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Lifestyle photography tips

From a family gathering around the dinner table to a child's laughter in the park, these simple yet precious moments are what make life so special.

This is the essence of lifestyle photography, a genre that celebrates real-life moments and captures them in a way that feels authentic and timeless...

What is lifestyle photography?

Lifestyle photography involves capturing portraits and other styles of everyday photography artistically.

Lifestyle photography has gained in popularity in the last few years. Ever since social media became prominent, people have wanted to showcase their lifestyles to their friends and family.

Sometimes, they do it for show, and sometimes, they do it to preserve the memory of the wonderful time that they had, which they can treasure for the rest of their lives.

There is a subtle difference between portrait & family portrait photos and lifestyle photography. Lifestyle photography involves using a technique similar to that used in portrait photography.

The aim is to capture the images unposed naturally. Lifestyle photography is always about capturing life unposed as it happens. This is the critical difference between portrait photography and lifestyle photography.

What is the difference between lifestyle and portrait photography?

Portrait photography is a photo of a person that does not necessarily focus on the person's lifestyle.

It does not have to showcase his or her immediate living space, clothes, work environment, or anything that can reveal more information about his or her life. Lifestyle photography usually includes these things as part of the composition. I like to categorize lifestyle photography as a niche of portrait photography.

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 immediately.

1. Plan in advance

The best lifestyle photos are captured when they are planned. By planning, we don’t mean you must 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 plan to use artificial lights with ambient lights, you must plan and bring the lighting and modify the tools accordingly.

Some locations, such as parks, historical sites, or popular tourist spots, can be full 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 clients to be themselves

90 percent of the time, you will come across clients who have absolutely no idea of posing and hate 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 want is a bunch of photos in which it is clear that your client was uncomfortable standing in front of the camera. This easily gets picked up. Instead of trying to grab their attention and 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 focus on each other. That is your moment to step in, and make a 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 immediately. They have their agenda, and they are not scared of pursuing that, putting you completely on the back foot.

We recommend asking them to play a game or, if there are siblings in the family, inviting 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 often 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 take 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 day travels parallel to the surface of the earth and produces 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 and 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 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 not what you want. The solution is to bring in a flash or strobe to fill those shadows.

Fire the strong/flash to fill in the shadows on the face of the subject. What should the power setting on the strobe be? Ideally, start with anything at +1 over what you meter for the background.

You can do this 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 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 to the final image.

6. Use shallow depth of field

If you have a fast prime lens, you can use it to capture a shallow depth of field.

A shallow depth of field looks great in the final scheme of things because it can obscure the background.

You don’t always need to obscure the background for lifestyle photography. 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 obliterate the background in some situations completely. The best results are obtained by using a combination of the wide-open aperture and increasing the distance between the subject and the background.

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 normal in everyday life, such as shooting from 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.

We recommend it for two major reasons: first, it is not cliched, and second, it brings a level of excitement to the composition that you would normally not find when shooting from eye level.

That also brings us to the next interesting suggestion, which is to shoot through a glass window. We recommend trying this when there is bright light everywhere and you can capture a lot of reflection on the window.

8. Use props that 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 they need to reorganize things in their homes, 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 reassuringly affects the client. She feels that she is in her home among her stuff, which normally has a calming effect.

In conclusion, 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.

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