It’s a phrase that most photographers hear more and more from prospective clients. “We want a lifestyle look and feel”. Even if your client is a big brand, this form of photography seems to be very much on trend at the moment. But what is lifestyle photography and how can you capture those great lifestyle shot? Here are 7 tips to help you on your way.
What is lifestyle photography?
True lifestyle photography is about capturing candid moments that tell a story. It could be a story of an event, an emotion or even relationships and interactions. So in a sense, lifestyle photography is supposed to be similar to photojournalism. But the reality of lifestyle photography is different. Most lifestyle photography will require some form of research, planning and setting up. In other words, the situations have to be orchestrated. This might be as simple as putting the people you are photographing a particular setting. More complex shoots might require a whole crew of models and assistants, whereas a family shoot will only require the subjects and a photographer. So the real definition of lifestyle photography is to capture moments that portray a story or a feeling.
Be trigger happy
Often in lifestyle photography things happen quickly. The moment of interaction, the emotion and the natural feel of a scene could only last a second. So to ensure that you nail the shot at the precise moment, you need to be taking photos before something happens and all the way through to the end. This also means anticipating when something interesting might occur. So for example, if a child is running toward their mother’s outstretched arms, the perfect moment might be at any second before or when they meet. If you wait until that moment occurs, then you might miss it. So put your camera onto burst mode and begin taking pictures straight away. You will then have the option of picking the best moment in post-production.
Work with the light
Lifestyle photography is about capturing a scene in a natural look and feel so try to avoid using artificial light. Try to learn to utilise the available natural light and if there isn’t enough of it, try moving your angle of view or your perspective. You can also use accessories such as reflectors to aid your lighting. If you find that the light isn’t right you can move your subjects to somewhere with better light.
Create the right atmosphere
Arguably one of the toughest parts of lifestyle photography is capturing a natural looking photo. If the photo looks too staged and forced it will not have the desired effect. If you are working with professional models, they should have the experience to feel comfortable in front of a camera. But if your subjects are regular people, it will be down to you to create an environment where they can relax and give you natural looking photos. So instead of jumping into a shoot straight away, start by talking to them and getting to know them. If they seem nervous, try to make them laugh as this will naturally relax them.
Another good technique is to photograph them in the process of doing something like cooking, exercising or even playing with their kids. This will help them take their mind off you and onto what they are doing, giving you a more natural look.
Look at the bigger picture
Even though you will mostly be focused on your subjects, you should still ensure that the wider view (i.e. background and surroundings) are in line with the sort of image you want to create. For example, if you are taking a photo of a family enjoying a picnic in the woods, the whole look and mood of the photo will be ruined if you see a busy road in the background. So pay particular attention to the backgrounds and the edges of your composition so that your entire frame only features what you want it to.
Don’t forget the details
Whilst you should always capture the big, wide-angle hero shots, it’s also important to capture the smaller details that aren’t necessarily always noticed. For example, a child holding a parents hand, or a reassuring hand on a loved one’s shoulder, are things that are often missed. These small details are everywhere and if you can spot them and capture them in your photos it will give your collection a better variety.
Look for perfect, imperfect photos
It might sound like a contradiction but the lifestyle photos that really stand out are the ones that do not necessarily look perfect yet somehow they still captivate the viewer. It might be that the top of someone’s head has been cut off, or gust of wind has blown their hair everywhere. It is those moments between the perfect smile that will give you the real candid and unique shots.
Don’t forget post-processing
Lifestyle photos have a certain look and feel about them that can generally not be achieved straight out of the camera. So there will need to be some level of post-production. This will usually just need to be subtle and limited to white balance, brightness, contrast and so on. But every photo requires it’s own level of post-processing so don’t miss out this vital step.
Lifestyle photography isn’t easy to master and capturing photos that are candid and look natural takes skill and practice. But if you are able to work out how to capture these types of photos and make them unique, you will see interest in your work.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.