What Happens At A Magazine Photo Shoot

Do you ever wonder what happens at a magazine photo shoot? Well, I was filled with anxiety over this very thing yesterday.

But Franklin and Esther, the man and wife team (he photographs; she styles) could not have been nicer.

I felt like they were old friends by the end of what turned out to be a very long day. The couple came from the East coast and had stayed overnight in a hotel.

They were taking photos of my little house for a decorating magazine.

My living room with cameras all over the place, ready to take photos of my home for a magazine

What Really Happens At A Magazine Photo Shoot:

“So what happens at a magazine photo shoot?” people are asking me.

Well, there is a LOT of equipment involved. Big tripods for one.

And a very important and vital component, the laptop where so much of it actually happens.

I had no idea you could set the cameras up, then sit down and work from a computer or remote.

That way there isn’t so much walking back and forth and checking to see what is in the shot that they might have missed.

The photographer in my dining room setting up his equipment to take photos for the magazine. Now I know what happens at a magazine photo shoot.

The Editor’s Instructions:

They are given instructions from the editor who wants the feature. In this case, it was Country Sampler.

She tells them how many shots she wants of which rooms, etc.

They started in the kitchen. I stayed with the dogs in the living room while they did the kitchen and dining room.

There is only so much room, and equipment and cords are everywhere.

One of the large cameras used at my house for Country Sampler magazine. This is what happens at a magazine photo shoot.

They Talked To Me About Different Editors:

They told me that every editor is different and that each editor has something she simply does not like.

This particular editor did not want the following things. Live plants (geez, there went my pretty house plants), lace (there went every doily), and appliances. (Okay, there went my coffee bar.)

Not only that, but there could be no telephones, computers, or anything of the kind in a shot. So there went my office that I had worked on for weeks.

They said some editors will say no dolls in the photos because they look like mummified babies. Who knew?

They Work With Many Editors In Their Business:

And since they work with so many editors for various magazines, they know their preferences pretty well. They’ve been doing this together for 25 years, they told me.

I had to fill out and sign release forms. And I was given a letter from the editor of the magazine, explaining how things would go once the shoot was over.

They Shoot A Year Ahead:

They shoot at least a year ahead, she wrote. And write the articles many months in advance.

Then when they start to work on an issue, they finalize the editorial line-up of home tours and contact the person who lives in the home. This is to confirm that their home is going to be published.

The magazine publishing world may or may not use your feature. I guess it all comes down to specifics and what happens with last-minute editorial decisions.

Rules You Are Given By The Editor:

You cannot let your home be scouted or considered for publication, or be published in any other competing decorating-related magazine or book until your home has appeared in their magazine.

And the same goes until after that issue is no longer for sale on the newsstand.

When they assign the article interview to a writer, which could be several months down the road, a managing editor will call you. She will then conduct a “pre-interview.”

That person will ask you some brief questions so that they can provide the writer with a basic direction for the formal interview.

A Printout Of The Final Photos Will Be Sent To You:

She will either mail or email you a printout of the final photos before the writer calls. You CANNOT post these photos to your blog, as they are copyrighted images.

When (and if) your home is scheduled for publication, you will receive a call from the copy editor for fact-checking and clarifications, if necessary.

What I Fed Them For Lunch:

I fed them deli tuna salad (they have very good deli tuna at my grocery store) for lunch. It was served on poppy seed bread with coleslaw, sweet potato tortilla chips, and iced tea.

For dessert I served warmed cinnamon rolls.

We ate very informally around my $35 round oak coffee table I found at a garage sale.

They loved Abi and Charlie. Charlie was very shy but finally took to them.

Things In Your Home Will Be Moved Around:

No matter what you have done to your house in preparation, you must know that things will get moved around.

For instance, I had changed up the dining room considerably since I sent in the photos. I had moved the two tables and the potting bench I painted white in there.

Well, since the editor would not like the changes, all the coffee things had to go and they moved other things in there instead. The editor might nix the whole room or feature over that one thing.

