Tips For Lifestyle Photography


1. Introduction

In the vast terrain of photography, one standout category is lifestyle photography. This genre stands apart as it seeks to portray real-life situations or significant milestones with an artistic touch, encapsulating a narrative of individual lives, their experiences, or inspiring points of existence.

Lifestyle photography’s strong connection with its subjects results in candid and genuine photographs, making it a unique and rewarding discipline for photographers. It’s an arena where a single frame can tell a grand story, with the audience being drawn into the subjects’ everyday world through the lens of an observant photographer.

Of vital importance to lifestyle photography are its relevance and its impact. The relevance rests in its approach to impartially reflecting a reality or a perspective. Whether it’s celebrating a serene tearoom moment or capturing the untamed joy of a family picnic, lifestyle photography zeroes in on distinct life fragments to present multiple hues of human existence.

Regarding its impact, lifestyle photography can brilliantly take the ordinary and turn it into a memorable visual treat. It leaves a lasting imprint, often setting off a cascade of interpretations for every individual who views it. This beautiful mix of reality, art, and narrativity through lifestyle photography seeks to and often successfully does inspire empathy, curiosity, or sheer admiration among viewers. No matter if you’re a novice exploring the endless possibilities in photography or if you’re an experienced photographer looking for fresh nuances to work with, lifestyle photography offers an intriguing and delightful domain to venture into. So, are you ready to capture and depict the poetry of everyday life? Let’s get started!

2. Understanding And Studying Your Subject

An essential component of successful lifestyle photography is in-depth understanding and familiarity with your subject. It’s less about snapping a quick photo; it’s more about capturing the essence, the quirks, the nuances, the individuality that makes the person unique. Here’s how you can study your subject effectively:

  1. Conversation: Ordinary conversation can yield extraordinary insights. Talking to your subject fosters a sense of camaraderie and understanding, which can lead to more genuine photographs. Inquire about their hobbies, preferences, or ideas that they are passionate about. This information can be used to create more personalized and candid shots that reflect their identity.
  2. Observation: Spending time observationally is a crucial part of the process. Understanding their day-to-day activities, routine, how they interact with their surroundings gives you a raw, undiluted understanding of their lifestyle. These observed scenarios can become the backdrop of some truly enlightening images.
  3. Passion: Discover what ignites their enthusiasm. Passion often brings out the most authentic, intense expressions, and capturing these moments can create powerfully affective images.
  4. Strong Connection: Establishing a bond with your subject can evoke true emotions in photographs. A trust-based connection helps them unwind and be themselves, allowing you to capture their most candid, authentic expressions.

Remember, photography is a process that extends beyond the viewfinder. It is a blend of interaction, observation, and creative application. While the technicalities will sculpt the overall look of your shot, your understanding of the subject will give it a defined, unique soul. So, you can feel thrilled without calling it a ‘thrilling adrenaline rush’. You can think of it as capturing one’s life in a frame. After all, aren’t the best stories about real people?—When viewed this way, lifestyle photography becomes even more engaging than any adrenaline-infused thriller. Remember: reality can be just as compelling as fiction, if not more. And you, the lifestyle photographer, have the power to bring that reality to life.

3. Using Natural Light

Natural light is undeniably a force to be reckoned with in any genre of photography and lifestyle photography is no exception. Proper usage of natural light can drastically enhance your photographs and bring a sense of authenticity that is often hard to reproduce with artificial lighting sources.

Different natural light settings can endow your lifestyle photographs with differing moods. For instance, the warm, soft light that swathes everything just after sunrise or just before sunset – affectionately known as the ‘golden hour’ – can imbue your pictures with a dreamy, ethereal quality. Photograph your subject during this period to encapsulate a magical atmosphere, studded with gentle shadows and dramatic contrasts. This timing can be an excellent choice for those tender, emotive moments.

In contrast, diffused light, such as on a cloudy day or in a shadowy area, provides an even, subdued lighting option. Diffused light eliminates harsh shadows and overexposure issues, making it perfect for capturing those moments of relaxed living. With diffused light, you can catch a diverse range of tones and textures in your subject, thereby outlining more nuanced details and, consequently, richer stories.

But natural light isn’t always a docile ally; it can sometimes present itself as a tricky component. You may not have control over its intensity or angle like you do with a studio lighting setup. However, with a bit of creativity and technical knowledge, even ‘unfavorable’ mid-day sunlight can be orchestrated to work in your favor. Use it to play with high-contrast effects, silhouettes, or even striking shadows to add an extra layer of depth and interest to your lifestyle photography.

Be conscious of the potential of natural light and how it can cater to the mood and authenticity of your pictures. Each natural light setting, from dawn to dusk, offers a unique opportunity to forge compelling and poignant lifestyle photographs. Harnessing it effectively in your photography is instrumental in your development as a skilled lifestyle photographer and adding that extra sparkle of genuine emotions to your photos. With practice and a keen eye for the dynamics of light, you can elevate your lifestyle photography from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

4. Choosing Location

In lifestyle photography, the location plays a significant role in weaving the narrative of your subject’s story. The right environment not only enhances your subject’s comfort level and natural demeanor but also provides context and adds depth to your photographs.

