• Tamara Merri

How to photograph an in-home session | Tamara Merri Photography

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

An in-home session is an awesome way to capture a glimpse of real life. Maybe the couple/family just bought a new house, they're about to sell their house, their home is their happy place, or right now it's the only place they're allowed (damn you COVID-19). Whatever the case, the photographs should be a representation of the family's world, and the lifestyle needs to be photographed appropriately. If there is an outside photographer hired, they need to make sure the session reflects the couple's real life. They should capture their world as-is, and not create a different/stylized world inside of it.

pinterest cover for how to photograph an in home session

How to photograph an in-home session

From a photography standpoint:

1. Lighting

a. Natural Light: Lighting is one of the biggest things that can make or break your in-home session. You'll want enough natural light (window light) to light the scene. The best room would have windows on multiple walls.

b. Time of Day: You need to choose a time of day when there is diffused light is flowing through the window - NOT when the sunlight is directly steaming in and casting harsh shadows (unless that's the look you're going for). This way, there is even, soft light. The best time of day will differ for different rooms. For instance, light may stream directly through the windows during sunrise in an eastern facing room, while the light in a south facing window room is perfect. All rooms will be great light when the sun is high in the sky - around noon time.

c. White Balance: White balance is the color temperature of light. Natural light is more blue, while artificial light (a lamp) is more orange. You want whites to look like actual white. Because of this, you want a single source of light (preferably natural/window light). Turn off all interior/incandescent lighting. This includes overhead lights and lamps. A single source of light will make the image look "clean". Multiple white balances make the image look "muddy" and is more difficult to edit.

d. Positioning: You'll want the couple/family facing the natural light. You do not want the light behind them. This means that the camera needs to positioned by the window, or with the photographer's back to the light source. The closer the family/couple gets to the window, the more light will be on their faces. Try having them move closer and further til your eye sees the sweet spot.

in home session with couple on bed with cat
Natural Light coming from the window on the left of the frame.

2. Space/Location

a. Cleanliness: Have a clean, organized space. Using a space that has less distractions will pull the viewer's attention to the scene of the family. Having a stack of magazines in the background, or overflowing hamper is not going to give the right vibes - unless you're trying to capture how chaotic it is to be a single mom, or some other kind of story!

b. Size: Having a larger space to work with will result in different photos than a smaller space. If the home has an open concept, there are more versatile photos you can get ie: smaller in the frame. Having a smaller space can convey more of a cozy vibe. The difference in size will also affect what gear you can use (if you're using a DSLR).

c. Vibe: Taking photos in your bedroom will give a different vibe than taking photos in your kitchen or living room. Think of what kind of vibe/story you want to portray. Romantic? Silly?

boudoir session on bed with direct shadow window light
Sunrise in an east facing room casts dramatic shadows through the slats of the blinds

3. Gear

a. DSLR Lenses: A photographer using a DSLR has different lens choices. Using an 85 mm will allow them to get further away from the couple. Being further away from the couple can be beneficial if they're being romantic. However, the room size might not allow for that! If the room is small, using a wider lens, like a 35mm would be best. However - be cognizant of lens distortion! Using a wider angle lens (like the 35mm), whatever is closer to the camera will look larger. So, if you're taking a portrait, the subject's nose may look bigger, or if you have a bad angle, their mid-section could look bigger.

b. Smart Phone: Sometimes you can't tell the difference between a smart phone and a DSLR- the image quality is that good. When using a smart phone, you'll want to use the back camera; not the selfie camera. The back camera has better photo quality. Make sure to clean the lens of any fingerprints!

c. Self Timers: Whether you're using a phone or a DSLR, you can set a self-timer 10 seconds and then run into the photo. If you're using a DSLR, check to see if it has a wifi connection. If so, you can download an app for your phone to use your phone as the remote. If you're using an iPhone, your apple watch can act as a remote! Just open the camera app.

d. Tripod: If you're attempting to take photos by yourself, you'll need a tripod or something similar. You want the camera to be higher than you, and pointing down in order to achieve a flattering angle. If you're using a phone, you just need to prop it against something in order to achieve the same.

in-home session posed on the couch with real laughter
The ceiling lights were not turned off which cast an orange white balance on the couple

Posing Ideas:

a. Lifestyle: The majority of in-home photos are lifestyle. The photo represents your relationship dynamic. You can be engaged in an activity or conversation. Practice swing dancing. Cook pancakes. Play a board game. Have a tickle fight. Play with your pet. If you aren't doing an activity, you can prompt each other to entice giggles, deep emotion, or motion. For example: "on the count of three, we're going to say our favorite thing about other person in a yoda voice". This may result in laughter, followed by kisses.

b. Posed: If you're using a self timer, you may need to be a little bit more posed. Get into a position, ie: girl sitting between guys legs with guys arms wrapped around girls waist. You can either look at the camera, at each other, or somewhere within your immediate surroundings. If your camera allows for "burst" photos; or a photo being taken every 5 seconds, etc, you can have a little more freedom in posing.

c. Posing locations: Living room floor, couch, bed, kitchen, sitting on the countertop, against a wall, on the patio, on the stairs, standing by the window, etc.

d. Behind the scenes video:

e. Posing ideas:

Sitting in the hallway/against the wall

engagement in home session with couple sitting in hallway having a thumb wrestling war

standing by the window

in home newborn session standing by window

sitting on ground in bedroom or nursery

in home newborn session with couple sitting by crib

on bed, with view from above for different perspective

in home newborn session with viewpoint above parents on bed

sitting on bed with traditional view

in home newborn session traditional portrait with parents holding baby and smiling at camera on the bed with a sign that says what i love most about our home is who i share it with

shooting through the doorway for a unique perspective. Mama is breast feeding here.

in home newborn session through the door photo with only the mom's legs showing as she is breast feeding

sitting on opposite sides of the bed

in studio session with family of four on bed

standing next to window

in cityhouse collective studio family of four poses by garage window

laying on bed in a non-traditional way

in home engagement session couple lays on the bed with a cat

more romantic photo with one person straddling the other on the bed

in home engagement session sexy photo of girl straddles guy on bed

one person sitting on countertop with the other person standing

in home engagement session girl sits on kitchen counter with guy standing between legs

standing next to kitchen counter

in home engagement session couple stands at kitchen counter with guy behind girl giving her neck kisses

sitting on floor leaning against couch

in home engagement session couple sits on floor next to couch with legs intertwined

both sitting on couch cuddling

in home engagement session couple sits on couch cuddly

one person sitting on couch one person on the floor

in home engagement session girls arms around guy's shoulders from behind

one person sitting on couch one person laying down

in home engagement session laying on couch view from above

dancing in the kitchen

in home engagement session couple dancing in the kitchen

What to wear:

Neutral colors are always a crowd favorite: tan, gray, white, light blue, black.

Avoid busy patterns: thin stripes, small checkers, and lots of polkadots.

Avoid bright colors - they will reflect the color onto the other person. ie: if someone wears hot pink, the light reflected off the shirt will make the other person's face have a hot pink hue.

Wear something that you feel confident and comfy in.

Coordinate colors, but do not match. Don't wear the same outfit (white T, jeans).


You can download a free version of Adobe Lightroom on your PC or phone, or you can use the built in editor on your phone or mac. The main things you should take notice of is:

- White balance

- Exposure (the brightness of the image)

- Contrast

- Shadows/Highlights

For a full advanced editing tutorial, please contact me directly.

- related: how to cull photos in Adobe bridge-

Tag me in your in-home photos!! @tamaramerriphotography and use the hashtag #MyQuarantineCrew

Have a question? Comment!