Lifestyle Photography Tips – This Is Our Life 52 Week Project
What is lifestyle photography?
Lifestyle photography is a term that gets thrown around a lot and one that happens to have a bit of a different meaning depending on the photographer you are talking to. But, in it’s essence, it is the capturing of real life moments – genuine expressions, most often candid without the subject knowing the photo was being taken. No posing or fake smiles, taken candidly in most cases and often the subject is caught up in their own world, unaware you and the camera are even there. It’s the recording of precious details that pass us by everyday, and are often those little things that we look back on in later years and think, “Oh my goodness, I remember when …” It’s an interaction, an expression or emotion, the way we live, laugh and love. In future years these photos will be something to look back at and treasure, to remind us of the real moments and to tell our story to future generations.
Below you’ll find many examples of lifestyle photography, the simple guidelines for the project as well as a plethora of helpful tips to getting started (or as a refresher to those already familiar with lifestyle photography).
As someone who began her photography journey with the passion to capture the beauty in every day life, I’m excited to see that more and more photographers are embracing lifestyle photography. This project is for those who want to preserve and capture all those memories that are so important to us personally … and it’s about your life, so there really are no rules. But there are some tips to shooting lifestyle photography that may help you along the way that you’ll find below. But first I’ll explain a little about the project “This Is My Life” and how things will work. Simple. That is my goal for this project … no complicated guidelines or instructions.
There will be a prompt or theme every week for those who find it beneficial or challenging to have something specific to shoot in their project, but for those who simply want to venture out on their own and record the moments that matter to them regardless of the theme I wholeheartedly invite you to do so. Everyone is welcome – you don’t have to be a pro, you don’t even have to shoot with a DSLR to join, and you don’t need to use any Paint the Moon products to participate (although the images picked to be featured on the blog will be those that used PTM in their editing). Join anytime of the year and no beating yourself up if you miss a week … this is a no pressure or guilt project!
The first theme of 2013 for the “Our Life” project is evening rituals. Themes are always open to your own interpretation, and you’re always welcome to go out on your own with your subject as well. At our home evening rituals come in the form of jumping on the bed, doing round robin bedtime stories with the girls, and all the usual rituals like brushing teeth, five trips to get water and go potty one last time and finally snuggles to sleep and a little nursing with my littlest. What comes to mind that you want to capture with your own evening rituals?
Members will post their images in the new Flickr group for This Is Our Life … every Monday you’ll find the new prompt up on the Flickr group page (found inside the gray box). Have your submissions for the week posted before Sunday evening please. Yes, this means the first week of the year will be a short one – so it may be a challenge to get that first one in, but that way we’ll all be warmed up and ready to tackle the rest of the year!
I will be doing blog posts that feature images from the group to show off some of our member’s photos (to be included in the featured images blog posts please use Paint the Moon products in the edit, otherwise it’s not required for any submissions or participation). Please submit only one photo per week (unless you are doing the regular Let’s Do 52 project as well). Sometimes it’s a challenge to pick our favorite as the photo of the week, but I find that is part of how we grow and learn.
Our regular Let’s Do 52 group will be starting fresh for 2013 as well for those interested in participating there as well. You may choose to do both projects or just one. And with both projects you can choose to follow the themes/prompts or do your own thing with the subject of your weekly photos. The Let’s Do 52 project information can be found here and the Flickr group here … for those wishing to challenge themselves with a weekly photo project, grow in your photography skills and stretch your creativity, but not necessarily take lifestyle photos, it’s the perfect project. If you are new to Let’s Do 52 or just need a refresher on the guidelines and details …please see the original post for the 2012 Let’s Do 52.
Please come share your project images on our Facebook wall as well … see the Paint the Moon Facebook Page – Come Share, Be Inspired, and Ask Questions!
This project is all about YOUR life – and taking lifestyle shots are all about genuine moments, the real life raw emotion and the relaxed, everyday details that make our lives so special. Although many of you are lifestyle photographers for your clients, this project and information below is more focused on the personal lifestyle shots that you take just for YOU. I talk a lot about capturing moments with your children in the details below, however, this project is for everyone no matter what your life is like … whether you have children or not, it’s meant to help you record the important memories in your life and the details you want to remember forever. Taking all that into account, there are a few tips I’d love to share that can help you to create the most beautiful and meaningful captures possible.
