Making The Most Of What Is Around You

Living in the UK means the weather can be great one moment then dire the next. It’s annoying but you kinda get used to it. I actually like the sunshine and the rain, so whatever the skies decide to do is a-ok with me. However what is annoying is when you book a client for an outdoor shoot and the heavens open. Not a-ok, buddy. In saying that, this change of weather brings new opportunities and I have no choice but to think on my feet. I enjoy a challenge.

The first part of Sancha’s photo shoot was to take a clean headshot against a white backdrop. I got out my white roll, fixed it up, took a handful of photos. Stage one done. Chhheck! As the first part of the shoot was going to be taken indoors, this was no problem at all. The head shots were always going to be taken at my house but we had intended to go outside and walk around the village for some street style portraits. But the rain persisted so we had to use what was available. My house. 

Okay, so I have to admit that I’m totally fine with using my house for the shoot location. I have taken so many photos in this house so I know where the best light is instantly. However we didn’t want the photos to look like something I had already photographed previously. I want to give each client a unique set of images. I immediately ruled off the upstairs of my house. Although I love the decor upstairs I have A) shot their multiple times, particularly for my self portraits and B) not tidied up! ;)  Instead I focused on two areas, the conservatory and the kitchen. The conservatory is flooded with gorgeous soft light and is really flexible for multiple shots without needing to shift anything around. The colours in the conservatory consist of neutral based tones through to warmer tones. This is also why I decided to shoot in the kitchen because the tones were similar and worked well as a set of images. 

There are several elements that are worth considering when shooting in a small area with a model. First of all, I like to show the model some images of poses, a mood board, or images that have a distinctive feel to them. I personally like poses that are quite candid and chilled out, with a hint of sassiness to them (of course!). With Sancha, I showed her images of models in relaxed poses so she had an idea of how I would direct her and so she could form her own ideas. The poses need to work with the setting and the lighting needs to set the mood whilst flattering the model. For each set up I would ask Sancha to position herself in a specific way, watch her get into position and then make slight alterations to perfect the shot. For example, adjusting her hair or outfit. I would also make sure the area is clear and there is nothing creeping into shot or distracting me from her. An example of this is removing cushions from the sofa so they didn’t distract from Sancha by being too patterned or bright. It is always best to keep the shot as simple as possible.

I tried four different set ups in the conservatory; Sancha sitting on the sofa, Sancha shot through the window, Sancha on the floor in front of the sofa and one shot above Sancha with the tiles as the backdrop (just noticed how many times I said “Sancha” in that sentence! Wowee!). I felt at this point we had really made the most out of this area and the photos flowed really well without looking too repetitive.

So we went through to the kitchen. The kitchen is a much larger room with three light sources. One at the front, one to the side and one at the back of the room. I asked Sancha to sit at the breakfast table and sit with her arms stretched out across it. I really like playing with perspective at the moment and adore shots with body parts or objects closer to the camera and the models face in the middle of the shot. Her arms help to frame her face and direct us working as leading lines towards her face. 

After that I asked Sancha to sit on the floor against the wooden cabinets, again with her legs facing towards the camera. This tricks the camera to make Sancha look taller and directs the eye up towards her face. This area was much darker than the breakfast bar but I didn’t want to bring in another light source as it may make these photos not work so well in the set by creating something that feels artificial. I adjusted the camera settings accordingly to make this setting work.

At this point it was still raining and we both felt like we had made the most of these two spaces. We looked outside and decided to embrace the rain.. or at least somewhat embrace it. Sancha took her mum’s umbrella and we headed into the garden. We took several photos of her holding the umbrella but we both thought something looked a bit off. Sancha threw down the umbrella and we took a quick blast of shots before we became too soggy and headed swiftly back indoors. I really like the photo of Sancha against the brick wall. The diagonal lines of the wall behind her are really unusual and the pop of pink from her jacket pulls you in. She looks super sassy too which makes the photo that little bit more fab-u-lous!

I hope this blog post helps you when taking portraits in your own house or in a small location. It is always worth considering how the light enters the space and where you can best place your model within the room. If something doesn’t work then change it up. Make sure you direct the person you are taking photos of and offer suggestions on where to put their hands (etc). Try to put across a mood or feeling throughout the images to tell a story and make the photos flow well between each of them. I’d love to see your own photos that you took in a small location, send them my way via the CONTACT page :)