Quick Tips for Better Lifestyle Photography

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.

1. 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.

2. 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.

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

3. 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

4. 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

5. 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.

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