The stay at home series | Tips for shooting from home

I have been shooting home content since, well a very long time at this point, in fact, if you cast your mind back to 2010 when I first began my blog (as if anyone has read my blog all that time) almost 100% of it was shot in and around my home by yours truly with an occasional photo being taken by a family member I’d somehow managed to rope in, which coincidentally is what I spent the majority of my time trying to do- not much has changed there then. Which is why both I and my family thought it was a good idea for me to buy a tripod. 
At the time I was studying photography at school, I had the camera, I had the eye (according to my teacher) at this point anything else was just an investment, (god that sounds awfully full of myself which I can assure you I am anything but when it comes to my photography).

 So off to the local photography shop we went - I say local it was a 20-minute bus ride into town. £15 pound down and I had a tripod in my hand (not sure if that was meant to rhyme or what but we’re going with it). Fast forward a mighty 10 years later and here I am with that same tripod shooting inside a different house but a house all the same and to this day that £15 has been one of the best purchases I’ve bought to date. 

"Prior to lockdown, I’d been playing with different areas in my home, I’d been struggling with shooting outside for various reasons so, on my days off from work I would set up little shoots and work with that, I think in some ways that has allowed me to adapt a little better to having to conform to this way of shooting content for now". 

 To begin with, I used to shoot against my powder purple wall at the time in my bedroom, which for a while stayed that way before I plucked up the courage to move to the outdoors, and by that I mean my back garden, a choice place shot against a row of high bushes in front of my back fence. Some days I even changed it up by positioning myself so that broken fences sat ever so subtly (not) in the background just for good measure- still you can’t say I didn’t work with what I had, I’m lucky if anything to of had a garden to shoot in. 

When we moved from the house I grew up in, to the next place I was gladly greeted by a white wall in my bedroom and a white garage outside that served as a background for a while. We also had some trusty bushes just outside our place that got used when it was clear there was no sign of neighbours approaching. I think one of my favourite things about that place was the window from the living room through to the kitchen, we didn’t have a garden at the time so around 5pm in the autumn you’d get this beautiful light shine through the kitchen window seeping through into the living room, looking back now I only wish I’d taken advantage of that light more often. 

 And so we arrive at my current place, the place I currently reside in, for now, a place you’ll have seen quite a bit of given that you’ve been following my recent ‘Stay at Home series’.

   If there’s anything I’ve learnt during this time it’s that my love for creating things, pushing ideas and being playful with imagery is something that I adore and something that I don’t push enough either because I’m far too critical on myself or because I worry about what people may think of the work I put out there, stupid I know. 
 Prior to lockdown, I’d been playing with different areas in my home, I’d been struggling with shooting outside for various reasons so, on my days off from work I would set up little shoots and work with that, I think in some ways that has allowed me to adapt a little better to having to conform to this way of shooting content for now. 

I know that for everyone being able to create and collaborate during this time hasn’t been easy, I wish in some ways I’d thought about doing this post earlier but this post isn’t just for now, it’s for those who may need to find new ways of creating for a little while, for rainy days, days where going outside and taking photographs in the street feels like a lot of effort and god I've had many of them. Hopefully these tips, tricks or whatever you feel to call them help and inspire in some way. 

 Work with lighting 

When I awake in the morning there’s a faint yellow tinge that works it’s way through the blinds in the very early hours, which for me is a rare sight to see. Then there’s absolutely no sight of the sun at least until lunchtime and that is if the weather hasn’t changed its mind by then. The sun starts in the corner of my room by my window and works it’s way intermediately around my room until it sets in the most gorgeous warm golden glow at the opposite end of the wall it began. 
Sometimes when I choose to shoot in my room I can chase that light from start to end depending on if my set up can be moved or if my shooting isn’t going well and needs more time to find that spot or that shot that I’m happy with. Sometimes I even find that after all that without the sun is better, perhaps I just need a hazy or softened light from the sometimes harsh sunshine. 

