more patience is needed because older babies sleep less often and less deeply and lose the uterine position and elasticity of the first days of life, so it is no longer possible make some poses typical of newborn photography. For this reason it is advisable to get in touch with your trusted photographer before the birth and organize yourself in time.

Where in the house are the photos you take usually placed?

The most common are the living room and nursery / children’s bedroom

Can you tell us about your photographic style and the photographers who have inspired you the most? Outside of photography, what things pique your interest the most?

I try to get away as much as possible from the tacky and cheap style that I sometimes see in some pregnancy photos. My taste is more elegant and refined, it is inspired by boudoir photos, sometimes with an eye towards fashion to create unique and timeless portraits. I am very inspired by the work of the aforementioned Lola Melani but I also admire and keep an eye on other photographers of other genres besides maternity such as Lindsay Adler, Joel Grimes, Vicky Papas Vergara, Sue Bryce, Joey Lawrence, and the great Annie Leibovitz only to name a few. Outside of photography, which still occupies 90% of my thoughts, I let myself be inspired by cinema, my other great passion. I go to the cinema every week and when I watch a film I like to analyze and dissect the most interesting frames in terms of image, color correction,

If you didn’t specifically specialize in photographing mothers and babies, what else would you like to do as a photographer?

I love making portraits in the studio, but I also really like working on film sets as a still photographer. I had some experience on the set and it felt very good, like breathing the air of home.

Have you ever thought about creating a course for photographers, or offering mentorships to those who want to become a professional photographer?

I’m working on the realization of my first workshop, side by side with a great internationally renowned maternity photographer. If I do one thing, I like to do it big!

How does your work develop from the moment you are contacted by a new client? I suppose that behind each of your single photographic shots there is a different path of artistic research. Can you confirm it for me?

I confirm! When a client contacts me, I first investigate her tastes, her favorite colors and her expectations. From there I start to think and study the various combinations of colors, dresses, fabrics, light patterns and poses to make the most of every mother based on her physical characteristics and her personality.

You will have no memory of the unique moments, the most “spectacular” and the most exciting of a person’s life, if not precisely through photos or videos. What your photos have in particular is the ability to highlight the harmony, serenity and majesty of the event they capture. And this gives even more value to your technically refined work. Thanks Donatella and good luck.

Thank you very much for the compliments, I’m happy that you perceive the aspects and details that lie behind my work, I put all of myself into it and I strive to improve more and more every day.

Katherine Johnson, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with clinical expertise in general obstetrics and gynecology, family planning, women’s health, and gynecology.

She is affiliated with the Obstetrics and Gynecology division at an undisclosed healthcare institution and the online platform,

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