Tips for Photographing in a Client’s Home

March 5, 2018

Episode 02: Tips for Photographing in a Client’s Home

You can listen to the episode here by clicking the play button above, or you can download the Soundcloud app and download to listen on the go! 

For those of you who prefer to read, I have included the transcript here below!

In today’s episode, I want to talk about photographing in my clients home. You might be listening to this as a photographer who is looking to grow in this area- maybe you are contemplating on location vs having your own studio- or you may be listening to this a mother who is interested in hearing my perspective on why I believe in home sessions- especially for newborn pictures are definitely an investment to consider.

When it comes to my newborn photography (and sometimes maternity too), it’s no secret that I prefer to photograph them in their own home.

Many photographers have their own studio or share a studio space- and I am going to talk about why that isn’t a good fit for me and why I never pursued that direction here in this episode.

Other photographers are often asking me how I photograph in my client’s home, especially when I have never seen it before, and if there’s anything I am doing ahead of time or during the session to ensure a smooth at home photography experience.

So while my email list got a taste of this content last week , I thought I would expand on the things I mentioned- and share a bit more today on how I handle photographing in my client’s home as an overall conversation.

I really love the opportunity to photograph in my client’s home for a few different reasons:
Number one- I believe it really adds to how special the portraits are. You will be able to look back at the very first family portrait years from now, and remember that it was the first house you brought your baby home to.

Even if it’s not your forever house, the memories that those walls hold will be an additional treasure throughout your photographs. The portraits will also look more unique to each client then if done in the same studio, the same way, for every single session.

Also- coming to my client’s home is much easier on her, especially for newborn sessions. Not having to factor in a trip in the car, or packing what they may or may not need away from home is such a benefit. I also work with a lot of first time moms, and it’s often important to them that they will be able to feed their baby in the comfort of their own home.

I work with local hair and makeup artists who most often meet my clients right in their home prior to my arrival. It makes the session much less stressful for my client, and more of a pampering experience- which is definitely a win.

Also- from my own perspective, photographing in my client home just makes much more sense for me, in this time of business.

As much as I am working to begin booking many more local Pittsburgh families in the year to come since I just recently moved here, I still travel to my clients more often then I am home for them.

Just as an example- in just the past week alone my inbox inquiries have included Montana, Michigan, and even Copenhagen Denmark. So for me, investing a hefty monthly amount in a local studio space just wouldn’t benefit my current business model.

Photographing in my client’s home not only fits my current business structure, but my photography style as well. I only use natural light, and never use props or artificial lighting, so I have no big set up and tear down process that has to happen. I simply show up with my camera because that’s really all I am using.

Now, the first thing I make sure happens for a smooth in home photography experience is my pre-booking and pre-session communication with my clients.

( just a quick note that If you’re a photographer who is looking to really improve this area of your client experience you can visit my website at tiffanyfarley.com and take a look at the Start to Finish Session Planning Guide that I offer as a fully customizable template for other photographers. I even include most of my own wording so if finding the right words to help prepare your clients isn’t your strength, this may be a great resource for you- So be sure to check it out )

I would say 99% of all newborn portrait sessions I book will take place in the client’s home, and sometimes maternity as well. I always explain to inquiring families that the session will take place in their home providing there is ample window light. Most people know what natural light means, but I am always wanting to clarify that I mean light coming in through a window just in case. Because it won’t matter how many lamps and ceiling lights you have- if there is no window light- there is no light for my portraits.

I then go on to explain that a clean window space with light or neutral colored walls is best, no matter what room that actually may be in. There have been occasions where the best window light was in the kitchen, or the bathroom. If that’s the case, that’s where we do the session. Most of my sessions take place almost entirely in front of one single window space.

If there’s any question or doubt, they send me snapshots, but for the most part, this hasn’t ever been an issue. In the few times that we could absolutely not make my clients home work, than I have rented a local studio space. This is a very rare occasion.

I used to get nervous when I arrived at a client’s home that I had never been to with the plan of photographing their session in a space I had never personally seen. So if you feel that way sometimes, I understand and have totally been there. I think that what really started to help me, was of course the experience of doing it more often and growing in my confidence that way, but also learning to speak up and ask for what I needed. I learned to educate my clients more, and explain what I needed to create the portraits they saw and loved in my portfolio. I learned to be the expert and present myself as such. After all, that’s why they hired me. Now, That doesn’t mean I show up and bark orders and act like a demanding artist- quite the opposite. I simply learned to be honest and confident in what I needed to create my work.

When I arrive to an in-home portrait session, such as for a newborn or maternity session, I have a little mental checklist of questions as I walk in and start unpacking my camera bag and I thought it may be helpful to share those with you today.

The first question I am asking myself is:
Where is the best window light? Often my client will walk me through their home and point out their favorite spaces. As they do so, I take mental notes on which spaces were the best. This way as we move through the session, I know exactly what places to set up the portraits.

