It's OK If Your Kitchen Isn't HGTV


It can be nerve-wracking to have a professional photographer come into your home to document your life. If you are a compulsive cleaner when company is on the horizon, you’re not alone. I have lots of tips for how to prepare your kitchen space so it’s photo shoot ready, but I really, really, really want to emphasize that your kitchen doesn’t have to be Martha Certified in order to have a beautiful session. Here are some of my favorite tips that go a long way, and the rest are in my Family Cookbook preparation guide, which you receive after booking.


De-clutter vs deep clean

You don’t have to scrub your kitchen from top to bottom for your session. After all, we are cooking and things are going to get a little messy anyway. I do ask that families do a quick de-clutter to clear off counter tops and make space for the food we’ll be preparing. That looks a little something like this:

  1. Clear off counters and tables. Stash the pile of mail, put away any packages or brightly colored cereal boxes from the counter. Medicine bottles, snacks, Keurig cups, anything that is, well, cluttery, just stash it away somewhere for the duration of the shoot. The goal is to have the background be as distraction-free as possible.

  2. Watch for unappetizing items. Things like dish soap and sponges often get overlooked in the de-clutter process because they are near the sink, and who’s going to be doing photos over there? You’d be surprised. I often move around the kitchen a lot, and neon-green soap is pretty distracting when it pops up in the background. I was once flipping through a fairly popular cookbook and saw a sponge in the background of one of the photos, and I about died.

I can take a quick look around the kitchen when I get to your home to see if there are any items I know will be distracting. I don’t want to alter the personality of your kitchen, but clearing away some everyday things really helps open the space up.

Optimize for light

A lot of people think their kitchens are too cramped or dark to do a Family Cookbook session. This isn’t always true, we just need to utilize your space in optimal light. I have my clients send me pictures of their kitchens at different times of day to see when the best light is and schedule around that. We are taking photos, so light makes all the difference.

  1. What direction do the windows in your kitchen face? If there is sunlight pouring into your kitchen during certain times of day, this will be a big help when photographing your family. Also consider if there is anything that could obscure natural light from entering the windows, like decks, awnings, tall buildings or trees.

  2. What color are your kitchen cabinets? Lighter cabinets, like oak and white/gray cabinets reflect light better and make for brighter-looking photos. Dark cabinets tend to absorb light and make it a little harder to get bright photos unless there is a lot of light coming in. Colored cabinets can be a lot of fun as well.

Portland Family Photographer Custom Cookbook

Alternative Spaces

None of the items above is necessarily a deal breaker for photographing inside your kitchen. But if you are absolutely mortified by the idea of a photographer coming into your kitchen, or your space really is dark, dreary and cramped, there are alternatives to having the session in your own home. Alternative spaces are also great to consider if you are having a session with a big group.

  1. Portland Cookshop
    If you are local to Portland, this rentable cooking space is contemporary and gorgeous. They hold events there so the space is flexible with moving cooking stations. The light is almost always perfect, too, with big industrial windows on one side and a giant opaque skylight.

  2. AirBNB
    Another option is to peruse AirBNB to find a kitchen to your liking. There are all sorts of gorgeous spaces that can accommodate a range of groups. The only trick is that you have to clear with the owner that you will be having a photo shoot in their home. Some AirBNBs charge an extra fee for “commercial activity.”

  3. Event Halls
    Some event spaces also have kitchens that can be used by clients. Sometimes they have a more industrial feel, but are great for large parties and stand up against big messes.

    Whether you choose to have your session in your own kitchen or somewhere else, the most important thing is that we capture your family being together. Let your personality shine and make some memories over your favorite foods!


Thanks for reading! Documenting family food stories is something of immense joy, and I would love to tell your story. Get more information about The Family Cookbook as well as pricing by filling out the form below.


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