We met with Deep Achtani, a popular kids and baby photographer from Pune, to discuss his journey into the world of photography and to get a close look at the nitty gritty of being involved in this exciting and ever-growing genre of photography.
Tell us something about yourself
Hi there. I’m Deep Achtani, a kids and infant photographer from Pune. Though I travel a lot, my life is mainly confined to the cities of Pune and Mumbai. Predominantly I’m a Sound Engineer by profession and I’ve worked in a couple of Bollywood films as an audio engineer. That time, I was in Mumbai and in 2009, I made the move to Pune to set up my own education institute. Currently, I’m working as a Director with Seamedu, a media school and film making institute in Pune.
How did you get into photography?
Photography has always been something very personal to me and I do it because I absolutely love doing it. I’m self-taught and have never done any kind of courses or even workshops. Before doing it commercially, I used to take my camera everywhere I went and slowly but surely, I started to take this hobby more seriously and started researching and learning from online tutorials and YouTube videos.
One of my relatives had a 70-200 f2.8 lying around that was meant for a Sony mount so I was fortunate that I was kind of forced to buy a Sony alpha series DSLR straight away and that has of course made a massive difference to my work.
Did you specialize in kids and baby photography right from the start?
As a matter of fact, I did not. I actually started off with wedding photography. In 2011, two of my cousins were getting married and I shot both the weddings. The reviews I received from their friends and relatives were very positive and that really encouraged me a lot. That’s how I got into wedding photography. For most part of 2012, I was just doing wedding photography by travelling all over India and somehow managing to balance my job and this new-found profession.
A couple of years later, my daughter, Zara, was born. This was the time when I started shooting her exclusively on a very frequent basis. Almost every month, I would create a studio set-up in her room and dabble around with different aspect of lighting to get the desired shot.
I was absolutely loving this, both as a father and as a photographer. Since most of my friends were also in a similar age bracket as me, they too were having new-borns and that opened up a plethora of opportunities for me as I started shooting their kids and babies too.
By the end of 2015, I was only doing kids and baby photography and 90% of subjects were in the age group of 0-1.
In the last two years or so, I have only been doing this type of photography and become a specialist in it.
Do you do photography as a full-time profession or do you have a day job too?
I actually call myself as a hobbyist professional in this industry. The reason being that I don’t do this full-time. I have a day job that I mentioned earlier and to be frank, I prefer doing photography this way.
Most of my weekdays are occupied with my job related duties. I usually dedicate time for my photography shoots during the evening time on the weekdays or during the weekends.
Having this balance is critical to me since I want to enjoy doing photography too and doing it totally full-time would, I feel, put a sort of burden on me which can make it slightly less enjoyable.
What were the initial challenges that you faced when you started off with kids and baby photography?
First I’ll talk about the challenge with respect to the subject and then I’ll talk about the challenges I faced from my own end.
The thing with this type of photography is that it does not work like a planned project. With other types of photography where you are shooting “mature” subjects, it’s easy to coordinate things since the communication is two-way.
But with kids photography, all your plans usually go out of the window pretty soon because kids and babies behave the way they want.
For instance, there was this shoot where I traveled from Viman Nagar to Wakad three times for a shoot just because the first two times, the baby was not feeling well and the shots were not coming out good.
You have to understand that you cannot force a baby to pose the way you want. It’s you who has to adapt to the situation and sometimes that can mean cancelling the shoot.
And I totally understand these situations since I deal with these on a daily basis with my own daughter. I believe this helps me empathize with the parents of the other kids that I shoot.
From my own end, the challenge I faced was that I had done majority of my photography outdoors. So I had little experience with studio set-ups.
So learning studio photography on my own proved to be a challenge and it took me sometime to properly understand two and three light set-ups and other intricacies involved in studio shooting.
Describe how a typical day looks in your life the day you have a shoot.
One of the most important things you have to plan ahead of time in a baby shoot is to know the sleeping time and pattern of the baby from the parents. You really don’t want to disturb a baby’s sleep for the shoot as it can only mean you having to do the entire shoot again. This is usually not a problem though since you will always be mutually deciding the time with the parents beforehand.
If it’s an outdoor shoot, it’s relatively easy. We just meet at the venue that we have mutually decided upon, like a society garden or a public park.
If it’s an indoor shoot, then I usually have to have some extra time at hand because I carry my studio set-up to the client’s place and do the shoot there. I’m slowly building a large studio setup at home since the last few months and once that’s in place, it would not be possible for me to carry all that and I will be doing all shots at my home.
Managing my own time is sometimes a challenge since I do a job. If it’s weekdays, I usually do the shoot in the evenings, but I prefer doing most of my shoots during the weekends.
Also, I don’t work with any intern or assistant. I do everything myself.
What kind of equipment do you use for your shoots?