When choosing a location, the first thing to consider is the personality and hobbies of your subject. For example, if your subject happens to be a literature enthusiast, a cozy corner with their favorite books can create a magnificent setup. Similarly, a nature lover might feel more at ease in an open park or a botanical garden. For those who like action and sports, a busy playground or a basketball court might be their natural habitat. And let’s not forget the homebodies, who love nothing more than their couch, coffee, and comfort.

Ensure the chosen environment is somewhere the subjects feel comfortable and can exhibit their true selves. This aids in capturing genuine, emotional, and less posed shots. For instance, photographing children in their playroom or a musician in their dedicated studio corner often results in authenticity and dynamism in the pictures.

When evaluating a location, also consider its lighting conditions. In many cases, open shade areas (usually found under the shadows of trees or buildings) can provide soft diffused light. Balconies or porches with copious natural light can also serve as great spots for capturing well-lit photos.

Lastly, don’t forget about the visual elements that a location offers. Background patterns, textures, and architecture can all serve as a beautiful canvas on which your subject’s life unfolds. A rustic brick wall or a vibrant graffiti slab might give your photographs an edge, while a whimsically decorated cafe or a peaceful library can set a more serene tone.

Just remember, the location is not merely a background, it’s a character in your story that contributes to emphasizing your subject’s personality and lifestyle. Therefore, select thoughtfully and experiment boldly!

5. Capturing Candid Moments

Candid moments can be compared to rare and precious gemstones – elusive yet incredibly rewarding once discovered and captured. These are the instances that truly breathe life into your photos, infusing them with authenticity and raw emotion. In lifestyle photography, these are often the snaps that resonate most powerfully with viewers because they’re untamed, real, and relatable.

Let’s delve into how you can increase your chances of revealing these hidden gems:

Create Comfortable Environments

Firstly, nurturing a comfort zone for your subject is essential. Whether they’re a child playing with their toys or adults sharing a heartfelt conversation, the less conscious they are of the camera, the more natural their emotions become. Provide encouragement, engage with them, or sometimes, just let them forget you’re there.

Patience Is Key

Like a friendly cat expecting a rub or a blooming flower waiting for the dawn, candid moments require your patience. Each subject needs their time to unravel, exposing their genuine, unposed self. So, don’t be afraid to let moments unfold organically and seize them as they come.

The Art of Anticipation

A crucial aspect of seizing these unscripted moments is anticipation. Get a feel for your subject’s patterns and emotions. Like a chess player predicting their opponent’s next move – understand your subject, predict the moment, and have your camera ready to click it into eternity!

Be Unobtrusive Yet Present

A paradox indeed! Like a fly on the wall, your aim is to blend into your surroundings, making your presence as invisible as possible. Yet, it’s crucial to be an alert observer, poised to capture any spontaneous moment. At times this might mean using longer lenses to maintain some distance, other times, it’s about interacting with your subject to set them at ease.

The Unconventional “Look Away” Technique

An effective method commonly used in lifestyle photography is the “look away” technique. It might sound contradictory but have your subject do anything other than looking directly at the camera. This naturally evokes a sense of candidness – an informal coffee chat, rather than a formal sit-down interview!

Capturing candid moments like these not only adds depth to your photos but also tells a story that staged shots may miss. It’s a remarkable journey of catching fleeting moments and transforming them into timeless keepsakes. Practice these strategies, be patient, stay observant, and you’ll soon be capturing gems that truly exemplify the essence of lifestyle photography.

6. Working With Colours And Textures

In the narrative world of lifestyle photography, both colours and textures play a pivotal role in creating captivating images. Utilizing these aspects appropriately can go a long way in amplifying the depth and emotional quotient of your photographs, transforming them from mere images to evocative stories.

Let’s first delve into the arena of colours. Colours can evoke a range of emotions and thus, mapping colour psychology to your images can yield compelling results. For instance, warmer hues like reds and yellows are often associated with passion, energy, and happiness. On the other hand, cooler tones like blues and greens can depict calm, serenity, or sometimes, melancholy. Analyzing your subject and their environments will assist you in identifying the right colours to highlight in your photographs.

Textures, on the other hand, are visual cues that allow a viewer to “feel” what is being seen. They always add an extra punch, bringing about an elevated sense of realism and dimension to your images. Whether it’s the coarse texture of worn-out denim, the smooth surface of a coffee table, or even the soft vibe of a fluffy carpet, expressing these textures in your photographs can help paint a richer, deeper image in the viewer’s mind.

However, the inclusion of colours and textures should not appear forced but rather, should seem organically integrated within the frame. Pay attention to these elements as you shoot, always keep an eye open for brightly coloured items or interesting surfaces.

Remember—the beauty often lies in the details! So don’t be afraid to get close to your subject, and capture those minute features as it further enhances the personal narrative of your subject.

Mastering the art of balancing colours and textures in your photographs might be a game of trial and error initially, but once it’s on your radar, you’ll start noticing it more and more in your day-to-day life. Eventually, it will become second nature in your photography pursuits, lending your lifestyle images a potent mix of technical and artistic brilliance.