Of course, weather and lighting can be annoyingly unpredictable we know this well but having a general gist or awareness of where the lighting may fall is incredibly helpful. Plan a day to shoot in the days prior to that monitor the lighting in that space for a few days and work out exactly when you need to be ready to shoot for. Perhaps you want to shoot at night or in an area where there’s limited light and you need a flash. Spend time working with your camera to create test shots before you throw yourself into potentially wasting time trying to figure out camera settings. Some days I don’t plan at all, I’ll spontaneously set my camera up and work with what comes up, something you can afford to do if you aren’t dead set on having everything perfectly planned or placed or if you know what you’re working with. Lighting can be your best friend or your worst enemy. 

 Work with frustrations 

Of course, self-shooting comes with a lot of frustrations, (at least if you’re me). Sometimes I find myself literally staring at my tripod in the hope it’ll turn into a human at some point and when it doesn’t I shrug my shoulders and think, well on we go. Point is sometimes getting a shot to work perfectly is a million to one chance, sometimes things take time to get right. 
This point relates a lot to lighting because for me that is usually my biggest obstacle but as I mentioned previously sometimes it pays to work with that, be spontaneous and play with the lighting, work out what areas are in shadows or where the lighting falls, that can in turn completely change the structure of the photo. As things change, change with them. Don’t be so harsh on yourself if it doesn’t work, the key is to not have a final image in your head but a very, very loose idea so that if it ends up so far from you initial vision then it isn’t the end of the world. 
However, again something I previously mentioned, some days things don’t always work out the way you would hope. I’ve began a shoot late in the afternoon before hoping for the light to be perfect by a certain point in the afternoon but instead have found myself watching the sun go down, realising that perhaps I wasn’t fast enough on the ball to make use of the light. I take with me in my advantage that location doesn’t change so instead I will plan to shoot again another day now I know what it is I’m shooting. I’ve left areas set up overnight before so it’s ready the next day and I can just dive straight in. 

 Be inspired by your surrounding to influence your outfit choices

I still call myself a style blogger but sometimes creating a shot comes before planning what I’ll wear to shoot in, mad I know. For some reason, I’ve always been awful at planning clothes so I’ll decide on the day what works best or what I get a feeling for. Sometimes it can also be inspired by my makeup or mood for the general aesthetic I’m going for. When I produced the first set of photos for my stay at home series I knew the first location I wanted to use was the kitchen but I didn’t know what to wear to play a part in the story. Our kitchen is pained lilac so instead of planning exactly what I’d wear I worked with a colour story and went from there. 

"Be spontaneous and play with the lighting work out what areas are in shadows or where the lighting falls that can completely change the structure of the photo. As things change, change with them [and] don’t be so harsh on yourself if it doesn’t work"

Become familiar with your camera kit 

 If you don’t make a habit of self-shooting it’s likely that you won’t have a tripod or a set up you can work with to take your own photos so it can be tricky, however there are lots of videos on YouTube showing you things you can use to set up that shot so have a rummage around on there. 

 If you do plan on making more of a habit to shoot indoors investing in a tripod and a remote is a game-changer. Like I mentioned earlier in the post getting a tripod has honestly been one of the best purchases I’ve made because I’ve used the hell out of it. Make sure that when buying one it raises tall enough and can go short enough. Another part I use a lot is the rotation of the tripod base to turn my photos portrait, obviously, that’s down to preference but make sure you find one that adheres to your needs. 
Once you’ve got that in your kit adding a remote is a very good idea. Now again this just comes down to doing a bit of research in order to find a remote that works with your camera, it sounds obvious but there are lots of camera remotes out there so I’d suggest going to your camera manufacturer website and seeing what accessories can be used with that camera, or if you have a manual to hand have a flick through there to find out. There’s also plenty of remotes you can use in connection to your camera on your phone (personally I haven’t used one yet) but again do a little bit of research, read reviews and find one that works best for you. This also all applies if you choose to shoot on your phone, nowadays there are plenty of gadgets out there that help your phone help you, standing tripods, ones that stick to surfaces or even move when you move (I know crazy and also expensive) but again do your research and find what works for you. 

