Clean Your Room!

Posted Wednesday, 15 December 2010 by Ellen Boughn in Ellen Boughn, Photography
It's no secret. Photos of families rank with business images as the most downloaded stock photo categories. One theme that I hear requested again and again, within the family lifestyle genre, is photos of children participating in family life by helping with cooking, cleaning their rooms or other household tasks.
Child cleaning up Recycling and waste management

© CherryMerry/Crestock

© lovleah/Crestock

Cleaning up and taking out the trash [now it's taking out the recycling] are photos that are easy to set up.

Stock photography is aspirational and to be successful often has to show idealized situations, perhaps no more so than when we create photos of children eagerly doing household chores. OK, some kids welcome the chance to contribute even if only to earn their allowance but the expression 'pulling teeth' comes to mind based on my personal experience!

African-American teen boy with iron Young Boy Holding A Pile Of Laundry

© iofoto/Crestock

© MonkeyBusinessImages/Crestock

The teen above seems to be saying, "You've got to be kidding. Me iron?". The younger boy is pouting a bit. Both emotions are authentic in situations about kids and their chores at home. But images that show more positive expressions will be downloaded more often.

Good news for photographers is that this is one family theme that can be shot without a huge investment of time/money. The models don't need to be superstars. Your own children are often the best models. They are relaxed around you and used to having a camera in their faces. (Beware though...I've found that around nine or ten years old, they may start asking to be paid modeling fees!)

Father And Son Doing Laundry Dad and son making cookies

© MonkeyBusinessImages/Crestock

© iofoto/Crestock

More fathers are involved in raising children than ever before so ensure that you include them in lifestyle images.

The key to success is for the parents and children depicted in these images to look authentic. Not only should the models look like real people, their expressions and body language should be casual and natural.

Girl holding plant

© Noam/Crestock

A cross-over image is one that can be interpreted in several ways. This shot could be about a child helping in the garden or an article about environmental education, for example. It can say different things to different people and provide a solution to a variety of visual demands.


  • If you are casting as opposed to using your own children, include models of diverse ethnicity. Textbook publishers have strict requirements for photos that show children and adults from many ethnic backgrounds.
  • A good source of models could be your child's friends, but make sure you ask their parents first.
  • Age: the best age for helping (willingly) is from six to fifteen. Older models can look like adults and the theme will be missed.
  • Most important! Ensure that you have a legal guardian with the child to sign the release and that the adult stays with the child during the shoot.
  • You must sign a minor's release even if the model is your own child...and for yourself if you are in the photo
  • Ask for proof of age from any teen that claims to be of the age of legal consent. Photocopy their ID and attach it to the release.
Young girl watering flowers

© brozova/Crestock


Only use t-shirts without logos or art of any kind.Be careful with running shoes. NO Nike "swooshes" or other identifiable logos, colors or shapes on the shoes.Keep it simple. Don't dress the kids for a fashion or catalog shot as that will limit their use.Don't be afraid to let the kids get dirty in the garden or wet while washing the car. Ask yourself, "If a child was actually planting seeds would their hands be sparkling clean?"

Kid washing car

© stellajune3700/Crestock

Shot list: Tasks for children

  • Washing the car
  • Washing the dog
  • Walking the dog
  • Feeding the cat, dog, fish, bird
  • Cleaning up after pets
  • Washing the dishes or loading the dish washer
  • Cleaning up their room...there are currently no photos of this or of a messy room in the collection.
  • Picking up and putting away toys
Little Girl Walking Dog Boys Walking the dog

© sonyae/Crestock

  • Baking
  • Gardening
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Raking leaves
  • Ironing (teens)
  • Sweeping
  • Recycling into household bins
Young Girl with a vacuum cleaner Little girl is watering on the vegetable garden in spring

© gemenacom/Crestock

© SergeyAK/Crestock

  • Taking out the trash
  • Washing windows
  • Shoveling snow
  • Setting the table
  • Making the bed
  • Vacuuming

Shots of kids working around the house and in the garden should be part of an overall portfolio of family shots. This is a sub-set of family lifestyle images that is important, inexpensive to produce and in demand.

Ellen Boughn

Ellen has over thirty years of experience in the stock business gained at such organizations as Dreamstime, UpperCut Images, Workbookstock, Corbis, Getty (Stone), The Image Bank (Artville) and the creative agency, After-Image, she started in Los Angeles at the beginning of her career. Having been directly involved in the creation of four major stock photography collections, Ellen offers her decades of experience to assist photographers seeking success in stock photography.

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By svelby on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 12:58 PM
this girl in pink shirt looks wonderful +)

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