5 Mistakes to Avoid as a Lifestyle Family Photographer

by | Jun 5, 2020

BEGIN IN THE BEGINNING. YES YOU HAVE TO.

In 2009 I put together a make-shift home studio with a couple of lights and I was in business. Literally. I had read a little about light and thought that you were supposed to just slap a light on either side of a person and that was it. 

If I had known what I didn’t know, I would have tucked myself under my mountain of props and hid.

I made so many mistakes starting out friends, and if I can help keep even one of you from making some of the same mistakes, I will feel like it was worth it.

Maybe.

MISTAKE #1 – LEARN YOUR LIGHT

One of the things I love most about lifestyle in-home photography is working with the unexpected! Having worked in a studio for years and always knowing exactly what to expect, I love the thrill of walking into a client’s home and discovering their space while quickly working out how to use the light in their home.

If the thought terrifies you, it’s because you haven’t really learned to “see” light yet.

Learning to see light doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to step back and really look and practice so you can understand the light around you and learn to work with it. 

Start by practicing around your own home. Walk from room to room in the morning and look for light – which rooms are bright, which are darker? Are there any interesting light patterns coming through your windows? 

Do the same thing again in the afternoon, and again in the evening until you know the light in your home inside out.

Take the time to learn about the different types of light, direct light, side light, flat light, dappled light.

I’m working on a course all about light! Sign-up here to be notified once it’s released!

MISTAKE #2 – DO NOT FEAR A HIGH ISO

Grain is not the end all of your photography. If you’re going to shoot in people’s homes, you’re going to come across so many situations – homes that are bright, too bright sometimes, and homes that are dark. 

Either way you need to make it work. Yes, you.

You could learn OCF and go that route, but many of us in-home lifestyle newborn and family photographers prefer to work with natural light only. How do we make it work? We have learned to embrace the beauty of grain.

So go ahead, raise that ISO. If you’ve been waiting for permission – this is it! Just keep in mind that if your image is well exposed, your higher ISO won’t be awfully grainy, so make sure that you are properly exposing your images and the outcome won’t be as scary as you think.

I put together a quick booklet on 4 lighting tricks you need to know when shooting in-home lifestyle family sessions, grab it here.

MISTAKE #3 – LEARN YOUR GEAR, PROPERLY

When you’re just starting out, shooting in auto, every once in a while you get an amazing image that boosts your confidence. Eventually you want to start a photography business.

Many of us have been there. My advice to you is wait. Learn your camera inside out and be comfortable shooting on manual mode before you transition to business.

Being able to have full control over your camera will let you create images the way you want and not at the mercy of a chip in your camera.

The business of business is hard. Be confident in your art so you can work on making your business succeed beyond your photographs.

MISTAKE #4 – DON’T UNDERPRICE YOURSELF, YOU WILL PAY FOR IT (SEE WHAT I DID THERE 🤣)

Fear makes us do crazy things. I know. It’s tempting when you’re first starting out to price yourself really low because

  • you’re new
  • you don’t have any clients
  • no one knows you exist
  • you don’t have a portfolio
  • you’re not good enough to charge more
  • so and so down the street is only charging this much
  • etc. etc. etc.

I know all the reasons, friends.

Trust me when I tell you, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. 

Many years ago when I started out, I was…inexpensive… After years of working my beanbag off, pun intended, a friend encouraged me to raise my prices and helped me to see that I wasn’t profitable. Eventually, I did raise my prices and I lost ALL the clientele that I had built. 

These clients had known me to be cheap, somehow this had become my USP (unique selling proposition). Yuck. I did not want people hiring me because I was cheap, I wanted people to hire me because they loved my work.

So, here I was, a couple of years into my business and essentially starting over.

If you feel like your portfolio is not strong enough or big enough and you need more practice before charging a higher fee, do the work to get there before you officially open your business doors. Find friends, neighbors, reach out personally to people you see out and about and build that way.

When you do start your business, use a Cost of Doing Business Calculator to make sure you aren’t giving away your time.

If you still feel like you can’t price yourself where you should be, do it anyway, and offer discounts and incentives while you continue to build – but make sure people know the real value of your work by having your prices where they need to be. That way, when you do start charging full price, no one is shocked by your prices and you won’t be starting all over like some people we know. 🤣

MISTAKE #5 – POSING IS NOT A BAD THING

There’s a misconception that posing is bad. It’s not. In fact, if you want truly beautiful lifestyle photographs you need to do some posing. Guide your clients into where and how you want them.

If you haven’t read my previous post, What Is Lifestyle Photography, head there and take a look.

Once you’ve got your clients posed, don’t leave them hanging there or you will get stiff images. Give them prompts. Have them look at their baby or tickle their toddler. Have dad whisper what he ate for breakfast in his sexiest voice into his spouse’s ear. And if it all falls apart because of a toddler being a toddler, don’t worry.

No matter what you do, the goal is to get a reaction. Whether it’s emotional and loving, or hysterical – this is how you make beautiful, natural lifestyle photographs.

3 Comments

  1. Anna

    Beautiful article ! Thank you

    Reply
    • Carolina

      Thank you Anna!

      Reply
  2. Durga

    Very useful information.. Thanks a ton . I love the pricing point, as m going thru the same..

    Reply

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