A variegated philodendron, lush and pretty, on a plant stand in my living room

The Stylist:

Esther did the styling. She removed some things and added others.

My poor plants were put into solitary confinement during the photo shoot. And my yellow bromeliad had such a beautiful bloom!

I had also changed up the living room wall. They said they liked the window pane over the mantel better actually, but the editor might not.

So if you are having a magazine send photographers to your home, don’t change things the editor has already seen.

A Problem With A Painting They Wanted In:

I told them the painting over the fireplace that I sent photos of had to go. The plexiglass had come out of the frame at the top.

Flying bugs had found their way in and died at the bottom of the painting. That was not a pretty picture, quite literally. So I took it down.

(Poor Abi. “Mom, make all the flashing lights go away.”)

The editor wanted a photo of the dogs on the bed. But they refused to comply for some reason.

Instead they took a photo of me sitting in my favorite chair with the dogs.

They Will Bring Props:

(They brought the flowers, tomatoes and apples. Not sure if they made the cut or not. I wasn’t in there.)

They were here till after dark, as they had told me they would be. After they left, I began to put things back where I had originally had them.

I will let you know when (and if) this house makes it to publication.

Would I do it again? If I had those two particular individuals, I would. It was very interesting to see how all this is done.



  1. Wow! Congratulations on the possibility of having your home published!! That is wonderful. I have wondered what goes on during a photo shot – how interesting – how long it takes, what they want or don't want in pictures. I have "tripod lights," on my wish list of things I wish I had. I love the idea of hooking up to the computer after each shot – or a series of shots – interesting – I think my camera with an attachment will do this – I will have to investigate.

    Patty at Home and Lifestyle Design

  2. Thanks for sharing your photo shoot experience! Congrats on even being considered! I hope your home makes the cut and we will see your home published. I don't understand the not wanting plants or your coffee bar in the shoot.

  3. I am just catching up and somehow missed this post. It was fascinating to read about your house photo shoot, and written in your own way too, Brenda. I feel sure your home will make the pages of the magazine, even the name of the mag seems just right for the cosy look you have created. I have had book photo shoots at my home, of work projects, not the actual house itself, but I know what you mean about moving everything around! Well done, Brenda…..I am looking forward to seeing the pictures when they are published!
    Helen x

  4. Fascinating to hear about your day with the photographers. Sorry about the things that were cut, but I'm sure what they shot will be fabulous.

  5. I sure hope it gets published. I have subscribed to County Sampler for years and would love to see your home in it. I have noticed in some magazines that they move things around and you might see the same item in different rooms. To bad they didn't use the plants and doilies, they make a home, well, homey. 🙂

  6. Hi Brenda, I hope your home is published in the magazine. The process is interesting and it sounds like it was a fun day even with having to put everything back in place. Looking forward to seeing your home in the magazine.
    Happy Thanksgiving this week

  7. Your plants are lovely but maybe some folks are not. This is exciting for you Brenda. I do not think I could get my house clean. I am about to join a primitive club and just having to host a few times is nutting me up. xo, olive

  8. I have a dear friend who was featured in an earlier version of Country Sampler this year and she described much like you did. She said it took much longer than she expected and they moved lots of things around. But what a grand experience to have…. hope you make the cut! Vicki in Louisville KY

  9. Hi Brenda! Oh, so cool! I'm sure it was exciting and exhausting at the same time! I'm so proud for you and hope your shoot makes the mags! I know someone famous! 😉
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 😉

  10. Sounds like things were hoppin' at Little Cozy House yesterday! I really hope they use your pics in the magazine Brenda! So happy that they wanted to photograph your home, it's certainly a jewel with all the colors and happiness throughout the rooms. I be you're exhausted today from all the excitement..

  11. It will be so fun to see your home in the magazine. I did not realize that they do the photo shoots so far in advance. I read on a blog recently about someone who went through the whole photo shoot thing, but by the time the article was ready to run, the magazine had gone out of business.

