Over the last few years, people are breaking the stereotypes and are willing to experiment in almost everything they do. Celebrity maternity photographer Amrita Samant in an exclusive interview with Zee News Digital revealed how she made a career switch in time and is loving her unconventional job to the fullest. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
Q. Why did you switch from Human Resources to maternity photography?
A. This seems to be one of my most asked questions, during interviews! So yes, I was in the HR field for over 7 years. I was working as an HR business partner in a gaming company and very honestly, I loved my job. However, it wasn’t enough to satisfy my need to indulge myself in something creative.
That’s why I even tried out various creative part-time jobs such as writing for magazines, choreographing, theatre, all while working a full-time job. It was through this process of trial and error that I finally realized what my through calling is, photography. This realization took place when I assisted my friend for a wedding photography gig. It inspired me to find something unique for myself in the field of photography. And that’s how maternity and newborn photography happened. What started as a simple attempt, later turned into a full-blown career.
Q. Tell us the story behind the launch of your brand Mommy Shots and the journey so far.
A. Jogging you back to my childhood, my interest towards the arts initially grew with the performing arts being introduced to it at the age of 4. Inheriting the inclination to all things art from my mother, I grew up being a performer (dance/theatre) and when the crossroads to choose a career path arrived, I didn’t have too many creative options that were encouraged. I took the safe option of studying management and did a double masters degree, which consequently led me to a corporate job in Human resources for 7 years. While I worked a full-time job, my itch to do something creative always persisted.
So I dabbled in the arts or just about anything creative post-work hours every day. I tried really hard to find a creative job that was also sustainable so I tried my handwriting for magazines, choreography, theatre, all while working a full-time job. I explored 10 different creative career opportunities while working my full-time job, to seek my creative calling – a creative job that would satiate the artist in me yet sustain me. Then I finally realized what my through calling is when I assisted my friend for a couple of shoots with wedding photography.
I understood two things very quickly – It was a beautiful medium of expression and I very soon understood the power of a single photograph. This is where it all began. And the journey thus far has been nothing short but full filling. We have done over 1600 shoots to date, in 10 different countries and I can’t wait to see what 2021, my eight years in this field has installed for us!
Q. Elaborate on DO’s and Don’ts that can make or break a baby photography session.
A. First is to respect the child the same way we respect any adult. When a child first enters my studio, I never run over to them to gush or carry them. I smile at them and head off to their parents to have a short talk before we carry on with the shoot. By doing this I am respecting the child’s space and privacy while giving them to get used to the new environment. Secondly, don’t introduce children to first-time experiences or new experiences in a photoshoot.
We try to avoid first time experiences during shoots. So if my client wants to do something that their child has not done before, I advise them to practice that activity at home a few times. Ex: A milk bath shot – some babies refuse to be seated inside a tub that isn’t plain water. Or a cake smash, kids who like to be clean hate doing a cake smash as getting messy is part of the deal. This way we can avoid surprising the child with new activities during the shoot, avoiding mood changes and tantrums.
Other dos and don’ts is to ensure every activity we plan out is ‘fun’ for the baby, something they would enjoy. The idea is to make them comfortable at all points in time. We ensure to line up tasks/activities that will also help engage natural responses and elicit natural reactions.
Q. What is it like to shoot babies and families in a pandemic and what kind of precautions are required?
A. Newborn Photography inherently requires a lot of safety measures in place, because we are handling a couple’s most precious being who is barely 20 days old. And the same applies to maternity and child photography as well. So I wouldn’t say there is a big difference in the measure taken in the post-pandemic world. Everything we used to do earlier is still being done with the exception of govt. prescribed sanitization products used.
But if I must pick one, then it would be having to wear a mask. Expressions, not just the client’s ones but also ours, are key in building rapport during a shoot. Especially when working with children, we indulge in several games like “peek a boo” in which we make use of our funny expressions to elicit smiles. So with the masks on, it is difficult for the children to even understand what we are saying to them because everything sounds muffled. But you know what they say, it’s only a matter of time before we adapt and get used to new situations. And that’s exactly what we have learned to do, by finding other ways to elicit that natural smile or laughter.
Q. Has the pandemic affected the business of photography in India?
A. I think everyone felt the full effect of the pandemic from March onwards. And the first three months were chaotic, with one knowing when we can go out again or how to even move forward from this! We weren’t any different, we had to halt our shoots till June but what happened the moment we opened again for shoots, surprised us.
Clients rushed back to get their photoshoots done almost immediately. again, because they didn’t want to miss out on any more milestones of their little one. And the pandemic increased the importance of capturing these beautiful moments of growth more than ever. Also, as a trusted brand in the space, with all our safety, hygiene, and sanitization protocols we have done at our end, parents were extremely comfortable working with us based on the trust and hygiene standards we are following.
I can’t speak for the industry as a whole in India, however. But I believe many photography firms and businesses are back on their feet now.
Q. Please share some of the most interesting requests by clients and unusual or challenging shoots of your career.
A. I think one of the most interesting requests I got was to create ethnic maternity portraits which came as a request from a Kannada film-actress, Disha Madan. We came up with concepts and ideas to promote our ethnicity versus going with the cliche westernised maternity portraits. Reminding our children of their roots with a shoot such as this one will hold immense value decades later.
Q. What and who inspires you the most?
A. Inspiration is everywhere. I get inspired by anything creative and I always find ways to incorporate that into my work! As you get older, your perspective on things changes and so does your inspiration. What inspires you today will change over time.
For the most part, I derive my inspiration from children themselves as they are full of surprises while growing up. I think as an artist, its important to pay heed to all your senses and allow it to feed your mind with the places and people around you.Drawing inspiration from movies though has always been a staple. I continue to draw inspiration from several movies even till date.
Q. Is there a difference between how men and women react to the concept of birth photography?
A. Every couple reacts differently to birth photography. We can divide this into two main categories, one where couples are utterly afraid to even understand this field, two where couples are extremely excited to have their precious moments with their little ones captured. And trust me I understand where both of them are coming from and neither is wrong. Birth photography is still a fairly new concept in India so it is common for people to probe and question all the ways we could go wrong!
I think it’s up to us photographers to help them understand what this type of photography is and gain the couple’s trust with their skills and knowledge.
Q. Any advice for the budding photographers?
A. Perseverance and patience are your two eyes. Both are equally important characteristics that will help you create better images which are our primary role as photographers. Get better with each photo, learn more about each photo. This will uplift the art more, in a collaborative (not competitive) way. The one piece of advice I stand by is don’t just follow the trend. Be more of you and let that come across in your images.