Change your perspective … a lot, keep moving around and shooting different angles and details. Take risks and change up your composition and your angle – shoot from above, from below, shoot from unusual spots (through a plant, with the camera resting on the table a child is drawing at, etc), keep changing it up as each perspective helps tell part of the story. Also don’t forget to try and take some shots that might give you a sense of the subject’s perspective – take a photo looking over their shoulder down at the painting they are working on, or from behind them looking across the table at their sibling, get down on their level to see the world through their eyes, etc.
Don’t forget to take shots that show your environment – take the tight shots closing in on details and faces, but pull back too so you can capture your surroundings that help tell the whole story.
Personal note: My little ones appear to be totally into some sort of video game or device, but they actually just got those old fashioned water games where you push the button to make the rings whoosh around and try to land them on the little pegs. Feeling the need to make sure everyone knows they aren’t zoning out on “devices” Christmas morning, LOL. I can’t say the same for my husband.
Record the details. One of my favorite things about taking lifestyle shots is capturing those little details that can be often overlooked in a traditional portrait … the chubby knees of a toddler, how a child grasps a favorite toy with tiny hands, the look an older sibling gives a baby sister as they read together, even the messy and chaotic is a beautiful memory of life as we know it, so don’t be afraid to take the shot showing laundry piled up or precious toys strewn here and there. And keep shooting, changing it up as you go … this helps tell the story better (for example, start with shots of the cookbook and cookie cutters neatly lined up, shots of mixing and cutting out cookies, the smiles of impatient kiddos waiting at the oven for the oven timer to go off, close ups of little hands grabbing the first cookie off the plate and lots of detail shots of the fun mess made in between). Stop and think about what little details and moments really touch your heart and fill you with emotion and then focus on the things that have the most meaning to you.
It’s okay to quietly tidy up or let some light in. Some photographers believe lifestyle photos need to be 100% untouched reality – meaning no tidying up the scene or moving distractions. I’m all for that, however, I don’t believe it’s “wrong” to quietly open curtains to let in more light or to pick up a granola bar wrapper before you start snapping. Just do it without changing your reality and resist the urge to “set up” a scene. Also, be sure to tip toe quietly as you do it, so as to not let the subjects know you’re about to take a photo. The key is to keep them candid and stay as invisible as possible. Otherwise you may find the moment you wanted to capture gone and replaced by subjects who are a bit more guarded and not quite themselves. As far as the clutter that comes with having kids … things like fuzzy blankets and the kitty pillow on the sofa, a pile of blocks or crayons on the floor, a favorite doll laying by their side – LEAVE THEM! Those will be treasured details in years to come and it’s a shame to “clean out” all the reminders of their precious childhoods and the treasures that they love.
Don’t forget to make certain YOU are in some of those photos! See this post on taking photos with YOU in them – it’s chock full of tips to help you make that happen. Set up a tripod with your camera with a remote … then get busy with your kiddos or whatever activity you want to record. When everyone seems to have forgotten about the camera (and if you’re really good they never saw you even set it up to begin with) – start taking the shots, take lots of them!
I believe FINDING THE BEST POSSIBLE LIGHT no matter what type of photography you’re taking is essential to a great photo. So, move around and find the best possible spot to take your images from … often lifestyle means indoors, especially in winter months, so bump up the ISO (it’s okay to have grain!!) and find those little secret hidden light sources (windows are your friend). Don’t forget that properly exposing is all important when shooting indoors with low light – and become a light hunter, finding the best spots to shoot from to capture that light on your subject (see here for a great post on Finding the Light). Once I start taking some shots I don’t have a problem with talking to my kids or subjects and getting them to turn a little more towards the light if needed … I just don’t pose or direct them in any way. Remember too that backlighting can be beautiful, capturing a subject in front of a light filled window that highlights their silhouette.
