Creative Locations for Family Photos

By Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman /

As an in-home documentary photographer, I am used to shooting in all types of homes for family photos. I welcome the challenge of finding pockets of light and interesting places to film each time I walk into a new environment.

But we all know, our own homes can become somewhat ʻstaleʼ and uninspiring after a while.

This past winter, the East Coast was slammed with horrific winter weather. And, we were in a rental home. A kind of decrepit one. All on one level. So, I had to really expand my ʻvisionʼ outside the normal areas I loved to film in the past.

Once again, it truly all comes back to LIGHT. Itʼs not so much what the house or room looks like, but what the light is doing.

Letʼs start from the bottom of the house and go up from there and see if these family photos strike a chord and make you want to experiment in your own home!

These first two suggestions really garner beautiful, dramatic light.


If you didnʼt already know, let me be the one to tell you: garage light rocks. Seriously, put a child in the garage facing out and magic happens. Itʼs the perfect place to take portraits no matter how crazy junky your garage may be. The light is just that… good. I took this shot of my daughter and in Lightroom just blacked out the background a bit more to get rid of the years of junk. The result? A striking portrait.

©  Jennifer Tonetti Spellman 2014

BUT that is not the only light to be found in a garage to play with… look for small windows or pockets of light that let in just enough light to garner more dramatic images. Donʼt let the piled up lawn furniture, dirt and excess ʻstuffʼ in there limit you!

Much like the garage, the basement may not be the first place you think of when you think of photography, but again, the intersection of light and dark can make for some gorgeous side lit and backlit images! The same goes for attics as well.

The ʻFrozenʼ soundtrack can be sung literally everywhere, even in a dark garage.

Dramatic side light in a basement with limited sun makes for amazing portraits and family photos.


We all have done the standard child in a tub shot, but there are other ways to use a room not too many would think of when you think ʻpictures.ʼ

Capture milestones. Your child on a stool or tiptoe to reach the sink, the what seems-to- never-end potty training phase, them brushing their teeth independently for the first time. I even had a shot awhile back of my little girl jamming out on the ʻthroneʼ with her plastic microphone. Great memories happen everywhere and donʼt discriminate which room they happen in.

© Jennifer Tonetti Spellman 2014


Itʼs not so much a unique place in your home to film… or is it? Ever film FROM the floor? Belly down, camera resting on the floor kind of shooting? This is a great way to change perspective, tell a story and freshen up your angles in your shots.

© Jennifer Tonetti Spellman 2014


Iʼm never a fan of a ʻplannedʼ shot list, but there is one shot I do on nearly every shoot: the ʻup the staircaseʼ shot. Itʼs so simple and often neglected and works for every age of child {note: safety first. I am not advocating getting this shot with a child as they learn to take the stairs. You need to be by them, not behind the camera}.

© Jennifer Tonetti Spellman 2014

And itʼs a great example of showing ʻgrowthʼ. Imagine a shot of your child from age 4-14 running up the steps? This would be a great way to tell a family story through photos.


Iʼve mentioned hallway shots before in a previous tutorial on shooting with different light in the home. I adore halls. It could be that it feels it leads right up to the subject so that there is never a doubt who the ʻstarʼ of the shot or just the yummy pockets of light throughout halls from bedrooms etc. that make this a favorite spot to film.

© Jennifer Tonetti Spellman 2014

Want to tell a story of your home-life through family photos? Shoot moments through door frames. When you look back, you literally can feel like you are right there, about to walk through. Itʼs an interesting perspective and if you are doing real storytelling imagery, which is a must in my book.

© Jennifer Tonetti Spellman 2014

Maybe not so much a place but an object (and one I have loads of fun with because there are so many ways to approach it), get your subject or their reflection in a frame. You can capture just the back of your subject and the reflection or just the reflection. Have fun with it!

© Jennifer Tonetti Spellman 2014

When shooting outside, your home jungle gym rules. The angles you shoot are everything for these shots so get adventurous. I shoot from the ground or I jump up to the ʻtreeʼ house of a jungle gym and shoot down. The more YOU are like a kid playing with angles, the more interesting your shots will be in this often overlooked area.

And hereʼs where I encourage you to run (not walk) and rent a fisheye lens. Since I purchased mine, jungle gyms have taken on a whole new dimension. What was fun before is now fresh and fun to me once again.

© Jennifer Tonetti Spellman 2014

Have a great time playing with different places to film in your home and be sure to bookmark this post especially for when the weather just isnʼt outside shooting friendly.

About the Author

Jennifer Tonetti Spellman is a New York–based children’s photographer, blogger, and mommy of two girls. She’s a contributor at and teaches photography courses at Illuminate Classes, “a photography education community focused on bringing meaningful insight to your art and your business.”

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