A Christmas Photo Shoot with Better Homes and Gardens – Behind the Scenes!

UM HI.
What is my life even??!?!
🙀😳
I could try and play it cool for y’all, as if this were a normal happenstance to just casually have Better Homes and Gardens come by the house, NBD, just take a few shots for their special edition Christmas Ideas issue…WHAT?!?  You guyssssss, I barely kept my chill in place, and I tried my best to seem normal and not make this face the whole time: 😃  It was so much fun!  While I can’t show the final shoot images quite yet (Christmas 2018, baby!!!), I can show ya some behind the scenes!  I’ll also share some tips from the pros throughout this post, so get ready to take some notes!!

The first day was spent walking through the house to check out things like lighting and room placement.  The art director, Nicole, worked with me to make small adjustments and tweaks in preparation for the shoot the next day.  When I decorate the house, I don’t have to consider spaces to be left purposefully blank for magazine copy to be inserted, you know?  So we had to move things, clear spaces, and then adjust placement to create concise shots for the shoot photo order.  She was so so sweet, fell in love with my three fluffy kitties (Tilly, Faye and June), and she put me at ease for the rest of the shoot!

Tip one:
Sometimes decor reads one way in person and another on camera.  For instance, from the angle the photographer chose, the dining table decor sort of bled into the Christmas tree in the background, creating a messy, cluttered feel.  One small tweak and everything read crisp and clear!  While you and I know what things look like in person because we see it every day, sometimes a few tweaks might be needed in order to capture a crisp image of your home to share with others!


(Nicole loving on Faye…who constantly got in the shot.  More about that later on…)


(Final tweaks before capturing the shot!)

 

Day Two started around 8:30am with more camera equipment I’ve ever seen!  Who knew it took so much equipment to get a few shots, but, as I watched the photographer Adam and his assistant Jason work, it became clear that when you have quality tools and equipment, the job goes pretty quickly!  They would spend 20-30 minutes setting up the shot: checking lighting, positioning screens and tripods and all kinds of gear that I have no idea it’s name.  And then they’d take a couple shots, make a few tweaks with decor positioning or lighting, and then SNAP!  Done!

I was so bummed on the first day of actual shooting, because we woke up to a thick blanket of fog and clouds, but I quickly learned that with all that camera equipment, it doesn’t really matter what’s going on outside.  They can basically create any mood, any lighting, anything at all!  I was secretly studying all their set up and choices throughout the shoot to try and hone my own skills (albeit with QUITE a bit less awesome equipment. 😉)  They also said that they’d pick cloudy and overcast over direct bright sunlight any day!  Easier to control and images don’t get blown out by the sun.

Tip Two
Rather than quickly snapping 20 pictures of the same space and then wishing I’d stopped to make tweaks to lighting and positioning beforehand, I learned that it’s best to do the work upfront and snap at the very end.  Less wasted pictures, less wasted time trying to “fix” them!


(All.  The.  Equipment.  😳  Good tools make for great product, I’ll tell ya!)


(Portable photo monitor station.  The pics were directly uploaded in real time to the large screen so we could check all the things full scale as we went!)

 

One of my favorite moments from the shoot was when the kitties decided to join in the fun!  They strutted their stuff right into the shot and literally seemed to pose for all they were worth.  So funny!  We all stood behind the camera clicking our tongues, banging on the counter, doing whatever we could to get them to look at the camera just right.  They were divas!  Who knows if those shots will make it into the magazine, but I secretly hope so.  😉  #CrazyCatLady

During the shoot, we had the tunes going, doughnuts, snacks and coffee flowing and it was just so dang chill.  Nothing like what I expected, and I was glad to be wrong!  They were so good to accommodate our home, our kids’ schedules, and they even loved on our kitties, too.  They even let the girls “help” edit and choose final shots!  Such a nice group!

Tip Three:
Don’t be afraid to add a little real life to styled images.  I thought for sure the crew would rather me put the kitties up during the shoot, but actually, they all flipped out when the movie star cats began to strut their stuff through the frame!  They said adding even imperfect glimpses of “real life” adds depth and character to precisely styled images.

(All of us clicking and tapping and cooing to get the kitties to look that way – hilarious!)


