Hey there lovely friends. In part one I talked about photoshoots for brands. In this final part I chat about the other types of photoshoot I have been involved in. I’m no expert, but I am learning day by day and I relish the chance to soak up more information to share. If you’re interested in how a photoshoot works, then read on.
I’ve been lucky enough to have our home and garden featured in quite a few magazines including: Country Homes & Interiors, Modern Gardens, 25 Beautiful Homes and Ideal Home Magazine. The experience I’ve gained from watching how the pros do a photoshoot has been invaluable. Designing a room, styling it and placing furniture is one thing. How it’s photographed for print is quite another. What I think looks best to the eye can look completely wrong in a photo.
Get Ready For Furniture To Be Moved!
On my first photoshoot I remember being totally blown away and slightly perturbed by the photographer and stylist, who merrily moved all my furniture and took out of shot some of my favourite things. Hang on one cotton pickin’ minute! I’ve styled this house to perfection in my eyes, why does it need to change? Well, in the simplest of terms, it’s because you are looking through a lens and framing a picture and that picture needs composition, just like a painting would.
I watched in amazement as they moved furniture to take the perfect shot. It just had not occurred to me that furniture could move if it was in the way of the photo. How we live with furniture is not at all how you photograph it. That, my friends, was an absolute game changer for me, literally mind blowing! It sounds so simple doesn’t it, but actually it’s so obvious that most of us don’t think to do it. Instead of contorting yourself into a position to make sure you don’t get the ugly ottoman in shot (not that I have an ugly ottoman), why not move the wretched article out of the way?
The two matching chairs that you’ve placed perfectly look far too close together in the frame. It’s only by looking at the shot that it becomes clear, so you’ll find stylist and photographer chatting no end about whether something needs to be moved slightly to the right a little and maybe back a tad.
Props and Instinctive Know-How
I am also in awe of some of the stylists I’ve met who just instinctively know what a shot needs. I’m learning so much. I remember Vivienne Ayers from Country Homes & Interiors asking me for two sprigs of lavender from the garden. She placed them in a tiny bottle that she had brought with her. She placed it left of centre on the chest of drawers and immediately the composition was complete. Sorcery I tell you! But, of course, she just knows from experience and in my view a God-given talent for faffery!
That’s another thing, actually – props! If you’re a true stylist then you most definitely have an entire room of props. I remember the incredible Sally Denning talking about her room filled with birds nests, old twigs and cracked pottery. I totally get that now and I too have a veritable treasure trove of curiosities. My hubby, Mr C, often wonders why I’ve decided to collect dried grasses, seashells, driftwood and old wooden bobbins (my particular fave). He watches inquisitively as I forage for teasels, wondering if, just perhaps, I’ve slightly lost the plot.
For a recent photoshoot I bought with me: old sardine pottery jars, chopping boards, numerous vases, dried twigs, a pot of Basil, napkins, a bottle of bubbly (well, you never know when the moment might take you), a wooden stool, driftwood and many other paraphernalia just in case. On that shoot I learned that editors have certain things they don’t like and every editor is different. One might have a terrible dislike of Boho, the other is not at all fond of the colour orange, or tribal artefacts! Who knew? Well, a professional stylist that works with editors all the time will know, so don’t be offended when your prized Indian Headdress is removed from sight.
The days are long and both photographer and stylist are perfectionists, so there is going to be a lot of repetition. You’ll also experience photographers lying on the floor to take the shot, or clambering up a grassy bank to get the perfect angle. It’s all fun and games and I find the whole process utterly intriguing.
For me these are generally when a brand has hired out your home to shoot an advert, commercial or TV programme. I don’t have a huge experience of this. I have done two in my time and they are my least favourite. Other people like Sally from @sissinghurstlocationhouse ,Carla from @locationhouseofbeau , or Josephine from @ashbrooklocationhouse can give you much more information about these types of shoot and they do them brilliantly and make a good living out of them, so not to be dismissed!
Why aren’t I that keen? Well, don’t get me wrong, if a company wanted to pay me a large sum of money to use our homes then I would seriously consider it and, indeed, lots of people make their living out of it. For me though, I just didn’t find them that much fun. Generally, you won’t be involved in the shoot at all. Lots of strangers turn up at your house who are all really nice. However, they can literally move everything you own out of the way. They can even, with your permission, redecorate! Unless you are very clear in the contract you can find that they have taken over your house and it can be left potentially damaged. Of course, the company does have to make good any damage they have done, but I just find the whole process a bit stressful. I’m too much of a control and neat freak!
Don’t let me put you off though, many people love hiring out their home and really enjoy the buzz. If you’re interested in this type of shoot, then contact one of the people I’ve mentioned for more information.
Instagram Shoots Just For Fun
Ok, so it’s no surprise if you’ve been following me for a while, that these are my favourite type of photoshoot. It’s no holds barred and I’m in charge. Get ready world I’m going to be spectacularly extra!
The first big idea I had for a home shoot just for fun and just for Instagram was the pumpkin shoot of all pumpkin shoots. I had this idea of emulating the incredible autumn displays in New England and as we had a weatherboard home it would look authentic. But, I wanted to go big, I mean really big. The only problem was I really couldn’t afford to buy hundreds of pumpkins and plus that would be such a terrible waste. So, what to do? I did some research on pumpkin farms in my area and found a fabulous one nearby. I contacted them and started a conversation about whether I could borrow their pumpkins. At first, I think they thought I was completely insane. However, when I explained that I would promote them via the gram, they became more interested. Their numbers actually rose a huge amount over the campaign, so win win!
I went for an initial visit and creative meeting and then we discussed how many pumpkins I would need. We actually borrowed 159 of them! How did I come up with 159? Well, I drew the scene first, which would be on our front steps. I played around with colours and groupings and I finally came to the conclusion I needed about 150 of them. The extra nine came about because there was a few I just couldn’t resist!
I collected them with a friend of mine, Ashley Nuttall of @Hudsonhomesandinteriorsuk – on a shoot of this size you must have help from someone you trust who has a similar eye. I had to pay for the pumpkins on my credit card and then I would be refunded if we returned them unharmed. By the way, never lift a pumpkin by its stalk!
Get Ready To Be Postponed!
The photoshoot was postponed three times due to inclement weather, but we finally got a beautiful autumnal day, so that date was set. Ashley’s identical twin sister Abi Birch came for the day too and actually, they were both very much needed and each brought their own incredible style and taste and cunning eye for what looks just right. They are also incredibly funny and an absolute hoot to work with. I love them dearly. Not only was I able to ask them to just style a room by themselves (we were styling almost every room in the house as well as the front steps), but they also shot incredibly funny videos of me in the bath and knew instinctively which questions to ask that would get a laugh. I’m a huge fan of showing behind the scenes on a shoot.
What you see is all the prettiness. What you don’t see is us three lugging 159 pumpkins around a large house. It was absolutely exhausting and we so deserved a glass of champers at the end of it. We all had a real work out that day.
Now that we have moved house and also own a holiday rental, I have two new locations to shoot from. I’m planning another pumpkin display this year as well as a Christmas extravaganza photoshoot. I’m so utterly excited I could burst and can’t wait to show you all.