    Hope the house plants are back in place and aren't drooping from rejection.

  12. The advance timeline for magazines is crazy; so much work for one article. Imagine how much time is involved with putting the whole thing together. Sure hope you make the cut. 🙂 Best wishes, Tammy

  13. No matter if they publish your house or not, it's still a very interesting experience, and while I know it was hard work, it will be worth it. Thanks for filling us in on the behind the scenes, I've always wondered how it works.

    Keeping my fingers crossed that one day you say, go and pick up this issue, I'm in it.


  14. This was quite interesting to read, Brenda, and see the photos of your photo shoot. I'm looking forward to your telling us when to buy the magazine because your house will be featured!

  15. Wow, Brenda, how exciting! I really, really hope that they put your home in their magazine, you deserve it! And your pretty home deserves it as well.
    Hugs, Cindy

  16. Congrats on your photo shoot. Your house is so cheerful and warm. It belongs in a magazine. It's so cozy too.


  17. I've never heard it explained about what they did so this was very interesting. I know you're glad you did it but it sure was a lot of hard work. Hope you get everything back the way you want it. You have such a beautiful home! Sweet hugs!

  18. I love the person you are Brenda..just yourself..congratulations for having your cozy little home picked to be in Country Sampler…my favorite magazine! I can hardly wait to see it…I bet they enjoyed their day with you and your cute doggies…Carol

  19. How very exciting! I loved reading how it all works. I've heard that they move things every which way, so you needn't put a whole lot of thought into your displays right before they come. Your lunch sounded good. I think I would've done the same thing (served from a deli). I can only imagine how nervous your dogs were. Mine gets very excited if anyone new comes over. He makes a spectacle of himself in front of them to get attention. LOL! I can't wait to see it once it's published. I hope you do anyway!

  20. I had heard that Esther and Franklin were nice people work with.. I had no idea there were so many "dos and don'ts" involved.. I'm sorry your plants didn't get included..
    I had hoped Charlie and Abi would be in the pictures.
    I will keep my fingers crossed that your home will be in the pages of CS sometime soon.
    The conversation with the writer should be interesting..
    Lunch sounds like it was delicious.. Eating it at your round oak table was perfect..
    Take care and be cozy.
    Charlotte in Virginia

  21. This was so interesting to read all the details of a magazine shoot! When I look at interior home pictures in magazines, I know there is no way that the people actually live that way day-to-day. I can't believe they (well, not the people at your house, but the editor) didn't want any live plants in the photos. I think live plants add so much to a vignette or room, but hey, I'm not the editor, nor do I know exactly what look they were going for, so who am I to say? lol Anyway, sounds like a very interesting experience!

  22. There is so much work involved, attention to detail, editing, redoing, lighting, styling, more editing, etc., to a photo shoot, isn't there? You come to truly appreciate the decorating magazines, and maybe feel a little guilty about complaining how expensive some can be! But when you think that one shoot incorporates the talent and work of 5 or so people, travel expenses, publishing costs, and much more, you realize that it probably should cost more!;)

    Thanks for your 'investigative reporting', Brenda and hope your cozy little house makes it to the printing press!


  23. Sounds like it was all very interesting, especially to one who likes to take photos, like you. I thought about it going on yesterday and figured as exciting as it was, it must have been pretty exhausting too. Congrats on having such a big event happen and glad the pups were good with it. It will be fun to see what the article shows when published.

  24. I always wondered why you never saw our modern electrical gadgets, now you've explained it. Boy, lots of work and goings on in your house. I'm glad the dogs like them. Certainly made it easier for you. But thank you so much for the step by step explanations of your day. I had no idea it was that involved, nor the length of time out they do their shoots. I just know ti's going to be published!

  25. Awesome Brenda! So sorry so much could not be in the shoot. I know you will be published!! This is just wonderful. See you are a somebody. I will grab my magazine and show to everyone…this is my friend Brenda's homr. I know her!! Im excited for you Brenda!!

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