(“Helping” Mr. Adam with a few things…😉)

 

As each shot from the photo order was being completed, I got to check it out on their computers and see how things would be positioned and laid out.  They would shoot a few options too, like all Christmas lights on, half on, all off, etc.  It was crazy to watch how big of a change that could make on that high quality photograph.  I got to help make small adjustments as needed, and they cracked me up after noting how great it was shooting at home decor bloggers’ homes when it came to needing extra props….they said bloggers’ homes are like one giant prop closet, and they are RIGHT!!! 😂

Tip Four:
Obviously don’t become a full-blown hoarder, but…you just never know when that three year old bunch of red holiday berries gathering dust in your attic might just be the perfect final touch you didn’t know you (or BHG….) needed.  😉

(The life of a home decor blogger/Christmas addict.  😬  Don’t judge. 😉  Three cheers for a big attic and cheap trees from Walmart!!)

 

All in all, this was such a wonderfully surreal experience that I’ll not soon forget, and I honestly wish I hadn’t wasted so much time being nervous beforehand.  I mean, how would I know what to expect, but…in the end, it was so chill, so fun, and I learned SO MUCH!  Big thanks to Nicole, Adam and Jason for capturing our home and the love of our cats 😉, and I can’t wait to see the whole spread in Better Homes and Gardens: Christmas Ideas 2018!!!
❤️ERIN

 

  1. Cailley

    January 10th, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    Sounds amazing! I also love your realness of being a cat mom because that would have been one of my favorite parts too 😉. Can’t wait to see the shots!! Congratulations 🍾

  2. Erin | Cotton Stem

    January 10th, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    They totally stole the show as usual!! 😉

  3. Jane

    January 10th, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    How cool and it looks like you had so much fun! Love that they captured real life stuff and I can’t wait to get the magazine next Christmas! You deserve this, Erin!

  4. Erin | Cotton Stem

    January 10th, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    I can’t wait either! Thank you, Jane!

  5. Shanda

    January 10th, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    Congratulations! What an achievement! Can’t wait to see it next Christmas – we all feel like we’re your real friends so that makes us a little famous too, right?! Haha
    Really, congratulations!!! Your home and design are always so lovely.

  6. Erin | Cotton Stem

    January 10th, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    TOTALLY!!! 😉 Thank you, Shanda!

  7. Lynn

    January 10th, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    OMG…I can’t wait to buy the magazine! So excited for you! You deserve it. xoxo

  8. Erin | Cotton Stem

    January 10th, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    That is very very kind❤️

  9. Suzanna

    January 10th, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    So awesome, Erin!! Loved reading about your amazing experience and awesome tips!! Can’t wait to get the issue!!!! *happy dance*!!!! ❤️

  10. Erin | Cotton Stem

    January 10th, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    Happy dance over here, too! Thank you!!

  11. Michelle

    January 10th, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    Wonderful!!!😁😁😁😁😁

  12. Dannyelle

    January 10th, 2018 at 8:19 pm

    So fun! Love following all your adventures thanks so much for the behind the scenes glimpses. And a huge congratulations too.

  13. Linda

    January 10th, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    Can’t wait to see it! Sounds like it was so much fun n!

  14. Greta

    January 10th, 2018 at 8:39 pm

    So deserving Erin! Your honesty and vulnerability, not to mention talent and sense of humor, are endearing. ❤️

  15. Erin | Cotton Stem

    January 10th, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Hugs to you, Greta!!

  16. Lorri

    January 10th, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    Erin, this is so exciting! I’m excited to see your pictures in BHG! You deserve to have this! You’re so kind, giving, and real. Congratulations on this!

  17. Erin | Cotton Stem

    January 10th, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Lorri, thank you for that kindness today!!

  18. Connie

    January 10th, 2018 at 9:16 pm

    I love this so much❤️

  19. Kaitlyn

    January 10th, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    That’s sounds like such an amazing experience!! I love that they kept it real with the cats!! Cannot wait to see this when it is out!!! Congrats girl!!

  20. Melanie

    January 10th, 2018 at 10:01 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! So cute to get a behind the scenes story❤

  21. Sue Elardo

    January 10th, 2018 at 10:24 pm

    Oh wow! How awesome was that for you! What a great experience! That’s a dream of mine. Looking forward to seeing it when it comes out, I’m so glad I have a subscription so I won’t miss it! 😊 Love reading your blog and posts.