7. Composition And Framing

In all forms of photography, but particularly in lifestyle photography, the composition and framing of your shots play a vital role. Crafting a compelling composition is akin to being an expert choreographer, arranging your elements gracefully across the stage of your viewfinder.

In the beginning, you might find rules like the Rule of Thirds or the leading lines to be your best friends. The Rule of Thirds asks you to mentally divide your frame into nine equal sections by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, then place important compositional elements along these lines, or at the intersections of them. Meanwhile, leading lines guide the viewer’s eye towards the main subject.

However, in the immortal words of Pablo Picasso, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Once you have a solid grasp of these rules, don’t hesitate to stray from them. In reality, some of the most captivating images are born when photographers deftly sidestep these guidelines, crafting their own unique style in the process.

Beyond these rules, lifestyle photography also rewards those who dare to be different when it comes to angles or perspectives. Try climbing atop furniture, getting down low on the floor or shooting from the subjects’ eye-level. Experiment with overhead, or ‘birds-eye’, shots, or perhaps be adventurous with low-angle shots. This variation in perspective could breathe new life into your lifestyle photos, adding dynamism and unconventional appeal.

Lastly, remember about ‘frames within frames’. Doorways, arches, windows, even tree branches or tunnels, can all be used to draw the eye to your subject, highlight it and create a sense of depth. This can, subsequently, augment your story, making it more profound and engaging.

When making these decisions, always bear in mind the story you want to tell, the mood you want to portray, and the emotions you want to provoke. The composition, after all, is about way more than just a pleasing arrangement of parts; it’s about constructing a stage where your subjects can shine, evoking narratives that resonate and enthralling your audience in the process.

8. Post-Editing Tips

Emerging from a successful lifestyle shoot, you will likely be excited to see your images come to life through editing. In this sophisticated stage, minor modifications can have a significant impact on the overall aesthetic and mood of your photographs. But remember, the charm of lifestyle photography lies in its authenticity, so excessive editing might take away the realistic feel of your photos.

One of the first aspects you might consider is color correction. While we’ve discussed working with colors during the shoot itself, sometimes you might find the need to fine-tune hues in your photographs to better align them with your artistic vision. Programs like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop can be valuable tools for this task, allowing you to subtly enhance or change colors, creating a more cohesive or striking image.

Cropping is another powerful tool in your toolbox. Sometimes a photograph’s composition can be significantly improved by removing extraneous elements at the periphery, or by recentering the subject. This isn’t about rejecting your original frame—it’s merely about creating a stronger focus or narrative within the confines of what you’ve already shot.

Retouching can also be your secret ally, minimising distracting elements or imperfections that might have crept into your frame unintended. A gentle touch with the healing brush can remove an annoying dust spot on a lens, a stray thread on clothing, or a minor skin blemish, helping to keep your viewer focused on the story you’re telling.

Finally, don’t forget the potential of split toning. A little bit of color addition in the highlights or shadows can not only set a mood but also make your image stand out from the crowd. Remember, you’re painting with light—feel free to get creative.

In all your editing endeavors, be mindful of preserving the natural essence of your subject and scenario. Lifestyle photography is about capturing reality, albeit through an artist’s lens. Allow that reality to remain front and center in your work, even as you enhance it with your post-editing skills.

9. Conclusion

In this captivating field of lifestyle photography, the aim is consistently capturing the authentic beauty of everyday life. The techniques we’ve reviewed – studying your subjects, adept use of natural light, careful location selection, seizing candid moments, harnessing color and texture, strategic composition and framing, plus mindful post-editing – offer valuable steps towards this goal.

Remember, getting to know your subjects not only enhances your ability to capture their authentic selves but also fosters a connection that contributes to the overall experience. Similarly, natural light is one of the best friends of a lifestyle photographer. Embracing its different nuances allows the creation of incredibly inspiring pictures.

Your choices about location should be thoughtful – places the subjects resonate with or feel most comfortable in. Candid moments are the soul of lifestyle photography; they provide the raw emotions that make the images tell compelling stories. Utilizing colour and texture effectively elevates your photographs, adding vibrancy and interest that makes each image stand out.

Composition and framing provide structure in your photographs, guiding the viewer’s attention. Rules are there to guide but remember that every so often, breaking them might yield surprisingly captivating results. Last but not least, though post-editing plays a significant role in the final outcome, strive to keep the realistic feeling of the photograph. Overdoing it might rob your image of the authenticity that defines lifestyle photography.

Ultimately, lifestyle photography is about practice, intuition, and experimentation. You’ll get better with every photo you take. So get out there, immerse yourself in the reality of people’s everyday lives and stories, and let your camera bear witness to those unique moments. Remember, few things are as rewarding as successfully capturing the genuineness of real-life moments within the artistic framework of lifestyle photography. This is a field where your imagination, creativity, and technical skills all align to create impactful visual narratives – and that’s the real charm and challenge of lifestyle photography. Stay curious, keep learning, and enjoy the process.

The Creativv
American digital marketer and founder of with over a decade of experience in event, travel, portrait, product, and cityscape photography.