This is a guide covering lifestyle photography.
We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):
What is Lifestyle Photography?
Lifestyle photography involves capturing portraits and other styles of everyday photography in an artistic manner.
Lifestyle photography has gained in popularity in the last few years.
Ever since the prominence of social media people want to showcase their lifestyle to their friends and family.
Sometimes for show and sometimes for preserving the memory of the wonderful time that they had which they can treasure for the rest of their lives.
Even though lifestyle photography involves the use of a similar technique as used in portrait photography.
The aim is to capture the images unposed in a natural manner. Lifestyle photography is always about capturing life unposed as it happens.
This is the critical difference between portrait photography and lifestyle photography.
What Type of Photography is Lifestyle?
There are many different types of lifestyle photography.
However, in our experience, we have noticed that the best lifestyle photos are captured in a situation where you are with your family, whether you are indoors or outdoors.
In this article, we shall be looking at several tips on how to make interesting lifestyle photography images.
To further explore the subject of lifestyle photography, check out this video by Michelle Annette:
What is the Difference Between Lifestyle and Portrait Photography?
Portrait photography is a photo of a person that does not necessarily focus on the lifestyle that the person has.
It does not have to showcase his or her immediate living space nor her clothes or work environment or anything that can reveal more information about his or her life.
With lifestyle photography, these things are usually a part of the composition.
How to Do Lifestyle Photography?
Lifestyle photography requires some of the same basic planning that any other genre of photography would involve.
It requires careful planning of the shoot, a listing of tools and photography gear required, a list of props and poses and scenes that one is planning to capture, and then a methodical step-by-step process flow where everything is executed in a timely manner.
8 Lifestyle Photography Tips
Here are a few lifestyle photography tips that you can use in your photography. If you are just starting you can find some ideas here that you can use straight away.
1. Plan in Advance
The best lifestyle photos are captured when they are planned.
By planning, we don’t mean that you have to ask your client to pose.
What we mean is you have to plan the kind of lighting you are going to shoot in, the kind of scene (outdoor and or indoor) you would be shooting in, and the set-up.
If you are planning to shoot at an outdoor location it is best to plan the time you want to be there to shoot. Choose the best light depending on the location and be there at the right time to use that.
If you are planning to use artificial lights with ambient lights then you have to plan and bring the lighting and modifying tools accordingly.
Some locations like parks or places of history or popular tourist spots can be filled with a lot of people on certain days.
Try to schedule your shoot on days when the tourist spots are closed for tourists so that you can still use the background but not have to worry about too many people photobombing you in that spot.
2. Allow the Client to be Themselves
90 percent of times you will come across clients who have absolutely no idea of posing and hates the idea of a camera focused on them.
In other words, very few of your clients will be natural posers.
It is highly recommended that you don’t try to push your client outside their comfort zone. Let her be the way he/she is. That way, the poses that you will get will be natural and not ‘stiff’.
The last thing you would want is to have a bunch of photos where it is clear that your client was not at all comfortable standing in front of the camera. It easily gets picked up.
Instead of trying to grab their attention and to ask them to pose, talk them out of their apprehensions.
Start a conversation. Talk about how they met for the first time (if it is a couple photo session), talk about how it felt when they met for the first time.
Take their attention away from the camera pointed at them.
You will immediately notice that the ice has melted. They are no longer apprehensive about the camera. instead, they are focusing on each other. That is your moment to step in and a make few shots.
The same approach can also be used for photographing children. Children can be very difficult to photograph if you don’t strike a chord with them straight away.
They have their agenda and they are not scared of pursuing that putting you completely on the back foot.
What we recommend is to ask them to play a game, or if there are siblings in the family to invite all of them to play a game or do what they love to do so that their attention is away from the camera. This works more times than not.
3. Use Natural Light
Natural light is great for shooting outdoor portraits.
However, natural light changes its properties throughout the day and so as a photographer you have to be aware of that and accordingly use the necessary steps to counter it.
For example, the early morning and late afternoon lights are the best for shooting portraits. This is referred to as the Golden Hour of the day.
The light at these times of the day travel parallel to the surface of the earth and produce a soft, wrapping light that is perfect for portraits.
