The Messy Home

March 13, 2014


It’s one of the most common protests I hear from people who are unsure about inviting a photographer into their homes for a family or newborn session.

My house is messy, small, dark, cluttered. It’s not ready to be photographed. It’s ugly.

I want to tell you all that none of this matters. Really.

When I started shooting births, I quickly learned how to work around extremely dark situations, small spaces with barely any wiggle room, and distracting elements. Working in a small, cluttered house during the day is a piece of cake compared to some births I’ve attended. My equipment can handle shooting indoors in cramped and dark conditions and I know what I need to do to make it work.

For a typical in-home session, I only shoot in two or three rooms: the living room, kitchen/dining room and maybe the master bedroom. We stick to the rooms where you hang out the most and where the lighting is most flattering. You don’t need to scrub your whole house from top to bottom before I come over. It helps me out if you’ve picked up those few rooms that we’ve discussed prior to your session, but I will still sometimes move things out of the frame while I’m there. Feel free to hide everything in a spare room or closet.

The marker on the wall, the crumbs on the table, the pile of books by the couch, they all show that your house has been lived in. All of the things that you may think make your house unfit for a session are the things that I love. I know how and when to highlight these things and how to minimize them when they are more likely to distract from a photograph. They help me really get to know you and your family and they help me tell your story.


Here are a few examples to help illustrate my point.

In the first photo, I wasn’t happy with the clutter above our microwave. I found it distracting and decided to avoid it by simply re-framing the image so the mess wasn’t included. The result is a photo where my dining room looks much cleaner than it really is. It’s almost magic.

Seattle LIfestyle Family Photographer


Here are some images from a newborn session I shot a few months ago.

Seattle LIfestyle Newborn Photographer


And this is a pullback of the main room we were in. I made the decision to shoot in the playroom instead of the living room, despite the explosion of toys and bright colors because of the gorgeous light. I chose my angles carefully and always paid attention to what was being included in the frame. I edited more images from this session in black and white than I normally do and included fewer wide angle shots, but I was still successful in showing what life was like for this family with a new baby.

Seattle Documetnary Photographer


And finally, I mean it when I say that sometimes the mess is part of the story. The image on the left is from the newborn session above. The overflowing baskets of cloth diapers were part of this family’s story with a newborn. Between the constant feedings, snuggles and diaper changes, putting the cloth diapers away was simply not high on the priority list. The image on the right has our messy fridge wide open and the sink full of dirty dishes, but those details only add to the story. The fridge is open because my husband and son were getting the food out (and they leave doors open all the time) and the sink is filled with dishes because that’s what happens when you cook. Our kitchen is kind of always this chaotic and I wanted to capture that.

Seattle Lifestyle Family Photographer


If you are still uncomfortable with inviting me into your home but want to document these sweet memories of your family life, plan a picnic at the park or brunch at a coffee shop and I’ll be there. We can even just hang out in your backyard for the full session if the weather permits. I love doing in-home sessions because it’s where clients are able to relax the most and I’m able to capture genuine emotion and interactions, but I know that I can also tell your story during a Saturday morning walk to the farmer’s market or an afternoon trip to the zoo as long as the activity has meaning for you.


Interested in a Storytelling Session or online mentoring? Email me at to find out more and be sure to follow me on Facebook.