How to succeed as a location photographer in the COLD winter months indoors

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by julie_sweeney, Feb 11, 2011.

  1. I am a location photographer who prefers natural light above all else. I do not have a studio but I have been "bringing" a studio to clients homes. My goal is to aim for outdoor portrait locations but in the cold winter months - I need better indoor options. I want to change my technique / approach. I'm looking for creative advice for taking portraits in clients homes without setting up a formal studio with backdrops, etc., in a clients house. I'm finding that it's so difficult and unpredictable and too time consuming. Also, I'm not a huge fan of portraits taken with backdrops. I love the depth of field in photographs and you lose that with backdrops. Help - any advice is much appreciated.
  2. Hi Julie -
    I've been in a position similar to your own over the winter months. I lack a dedicated studio space, and rely on finding interiors to shoot in during inclement weather. It can prove difficult to work with space in a client's home, but not impossible. I always try to find an area with minimal "visual clutter" to shoot in; occasionally this is a fun challenge, other times it can be slightly frustrating. Individual portraits are easier since you don't require quite as much room; family portraits can get a little tricky. I do my best to avoid objects like picture frames (hanging on a wall from behind) or large plants. These types of objects tend to intersect with the subject's head, and therefore draw attention away from the sitter.
    You mention that you prefer natural light, but do you at least have some form of strobe (such as a speedlight or studio strobe)? Your options become even more limited indoors when you lack the ability to artificially light. I've ran into several situations where the natural light provided by windows just didn't cut it. I will either set up a monolight, or flag and bounce my on camera flash from a wall or ceiling. If you have a camera body capable of shooting cleaner files at ISO 1600 and up, then you may have more leeway with natural light.
    Another option is to search out alternative venues you can use for a temporary studio. After some asking around, I was able to find a relative that owns an older unoccupied loft space. It has some very interesting backdrops (old peeling wallpaper, sections of tin ceiling, etc.). It can still get a little chilly inside, but it provides more space and unique backgrounds.
  3. Thank you for the advice.
  4. This can be done indoors by using furniture and walls as your backdrops and window light as your light source. You will be working at 1600-3200 and at wider apertures. The noise will be fine, as it is underexposure that produces noise more than iso. Schedule your session when there is plenty of daylight. I never bring a backdrop to a client's home--if they want that they come to me in my studio. On location is environmental portraiture, but it is amazing how beautiful these can be. Here is a sample of what I'm talking about. This is more stunning in the high-res version, but I had to shrink it to fit this post, but you get the idea.
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Inside, I will often use the clutter and the small space to advantage by putting the Subject(s) behind it:
    Outside, previously that late afternoon – I think winter portraits quite are nice get them to rug up:
  6. I have a section in my photography info packet encouraging clients that 'portraits' (using the term loosely here -- I mean more environmental, natural images) taken in their home can be really wonderful, especially for children who will feel more natural and comfortable there. I always schedule the home shoots during the right times of day, and discuss lighting, windows, wall colors etc. with the clients before the shoot. I have never liked or used backdrops and I am always reluctant to use too much flash in small areas, especially with kids. Use wide apertures to blur out any clutter or distractions.
    Here's a blog about one of my recent home shoots.
    I've also done a couple of newborn shoots in the parents' homes...I'm not an expert on infant photography by any means (these were my first), but you can see them here and here.

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