How to Prepare Clients and their Home for Indoor Sessions

Sometimes it rains...and sometimes, it pours.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, it rains continuously throughout the winter.   And when it's raining cats and dogs, outdoor shoots become indoor sessions.  That's where it's important to prepare clients for this possibility of moving a session doors, and get them inspired. If rain is projected on the day of your session, it is best to visit with your clients a week in advance, in the space where you’ll be shooting, and start the conversation about how they can prepare their home for the indoor session.  In home meetings with your clients give you a chance to get inspired by their space, begin strategizing, and reassure your client that their session will be wonderful.

As an artist, I am deeply focused on aesthetics.  That’s why this article is more about staging and executing the aesthetic portion of a session, versus the technical aspects.  I will save the specifics on my lenses, settings, and external flashes, and how I set up my sessions using Manual or Aperature Priority Mode for another post.  

My first step with indoor sessions is to locate the best and brightest window light.  Then I turn off all light sources (every last one) and use natural light to illuminate everyone.  When there is a lack of window light, because the day is especially dreary,  I will turn on the lights inside.  Whether using natural light or incandescent, reflectors are helpful for fill, as is bouncing an off camera flash if you absolutely have to.  One important thing to note, is to make sure you verify your light sources are the same (i.e.  florescent, incandescent, etc.) so you can set your white balance.  If you find this tricky to decipher, use a white or neutral gray card. Here’s a great article by Improve Photography, that will give you an easily digestible tutorial on how to help avoid yellow cast indoor photographs. .  Apogeephoto goes a little deeper into the Kelvin scale.

Here are tear outs from my recent In Style Home & Design magazine. Their feature has incredible at home shots, and their indoor staging and subject poses are a great example of what I am striving for artistically.

Notice how they add visual interest, and ground the subject with fruit, flowers, plants, color pops, and pattern (or conversely they go starkly minimalist)?  You can do this by Including some of your clients personal items.  This is after all their inner sanctum, and special images of their trinkets, books, art, etc. help everyone feel a connection to their photographs, and make them more meaningful.

Also, notice the peek of flowers in the foreground of the photo above?  This is fine art composition 101.  It forces the viewers eye to keep on moving through the image.

Another key is having clients looking fashionable.   Sometimes clients are resistant to dressing up too much.  They feel like it’s too contrived, and out of character.  If you can show them how dressing up, yields the most artistic photographs, you have successfully implemented your most powerful tool for producing art versus average photographs.  Do you think these images would look as spectacular if these people were dressed in ripped jeans and sweatshirts?  Remember, elegance adds interest.

Next work out figure flattering poses. Elongate and slim the body line having subjects lean against counters, and tables.  Look cozy by having everyone sink into sofas and curl up.  Upholstered, and structured chairs can be a great way to break up the line and keep the eye moving through a photograph.

When there is a break in the rain, dash outside and capture some quick shots on the patio, deck or on lounge chairs.  

Most importantly, beyond the technicalities and aesthetics, your best photographs come from having fun, engaging the whole family, and being present as a photographer.  From the kids, to the family dog, or cat - include them all --and enjoy the special privilege your clients give you by inviting you into their home.