Look homeward

The benefits of photographing anywhere but your studio

By Fuzzy Duenkel
Images By ©Fuzzy Duenkel
First published in May 2005

Your clients reveal themselves where they’re most comfortable, in their own homes with familiar surroundings—so why drag them into the foreign territory of your camera room? Try making a house call.

What was an incredible image yesterday is acceptable today, and will be passé tomorrow. Portrait photography requires constant evolution through discovery, education and redefinition. The more we know, the larger the repertoire of ideas and techniques we have to portray the personalities of our subjects.

As my senior portraiture evolved, I was still frustrated that the truer personalities of my subjects were revealed after the photo session. As they climbed the stairs from my camera room, their expressions would be natural and relaxed, their faces bathed in natural light. This is one of reasons I now prefer to photograph people anywhere but in my studio.

A camera room is not a normal place for most people to be. I tried shooting at interesting locations around town, until I started to repeat myself. More important, I realized that all too often, there was no connection at all between the subject and the locale.

The obvious solution was to photograph in my clients’ own yards. Of course, outside is only half the answer. Only in the last few years did it occur to me to photograph every senior inside his or her home. I had assumed that if the house was less than elegant inside, nothing salable could be created there. Man, was I wrong! Ordinary locations can yield extraordinary results, if you have enough lighting, Photoshop, and Painter at your disposal.

For home shoots, I usually carry only my cameras, a Manfrotto 3021 tripod, and a Larson 3x6 Bright Silver reflector. There’s rarely a need to use flash; windows provide plenty of light, and seniors are old enough to hold still if you tell them to.

Inside, I use a Canon EOS-1D Mark II with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. Outside, my preference is a Kodak DCS Pro SLR/n with an 80-200mm f/2.8 lens. Unless otherwise noted, for the images on these pages, all of the Kodak SLR/n images were done in autofocus, f/4, aperture-preferred auto-exposure mode, using the in-camera spot meter. In spot metering mode, Canon cameras can’t hold focus and exposure with the shutter release button or remote cable release, so the exposures will vary more than Nikon-based cameras.

It’s vital to be able to drive to a client’s house without worrying about what you’ll do. Let whatever you find start the process. Follow inspiration’s lead. I guarantee that inspiration will produce better images than you’ve ever done before.

Professional Photographer Magazine - Portraits Professional Photographer Magazine - Weddings Professional Photographer Magazine - Senior Portraits Professional Photographer Magazine - Commercial