Leah O'Connell

for photographers

How to photograph families in any home

photograph families in any home
I'm Leah!

I’m obsessed with stories of family, creativity, and simple joys.  A nostalgia nerd, educator, wife, and mom of 3, I believe life’s most fun when you’re dreaming big and having kitchen dance parties. 

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In-home family photography is rising in popularity, but many photographers feel confused about how to photograph families in any home with creativity and confidence.

Especially homes that may not be perfectly styled, spacious, well-lit, or even tidy.

newborn session in apartment

**This family was moving the week of our session, so their entire loft apartment was covered in boxes aside from this one room they cleared. We had one floor to ceiling window on a dark winter morning, but were able to shoot the entire session from this space.

charlottesville newborn photo shoot in one room

Why it’s important

Photographers have the power to shift consumer expectations positively about what family photos are “supposed” to look like. By getting creative with your environment and being open to spaces beyond picture-perfect fields and aesthetic, curated props, you can open the door for different markets to see themselves in your work.

We can empower families to love where they are and who they’re with. It can help them see their most personal environments as a canvas for art.

These tips will help you start to navigate homes with a sense of excitement, openness and creativity. With new eyes for opportunity, you can shoot everywhere from apartments to mansions, beach condos to cabins.

5 tips for how to photograph families in any home.

1. Look for the light

Every home has windows and doors, so there is SOMETHING you can use no matter what.

For homes that are particularly dark or don’t have a lot of flexibility for different rooms, walk through at the beginning of a session and notice the pockets of light.

Can you open doors and let in more light? Maybe use the doorways themselves as a place to pose?

Light is the most crucial element that will affect your images, so this is your #1 priority.

family photos at home with teens, charlottesville family photographer

**This home was incredibly dark because it was surrounded by a ton of trees. By opening these french doors, I was able to pose the family here with great light and the kids surrounding their mama.

siblings holding hands in the crib, newborn photos charlottesville va

**This nursery was SO tiny and the one window light in the room was directional into the crib. After noticing the beautiful way it shined onto the baby’s sheets, I decided to silhouette this moment for impact around the connection between the brother and his new sister.

2. No space off-limits

Don’t confine yourself to master bedrooms and living rooms! Hallways, kitchen floors, and kids’ bedrooms can all work for your session.

Constraints breed creativity, so once you’ve found the best light, look for how you can use those rooms as unique starting points for your posing.

**For this session, we used rooms like the kitchen table, the daughter’s bedroom, and a living room corner chair as starting points for posing with the light and authentic interaction for life with 2 rambunctious kids!

3. Think about your personal experience as inspiration

Photographing in lesser-used or uncommon spaces in the home may feel intimidating, but think about how your family uses similar spaces in your own home for inspiration.

When we are not being photographed, kids climb on counters, dads lay down on the floor with kids piled on top, and moms kick their feet over the side of a chair with kids wrapped around them. Notice your behavior with furniture, spaces, and people.

See those interactions as an opportunity to draw truly authentic posing into your sessions.

Clients will not naturally fall into these arrangements in the contrived situation of a photo session, but you can instigate them when you have the vision.

Then, it can unfold into something that feels candid and natural.

family photos at home, poses in the kitchen

**My kids are always sitting on the counter while we cook together – it’s just a super casual, fun place they seem to feel comfortable. I know this is not unique and kitchens are often the hub of a home, so I love looking for ways to incorporate that space!

**This image was shot in a hallway between a kitchen and a bathroom. No space off limits!

4. Look high and low.

Sometimes, the opportunities for well-lit and clear spaces are slim. Think about how you can use leveling to utilize whatever is available.

Shoot from overhead on a colorful rug. Put kids on top of a table or in the window ledge.

Looking outside the box will open so many more options for how to use the spaces you’re given.

**shot on a bedroom window ledge behind a set of white curtains

*shot on a living room rug!

5. Don’t be afraid to move things.

Whether it’s laundry baskets on the bed, furniture in front of a great window, or picture frames on the wall, don’t be afraid to clear and adjust the surroundings for cleaner lines or background.

This isn’t about being “documentary.” It’s about creating images with feeling – empowerment, romance, silliness, strength or whatever other threads you want to pull on for your clients.

It’s ultimately about the people. This means we can confidently adjust elements in the environment to enhance the people and communicate a stronger visual message.

**These were shot in the baby’s tiny nursery. The crib was originally positioned in front of this wall, but I moved it for a few images where we could get a clean wall that would really make this mama’s radiance stand out.

**These 2 photos were taken in the same spot, but I just moved this gorgeous blue chair into the best light for the image on the left.

Tuck these tips in your back pocket for your next in-home family session to enter with confidence and create from a place of opportunity vs restraint.

If you’d like more behind-the-scenes walkthroughs from my sessions along with community conversation and practical business and marketing advice, join my private Facebook group for lifestyle family photographers!

You might also like:

Tips for photographing a family at home with special needs

3 Games for directing outdoor family sessions

4 Tips for lifestyle newborn photos with 2 under 2

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Hi, I'm Leah.
Family photographer, writer, educator.

I’m  one of the first to meet your newborn baby, the one who won't judge your clothes baskets and unmade beds, and the one who can capture the way your husband looks at you with a twinkle in his eye after 12 years of marriage. I believe in honoring people and telling stories.

I believe art has the power to light up the world in dark places, starting at home.