By Ritika Jain
We’ve come a long way from what used to be a strictly private moment to something that needs to be remembered and cherished. Just like any other major event in your life, giving birth to new life is way up there. That’s why the new trend of shooting birth stories is catching on. Birth photography is all about capturing intimate moments and preserving those precious memories. Just like you would hire a specialist for your wedding cake instead of any other baker, you need an expert for this very important job. You want someone who’s mindful of where they are and is sensitive, someone who’ll deliver aesthetically shot pictures and knows the technical aspects of their craft.
In India, there are just a handful of people who are offering their services for birth photography. Shipra and Amit Chhabra have been conducting maternity shoots and photographing newborns, kids and families since 2013, ever since returning from the US with a dream of starting a speciality baby photography studio.
Divya and Akhil (name changed on request), who recently hired them, said “We had so many questions. Understandably, husbands are more apprehensive than their wives. But once you meet the team and understand that they do this more as parents rather than just photographers, you are at ease.” Shipra adds, “The trick is to understand where they are coming from as new parents and respect their opinions. Once we delivered the images to Divya and Akhil, they were so overcome with emotions that they couldn’t stop hugging us. They said this was the best first gift they had given their baby.”
We asked Shipra and Amit about the finer nuances of this very difficult job that requires serious reserves of patience. Here’s what they had to say:
Candid shots are a far cry from studio photography. How did you decide to get into taking birth pictures?
Being parents ourselves had a lot to do with this decision. Our son’s birth was one of the most important moments of our lives. Due to so much happening at that time, we couldn’t manage to capture those once-in-a-lifetime moments and relive his birth story. Since we are anyway in the business of preserving memories, we thought why not go a step ahead and be a part of this beautiful journey the moment it starts. That moment is more special than anything else. The moment when you actually become parents. Hence, birth photography came into play.
What is your personal philosophy and what is the experience like for you?
We work from the heart. Having lived overseas for more than 15 years and being in corporate jobs, newborn photography started as a hobby and has been our passion ever since. You just can’t think commercially while working with these tiny beings. A lot of emotions are at play when you are handing a newborn baby. We love each and every baby that we photograph and try to create memories for parents that will last a lifetime. The tears of joy in the parents’ eyes when they see their tiny baby posed and dressed for the shoot reaffirms our faith in what we are doing — something important that will be appreciated forever.
How do you brief the parents? Or is it vice versa?
Birth photography is a relatively new concept in our country and there are a lot of myths attached to it. So we keep a very open line of communication with the parents. The first step is to address any apprehensions that they might have, most common being the fear of the images being too graphic. The pictures that we take do not violate any privacy laws and do not portray any nudity. The whole idea works only when the parents are comfortable and connect with the photographer, and that’s what we strive to do.
Have any hospitals approached you? Do they have some rules or policies?
We have partnered with some of Delhi’s most premium birthing hospitals like Rosewalk, Panchsheel Park. We adhere to all do’s and don’ts and have a very clear understanding of how the systems work. The most important is being as non-intrusive as possible and not interfering with the hospital’s policies in any way.
Are you allowed into the labour room? At which stage are you allowed to take pictures? Is the staff helpful?
Since we have exclusive contracts with the hospitals, the female photographer is allowed inside, after adorning the relevant medical gear. It’s more so because the mom connects with another woman and is more comfortable having her in the labor room. The moment the baby comes into this world, his/her health is monitored and checked by the team of doctors. They ensure that the baby is healthy and all the vitals are perfect. That is the time we start clicking. We get to capture moments where the father gets to see and hold the baby for the first time and those tears of joy when the baby is placed in the mom’s lap. The first cuddle with their child is far too precious to miss and we get to witness these tender moments. We have long-term relationships with the staff members and they are very helpful and give us a lot of space to move around.
What precautions are you supposed to take so the health of the baby and mother isn’t compromised? How many people assist you?
The photographer is dressed in the sterile hospital scrubs and fully sanitises her hands and feet before entering the labour room or the OT. Her is mouth is also covered with a mask so that there is no chance of getting any germs inside the OT. We do not send a team member if she has even a minor cold or cough or is carrying any kind of infection. For all of us here in the studio, the baby’s safety and hygiene takes precedence over anything else. In the labour room or OT, there is just one person who clicks the images. At the back-end, we are a team of over 15 people who manage various aspects of the studio.
What equipment do you use? Do you use flash? Do you capture videos as well?
We use specialised camera equipment that allows photography in low light conditions. There is absolutely no flash used while photographing in the OT or labour room. We do capture some pre and post birth videos just to capture all the emotions that the parents are going through on the arrival of their new baby. They may also choose to record a message for their child and we make it a part of their birth story. There is no video filming during the birthing process, it only happens before and after the baby is delivered.
Are black and white pictures the norm?
We love the timelessness, softness and story-like quality that black & white offers as it provides a sense of documentation and, at the same time, is less intrusive and journalistic.
How long does a session last?
The time frame depends on the time allowed by the doctor. Each case is different and by and large, we are given just a few minutes to capture these priceless moments.
How much is the average cost and what do you deliver to the client?
Our birth photography packages start as low as Rs 8000 and go up to Rs 20,000 depending on the content. Some packages also include a Day 2 photoshoot inside the hospital room. In the room, we are able to capture the moments when the sibling meets the new baby for the first time or when the grandparents visit the baby. All packages have different content but typically, we give them all the images from the shoot and also a custom designed USB. All our products are custom designed internationally by vendors in Italy, Australia and USA.
Do you retouch the pictures?
No. The idea of photographing birth is to capture the real life events as they happen. As a birth photographer, your job is to capture the true emotions and feelings and preserve them as pictures. We personally feel it is not ethical to retouch a birth photograph.