Lifestyle photography is just one of many genres and a popular one to boot. I love dabbling in a bit of everything myself, particularly landscapes and photojournalistic lifestyle photography.
I’ve had some awesome experiences when delving into the world of lifestyle photography and I’ll share a couple highlights with you in this blog. I also want to explain a bit about what this style of photography actually is and explore the core elements you need to do it well.
Once you’ve got a better understanding and some useful tips, you can decide if this genre is the right path for you.
I would love to help get you started becoming a lifestyle photographer, so read on and let me know if you’re ready to explore your creativity and discover this new style of photography.
What is lifestyle photography?
Lifestyle photography generally falls somewhere between posed and candid, with the aim to make the subjects in the image look as natural as possible.
It is believed that the first photo containing a human being was a self portrait taken by American photographer Robert Conrelius in 1839. This came off the back of the first publicly available photographic process, Daguerreotype.
From then on it became a really popular alternative to sitting for a painter. It would cost far less and take just a fraction of the time - still much longer than today of course.
Lifestyle photography started to become popular in the 1920s. Photographers aimed to capture portraits of people in real-life situations or more natural settings, bringing in the documentary feel to take portraits in a new direction.
Here are a few images from well-known photographers, some of the first to really encapsulate the lifestyle photography genre.
L-R Erich Saloman ‘Marlene Dietrich’, Slim Aarons ‘Kings Of Hollywood’, Henri Cartier-Bresson ‘Albert Camus’
Here’s a fun fact - lifestyle photography is probably the most, if not one of the most, used genres in today’s modern world. Do you have Facebook or Instagram? Or one of those other platforms I don’t know about... forgive me I'm older than I look ;)
Well if you do, you’ll see lifestyle photos everywhere you look! Lifestyle photography is a HUGE trend for influencers, but also just as documentation for your own feed or story. If you have a smartphone, you’ve probably taken a ‘lifestyle’ photo.
What is a lifestyle photographer?
Now you know a bit about the history and what’s involved, you should have an understanding of what a lifestyle photographer does.
Simply put, a lifestyle photographer aims to shoot candid portraits of people. People in real life situations but in an informal, creative and well executed way.
A good lifestyle photographer tells stories about people’s lives and gives viewers the opportunity to relive history through images.
Variations of lifestyle / people photography
The lifestyle approach can be applied to all people focused photography. Here is a great example from Cambodia. A snapshot of a real life situation that tells a story.
What do you feel when you look at this photo? What do you imagine is happening?
This type of lifestyle photography comes across as very natural. It is usually completely unstaged, where you capture the moment as you come across it.
Yes, you may see someone doing something great to photograph and ask them to do it again when you actually have your camera at the ready. But often enough you will just be walking around with your lens poised and snapping away at people in their element.
It’s very common for lifestyle photographers to work on planned photoshoots, either in a studio or out on location. This is where it is staged, but the people involved are usually in action, naturally interacting with one another, rather than in stationary positions.
Many lifestyle photographers work solely on prearranged photoshoots. Take a look at the images below:
Photographing Children Tips
What Do You Want From Your Photography?
Both of these are from planned photoshoots, where the family/couple paid for a session with the photographer and purchased the pictures.
You will have noticed a photo from a wedding in the selection, that’s because lifestyle photography plays a huge role in wedding photography. Nowadays most couples chose to capture their special as candidly as possible, whilst including a few posed for photos in the mix.
If you’re going to shoot weddings you need to make sure you really grasp the practice of lifestyle photography.
I love to travel so using lifestyle photography out and about and capturing people in the moment is definitely more my thing. You need to rely on your artistic expression to successfully capture stories of the people you shoot.
Here’s some of my favourite images from a shoot I did with friends of mine. It was great to get out into the natural world and once we got going they all felt really at ease. This meant I got to capture their personalities and it really brought the images to life.
Tips for becoming a brilliant lifestyle photographer
If you’re a regular here you’ll know that I am a massive advocate of practice, practice and more practice.
Specifically, for lifestyle photography. These are the core things to keep in mind:
You want to genuinely capture unexpected moments. Don’t plan your subjects or pose them. Let it happen!
Do plan in other ways
Technical planning is always beneficial because it means less faffing when you’re in the moment. Check the light, get your settings right so you’re good to go.
If you’re photographing a family then spend some time on personal planning, get to know them. Encourage them to do something they love or would naturally be doing in that moment.
Pay attention to details
Don’t forget the details! Is a girl painting her grandmother’s nails? Don’t just get their faces, include the intimate details of the hand holding, the painting, the emotion in that moment.
Get involved (but also blend in)
Whether you’re capturing some local kids playing football or freezing an interaction between a market merchant and customer - ask questions, find out their story so it can influence how you take the photo. At the same time don’t be obvious! Illicit engagement without taking over.
Tell a story
Don’t think in shots, think like a storyteller. What feelings will people experience when they look at the image? Will they be interested in more than just that moment?
Shoot from the hip
This is a great little exercise. It helps you be really discreet and can get you some unexpected perspectives!
Change your perspective
We know from tip 6, that is one way to do it! What I mean here is use your feet. Don’t wait for your moment to shift when you can shift yourself and get the perspective you want. Don’t be afraid of trying all sorts of angles!
Remember to trust your instincts, be aware of your surroundings and have your camera ready.
I guarantee you will get some amazing experience and come home with some fantastic stories!
Taking the next step in photography mastery
By now you hopefully have a good understanding of lifestyle photography and perhaps you’re raring to go with clicking that shutter button.
If you are comfortable with your camera and want to really put it to use, take a look at my Seven Building Blocks of Photography course.
- It’s designed to give you the tools to:Think like a Photographer
- Use and predict light
- Find compositions that work
- Instinctively know which focal length lens you need
- Know which Camera Settings to use
- Take the next step in your photography journey!
Being a great photographer requires practice, practice and more practice. Let me teach you the fundamentals and you’ll soon be taking it all in your stride!
“My pictures have improved and now I know why things work or don't work”
“[I would] wholeheartedly [recommend 7 Building Blocks of Photography]. Well, I wish you had been around 40 years ago. My life would have taken a different path had you been so. You teach the basics very well and your enthusiasm is infectious.” Simon Kerry