Capture the emotion and the fabulously varied expressions – you don’t need a smile in every shot, document all the emotions in between as well. This is life – it’s beautiful and wondrous, but it’s not always smiles and rainbows. The photo below was taken right before we lost our precious Dalmation, it was our last evening with him and things were very somber but I’m so happy we have a few photos of him before he passed.
And this one shows my oldest daughter putting a band aid on a jammie-clad little sister.
Embrace the imperfect, especially when it comes to little ones. Bed head, heaps of stuffed animals, chocolate crumbs all over chubby cheeks, tangled sheets with kids laying upside down and sideways in bed … these are all beautiful, genuine details! Capture the quirks and oddball stories and details that are unique to you, your family and lifestyle.
I am often asked how is it that my girls are always dressed so cute … the simple answer is I only buy stuff I love for them. But, that said, when they pick out their own crazy, mis-matched outfits I love those just as much, if not more. We went to the grocery store yesterday after my seven year old dressed herself and her little sister like “Hollywood movie stars” with Audrey Hepburn style red velvet hats and giant sunglasses (at night, mind you), vibrant pink frilly dresses (the “twirly spinny” dress as my 2 year old calls it), and a wild menagerie of jewelry that covered every color in the rainbow – they also had gold sequin purses and a baby doll in a carrier strapped to their backs. I LOVED it and took lots of pictures … and they were so darn proud! So, let them be little and embrace it in your photos.
Tell a story with your photographs that might not be evident to a viewer, but is a significant memory for you and your life. In this picture below it’s focused on my baby’s little hand twirling through my (not yet brushed) hair … to someone else this might not mean anything, but to me it will always remind me of how my little one played with my hair every time she nursed and whenever she needed comfort or to sleep. If she wakes at night the first thing she does is put her little hands in my hair and then quietly falls back to sleep. This is a precious memory I never want to forget.
Your camera should always be available and easy to grab. Precious moments sometimes come at the most unexpected times and it’s important to always be ready to quickly pick up your camera and capture them. This doesn’t mean the camera is always in hand or obtrusive, but it does mean trying to carry it with you if possible and having it at the ready while around the house. It’s not always easy to bring a big camera with you when you are out and about, but I have found that some of my best candid photos have come when I least expected them and was so happy I had lugged my camera along to record them. I find it’s easiest just to bring the body with a lens attached in my bag for quick outings, and I simply place keys, phone, etc inside my camera bag. My kids actually don’t see the camera all that often, which surprises many people … but it only takes me five minutes to grab it, shoot a few quick images and then put it away.
For processing I love using black and white for most of my indoor images. There are a number of reasons for this … it helps to focus on the subject (they say that black and white captures the soul) and it can unify a scene where there may be a lot of distractions laying about (I’m sure someone out there can relate to toys and laundry being thrown here and there). Another reason is because often it’s necessary to shoot with a high ISO when indoors, especially in the winter months (and here in Oregon we are looking at some seriously dark days inside) – and grain just looks a lot better when it’s in black and white, almost reminiscent of film images. Do remember to expose properly when shooting with a high ISO (I even sometimes purposely overexpose just a tiny bit for high ISO indoor shots) as proper exposure will help the amount of noise in your image tremendously … even if that means bumping up the ISO a bit more than you are you used to. In general, exposing properly with a higher ISO will result in less noise than underexposing and having to lighten significantly in post processing. For noise reduction, I just adore the Creamy Noise Reducer action in the new Grace Collection – it works wonder and also has the bonus of giving the image a soft and creamy look. My favorite black and white actions are in the Luminosity, Grace and Blessings sets.
For those wondering how the heck you’ll capture kids that are too busy, too fast or just too camera shy most of the time … I have a few sneaky ways to help. Engaging them in a super fun activity has a few benefits in that you’ll capture the pure joy on their face, they will likely not notice you there with the camera because they’ll be so busy and as a bonus they’ll sit in one place for more than two seconds. Another surefire way to capture camera shy or just too darn busy kiddos is taking photos while they are sleeping. There are few things more heart melting than watching your little ones sleep and as you can probably see from my examples here I am a big sucker for shots of my little ones in quiet slumber.
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52 Week Photo Project, Let's Do 52, Photoshop Actions by Paint the Moon, this is our life