Then I evaluate- Is there any unappealing color cast happening anywhere? One of the reasons I prefer to photograph near white or neutral colored walls, is that it doesn’t effect the color of my images. So if there are dark, or heavily colored curtains, walls, or reflections, I want to make note of that so I can fix it the best of my ability, either by moving to a different window space, removing what is causing the color casting, or paying very close attention to my white balance.

I am also asking myself- Are there any lamps or lights on? There have been many occasions where I have struggled to get my white balance where I wanted, and wondered why on earth they were looking so warm on the back of my camera. 9 times of out 10 this means that I almost missed a really important step- to make sure all the house lights near where we are photographing are turned off.

Sometimes my client will flip a switch out of habit as we walk into a room, and it may even be a small lamp in the corner, but it will effect the color and light of my images. Always double check the house lights around you and be sure they are turned off.

In my newborn portrait sessions, babies are never, ever placed in anything except the parent’s arms. This is not every client’s style, and that’s more than ok, because I am not the photographer for everyone.
I am the photographer for families who value timeless over trendy, and who desire classic black and white portraits holding their little ones in a style that will still be appreciated and adored in the generations to come.

When I first started my photography business, I was so drawn to taking pictures of babies and children- but I thought that you had to use these elaborate props and even random antiques to show that you were a creative photographer. As I grew in my craft, I realized that the classic, timeless style was for me, and I never looked back.

In-home maternity and newborn portrait sessions are actually posed and handled almost identically as far as posing, lighting, and how I conduct the session. Whether a mother is resting her hand on her expecting belly, or snuggling her newborn on her chest, I still want that same dimensional window light.
I learned this technique by studying how wedding photographers would pose their bride and grooms in their “getting ready” pictures- angled at the window for that beautiful dimensional light, which not only keeps an image from looking flat and lifeless, but it’s crucial for a strong black and white portrait.
If your black and white images are always coming out gray and muddy looking- it’s probably the way you are using light!

Last but not least, I want to share in this episode with you what I bring with me for an in-home portrait session. Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t bring any posing props, reflectors, or lighting setups, but I do show up with a few different key items:

So I will first mention My Camera Gear- this sounds pretty obvious but what I want to note is the kind of camera and lens that I use and bring because I am always being asked what gear I photograph with!

I now photograph with both digital and medium format film. For digital photography, I currently use a Canon Mark IV with the 50mm L series lens. This my ONLY digital go to for camera gear for my portrait sessions.

I don’t have a bag of numerous lenses for these kind of portraits because I truthfully do not NEED them. The 85mm is a go to lens for many other portrait photographers, but it’s just not a lens conducive for the tight indoor spaces that I usually find myself in.

So I currently stick with the 50. And light wise, if you are comparing the 1:4 to the 1:2- that extra stop makes ALL the difference. It’s pricier- but for a reason!

For my film portraits which have now become a signature of my work, I currently use a Hasselblad 500 c/m. And I love using Ilford Delta 3200 for my indoor work. Photographing with film in my sessions was an investment decision. It is not a cheap thing to add to your business. It is very costly to use film. However I have never produced a digital image that I have loved as much as what I am able to create using black & white film.

Now here are some things I have in my car as “just in case” items. I don’t always need them, and obviosuly cannot bring them with me when I fly to clients, but I have found them to be useful at times.

The first is a a small step ladder. I don’t always bring this inside, or find it necessary, but the few times that I have needed it has made it a life saver!

You see, I tend to photograph indoors without shoes, and I am relatively short without the help of heels- and if I have a taller client- especially a tall Dad in the session- I want to make sure I am photographing at the right angle, and I don’t always have the extra space to back up. It has also helped me to get some close up portraits of the baby snuggling on the mother’s shoulder.

Getting up a step or two higher lets me see the baby’s face a bit more, and I prefer using my own little step ladder to climbing on my client’s furniture.

Also, I have only had to pull these out once, but I actually keep an extra set of sheer Ikea curtains in the back of my car as well. Often if the curtains are not working because of their dark or bright color, I am able to either remove them completely, or switch them out with curtains from another room.

However I carry these with me just in case, when I am able to.

Since my sessions take place entirely by a window- if the curtains were a bright color, they could potentially ruin the look of all of the images either by blocking light, or casting an unappealing color on my client’s skin tone.

But really, for the most part- I am walking in with my Camera Bag and that’s it!

I hope this episode helped you if you are a photographer looking to get better at photographing sessions in your client’s home, or even help educate you if you’re looking for in home maternity and newborn photographer for your own family.

Also- I want to hear from you! If you there’s a topic you would like to me cover here-or a question you’ve been dying to ask- be sure to message me! You can do so right by going to my contact page or direct message on Instagram @tiffanylfarley.

I want this to be a helpful resource for you and way that I can bring value to your brand and business.

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