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8 Great Tips to Improve Your Lifestyle Photography

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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.
So, what is lifestyle photography 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 shoot of a family lying on the grass with their two dogs

8. Structure Interactions

Lifestyle photography captures portraits and real-life events. Day to day interactions are the best way to tell the story of the moment.
Don’t overplan client interactions during lifestyle photo shoots.
This doesn’t mean your photo shoots shouldn’t have a structure. But a lifestyle shoot needs a different approach than portrait photography.
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. And what they do for fun.
Once you understand them, suggest activities that are a natural fit. This way clients are doing something they enjoy. They’re not worrying about the camera during the lifestyle shoot.
lifestyle photo of a large family (parents with 5 teenage children) walking casually through the park towards the cameraThis 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 made it easy to pick this location.

7. Give Directions That Help Set the Stage

This tip goes hand in hand with the first one. Don’t be afraid to give directions on how you would like the environment to be.
Let’s be honest. Very few of our clients are completely at ease in front of the camera. It is our job as lifestyle photographers to make them feel relaxed.

playful family portrait of a father holding a little girl in pink tutu above his head in a leafy outdoor setting
Take photos of the steps leading up to the final 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. But be careful not to be restrictive. I always tell my clients the end result of what I want. Other than that, how they get there is 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 play with his daughter.
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.

diptych family portraits of a father and little girl laughing and playing in the park
When I give directions for lifestyle portraits, 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 portrait photography. One way I do this is to capture the in-between moments, too.
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 lighting. That way, they’re interacting in a casual, normal manner.
My favourite moments from a session are usually these in-between shots. My goal is to make the clients feel so comfortable they forget I am there.
Some say a client is never comfortable during lifestyle photo shoots. 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 they will be able to cherish.

Candid portrait of a grandmother playing outdoors with three young grandchildren
A lifestyle 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 portrait of a father and mother playing catch with two young children in the garden
Here my lovely clients were completely on board with playing ball games with their kids.

5. Focus on the Details

A great story has a strong beginning, middle and end. It also has enough details that take the 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.

Outdoor engagement photo showing a couple sitting down in the park with their dog and smiling at each other
A lifestyle engagement photo shoot with my clients meant hiking in a state park with their dog.

4. Find the Perfect Settings

Lifestyle photography is 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 and artistic skills to read the scene. Analyse the light and assess the right camera settings. Imagine the outcome and then take the picture.
Bear in mind that it’s not a good idea to keep asking your clients to ‘re-do’. They will get distracted and might stop trusting your skills.
Outdoor 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 the mom to hug her daughter.
Mom picked her up instead, and this happened. One of my favourite photos of all time. And I didn’t have even a second to prepare.
Today most photographers associate lifestyle with family photos.
You can apply all these tips to lifestyle family photography. But lifestyle portrait photography tricks work with other types of photography too. With some variation and adjustment, of course.

3. Try Lifestyle Photography When You Travel

When travelling, 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 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 to travel blogs or magazines.

Goats being herded through a dusty street in India
This is rural India. Real, authentic and raw. Photographing cities does not give a true sense of this beautiful country. Adding elements of lifestyle photography results in more accurate representation.

2. Use a Lifestyle Photography Approach for Candid Wedding Photos

You might get clients who want a documentary approach to their wedding 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. These are the moments you want to capture.
I find most of my lifestyle shots and wedding photos in those in-between moments.

Playful wedding lifestyle shot showing the bride with 7 bridesmaids and 1 flower girl holding bouquets of white flowers in the air
This couple wanted their wedding photos to be candid and natural. They wanted me to capture images that truly reflected their personalities.
A humourous wedding photo depicting a group of groomsmen, one smelling the sunflower in another mans lapel
They went out of their way to show their funny side and I made sure that their wedding photos captured that.

1. Shoot Lifestyle Fashion Photos

These days, fashion photography is leaning towards a lifestyle approach. Brands are finding that people relate better to lifestyle images.
This means models interacting with the environment. This is more realistic than in-studio fashion editorials.
More and more brands are investing in an editorial that revolves around a storyline. The products appear natural in the scene.
They take the viewer on a story of the product.

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

Conclusion

I’m sure you were wondering ‘how do I become a lifestyle photographer?’. I hope these tips helped you give an answer to this question. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to approach it.
This genre is a great way to let your creativity flow. Keep in mind to take cues from your clients.
At the end of the day, clients want images that truly reflect who they are. It is not about the clothes they’re wearing or the location they’re in.
Instead, lifestyle photography is about relationships. As a lifestyle photographer, you get to capture the interactions that matter.

Want to learn more about capturing amazing photographs? Check out our course Photography for Beginners next!

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