  22. Sandee

    January 10th, 2018 at 10:33 pm

    I can’t wait to see the issue. Bigggggg kudos to you and all of your talent Erin. BHG would not have sought you out if you didn’t have the chops lady. So proud of you. Like I would be of my own daughter. Big hugs🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗

  23. Megan

    January 11th, 2018 at 12:13 am

    you are beaming with happiness in your stories after today exciting shooooottt!!! Can’t wait to see !! 👏👏👏👏👏

  24. Mandy

    January 11th, 2018 at 12:17 am

    Erin,
    This is so exciting! Congratulations on such an amazing accomplishment. I can’t wait for 2018 Christmas Ideas from BHG! Loving the little tips you were able to acquire as well. Have a blessed rest of your hectic week!

  25. Kim

    January 11th, 2018 at 12:38 am

    Omg! I absolutely love that you have so many trees!! So awesome! Congratulations on the photo shoot!

  26. Alexa Schneider

    January 11th, 2018 at 4:49 am

    Definitely making a mental note to pick up that magazine next year! What a cool experience!

  27. Lorrie

    January 11th, 2018 at 8:55 am

    Congrats girl. What a grand privilege well deserved. So happy y’all had fun and were not stressed. Who knows maybe they will do it again for other seasons.

  28. Marms

    January 11th, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Sounds like a fun and informative and motivating 3 days!!!! Way to go, Tilly, Faye & June for strutting your stuff too!!

  29. Lori Rodrigues

    January 11th, 2018 at 9:33 am

    I’m so excited to see the final layout! Thank you so much for sharing your tips. Congratulations Erin!

  30. Shirl

    January 11th, 2018 at 9:42 am

    I cannot even explain how happy I am for you, Erin!! From becoming your buddy when we were both little baby IG accounts to seeing you grow so rapidly and be such a huge inspiration to so many. You deserve all of this success friend! I am so flippin excited to see your magazine feature!!! AHHH! No doubt there will be many more amazing opportunities like this coming your way. Love ya girlfriend! XO Shirl @swankonline

  31. Dana Holden

    January 11th, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    I feel your excitement, and I love how you’ve made your stemmies all a part of this exciting journey!! I always look forward to your posts. Blessings, Dana

  32. Ashley

    January 11th, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    Amazing! You are living the dream woman!

  33. Kelly Pickel

    January 11th, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    I am so happy for you Erin! This is fantastic & I can’t wait to see it all in print. Not only are you super talented & super sweet but, you obviously work very hard at all things “life” and that deserves all this and more! Congratulations sweet friend!

  34. Becky D Phillips

    January 12th, 2018 at 9:52 am

    First congrats.. love BHG so I can’t imagine how cool an experience. Continued success I am sure is heading your way. I’m recent and instant fan!! Now for a practical question but I’m big on details and i see everything .. I want to know if you love that vacuum and what kind it is!! Lol

  35. Michelle

    January 13th, 2018 at 6:23 am

    Congratulations!
    How stinking excited you must be!
    Did you even think a year ago BHG would be at your house doing a photo shot?
    So exciting!
    I can’t wait to see it in print.
    I have to share, my hubby bought me for Christmas the rug in your dinning room from Well Woven. I put it in our bedroom and love, love it!

  36. Eleanor Hill

    January 14th, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    How exciting!!!! So happy for you! Can’t wait to see it!!!

  37. Jen Noting Grace

    January 22nd, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    This gets me all kinds of excited! So happy to see my friends become rockstars! Can’t wait to see the final post. Congrats sweet friend!

  38. Erin | Cotton Stem

    January 22nd, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    Appreciate you, Jen!!

  39. Emma

    January 24th, 2018 at 9:40 am

    I love hearing your behind the scenes excitement! I can’t wait to see or hear more!
    xo, Emma

  40. Christy

    March 26th, 2018 at 11:57 am

    Congratulations! I love all things BHG! Do you know what color and brand of paint is on the walls?

  41. Lisa Flores

    April 19th, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    I love reading your stories! I’m gonna look for that issue with your home in it!
    I am down sick with bronchitis/pneumonia and I am ODing on IG today. 👩🏻‍🌾
    Learned so much today from you, thank you. I also bought 2 of your Country Pear candles❤️

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