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Lifestyle photography has an almost photo-journalistic reputation. This is where interactions were candid and without any direction from the photographer.

Nowadays, it’s somewhere between true documentary photography and classic portraiture. Read on for all the lifestyle photography tips you’ll need to capture stunning images.

Natural lifestyle photography shot of a family lying on the grass with their two dogs

8. How to Structure the Interactions

Lifestyle photography captures portraits and real-life events. Day to day interactions and situations are the best way to tell the story of the moment in an artistic manner.

Don’t overplan client interactions during lifestyle photography shoots. This doesn’t mean your photo shoot should not have a structure. But lifestyle photography needs a different approach than classical portraiture.

Take the time to understand your clients. Ask about their likes and dislikes. Ask about activities they do as a family, places they like to hang out on the weekend. And what they do for fun.

Once you understand them, suggest activities that are a natural fit for them. This way clients are doing something they enjoy. They’re not worrying that they’re in front of a camera during the lifestyle photography session.

lifestyle photography shot of a large family (parents with 5 teenage children) walking casually through the park towards the camera

This family wanted to capture photos with their teenage kids. As it is with older kids, the interactions were casual.

The setting was the city where the kids go to college. Understanding the family’s needs and wants made it easy to pick this location.

This is because the kids would have been uncomfortable in a park setting.

7. Give Directions That Help Set the Stage

This tip goes hand in hand with the first one. Don’t be afraid to give further directions on how you would like the environment to be.

Let’s be honest, very few of our clients are completely at ease and comfortable in front of the camera. It is our job as photographers to make them feel relaxed.

playful lifestyle photography family portrait of a father holding a little girl in pink tutu above his head in a leafy outdoor setting

Remember to also take photos of the steps leading up to the final lifestyle photography image. Sometimes a diptych or even triptych helps convey the story.

One way to do this is to give clear directions on what you are looking for without being restrictive. This is why I always tell my clients the end result of what I want and leave how they want to get there up to them.

In the picture above, I wanted to capture father and daughter interactions. I asked the dad to imagine they are at the park and to play with his little girl.

The end goal was to make her laugh out loud. From there on, I captured them giggling, laughing and interacting. This made it easy for me to get the result I want.

pair of lifestyle photographs capturing a father and little girl laughing and playing in the park

When I give directions for lifestyle photography, I always tell the client my end-goal or vision for the final image. How they get there is totally up to them.

6. Capture Those Candid Lifestyle Photos

My style is a mix of documentary and classic portraiture. One way I do this is to capture the in-between moments as well as the end result.

Candid photos are a beautiful way to show the true personality of your clients.

I cheat a little and tell my clients that I am testing the light or making sure I have the right settings. That way, they’re interacting in a casual, normal manner.

A lot of times, my favourite moments from a session are these in-between shots. My ultimate goal is to make the clients feel so comfortable they forget I am there.

Some may argue that a client is never at ease during a lifestyle photography session. I can understand that line of thinking. But I also know that, as a photographer, I want my clients to trust me, my work and my style.

At the end of the day, I want them to love their photos. And feel like their photos are an extension of themselves. They’re precious memories of that moment in their lives.

Candid lifestyle photography of a grandmother playing outdoors with three young grandchildren

A lifestyle photography/candid image of grandma playing with her grandkids is more powerful than a classic portrait of the same people – especially when little kids are always on the go and grandma is happy to tag along.

candid lifestyle photograph of a father and mother playing catch with two young children in the garden

Here my lovely clients were completely on board with playing with their kids. Getting down to their level and interacting as if it was a normal evening in the backyard added that touch of lifestyle, unposed and candid to a traditional in-home lifestyle photo shoot.

5. Focus on the Details

A great story has a strong beginning, middle and end. It also has enough details that take the reader/viewer on a journey. It’s as if they were experiencing that story for themselves.

A huge part of giving a sense of place and space is to capture the details. This does not always mean the clothes, accessories and props.

Details are important to the client and help tell the story – no matter what the story is.

A lifestyle engagement photo showing a couple sitting down in the park with their dog and smiling at each other

A lifestyle engagement photoshoot with my clients meant hiking in a state park with their dog – so I made sure I got shots of Penny who is an integral part of their life.

4. What Settings Should You Use

You might think this is an odd one to add to a lifestyle photography checklist. But this is one tip that should be a staple in any photography article.