You can, however, use a self-timer, if you feel that works better for you, but that can be an added frustration. Personally, I use my self-timer all the time at the moment as my remote has conveniently stopped working but it just requires a little extra when it comes to set up, ensuring that the camera will focus on you once the countdown has begun, again this is something that differs from camera to camera but on mine, I set up the background, location, etc, etc and then click the button to start the timer and then position myself where I want to shoot that way the camera doesn't focus prior to the shot being taken (again for my camera) it also has an option to face track so that once the shutter does release it is focused on my face, which is where I want it to focus. 

 Put on some music

You’re in the house after all so take advantage of putting some music on and getting creative. The way you may choose to work varies from person to person, for me, I find myself halfway through a few 'meh' shots and whilst I figure out whether to ditch the idea altogether or whether perhaps just moving that object or changing the position I’m saying in the part of the room I’m in I pop on some music to try and get myself to zone out a little, loosen up and enjoy what I’m doing rather than seeing it as a chore. All to often when I photograph I get caught up in my head and find myself self-sabotaging so just flicking that one switch can sometimes flip my mood entirely. 

 Be creative and add props to your shot

On a similar note to popping on some music when I’m shooting sometimes I’ll hit a wall where not even music can help the direction I’m trying to take. Somethings just... somethings just not working. I stand there for minutes staring at the space to the camera and back again time and time again repeatedly until something clicks. More often than not that click is the idea to get a prop involved. 

When it comes to photos, props are an excellent choice, for me, that’s usually fruit or flowers. Sometimes I even like to take a plant to place in the background just to add that little something, something. It could be a cup of tea, a handbag, a vase, a pair of sunglasses it could be anything you see around you. Fancy getting experimental? Work with adding unusual props and see what happens. Mirrors are also an excellent addition to a photo! There’s so much you can do with them to add another layer to your visual. 

"Sometimes working with different spaces can be frustrating but my best advice? Find a white wall, find a white space with natural lighting, it’s the most simple way and effective way in which to create a photo". 

 Avoid any distractions 

Again this one comes down to planning much like with lighting where you choose to shoot indoors certainly impacts others you may live with. Are you photographing in a kitchen? Will anyone need to use it to make a cup of tea or make their lunch? Bathroom? Does anyone need the shower first? Or perhaps it’s just that shooting in the corner where the light falls perfectly your cat loves to lay and you just haven’t got the heart to move him. Point is to think ahead, be wise and mindful of other people’s space and if you live alone well feel free to go wild, I certainly would. 

 If in doubt a white wall works every time 

Being honest shooting around or in your home, to begin with, can be hard especially if you aren’t used to photographing certain spaces, perhaps it’s a slow process to get a room to how you want it to look, you’ve got a shelf you’ve been meaning to put up, there’s a chip on the wall you’ve been meaning to fill or there’s a hideous chair you've been meaning to throw out for a while. Sometimes working with different spaces can be frustrating but my best advice? Find a white wall, find a white space with natural lighting, it’s the most simple way and effective way in which to create a photo. My motto is 'If all else fails a white wall always works'. You may be thinking but I literally have no white walls in my house well, me too, me too. And if that’s the case use what walls you do have, work with colours, play with colours, incorporate that into the photo and have fun with it. 

If you still want white, one of the easiest and most simple things you can do also is to get a white sheet and hang it in a well-lit area of the house something you’ll have seen a dozen times on Instagram at the moment. This also works particularly well if you have somewhere to hang it in the garden too. an area where a tree or a plant can overhang it works beautifully. In my garden I don’t happen to have a lot of foliage so I’ll incorporate that into the photo in other ways, holding flowers again or adding a plant in front of the backdrop. For me, the best place to hang my sheet is on the washing line, that way when the sun moves I can rotate my sheeted background accordingly. Even with a line that goes in a horizontal across the garden moving it is easier once you have the sheet hanging and secure and you can simply slide it along the line.

What's your opinion?

@paige rhianne_