Family portraits are no longer about sitting in straight-backed chairs in a row and saying ‘cheese’, according to the whims of the man who clicks from under a black cloth. Families these days know exactly what they want in a portrait and how it should be shot. Anusha Parthasarathy meets a few contemporary family portrait photographers who talk about changing times.

Edge Design House

Bhargavii Mani and Kota, who run Edge Design House in Adyar, shoot families in their studio but it’s not the usual family portrait. “Today, families want us to bring out every detail in a portrait,” says Bhargavii, “But the trick is to realise we are not handling professional models. Most people are intimidated by lights and having to face the camera. We encourage at least one meeting prior to the shoot so that we understand the requirement and acquaint ourselves with the family.”

They feel that traditional family portraiture was a means of documentation and sometimes the participants were discouraged from smiling. “In the old days, portraits were stiff and formal. The image would establish the hierarchy; the father would be seated, the mother would stand near her husband and the kids would either be seated below or standing near their father. Most of the time, this would be their only picture together,” she says, “The present generation prefers to treat their kids like friends. People are happy to pose before a camera.”

Just how quirky are their clients? “We shot this family which bonds over watermelon and wax crayons. When they came to our studio, we brought out slices of watermelon and some chart paper and crayons. Within seconds, they forgot they were in a studio and started having fun. This is a memory that would mean something to them even a decade from now.”

Edge Design House is located at 32, 5th Main Road, Kasturba Nagar, Adyar. For details, call 2441 3343.

Purple Frog Photography

A staunch believer in the magic of natural light, Shefalii Dadabhoy has been shooting families and kids since 2008, under her brand Purple Frog Photography. “I don’t do studio photography and strictly shoot in natural light. I also believe people are most comfortable in their homes and that’s why I usually go to the client’s house to shoot,” says Shefalii.

Purple Frog’s pictures are not just about shooting families but also about capturing a moment or emotion. “Most people aren’t comfortable in front of a camera. Usually, if it’s a family portrait taken in a studio, everyone just stands in front of a blue background, the photographer asks them to tilt their head or lift their chin up and then it’s over. What I do is different and personalised. I visit your home, spend time with you and start shooting when you are in the right mood,” she explains.

Shefalii loves capturing those priceless moments. “I’ve watched a child taking its first step during a shoot and another where we shot four generations (from the great grandmother to the grandchild). Maternity shoots are always interesting because you see how parents bond with their child. Every shoot is different and you get lovely pictures when people relax and are themselves,” she smiles.

Visit Purple Frog at www.purplefrog.co.in.

Varun Shridhar

Sports Photographer Varun Shridhar who also dabbles in family portraiture says it’s not as easy as it looks. “Far more importance is given to the landscape today, compared to five years ago. Some families are particular about the ambience. It helps them to be in their comfort zone and preserves good memories of the place,” he says.

Families today no longer listen to the photographer. “In the 90s, people let the photographer decide what might be good. Now, they know what they want and even the style influences the choice of photographer.”

Clicking families could be a challenge if there are no children around, feels Varun. “Kids keep the mood light. They give that space to try something unusual,” he adds.

Visit Varun Shridhar’s page at www.facebook.com/varunshridhar.photography