Family Portraits: In Studio or At Home?

February 6, 2022

So it’s time to take fresh family photos! But where to even begin? A good starting point is deciding whether you should you take your next family portraits in home, or in studio.

Obvious disclaimer here: as an in-home photographer, I am clearly biased in favor of in-home portraits. But hey, there may be a time and a place for a different kind of setting for your portraits!

Here are things to consider for each type of session so you can make the best choice. If you decide that in-home portraits are more your style, reach out to schedule!

Studio Portraits

Let’s start with the studios. Portrait studios are set up with a purpose: to take a picture perfect, well controlled photograph. To clarify- this doesn’t mean each studio session is the same. On the contrary, studio artists are incredibly creative! But, it does mean that the photographer makes intentional choices about nearly everything in the photo.

While every studio session is a little different, here are some key characteristics of family portraits taken in studio.

X marks the spot

To work quickly in the studio, it’s better if the subjects stay put. How much movement generally depends on how much time your session includes, the size of the studio, and the size of the backdrop. You might only have standing room only, maybe a few stools, or a couch. But even when you do have some space to explore, many studio sessions will focus more on getting minor movements and facial expressions right. With less room to move, kids in particular can struggle to stay put the entire time. Trying to minimize the wiggles is one reason in studio family sessions are notoriously stressful!

Posed to perfection

Just like lighting and backdrops, posing is another aspect of your images that studio photographers often like to control. Whether it’s moving a chin down or shoulders back, a studio photographer with posing knowledge will put body parts in the best possible place to look their best in a 2D photograph. While it may make you look slimmer, it can also mean holding unusual distortions or challenging positions for several minutes at a time.

*Pop*

If you’re into highly stylized or high contrast looks (think: commercials and magazines), you might want to seek out a studio. While at home photographers may bring one extra light or reflector, they usually don’t drag the big, powerful lights on the go. The extra pop in these editorial style images often requires flash photography or bright studio lighting. Those lights? They usually stay put at the studio.

Props

Just like with lighting, most at home photographers aren’t lugging props along. Props are commonly used for headshots and children’s portraits, and include items like chairs, baskets, buckets, wraps, crates, and suitcases. If these types of props are important to you, it will be easier to incorporate them at a studio session.

Dress to the nines

Climate controlled and comfortable, studios work seamlessly for more formal or polished family photos. This includes any high fashion pieces. A studio photographer can also more easily adjust a curled collar, or flipped hem before snapping the shutter. If you want each hair and thread photographed to perfection, then studio portraits are for you!

Blank Backdrops

Another element your studio photographer can control is the backdrop. In traditional portraiture, the viewer’s attention should go straight to the subject’s face. So, many portrait photographers seek to minimize things that could be visually distracting. With blank, neutral backdrops in studio, keeping attention on the face is easy! On the other hand, there will naturally be some visual distractions (albeit pleasant ones!) when photographing at home.

Happy Smiling Faces

Standard studio portraits feature the face. Family portraits in studio are sure to show everyone’s full face, beautifully lit from top to bottom. If you’re lucky, those faces will be smiling! But, faces only tell part of a family’s story. And smiles only tell part of someone’s personality. To capture a bit more, you’ll need to say goodbye to posed photos, and say hello to prompts or candids. Not sure what the difference is? I’ve got you covered!

 

At Home Portraits

When it comes to deciding whether to take family portraits in studio or at home, remember- being in your own element does things for photos that studios simply can’t! Read on to see if at home portraits would work best for your family.

 

Move Around!

Each room of your home is a new opportunity than a stiff portrait session. At home portraits means the wiggles can be embraced! Let your kids move around and be kids.

Get Really Candid

With all that extra movement and room to explore, there will be much more natural interaction happening. Your pre-teen might show you their latest drawing. Your toddler may take your hand for help with a big step. You can certainly still take posed photos at home. But why would you want to? Actually enjoying being together makes for beautiful candid details that are hard to capture in any other way.

Ultimate Convenience

Have a drink spill? Your closet is right around the corner! Need a potty break or a snack? Have at it! All the amenities for ultimate convenience are at your fingertips when you take your family photos at home! No need to get kids in carseats, wrinkle outfits, or forget the hair straightener. You have everything you need, already.

Tell The Story

Remember how studio portraits are all about faces? Of course at home portraits show faces too. But they also have storytelling superpowers. From the candids little moments I mentioned above, to the bigger picture, telling your story is something that takes portraits to the next level.

What do I mean? Imagine a photo album that only has your family members standing, smiling, and looking straight at the camera. Now imagine a photo album that tells the whole story of your day- from the first getting ready morning moments, to doing your favorite activity together, to the cuddles as you read and prepare for a midday nap.

Think about the little details of the crayons used to practice letter writing, and the favorite stuffy tucked in the bed covers. The photos may not all be smiling, well lit faces. But getting these other types of photos tells a more complete, more compelling story. When we’re old and gray, it’s *these* photos that will bring you right back to this moment in time.

Settle In

Between work, school, social commitments, and errands, we have to be “on” all the time. Studio portraits often feel like an amped up, high anxiety version of that kind of performance. This can feel especially awkward for camera shy people. At candid portrait sessions in your own space, you can simply be yourself. Let loose. Relax. Hang out. You actually get better images when you do!

Casually Awesome

There’s a time and a place for the perfectly coifed look. But everyone knows that real life isn’t picture perfect. You can still wear nice clothes at home, or you can rock your pajamas or have the kids run around in diapers for a change. Being at home is synonymous with being¬† comfortable, so casual clothes and attitudes are welcome. And who wouldn’t love to be more comfortable during family photos?

 

So should your next family portraits be in studio or at home? You decide!

 

Remember, there is nothing wrong with either option. If you find yourself feeling split down the middle, schedule both session types and see for yourself!

Still haven’t booked a one-of-a-kind in-home family photo session? Reach out to start planning one now!

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