Ever looked at the pages of an interior design magazine or a home tour on a blog… and wondered what the home looked like before the shoot? Or if they really keep that plant pot there? Or do they honestly have fresh flowers or just baked bread sitting out all the time?
And where – oh so importantly – is their mess? Everyone has mess right? Where did they hide it??
Well, if you’ve ever pondered these pressing issues, then this blog post is for you. It’s all about what it’s really like to have a photo shoot done in your home.
Now, I’ve always loved interiors – that’s actually why I started this blog way back when* – so I’m very grateful and happy that people have liked my style enough to actually do photo shoots in my home.
I’ve also been very lucky to have had wonderful writers and fantastic photographers (such as Hannah from Seeds and Stitches and Kristy Noble) turn up at my door and make my home (and me!) look better than I’d even hoped for. And put up with my incessant chatting, photo ruining (usually because I’m chatting) and occasional fits of giggles.
So, based on all the photo shoots I’ve done so far, here’s the process I go through EVERY time. Yes, you think I’d learn but no, it’s pretty much the same. Except I don’t always take scissors to my hair the night before.
Stage 1. Elation. Someone wants to do a shoot at my flat. All the happy. This is exciting.
Stage 2. Regret. Oh shit. What did I say yes to? Why?
Stage 3. Denial. Maybe they’ll cancel. They meant someone else’s flat right? They’ll come to their senses soon enough.
Stage 4a. Panic. But the bedroom curtains are horrible. And the bathroom needs painted. Everything I own is terrible.
Stage 4b. Panic again. But I need to lose weight. My hair is terrible. What on earth am I going to wear??
Stage 5a. Manic tidying. Oh god, why is my home so untidy? Where did this dust come from? Why do the cats leave fluff on EVERYTHING?!
Stage 5b. Mad makeover. I could cut my hair. Or just get a fringe. I could cut my own fringe. Now where did I tidy the scissors away…
Stage 6. Fear. Urrrrrgh. Burb. *whimpers*
Stage 7. Acceptance. It’s today, it’s happening. This is as tidy and as neat as the flat will EVER look. Just so long as no-one touches anything. Or a cat doesn’t decide to puke on something.
Stage 8. Act normal. Pretend that none of the above has happened and that you’re totally at ease having people come to your home, take photos and ask you questions about it. Totally normal. NOR MAL. (Man, even the word sounds weird now that you’ve thought about it too much.)
Stage 9. Make tea or coffee. It will give you something to do while you act N O R M A L.
Stage 10. Don’t worry. It’s going to be fun. Lovely, professional people are here and they’re going to make it look like stage 2 to stage 7 never happened.
And to prove it… here’s the oh so lovely Hannah from Seeds and Stitches and brilliant Kristy Noble shooting my flat last summer for Mollie Makes. These two are not only a pleasure to have round, but definitely make it a fun experience. It is strange seeing people move your stuff, but good strange. Like lots of ‘oh, why did I never think of putting that there’ moments. For instance, Hannah moved our sprayed pink vintage Anglepoise onto the mantlepiece… and it looked so good there that it stayed exactly where it was for ages after the shoot.
And the bathroom… it’s one of those rarely seen places in interior shoots unless you have an epic fantasy bathroom. I’d always seen our bathroom as pretty functional in our rented place but Hannah and Kristy made it look a wee bit epic after all.
So back to the important pressing questions, like did you really bake bread this morning, do you always have fresh flowers, and where on earth is your mess?
1. So that artfully placed plant pot or the freshly baked bread just sitting out… yes, all your suspicions are correct, they’re not normally there. It just looks good in the pictures. Homely even. And the bread makes it seem more N O R M A L. Like you’re really baking rather than having people with cameras and camera equipment in your home.
2. Flowers… for me, well, yes and no. I almost always have flowers in the flat. It’s just around 50% of the time they’re actually wilted, half-dead or so dead that they actually look kind of dried-out cool. (Erm, maybe.) On the morning of the shoot with Hannah and Kristy, these flowers were definitely on their way out! Eeek. Emergency flowers were bought… and luckily the ever prepared Hannah happened to have brought some lovely blooms too. Phew.
3. Mess. Yes, mess! There’s still mess, just ‘artfully’ hidden. And by artful, I mean shoved into bags, cupboards, drawers… basically anywhere you can hide the mess. That said, I recently read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying and now I have sooooooooo much less mess than before. And there’s still mess.
4. Pets… I learned from Living Etc and Elle Decoration that a well-placed pet can really bring the room together. But it does help if your pet likes having its picture taken. Luckily, the Velvet Ninja Cat loves having her picture taken. She hates strangers though so I think every photographer has a picture of her hissing at them! (SORRY.)
And there’s one more thing about photo shoots… it may seem obvious but it always surprises me (and perhaps explains my stressing)… they’re always different. From my very first photo shoot that I did with Scotland on Sunday‘s magazine and journalist Fiona (who now has a gorgeous blog Copperline) to the one I’ve just agreed to (and am still eeeking about now), they’re all nerve-racking and crazy but brilliant and fun.
Here’s a selection of my favourite photos, outtakes and moments from shoots I’ve done… (All other photos above are Kristy‘s fantastic work, apart from the cheeky one I snapped of Hannah and her of course.)
From the photo shoot with Fiona where I said ALL the words and then went extremely pale when I realised it was time to get MY photo taken. While the photographer did his thing, I’d just been playing Scrabble (as you do) while chatting so had completely forgotten that I had to be in the shoot too.
From the shoot for Company Magazine… what was surprising to me at the time was how finished the flat looked in the pictures. In reality, we were still painting and fixing (you’ll see that the fireplace has a picture over it which is to hide the big hole behind it!). But I think looking at the pictures now, just how lovely the Edinburgh flat looked and how much I miss it still.
From a shoot with Jo for her The Only Place’s Bloggers at their Desk series. Again Jo got all the babble from me, and I’d recently had a bad fringe cut (I really, really don’t suit fringes), but in amongst that, she took some really beautiful pictures that made my mess look arty.
From the shoot I did with the ace Lauren McGlynn for Hannah Zakari and 91 Magazine… where Lauren made me laugh so much (you can see my dimples in so many of her pictures!) and I honestly almost forgot that she was there to do a shoot and not just to have fun.
Which explains why I’m juggling gold dinosaurs in some of her shots… just because.
So to all the photographers and writers… for all the times I babbled at you, looked awkward in photos and plain old got the giggles, thank you for putting up with me. And making me sound and look great, sane and normal. Well, as N O R M A L as I get.
*Feels like an absolute lifetime ago. I’ve now been blogging, mainly erratically, for years. Sometimes I think about stopping completely. Partly as I miss those heady days when blogging was just fun and I didn’t ever imagine that anyone was even looking at it. Partly because, well, writing a blog post is sooooo much more effort than posting a picture on Instagram. But then… well, then I think about the brilliant, amazing people I have met through writing a blog and how cool it is to look back on the blog and see moments in our life… and then I think oh go on then, maybe one more post or two.