Is my home ready for a photo shoot?
As a photographer who specialises in documentary, in-home family sessions, my clients often tell me they worry about having photos at home, that it isn’t ‘ready’ for photos. They ask me if they should postpone or use another location because their home is cramped, or it needs decorating, or it’s in the middle of renovations, or they think it isn’t as stylish or ‘blog-worthy’ as other homes, or that it’s messy, or any other number of aesthetic concerns…
So I wanted to address these worries and hopefully reassure families so they feel confident and happy about having photos at home. Here are 7 top tips to make your home photo-ready without any headaches, expense or fuss 🙂
1. STOP WORRYING & FORGET PINTEREST / INSTAGRAM PERFECT!
I could not care in the slightest if your house is small, under construction or messy. A family house is exactly that – it is a work in progress, it’s not a show-home and it’s not a magazine editorial set. It’s the place you all sleep, eat, love, live and play… and it’s all the more beautiful for being that. The rooms you see on Instagram and Pinterest more often than not have been styled and prepared within an inch of their lives – yes they look nice but they’re not ‘real’.
Kids make mess… We don’t always have time to decorate every room exactly to our liking… Sometimes building work needs to be done… Many of us can’t afford big houses… None of this matters. It’s all part and parcel of reality, and photos at home showing all this are an honest representation of your family home life at that point in time. If you wait for the ‘perfect’ time and place, you’ll miss out on how your family is now, totally perfect exactly as it is. So put away the hoover, ignore the dodgy wallpaper and love the home you’re in, warts and all. You won’t care about any of it in 20 years time, but you’ll still treasure these photos 🙂
2. NATURAL LIGHT IS EVERYTHING
The single biggest thing that makes far and away the most difference to the quality of any photos at home (other than the people in it!) is LIGHT. If I have good natural light to work with, then I can make any room look beautiful. This will literally take you 10 minutes – let in as much natural light as possible. Move any bulky furniture or accessories that might be obstructing/blocking the windows, fully open the blinds/curtains, and clear any clutter from windowsills unless it’s part of the design of the room… Anything to flood the house with as much lovely natural light as possible.
3. BEDS AND SOFAS
Beds and sofas are great locations for pictures of all the family together and are likely to be descended on in the shoot, so it’s worth spending 5 minutes paying a bit of attention to them. Remove any random unwanted rubbish from bedside and coffee tables, make the bed and plump the pillows. For visual interest and cosiness it can work really well to layer up with blankets and pillows/cushions in different colours and/or textures (cottons, linens, quilts, velvets, knits, crochet etc)
4. CLUTTER VS CHARACTER
Often the things people think they have to tidy away when they have photos at home are the things that make their home unique and show their personality. Kids’ paintings, books, toys, gifts, postcards, kitchen paraphernalia, prints, bric a brac… These are all things that give your home character and reflect your personal loves and interests. Leave them where they are and let them be seen, they’re all a valuable part of the story of your family at this moment in time.
Also aesthetically, an image in a room full of things like this is always going to be more interesting and meaningful than an image in an empty room that could belong to anyone. Don’t feel like you have to make it so tidy that it risks taking away the character of your home and the ‘stories’ of how you live in it. When you and your children look back on these photos in years’ time you’ll love remembering all these little details… The over-loved teddy, the pattern in the carpet, the broken hinge on the bedroom door, the painting in the cracked frame… These are all precious and sentimental details of your kids’ childhood home that you’ll all really cherish.
5. REMOVE ANY NON-SENTIMENTAL CLUTTER OR OBVIOUS EYESORES
As explained above, there’s absolutely no need to go nuts tidying your house. Most homes have some mess and clutter, and this is part and parcel of the welcoming fabric of a family home. They are ‘lived in’ and this is part of their charm. However, it’s worth casting a quick eye over each room and remove any generic rubbish or clutter that means nothing to you and is likely to ultimately end up in the bin anyway.
If you haven’t the time or inclination to sort through this then a couple of inexpensive fabric bins, woven baskets or patterned photo boxes are great for quick and easy ‘dumping grounds’ for unwanted clutter while being a nice part of your overall décor.
Remove or tuck away anything particularly large that’s an obvious eyesore. Nappy bins, clothes airers, vacuum cleaners, car seats, pushchairs etc are common culprits, especially if they’re an especially bright or dark colour that’s likely to draw the eye and distract away from the people in the photo.
6. GO FOR GREEN
A really quick, simple and relatively inexpensive way to make any space feel more special and breathe life into your home is to inject some nature and add some plants. Pop to your local garden centre or even just your local supermarket for some simple potted houseplants. Cacti and succulents always look great, as well as any green waxy leafed plants. Simple white, black or terracotta pots always look great with greenery. Another beauty of plants is that they work with any style or colour scheme. If you’re unsure of the right décor choice for a certain area, plants are always a brilliant, safe bet.
7. TURN OFF LIGHTS AND LAMPS
Many families are tempted to turn on lots of lights and lamps for photos at home, as they want to make the place bright and welcoming. Although gentle lamps do make a room look nicer to the naked eye, in photographs, artificial light is actually very flat and ‘muddy’. It takes away all the wonderful crispness and contrast, as well as throwing a strange warm colour cast onto everyone’s faces, usually yellow/orange.
Spotlights are particularly unflattering, as they bleach out people’s skin and give them harsh shadows on their faces. So even though it might feel a little odd and darker than you’d usually have your house on a normal day, turn off all the lights, including smaller lamps and especially spotlights.
So that’s it! The overall message is don’t worry! Homes, like people, come in all shapes, sizes and appearances, and their beauty is in their individuality, not their perfection. Embrace your home and start making some memories in it! You and your kids will thank you for it later 🙂
If you’re interested in having family photos like this taken in your home, please do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you! You can see recent family shoots here, and if you drop me a message by email or my contact form, I can whizz you over a brochure telling you all you need to know 🙂 You can also sign up to my mailing list to be the first to hear about upcoming shoot availability and ideas, and also more photography-related tips and tricks like this!
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FREE PDF: 5 TIPS FOR TAKING GREAT PHOTOS OF YOUR KIDS
A little pdf I put together containing some simple techniques to get better photos of your kids – these are relevant no matter what camera you’re using, phone, DSLR, compact, anything 🙂
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Take care folks and enjoy those lovely families of yours!
Tips, inspiration and resources to inject some joy & lighten the load
Manchester family photographer, for down-to-earth, adventurous, big-hearted families all across the North West, London and UK
Creative, documentary family photography in Manchester, Liverpool, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, London
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