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Choosing Your Location: Shooting Indoors

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Ooooh boy. I’m about to tackle something that I feel very under-qualified for. This is one of my biggest fears in photography… the one location I always pray no client ever asks me for… I’m speaking, of course, of the indoor shoot.
 
I thought I was pretty safe from the dreaded indoor shoot. “Just establish yourself as an outdoor photographer! Never share photos on Instagram of indoor photos, and help guide your clients to beautiful parks as their choice location,” I’d tell myself.
 
But then it happened. It was getting closer to Christmas. Store fronts were decked with fake snow and tempting holiday sales. The air was crisp here in the DMV area. And I was busy contacting all my friends and clients to let them know that now was the time to get holiday cards ready.
 
I should have known better. Who would want to spend over an hour outside in the cold, in hopes to get one amazing photo for their Christmas cards? My sweet college friend, Brittany, was much smarter than THAT!
She approached me with an idea she had about a shot she really wanted for her Christmas cards… indoors. And this was her first Christmas married to her husband, Jon — I was even in their wedding! How could I say no?
 
I mustered all my courage and did the shoot. I have to say, we had a GREAT time and their photos turned out a lot better than I was expecting! Are they perfect? No, but I know they made my friend happy, and that’s all that truly matters. All I can hope for is to keep learning from every experience, positive or not. So with that, here’s what I learned (and a list of assurances that I’ll be much more prepared if you, as a prospective client, are looking to do an indoor shoot with me in the future):
  • Be better prepared. Wow, so insightful. Hold on, let me get more specific. There are a few things I wish I knew before I went into this session. How many windows do you have in the room you want to shoot? Send me a picture of the room. How much furniture will we be shooting around? What color all the walls? What color is the floor? Which direction are your windows facing? All of these questions would have helped me be better prepared for what lighting situation I was in for. Colors inside the room can affect how light bounces from the window. Window numbers and sizes help me know how much natural light is coming in. Knowing the direction their windows face help me determine if I should shoot in the morning or right before sunset to get the most light coming in. Also, knowing the layout of the room helps me determine what lens I need to prep for this shoot. Is it a tight space? Will I have to move furniture around? Photographers, try to know as much as you can about what you’re walking into, just like you would when you go location scouting.
  • NEVER turn on the lights! The sad part is that I already knew this was a rule. I tried to avoid it, but because I wasn’t already aware of the advice from my first point, I was shooting too late in the day and the windows just were not giving me enough light. So, I closed the curtains and turned on two lamps they had. I had a really tough time correcting the competing color casts in post. Even the fire was adding weird orange casts to the photo pre-edit! Whew… I should have just offered a raincheck.
  • Remove as many items as the client allows. Because this shoot was very specifically requested, I did not have a lot of freedom in this area. That’s totally fine! Remember priority one: creating a positive client experience! But, if I ever do another indoor shoot, I will be sure to ask permission to have excess items and furniture removed. The simpler the background looks, the less distracting it will be for their images. The client will be the main focus.
  • Communicate with your clients about the risk of dark clothing. I talk about this in my blog post, Make or Break: How Your Outfit Choices Can Either Challenge or Champion Your Shoot, but I learned the hard way in this session. Especially because the shoot was indoors, colors mattered a TON in how light reflected onto my clients’ faces. Again, Brittany and Jon wanted a specific style for this session, so I wanted to deliver whatever they wanted. But in the future, I would suggest that he avoids the black thermal. Look how much glowier she looked in this photo! That white sweater was the best possible option for this shoot. But you can see how dark his face looks in this same photo.
Now, I know it may seem like indoor shoots are not the way to go, but the whole point of this series is to knock down our presuppositions about different location types. So, if you want to do an indoor shoot, go for it! I’m on board! I’ve learned a lot just from this one shoot that I think will make your photos look amazing. And if you’re still unsure, although I haven’t had full in-home sessions since the Gesin family Christmas photo, I have do have the headshot to the left. This was taken INSIDE during the right time of day with enough window light for my subject.
 
Trust me, we’ve got this!
 
Thanks for reading!
Xx Emily

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