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Proud pup mom, type A creative, lover of the outdoors, Top Chef fan girl, and wedding and portrait photographer. Welcome to the blog!
HI, I'M RACHEL!
Hi there! Just your fav photographer over here dreaming up ways she can make your life easier and your photos better! I’m doing both of those things today with my tips on how to prepare your home for photos.
On occasion I will do photo sessions or parts of photo sessions or wedding days at people’s homes. Whether I’m in a home, a hotel room, or a getting ready suite at a venue, I often find myself doing the same things when I arrive. I’m creating the best setup to take photos in the space I have to work with.
It occurred to me late last year that there are some things one could know for how to prepare your home for photos. These are things I would normally do when I arrive, but if you do them it would save me time. When my time is saved at the beginning of the day, it makes it easier for me to take more photos, so you receive photos of more activities!
The photos you see in this post are all from wedding days, but these tips apply for in-home family sessions (I usually do these around the holidays) or newborn sessions. And while some of these tips can also apply to hotel rooms or getting ready suites at venues, I’m focusing on people’s homes because they are often the fullest, most cluttered spaces. It’s easy enough for me to move a side table or two in a hotel room, or clear away one person’s stuff piled in a corner, so I’m not as worried about that. But a home has a lot of belongings and furniture and different paint colors on the walls. And there are generally more options in a home than in a small suite or hotel room.
So if you’re doing a newborn session, family photos, or getting ready for your wedding day at your home, these tips for how to prepare your home for photos are for you. Let’s dig in!
There is a hierarchy of what I’m looking for when preparing to take photos. The top of the pyramid is good light. I will make the final call on what counts as ‘good light’, but you can get started finding that room with these tips.
The first tip in how to prepare your home for photos is to identify the room with the lightest colored walls. Paint plays a large role in light. Light enters from a window and either gets absorbed by the paint (if it’s dark paint) or reflected and bounced around the room (if it’s lighter paint). For the type of photography I do, which I call ‘light and bright’, I need the latter. I prefer a room with light colored paint on the walls so the natural light from the window is reflected/bounced around the room and onto the subject, keeping our photos light and bright. Think white, light grey, light blue, light yellow, etc.
So you’ve found the room with the lightest colored walls. Or maybe there are several rooms like that. The next thing you’ll want to do is go to that room(s) at the same time of day when I’ll be there taking photos. Open the blinds or pull back the curtains, and notice how bright it is. For me, the brighter the better! If it’s between several rooms, we’ll go with the brightest one.
I chose this room because of the very light walls, beautiful natural light streaming through glass doors, and it was easy to move furniture out of the way. I did the details photos in this space as well as Cat’s getting ready photos.
This is a no judgment zone! Everyone has clutter or things they don’t want to feature in photos. Plus, my goal for photos is for there to not be much distracting from my subject. Whether it’s your wedding day or your family portraits, the focus (pun intended!) should be on you. Not on that stack of magazines, or a basket of dog toys, or the box of tissues on the nightstand (completely clear off your nightstands!).
Since you won’t know exactly how I will use the space, I suggest hiding that stuff completely out of sight. Place it in another room or in a closet vs. moving it to another corner. That way it’s completely out of the way and I can get started using the room as I need to.
This part feels a little audacious for me to ask. But I did go to someone’s house for getting ready photos once and they had cleared out their entire living room for me to use for photos! They moved all the furniture to one side of the room, moved the dining table in towards the kitchen. And voila! I had a spacious blank slate to use! So I don’t feel so bad asking for this now that I know people are willing to do it when not even asked!
Not that you have to clear out an entire room for me. But if there is space to move smaller pieces of furniture like end tables, benches, chairs, ottomans. Stuff that we don’t need to feature in the photos, feel free to move them to the side. Or even out of the room if possible. Again, I like there to be few distractions from the subjects. And the more space we have to move around, the better.
This is the room that was cleared out for me. I had plenty of space to move around, and used the same area for details photos, getting ready photos, and bridal portraits. Such a treat!
Now that I’ve asked you to choose a room with light paint on the walls, clear out clutter, and move furniture – I’m going to ask you to do that in a second room! Speaking of audacious! haha The reason for this depends on what type of photos we’re taking.
If it’s a wedding day, I’m asking for this because your hair and makeup artist(s) will likely need a similar space. They usually want to work in a room with good natural light, very little clutter, with a little room to move around (not sure they need light paint on the walls though). (Heads up, they also want a table to lay out their makeup + access to electrical outlets + air conditioning.)
Unless it’s a very large room, it would not be a good idea for your hair and makeup to take place in the same room that you’re setting aside for me. I will start the day by using the room to take your details photos, so I need a little room to spread out. And I would be using the same window your hair and makeup artist would be using. Logistically and space-wise, that wouldn’t work.
Having two separate spaces for your photographer and your hair and makeup artist(s) is ideal.
If you’re doing these things for a newborn or family session, it’s a good idea to have two rooms setup so that we’re able to get some variety in your images. Featuring two rooms gives you variety in the look of your images. It’s not completely necessary for these types of sessions, but recommended if it works for your home.
The details photos and the ‘getting ready’ photos were taken in the same room, in different areas. The hair and makeup artist was set up in a separate room that also had good natural light. Two different spaces is ideal.
Especially for a wedding day, it’s a good idea to assign someone who can help me here and there if I need to further remove clutter, adjust furniture furniture, or ask a question. In a hotel room or bridal suite, I’ll just move stuff because it’s not someone’s personal belongings. And it’s not as imperative that furniture be in a very specific place. But in someone’s home – it is personal! I want to be respectful of the space. So if someone can help me or answer questions without me having to disturb the bride or groom, that’s ideal.
Did this post get you excited to book your own wedding, micro-wedding, elopement, or engagement session?! If yes, send me a note and we can chat about what you have in mind: contact me
Hi – I’m Rachel! A wedding, engagements, and headshots photographer in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and northern Virginia. I love helping individuals and couples feel comfortable and confident in front of the camera. If you’re a dog owner, that’s a plus! I’m currently booking 2023 portrait sessions, micro-weddings, and elopements, as well as 2023-2024 weddings.
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Rachel is a wedding and portrait photographer
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