EXCLUSIVE: Baby Photographer Amrita Samant On What It Takes To Click Cute Babies. PS: It’s Not Easy
Hiding your baby bump is the thing of the past. Now, moms-to-be are not only showing off their bellies but also documenting their pregnancy with the help of professional photographers. Your pregnancy isn’t really complete until you show off that baby bump in the most stylish way and post it on your social media. A maternity photoshoot is probably the first thing on every would-be mom’s checklist and it’s picking up as a trend. It may have been started by the celebrities, but maternity and baby photoshoots are all the rage now and this very special and wholesome field of photography has created a niche for itself in the world of careers. We roped Amrita Samant, the best in the business, who has been capturing moms and babies in their glory under her brand Mommy Shots.
Samant is a celebrity maternity and baby photographer who has snapped celebs like Gul Panag and Sameera Reddy and not to mention a bunch of cute babies in her career spanning seven years. We sat her down to talk about what it takes to plan and execute the perfect pictures, some raging trends for the maternity and baby shoots and some pearls of wisdom for the budding photographers in the line of career (and much more). So if you are a new parent, a would-be aunt or uncle or someone who’s mulling over taking up maternity and newborn photography, here is Amrita Samant, founder of Mommy Shots, spilling the beans on all things maternity and baby photography.
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Also Read: This Woman’s Maternity Photoshoot Involving Live Bees On Her Belly Went Viral And It’s Making Everyone Uncomfortable
Q. Tell us about your journey and how you built your brand Mommy Shots.
I was really interested in academics growing up but I was always more interested in extracurricular activities. Being on stage was something I loved doing. But when you come to this crossroad as a teen where you can decide what you want to do for the rest of your life. So I moved on to something more reliable and secure like everybody else did. I studied computer science in my undergraduation and human resources in my masters and did a double masters degree. I worked in the corporate for about seven years. But the whole time, I was living a dual life. I would go to work from 9:00 to 6:00 and then from 7:00 to 10:00, I would be doing some creative hobby of mine. I also started doing a lot of research on what kind of creative careers I could possibly pursue which would sustain me and keep the artist in me happy.
Finally after nine different tries, I found photography. The moment I understood the power of photography, the power of the single photograph and how it could be such a beautiful medium of expression, I decided that maybe I could take this, learn along the way and really make this that one big outlet for all the creative juices I have been looking to push out. So photography happened in 2014. It’s been seven years. Thankfully, it was a matter of a brain wave that struck me to combine photography and children together and make something completely new for the market here. And yes, there’s been no looking back since then.
Q. What inspired you to take up this career?
When I was looking for different creative careers, I came across a whole bunch of them. I looked at wedding choreography but I hated the fact that I had to work or make this a job. I started to dislike it right then. But when I started to assist a friend with his wedding photography career, I realized that firstly, this is a beautiful way to express what you’re really thinking or visualizing and that by itself is an inspiration because there is no end to what you can put out on a canvas. The second fact that I liked was that there are some photographs that will make you stop and stare because that one image tells a huge story in just one simple frame. Creating great images like that is a huge challenge. And, I love a good challenge. So that’s what really inspired me to explore photography.
Q. Share one memorable shoot or your favourite photo that stood out for you as a photographer?
That’s like asking me to choose among all my babies but to answer your question, the most memorable one will have to be this one particular shoot which an aunt booked for her nephew six months before he was to be born. Two months later, she called and said “The baby’s born and he’s extremely premature. He only weighs 500 grams. I don’t know if he’ll make it and this is a very disheartening stage for the whole family.” Five months later, the family came to me for the shoot and they had named him Aslan after The Lion from The Chronicles of Narnia. So that was the most memorable shoot for me because this was a very scary time for everyone in the family. This was also very disheartening to hear as a photographer who’s looking forward to meeting the child. So when I got to meet him and document his early days, I felt like an absolute privilege to see this warrior come to me finally.
Q. What is the easiest and the hardest thing about working with babies?
There are no easy things about working with babies. Everything’s a challenge because they have a mind of their own and they don’t listen to instructions. It’s like they’re playing reverse psychology on you. They know what you want and then make sure they don’t do that. So there are not easy things for me to list except for the fact that when you finish a shoot, it’s the most beautiful feeling in the world because you’ve spent so much time in a positive aura with them.
