Posing families for real

Although she had a successful photography business, Kim Hildebrand realized her client sessions were no longer bringing as much joy to her. So she took a leap, relinquishing her studio in favor of conducting sessions in clients’ homes and reducing her images per session from 500 to about 130. The strategic retool of her business has been phenomenal in terms of profitability and personal happiness.

Here, Hildebrand shares advice for helping families get comfortable and find natural poses in their own homes.

  • Everything starts with the pre-consultation. Get mom comfortable with clothing choices and timing well in advance of the session. Hildebrand likes to work slowly and deliberately, so home sessions usually take an hour and a half to two hours, which she preps families for in the consultation. “Getting kids and parents doing their own thing in the home takes time,” she says, so she sets that expectation up front.
  • Walk in open to possibilities. Hildebrand begins by touring the house, looking for fun rooms, cool decorative or architectural elements, and most important, the prettiest lighting. She chooses three or four favorite rooms and works with what’s there.
  • Let kids be curious. Kids are very curious about Hildebrand’s camera, and she encourages them to get closer and do their own inspections. The more comfortable they are, the more relaxed their expressions tend to be. Eventually, their interest peaks and they forget about her. That’s when she gets the good stuff.
  • Start with the “grandma pose” first. To help put families at ease, Hildebrand starts the session by gathering everyone on the sofa, with big smiles toward the camera. It just gets easier from there, as everyone loosens up with each new setup.
  • Perfect is overrated. Hildebrand likes to sneak in little imperfections to keep things real. Think big sister’s chipped nail polish, little brother’s pants pocket partially pulled out, or mom’s hair a little tousled in some shots. “Imperfection is absolutely something that needs to be embraced and celebrated,” she says.
  • Take lots of breaks. Kids get tired, even moms and dads get tired of being on all the time. Let them take five while you reimagine the setup. It’s also a good time to get sniper shots of siblings interacting without necessarily noticing you.

RELATED: How Kim Hildebrand found her niche

Stephanie Boozer is a writer in Charleston, South Carolina.