Twelve Lifestyle Photography Tips To Get That Straightforward Look



Lifestyle photography means different things to different types of photographers. Some might say that photojournalism is the truest form of lifestyle photography. A portrait or wedding photographer would describe it as putting his subjects in real life situations and capturing almost candid moments. I do commercial and editorial shoots so often that I create scenes using models and props that look like real life events but weren’t. No matter how you look at it, lifestyle photography is all about telling stories.

For me, lifestyle photography is almost always planned to some extent. Whether it’s a full team with models and props or a climber stopping and holding that perfect pose in the right place. A lot of preparation and planning goes into getting the best commercially viable shot possible. That being said, all of these tips apply to any photoshoot that is trying to tell a story and get better lifestyle shots.

Anticipate what will happen

The best photo, or hero photo, is often a specific moment that you expect. It is important to be prepared for this moment by knowing how your subject will move or react. At the same time, capturing a second before and after can sometimes create unexpected results. These additional plans will also give you a variety of plans for stock or for your customer to tell their story.

Keep changing your perspective

Put three photographers in a room with one subject and you might end up with three completely different photos that all express the same moment. As individuals, we tend to fall into patterns that recreate similar plans. I myself have a bad habit of forgetting wide shots. Shoot and think like you are three photographers.

Think in stories

Whether your client is a newlywed couple or a brand, they are trying to tell a story with these images. Start by thinking of several images that together tell their story, then try to create a single image that captures that same story. Creating options will give your client a variety of ways to use your images.

Show your surroundings

In the cinema, this is called an establishment plan. When presenting a story, it is important to have images that show the big picture.

Remember the details

Sometimes there is more to a simple contact between two people than there is to their expressions. Get closer at that time. Are there any objects, tools or clothing that are important to the story? Get pictures of that stuff too.

Pay attention to detail and the background

You can move objects and landscapes to create a better picture. In fact, I often move an entire room just to make the photo look what I think it should look like. It’s easy to think that you got the perfect shot and then realize later that the image with the best expression has a boring object in the background that you can’t photoshop. Or maybe you just missed the reflection of a crew member picking up their nose.

Involve your friends and family

Turning a landscape photograph into a lifestyle photograph is as easy as asking a friend to stand on the stage. Likewise, photographers have always used their children as models.

Don’t worry about chopping off heads

You should always try to avoid cutting limbs in weird ways, but you can get creative. It is not always about a person’s expression. What they actually do can be just as important.

Create visual interest

This can be the hardest part of the shooting lifestyle. Sometimes a great moment is all that matters, but often taking that extra second to recompose the photo makes it so much better. By paying attention to your composition, looking for guidelines, color and texture, all of these images will stand out.

Think like an advertiser

Even if you aren’t shooting commercial or inventory work, start thinking like you are. Anticipating a client’s needs is a sure way to get repeat work. Think about how these photos could be used. Avoid brands that potential customers wouldn’t want to appear. Leave room to add text or promotions.

Embrace the imperfect

It’s a subject that I struggle with and often look at the work of other photographers and think I never would have thought of taking this photo. I am too much of a perfectionist. I focus on the details that matter to me and find it hard to see imperfection as a positive. Life is messy and sometimes it makes the difference to believe the story you are trying to tell.

Camera always ready

The photoshoot doesn’t end just because you took the photo. Always keep your camera ready and continue taking photos even when the subject thinks you aren’t. Sometimes you capture a natural moment that you can’t squeeze out of a model. Or maybe there’s some mundane task an athlete accomplishes while getting ready that you never thought you would ask them to do.

I will be at WPPI in Las Vegas in February. Are you going?

If you are planning to go to WPPI Feb 24-28 in Las Vegas, I have a 15% discount on photo walks, classes, and master classes. There is still time to get a free Expo Floor pass. There is a huge list of great sessions and keynote speakers this year that I am excited about. So take a look and feel free to contact me. I’m always happy to meet our readers and maybe I’ll see you at one of the after-parties.


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