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The hardest thing about working with children is that they have a very small threshold. They have only so much energy because they are so tiny and you have to make sure you give the parents the best pictures with the little amount of time that a baby offers you. The toughest challenge is to get the baby to cooperate.
Q. How has the pandemic changed the shoots for moms-to-be and babies?
I think there isn’t much difference when it comes to precautions we took as a company for baby or maternity photography before and after the pandemic, except that now we clean the space and get it sprayed with disinfectants. The other thing that’s changed is we have to wear a mask at all times. This is a huge challenge because the best way for us to bring out the best in a child is to befriend them, have them trust us and come close to us so they can be themselves in front of us. With a mask on that is doubly hard. But apart from that, the business hasn’t changed, the amount of business we get is the same. Neither has the people’s perception of getting a photoshoot changed because kids grow fast and the parents want to capture the milestones even during a pandemic, provided we take all the safety precautions that we can.
Q. Tell us about some interesting requests by your clients?
Yes, plenty. We’ve had a mom request for a maternity milk bath shoot in 2014 which was a very novel way of documenting the baby bump. We have got requests like a quarantine cake smash during the pandemic to personal requests like the child in doctor’s scrub because the parents were doctors. So, yes very interesting requests come our way and we try our very best to execute them because at the end of the day, these pictures are for them and for the generations ahead.
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Q. What do you think is the perception of birth photography for people in India? Is it any different for men and women?
I think it’s still very new in India and it’s going to be a while for people to be comfortable about it. The moment that we really focus on capturing is when the baby arrives into this world. The first reaction from the parents is what we’re looking to capture. Hospitals are slowly opening up to allowing this to happen in their operation theatres. About five years ago, every hospital said no to us but today, they are a little more open to allow one extra person, but parents in general are slowly opening up to it. So I think it’s going to be a little more education and exposure and awareness for the trend to pick up entirely.
Q. What are some latest trends in maternity and baby photography right now in terms of set-up and style.
I think that the trends are moving away from props and the focus is on creating more timeless pictures that will be appreciated and will be in trend 30 years from now. The most popular trends that are doing a cake smash for the first birthday. With maternity photography, people are looking at doing something completely unique like underwater shoots. Also, we do fashion-inspired maternity shoots. We get a stylist, hair and makeup artist and make the mom look like an absolute fashion diva and this is catching on very quickly among all of our clients.
Q. How do you plan the shoots, decide the location and where do you pull your creative inspiration from?
Locations are chosen collaboratively between us and the clients depending on the mood or the tone of shoot they want to go for and where we could possibly shoot. If they want to do it in the studio, we’re completely prepared to offer them the space. But we also do shoots in their homes or outdoors or any gorgeous location.
I think inspiration is honestly everywhere but I would be lying if I don’t say that there are some beautiful creators online on Instagram or Facebook who put in some gorgeous work out there. It doesn’t have to be a child on maternity shoot but I’m talking about fashion photographers across the world. The other side of the world doing amazing things which actually give us inspiration to maybe use elements or ideas in our current photoshoot for expecting moms and babies.
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Q. How can parents prepare for shoots? What are the things they should keep in mind?
There are a couple of things that we usually encourage parents to think about when they sign up for a photoshoot with us. We give them a checklist and tell them what the steps or the workflow would look like. So they send me pictures and once I understand the mood or the tone, then we choose a location, the hair and makeup, how the family can color coordinate and the entire look. These are the basic steps we go through before we execute the shoot. We tell the families to come for the shoot without any stress because we take care of all of that stress by setting up a to z of the photoshoot.
Q. Photography is still a male-dominated field. Any advice you’d want to give to women who aspire to venture into maternity and baby photography?
I would say the same thing I tell a lot of my students as well who have taken up photography as a full-time career and it’s that this is a kind of a profession where you only win some, you lose a lot. It is Performing Arts in a way. You are performing by creating something on a fresh canvas every single time you shoot. And it’s a process which will take time so patience is the key. Picasso didn’t become Picasso overnight. It took years and years of mastering his strokes and the same applies to any one of us looking to grow in this field. So, yes perseverance and patience would be two big things, along with the mindset to prepare to fail but to pick yourself up and keep going.