Five Tips to Prep for a Documentary Style Portrait Session at Home

five tips to prepare for a documentary style photo session at home in Lansing, Michigan

When most people think about photo sessions, they think about a pretty field and glowing sun, but there’s a lot of beauty and joy to be found right inside your own home. In fact, we have a whole wall in our house dedicated to cozy black and white documentary-style photos that reflect special small moments in our daily lives.

living room wall with large black and white framed photographs

Now that it’s winter outside, you might feel like you’ve missed your weather window for family photos, but I promise there is still so much potential in your own home. Here’s what you need to do to prepare.

1. Think about what you like to do as a family or as a couple

Lansing indoor lifestyle photos at home

Make a list of the things that you like to do for fun. Here are a few ideas:

  • Read a favorite book to kids
  • Have kids play with a favorite toy or game
  • Decorate cookies
  • Snuggle up in one big bed
  • Drink coffee or tea
  • Play a favorite game all together (board game or otherwise)
  • Include Grandparents in images, and have them play with the grandkids

Choose a few of your favorites to focus on for your session (and don’t worry—I always make a point to get a few smiling photos too so you have them).

2. Plan out where you want your final images to go

Wall Art at home

If you’re planning to put the photos on your living room wall, you probably don’t want to take photos in that same living room. Walk around your house, tape an 8.5×11″ sheet of paper on each wall that you’re thinking about adding artwork to, and snap a photo straight on to send to me.

Once you know where you want the final images to go, you’ll have a feel for which spaces will be final art spaces versus photography spaces, and you can start to plan out where you want to take the photos. It doesn’t hurt to take photos of the spaces you’re planning for your session as well so I can get a feel for both the final wall space and the room or rooms where photos will be.

I’ll use your wall photos for a few things:

    1. To get to know your style to prep for the session
    2. To design wall art to scale with your images after the session (never wonder what art will look like on the walls again – this tool does the hard work for you)
3. Choose your outfits

lifestyle photographer - documentary style sessions at home in Lansing, Michigan

Once you know the rooms where the photos will live and the room or rooms where you want to focus your photos and the activities you want to focus on, you can decide what outfits to wear. Planning on a snuggly session? You might choose pajamas or “home pants” (as I like to call them). For a session in the kitchen, you might incorporate aprons or other accessories.

If you’re lost on clothing, don’t worry. All of my clients get access to a styling app that guides outfit selection. Choose the genders, sizes, overall style and color palette you like, and it will return outfit ideas. You can even click to buy the exact outfit suggestions directly through the app.

4. Clean your home (but not too much)

Lansing Michigan documentary lifestyle photographer; taking photos at home

Most of the people I work with at home are worried that their homes aren’t clean enough. Don’t worry about making your house spotless. You might pick up the clutter in the space we’ll be taking photographs (just throw it in a bedroom or closet), but there’s absolutely no need to clean the whole house. Most of the time, I end up moving a few things around here and there to get the images I want anyway. And honestly, a little mess here and there is just real life.

5. Choose your session soundtrack

Lansing documentary style photographer at home
Every session is more fun with music. Set up your computer, Alexa, or whatever you use for music to bring a little extra cheer into your session and to help everyone relax.

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