Lifestyle photography and documentary style photography are generally quite fast paced. You are trying to capture a scene as it is playing out in front of you.

You don’t have the time or the opportunity to re-compose the shot and then click the shutter.

This does not mean that you have to fire away at the max fps (frames per second) that your camera can handle. And then hope you can make the best of the lot in post-processing.

Instead, use your technical as well as artistic skills to read the scene. Analyse the light and assess the right camera settings. Then imagine the outcome, the shot and then take the picture.

Oh, by the way, bear in mind that if you keep asking your clients to ‘re-do’ often, they might not trust your skills anymore.

Lifestyle photography portrait of a mother holding her daughter playfully upside down, both smiling towards the camera

Any photographer who works with kids knows that things can get very unpredictable. And they can move very fast.

In the picture above, I asked mom to hug her daughter.

Mom picked her up instead, and this happened. One of my favourite lifestyle photos of all times and I didn’t have even a few seconds to prepare.

Today most photographers associate lifestyle photography with the realm of family photos.

You can apply all the tips above can to lifestyle family photography. But lifestyle portrait photography tricks work with other types of photography too. With some variations and adjustments, of course.

3. Try Lifestyle Photography When You Travel

Lifestyle photography is not the same as street photography. But you can use street photography tricks for lifestyle travel photos.

Try and capture candid shots of people and places. Engage with the locals and photograph them in their element.

Are you travelling with a group? Capture the in-between moments of travel in an unrehearsed way. This tells the story of your travel adventure from start to finish.

Focusing on the in-between will also help with verbalising the story. This is great if you want to submit your photos as a travel essay to travel blogs or magazines in the future.

using some principles of street photography for this lifestyle travel photo of goats being herded through a dusty street in India

This is rural India – real, authentic and raw. Photographing the cities does not give a true sense of this beautiful country. Adding elements of lifestyle photography means a more accurate representation of the place.

2. Use a Lifestyle Photography Approach for Candid Wedding Photos

Sometimes you’ll get clients who want a documentary approach to their wedding photos.

Otherwise, keep capturing in-between the family formals, ceremony and reception photos.

Weddings tend to be very stressful events for almost all parties concerned. There are plenty of opportunities where everyone wants to take a break and relax.

I find most of my lifestyle shots and wedding photos in those in-between moments.

Playful wedding lifestyle photography showing the bride with 7 bridesmaids and 1 flower girl holding bouquets of white flowers in the air

When this couple booked me for their wedding photos, they were very clear on the fact that their photos needed to be candid and natural. Their friends were a huge part of their family and they wanted me to capture lifestyle photography images that truly reflected their personalities.

A humourous lifestyle wedding photography depicting a group of groomsmen, one smelling the sunflower in another mans lapel

Almost anytime they saw me with my camera, they went out of their way to show their humorous funny side and I made sure that their wedding photos captured that lifestyle.

1. How to Get Lifestyle Fashion Photos

These days, fashion photography is leaning towards a lifestyle photography approach. Brands are finding that people relate better to lifestyle images.

This means models doing some action or interacting with the environment. This is more realistic than true in-studio fashion editorials.

More and more brands are investing in an editorial that revolves around an action or a storyline. The products appear natural in the scene.

They take the viewer on a story of how they could use their products.

A lifestyle photography fashion shoot involving a styled outdoor picnic with two men and three women in Indian-Fusion outfits and accessories.

A lifestyle photography fashion shoot involving a styled outdoor picnic to showcase Indian-Fusion outfits and accessories.

Conclusion

I hope these tips and examples help you understand lifestyle photography. Remember there is no right or wrong way to approach lifestyle photography.

This genre of photography is a great way to let your creativity and art come into place as well. Keep in mind to take cues from your clients.

At the end of the day, clients want images that show who they are as people. It is not about the clothes they’re wearing or the location they’re in.

Instead, lifestyle photography is about the relationships. As a lifestyle photographer, you get to capture the interactions that matter.

Take these tips and go create authentic lifestyle photography stories for your clients.

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

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Karthika Gupta

Karthika Gupta is a lifestyle, wedding, and travel photographer based in the Chicago area. Her images are fun, fresh and natural. She strives to capture authentic emotions and interactions among her clients and emotive imagery in her commercial work. She also leads Travel and culture tours to India, her home country to help you experience India with a local. She has a Free Travel Photography Demystified E-Course a 5-Day video series to help you improve your travel photography.

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