I use a Nikon D750. I primarily use two lenses – the Nikon 24-70 f2.8 and Sigma 85mm f1.4.
The 24-70 is perfect for me when I do shoots in a small home-based studio set-up since the limited space is not conducive for using a telephoto lens. I still get the desired background compactness when I shoot at 70mm.
For outdoor shoots, I love using the 85mm one.
I’ve also rented the 70-200 f2.8 on a couple of occasions.
I use a Manfrotto Compact Action Aluminium Tripod With Hybrid Head.
For my light set-up I use the Elinchrom FRX-200 kit. Since I shoot in compact spaces, I don’t need too much power so these lights do the job well for me. Another reason I don’t like to use high power strobes is because a baby’s eyes are very tender and sensitive to light. In fact sometimes if the natural light is good enough indoors, I even avoid using strobes.
What kind of a light set-up do you use?
With kids, I like to keep my lighting flat and not dramatic. So I usually use two lights, one on the left and one on the right and I fire them at the same ratio to keep things even. This gives me a nice soft look that goes well with babies.
What camera mode do you use?
I always shoot in manual mode since I like control over both the shutter speed and aperture.
What system do you use to charge your clients?
I keep things very simple. I have different packages based on the number of hours I’m required to shoot and whether the client requires soft copies or prints. The one thing I never do is to negotiate. In fact, I’ve mentioned this right on my website so if anyone approaches me from there, they are already aware of this. I value what I do and lowering rates just to land a shoot is not how I want to approach photography.
How do you market and advertise yourself?
I have my Facebook and Instagram pages and these help me in increasing my brand visibility. But the most important outlet for me is Google. Majority of my conversions happen when people are searching for kids and baby photographers via Google and they land on my website from there.
Being into the marketing field as a part of my job, I’m also aware about the different techniques required to rank on top. For instance, I have made sure that my website uses the right keywords and is SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) friendly.
I have also used Google Adwords on some occasions. Another important thing I’ve done is to register my business with Google My Business, which helps me in reaching clients close to my location.
In your opinion, what are the things in India that have to change so that semi-professional and professional photographers, and the art of photography in general, begins to receive more respect?
I think it’s unfair to think that photographers always don’t get respect. According to me, one of the reasons why people might feel like that is because what is happening nowadays is that photography has become a very accessible art. This is a double-edged sword for photographers. On one hand, it enables more people to get into photography. But the downside is that anyone holding a DSLR in their hands starts to think they are photographers. This means more competition to people who are genuinely good at photography and also that there are a lot of not-so-good photographers who deliver inferior work to their clients.
Also, as a result of this, many photographers are willing to undercut their prices just to get jobs and I strongly feel that this should be avoided. This spoils the whole scene and you see this happening a lot in wedding photography especially. Of course you cannot solely blame the photographers for this since many of them are newcomers and they would like to get shooting opportunities. The solution can be to have some sort of a standard which establishes that someone is a professional and someone is not. Maybe the government can initiate a licensing system for photographers to make things more structured.
Who are some your favorite photographers?
One of the photographers who inspired me is Shruti Moghe, a Pune-based kids and baby photographer. Looking at her shots was what inspired me to start taking pictures of my own daughter and that started off the whole thing.
Show us three of your favorite shots
The first which is very close to my heart is that of my daughter. This was taken way before I even planned on becoming a kids photographer. This was just taken on a white bed sheet using a bounce flash with no studio set-up at all.
The second one from a shoot I did for one twin infants. Shooting twins and that too infant twins is one of the most challenging things a baby photographer can do. Basically with twins, it’s a double-trouble scenario and getting them to coordinate is a major challenge. But I enjoyed it a lot.
The third shot which I really like is one below of a baby named Kabir when he turned one. I had earlier done the maternity shoot for his mother and later clicked him when he was six months old too. Just like the shots above, this is a simple set-up with natural light and not shot in a studio set-up.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
To be frank I haven’t thought about it much but one thing that is on my mind is to make my studio set-up more professional. I’ll most likely continue to do it at my home unless I feel I need more space.
Though I will most definitely continue to be a kids photographer, I have some plans to try my hand at underwater photography too since one of my favorite hobbies is scuba diving.
Also, I don’t plan on becoming a full-time professional since I like the balance I currently have with my job. It allows me to do photography in a way that it doesn’t hamper my creativity and does not make photography a monotonous affair for me.
Deep, how can people find you and get in touch with you?
You can go to my website www.deepachtani.com
You can also find me on Facebook on Deep Achtani Photography and on Instagram on deep_achtani.
About the Author
Hi there, I'm Kush Sharma, the founder of Creative Pad Media, an organization dedicated to simplifying photography and videography education.
We have over 40 online courses that cover various genres in photography & videography, catering to both beginners as well as professionals. These courses are available via Udemy.com. Our courses have been downloaded in over 170 countries.
I hope to see you inside a course very soon!