As the day progresses, the light starts to get harsher. It falls straight downwards creating strong shadows. This light is unsuitable for shooting portraits. This light is unsuitable for most kinds of photography.
If you are faced with this light you must have a way to create shade for your subject to stand underneath and so that you can shoot decent portraits.
The advantage of shooting under shade is that the light is soft and there are no strong shadows.
Otherwise, when shooting under the mid-day sun you will notice shadows under the nose, eyes, and chin of the subject.
4. Mix Artificial Lights With Natural Light
Mixing artificial lights such as strobes or flash can sometimes give you the best results.
Let’s say that you are shooting under the bright mid-day sun.
There are shadows under the nose, the chin area, and the eye. You know this is is not what you want. The solution is to bring in a flash or strobe to fill in those shadows.
Fire the strong/flash to fill in the shadows on the face of the subject. What should be the power setting on the strobe? Ideally, start with anything at +1 over what you meter for the background.
The way you can do this is by manually setting the output on your strobe/flash to ensure it fires just the right amount of light for the best results.
Manually setting your strobe/flash power output can be tedious and is only recommended for advanced users because it requires advanced knowledge of exposure.
Especially when you are working in multiple lighting situations.
In most cases, the TTL would handle the lighting ratios easily for you and save you the hassles.
In addition to a strobe, we also recommend a couple of large reflectors.
5. Use Artificial Lights Like Neon Signs
Great lifestyle images are can also be shot with artificial lights like neon signs.
Neon signs and neon lights are a great way to add cool effects to your images.
Don’t worry too much about the different color casts because they all add up to the final image.
6. Use Shallow Depth Of Field
If you have a fast prime lens you can use such a lens for capturing a shallow depth of field.
Shallow depth of field looks great in the final scheme of things because it can obscure the background.
For lifestyle photography, you don’t always need to completely obscure the background.
You can simply shoot with a large enough aperture that obscures some of the background details while retaining the rest. This is because in certain shots the background must be kept identifiable for the best effect.
That said, it might be necessary to completely obliterate the background in some situations.
Using a combination of the wide-open aperture along with increasing the distance between the subject and the background gives the best results then.
7. Try Quirky Approaches
Quirky approaches like tilting the camera or shooting through a window can bring interesting effects to the final image.
We recommend trying out new things.
For example, changing the camera angle and using angles that are not that normal in everyday life. for example, shoot from the ground level on a busy street.
Now, shooting from the ground level is not always recommended when shooting lifestyle photography. Plus, not many photographers do it.
A major reason why we recommend it in the first. First, because it is not cliched and second it brings a level of excitement in the composition that you would normally not find when shooting from the eye level.
That also brings us to the next interesting suggestion and that is to shoot through a glass window.
We recommend this to be attempted when there is bright light everywhere and you can capture a lot of reflection on the window.
8. Use Props Which Are Daily Use Items
Many items around your home can be used as props for a lifestyle shoot.
Pick anything, a football, a potted plant, perhaps even a vase. All of these can be used as props for a lifestyle shoot.
Sometimes clients feel that they need to reorganize things in their home, especially when the shoot is done indoors. It is not required. You can use those items that are out of place as props in the frame.
Additionally, having these things in the frame also gives a reassuring feeling to the client because she feels that she is in her home among her stuff and that normally has a calming effect.
To further explore the subject of lifestyle photography tips, check out this in-depth video by Mango Street:
Lifestyle Photography is a vast subject and the tips shared above are not meant to be an exhaustive guide, but just an introduction.
Hopefully, you will be able to make good use of the above lifestyle photography tips and develop your own style as you progress as a lifestyle photographer.
Rajib is an avid travel photographer and an overall shutterbug. The first time he ever clicked an image was with an Agfa Click IV back in 1984. A medium format film camera. From that auspicious introduction to photography, he has remained hooked to this art form. He loves to test and review new photography gear. Rajib travels quite a lot, loves driving on Indian roads, playing fetch with his Labrador retriever, and loves photography. And yes, he still proudly owns that Agfa Click IV! You can find my Model Mayhem profile here.