When I first started photographing children and families I would regularly offer the option of the client coming to me, or me going to the client. I've had very, very few people take me up on the offer to come to their house for several reason- "my home is not elaborate enough" "there's nothing special here" "I think the studio would look better." So after awhile I just stopped suggesting it and started building up my studio stock of backdrops, fake floors, and props.
Now, two years later, I'm here to tell you that you need to start looking at your house, your yard, your garage, your basement, and everything around you differently. Your house IS good enough, it DOES offer something special, and the best part of it is, you are comfortable in it!
First, let me give my opinion on studio backdrops, because I DO use them, and I will continue to use them. They are beautiful, they come in every pattern / color imaginable, I can fold mine up and set them up virtually anywhere, and anyone can buy them. Wait. Stop. Did you really read that? ANYONE can buy them.
SO what does that mean for a client? Well, it means if you have a specific request I can basically get anything you want, and so can the girl down the road, the guy at Wal-mart studio lab, and the top notch studio down town. That means your portraits that you are spending your hard earned money on have the chance of looking just like the client before you, and the client after you, in several different studios, in several different states. Is this a huge deal... yes and no.
No because I use a lot of the same backdrops for several different clients, changing the props, changing the poses, and making it special and unique for that specific client. Some backdrops can look exceptionally modern, and clean, which is great, and a lot of the props / backdrops / fake floors that you can get now are so cute and well made that you don't even realize it's a backdrop.
Now for the Yes side of the coin. Yes because, you have another option. You have the option of getting yourself photographed in an environment no one else has access to. Your home. Your property. Meaning no ones portraits are going to look just like yours, giving you the 100% personalized and customized experience.
Let's start with the most obvious. Unless you live in an apartment, you have grass, even a small patch, like the photo above. It's simple, it's colorful, and it's natural. And you didn't have to drive anywhere!
So, everyone has grass, right? That's easy. But what else? Well, how about trees, bushes, flowers, a fence? The photo to the right is taken in a tiny backyard, but it allows the subject to relax, move around, and not have to worry about "I need you to move to the right, you're not on the backdrop anymore" "Could you move just for a second, I need to readjust the backdrop" "I would love to get this angle but the studio doesn't really allow me to do that." I don't know how many times I have felt limited bc of a backdrop.
Now lets talk really, really off the wall options, like, a garage door for example. I know. Just the thought might make you cringe but look at the photo to the left. It was taken in front of a white garage door on a simple silver chair and the other being a craftsman work bench stool. Not elements you would think would be beautiful with 2 young girls in summer dresses, but it works, well. The garage door panels add texture and the stool allows for different height levels with the subject.
So if a basic garage door could work for portraits, think of what you would do inside your house! If I'm buying fake walls, floors, and props to use in portraits, why not just use real ones? I am assuming everyone has a couch. Hate the appearance? Do you have blankets to put over it? Not only would that make it any color you can imagine, it would also give it a cozy and plush appearance. What about a staircase? Ok, so there are things hanging on your wall, take them down for the time being, and now you have an interesting piece to work with, with all kinds of different layers and textures, like the image to the right. A fireplace? Book shelves? A blank wall and cool dining room chairs? The possibilities are endless... Those options still considered "too elaborate" for your home? Even a plain wall with everyone sprawled out on the carpet is ok. Mostly because you're in your own environment, which is a huge advantage for not only kids, but adults too. You don't have to worry about anything, you know your own rules, the kids aren't in a foreign location and uncomfortable or scared, and I just stumbled upon a huge gold mine of new "prop options" never before seen in my portraits. You also don't have that stiff look on your face as if you're outside of your element because you are right in it.
Once you start looking at things not as if they are "studio quality" but they are yours, and they make up who you are, then you'll be able to understand why your home can be just as good as studio shots, if not better.