On shooting furniture and marriage

Mike + Brenda

Meet Mike and Brenda James. I’ve spent the past couple of days shooting in their furniture and antique store in Hico, Texas. You guessed it, we shot furniture and antiques.

There are some jobs that come through the door that motivate you to new heights of creativity. There are other jobs that come through the door that you take because, let’s face it, your kids need to eat. I had assumed this would be one of the latter. Shooting furniture in a store doesn’t usually result in award-winning work. But, as always, I thanked God for sending more business my way and was determined to make the best looking furniture photos I could.

We had decided to shoot on Sunday afternoon to avoid inconveniencing customers. This was the day after my kids’ birthday party so I hadn’t really relaxed at all during the weekend. When I finally arrived at Homestead after a two-hour drive, I was worn out. Shooting was the last thing I would have chosen to do that day.

Table Detail

But before we shot a frame, we sat down and talked. They told me the history of the store and what they loved about it. Homestead, it turns out, is something of a dream for Mike and Brenda. Both are retired and working seven days a week on the store is their idea of retirement. Both love the business but more than that, they love people. They enjoy the interaction with customers and it shows.

Before long it was time to shoot. As I stood up to start setting up for the shoot, I remember feeling much more relaxed and in my element just from that short conversation. Our first subject was a table. This is where the real challenge starts. How do you light and position a table in a way where it will stand out from a very cluttered backdrop? And so that became the challenge with every piece we shot. Though a lot of trial and error each time we would get the lighting adjusted just right to really make the piece look great.

As the night went along I realized I was having a really good time. The challenge was pushing me photographically and I was getting results I was proud of. The James’ were funny and helpful the entire time. We shot for a little over three hours that night. When it was done I was worn out, but felt really good about what we’d done.

Display Table

Through the process I got to know them much better. Each had their own areas of expertise. Mike and I spent a lot of time talking through the mechanics of lighting each set up and changing things. He has a very ordered, technical mind. Brenda is the creative of the two. She can take a table, a pile of antiques and turn it into a work of art. She really has a passion for it. It showed every time we had to destroy one of her beautiful displays because it was in the way of a shot. It obviously wasn’t her idea of fun. But she was a trooper, and I’m sure by now every piece is back in it’s precise location. If you ever make it to Homestead, take a second to admire the work she does. It’s time consuming but it’s the details that make that store great.

As I wrapped up the shoot, I prayed that my retirement with Rebecca would one day look like this. Maybe not owning an antique store (or maybe, they made it look like a lot of fun), but doing something that we both love. Mike and Brenda will be married 20 years in December. After all that time I have no doubt they love each other more today than when they met. That’s impressive these days and something I aspire to with my family.



  1. says

    Great post, Chad. Your pictures look awesome (I like that first table shot best) and the story is fantastic. In addition to photography, consider yourself an excellent storyteller, too. 🙂

    If I’m ever in Hico, TX, I’ll be sure to stop by Homestead.

  2. Codillodro says

    I have been waiting on pictures of the boys first day of school…so I was not excited about this post…and then I read it and felt an actual tear well up…I know…who knew I could exhibit actual human emotion…without a gut wrenching children’s cartoon like the Iron Giant…poor misunderstood robot…I have so much in common with him.

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