A trend of maternity photoshoots is fast gaining grounds in India that stands testimony to the fact that moms-to-be are getting more and more comfortable in their skin and, as a result, are willing to document this time in their lives.
News18 got in touch with photographers who call the shots in this very special form of photography in order to discover what essentially entails shooting with a pregnant woman, her family and a newborn, when this art became its own field and how body positivity is an offshoot of getting a maternity portfolio done right before the family grows.
Maternity Photography- Beginning of a Trend
Ruchita K Jain, Studio Owner and Photographer: 2012 I would say was the start of it. Pinterest has changed the way the world wants to see themselves. It is also the reason why the demand in maternity and newborn photoshoots. Mothers can easily search on the internet and get an idea about what they want to do, in terms of referencing. Now, there are people like us coming in to fill the demand and do it nicely. We tend not to get overwhelmed and create a balance between the real and reel life.
Tarveen Kalsi, Studio Owner and Photographer: 3-5 years ago when I started, I remember a friend who wanted to get her maternity shoot done. She couldn't find anyone who did it at those times. There were many wedding photographers who would on rare occasions take this up as a side project but as we all know the wedding photography industry is male driven and maternity photography is a very sensitive segment to deal with.
Slowly, the demand of capturing the most special moment of their life became one of the 'to-do' things for pregnant women. Now that the industry has evolved by many folds and is dominated by female photographers, every expectant mother has become very comfortable getting herself clicked in the most fairytalish way.
There is of course the influence by the Western culture where it has been a very open and common concept for them to capture every moment of their lives--be it wedding, pregnancy and childbirth. Now the same has become a very popular idea among different people/ culture in India.
Sachin Khira, Studio Owner and Underwater and Land-based Photographer: The concept of a maternity photoshoot (land-based) is there since the time film was used in the camera. More than 50-60 years old or even more, I'd say. Underwater maternity shoot in India is a relatively newer concept though, around 4-5 years old. But in the world it has been there since the last 15 years. The clients like to capture the moment and have good memories. A photographer can do justice to this and give you the best of memories.
The Challenges of a Maternity Photoshoot
Ruchita: The challenge for me is to make a woman love her body. Not everyone comes with a mindset regarding how they are going to look in the photoshoot or in a particular dress. But I always see the wider vision and try to show them the better side in terms of loving themselves. It’s not about how creative you are while clicking a picture, but how comfortable you make a mother feel.
During a maternity shoot, women may get a little apprehensive about doing a certain shot. Sometimes they feel like 'oh, my thighs have become a little big, my arms are big,' but I try to get the emotions out rather than make them feel 'oh my god, I'm looking bloated.'
Sachin: Unlike land-based sessions, in underwater shoots you hold your breath, go down, click a couple of pictures and then she (the model) goes up for air. In a normal studio shoot, 10-15 pictures can be clicked in one go. Inside water, within a fraction of a second your pose will change because you are floating. Your expressions will change. The water will flow over your face, a bubble may come over or your costume may cover your face.
You have to be very comfortable and precise while shooting. The model has to be very comfortable in posing. One has to discuss everything in advance and reach a certain comfort level. We do briefings with the clients, followed by a test shoot. They have to understand these challenges first, only then we proceed with the actual shoot. If you are doing an underwater shoot with fixed ideas, it does not work out.
Prepping for a Maternity and Newborn Shoot- Client and the Logistics
Tarveen: I always encourage my clients to come up with ideas as to how they perceive the shoot to be. I aim for the session to look like a part of their personality. It’s always nice to inculcate an element off their personality or profession into their session.
Mahhi Vij and Jay Bhanushali were extremely involved in their newborn's session. They knew exactly what they wanted. We had discussed all the themes and sets a few days prior to the day of the shoot and I was glad I could do justice to it.
Ginni Chatrath gave me complete liberty to decide the workflow for her daughter's newborn session and that vote of confidence is more than enough for an artist to showcase their best. Both the baby celebrities rocked their sessions and at the end I had extremely happy set of parents.
Sachin: Doing an underwater maternity photoshoot inside a pool is safer (as opposed to ocean) because you do not require an oxygen cylinder, scuba gear and stuff like that. It can be done in 5-6 feet deep water, which is quite shallow. 2-3 assistants are required to set up the lights underwater and organise everything. One experienced person has to dedicatedly work with the pregnant female and give her complete attention so that safety is taken care of. There are all the chances that she may not be comfortable. The safe way of doing an underwater shoot is with at least a team of 4-5 people. A much bigger team is required when shooting in an open sea.
Ruchita: We run through a mood board of the shoot. I personally select outfits for the mother and father-to-be. We also keep stock of different designs of costumes and gowns. I don't like my mothers hunting for things so I also share links with them. Plus, I've made sure my studio is a one stop shop for them. We have hair, make up and styling services. In the times of Covid, a team of three people work on a session.
As for the clients, everybody who loves themselves and want to be pampered will come to me. The economy of a shoot cannot stop them. People have different spending habits. For the families, it is not about the money and it is not about the social background.
Tarveen: I have different packages for both newborn and maternity photography ranging from 35,000/- to 60,000/-. The packages are decided depending up the number of looks/themes or locations the clients would want to shoot in. The timings vary according to the package chosen.
In this line of work, I dedicate one entire day to one client as I cannot put timings on a baby's sleep schedule and neither can I rush a mama-to-be, to just finish my session on time.
Sachin: An underwater assignment of 3-4 hours can cost anywhere between Rs 20,000/- to 35,000/-. Plus, the pool has to be organised, so that is additional cost. We also help in hiring a pool but then the cost adds up. Special props, flowers and backdrops cost extra. We normally discuss with the clients and arrive at concepts giving them an idea about the images we can create. We've to pre-plan everything and get approvals so that we can be on time.
Ruchita: We charge somewhere around 45,000/- to 60,000/-. I have different packages for newborn and maternity shoots. They are also customisable. If you want something specific in the shoot, we can arrange it for you and make it as elaborate as one wants it to be.
Tarveen: I think pregnancy is a celebration of womanhood and more and more women are looking at it that way. The new age liberated Indian woman is increasingly seeing it not as a period where one has to cope with the changes but a time when one has to celebrate the changes. Baby bumps are no longer to be hidden. And I think men have had an equal role to play in this transition with them being equal partners in the entire process.
Ruchita: A lot of stereotypes are discussed when mothers and newborns come to me for a photoshoot. My clients discuss everything, right from what can be eaten during pregnancy to when to first shave off a baby's hair. I give them my opinion telling them that there is no right or wrong way of doing things. During our sessions, besides the mother, I tend to open up the husbands as well. I tell them about my experiences and that of my family. Men don't think that delivering a child is huge thing but it is a big deal. I share books with them and give them information.
Sachin: Both my daughters, aged 23 and 25, and I are trained divers. They have helped me in doing underwater shoots so that the comfort level with the female is maintained. I consider myself very fortunate to be part of this.
Maternity Shoot and Body Positivity
Ruchita: I want to change the way women look at themselves when they are pregnant, especially those who are plus-size. I stress on accepting the way one is. I believe that every body is a bikini body and I try and promote the idea through my shoots.
Tarveen: I feel that my work captures the essence of these beautiful, sensitive moments in a way that the mother feels just out of a fairytale. I hope looking at those pictures, many more mothers feel the urge to recreate the same for themselves.
Sachin: There has to be absolute clarity about the idea that your body is going to be exposed in front of the photographer along with the team of helpers. Not just that, if a photo is put up by me or the client on social media, lakhs of people are going to see it. This concept has to settle in the client's mind and then everything else becomes easy.