Posted on March 13, 2013
Coordinate but don’t match. When styling a session, I like to start out with a basic color palette and go from there. It can help to have one “rock star” in the photos who carries a pattern in their outfit that the rest of the group’s clothing or accessories pulls from, while keeping everyone else’s outfits more simple. You can do this with a neutral and a few colorful brights, or try a softer palette that has different tonal ranges of the same shades.
Pick out a few color pops to coordinate between subjects when working with a palette of softer tones or neutrals.
It tends to be easier to find the “center stage” pieces in girls and women’s clothing, so I’ll often start with the females and then pull colors from their outfits to create a look for the boys and dads.
Accessorize … and think outside the box. Scarves, hats, flowers in the hair for girls, jewelry, sweaters, vests, jackets, etc. – all these things can take a ho-hum image and make it feel “complete.” Don’t let the accessories overwhelm the subject or the photos though. I believe that especially with sweet babies and toddlers that they don’t need much in the way of “accessories” … they are beautiful in their simple purity, and I want them to be the star of the show instead of making one’s eye go straight to a giant headband as big as their head as they sit awkwardly in a big bucket. I want the viewer to notice my subject and their personality first … the accessories and clothing should just complement them – not be center stage. Choose your accent colors and fill in outfits with those punches of color in accessories … for instance, if big sister’s patterned dress has tones of aqua, coral and gray, have mom wear a coral headband and little brother in an aqua pair of Converse and bow tie. Show off the kids’ and your unique personality with accessories!
There are a few bonuses to using accessories well (as well as layers). One is that changing them up a bit throughout the session can give you multiple looks without having to do many wardrobe changes. They can also be something that the subjects can interact with … a sassy little tip of the hat, holding the ends of a scarf while running and letting it billow behind you, grabbing the lapels of a husbands jacket while pulling him close for a kiss … all these little gestures and ways to interact (and become more comfortable in front of the camera) can be made possible with styling choices. Many of my sessions will feature items used outside their intended use or subject … my girls are often seen in mommy’s hats or scarves (scarves can be used in different ways like wrapped around their shoulders, as a hair piece, etc) and they love to wear my costume jewelry.
Layers and textures are beautiful and create interest in photos. I absolutely love using multiple textures and layers, especially important when working with a color palette a bit on the neutral or softer side (with a subtle color pop here or there). When I say textures one of the ways to achieve this is with different clothing materials and accents – tweed, crochet and embroidery details, lace, hand knit items, smocking, ribbons, ruffles, etc. Also, having different layers of clothing and accessories can add another dimension to the overall texture of the image. These details and added depth are especially important in black and white images. And it can be done beautifully with colorful brights or just pops of color here and there as well … follow your own vision and style, also looking to what fits your subjects best.
Think about subtle props that blend with the the vibe of the session as well, but keep them simple and meaningful. A handful of flowers that are a natural, neutral color or that coordinate with color pops in the subjects’ clothing … a vintage camera … a basket of apples … or the absolute best type of prop is something that is meaningful to the subject (grandpa’s vintage camera, their favorite stuffed animal, a quilt made by great grandma, the family’s beloved pet). But don’t let the prop be an odd distraction – make sure it “makes sense” being in the photo and blends well with the whole vision you had in mind for the shoot.
Shoes matter. Please don’t wear sneakers … unless we’re talking about some funky Converse that go with the feel of the session. The choice of shoes can make or break an outfit. Slipping on a pair of hip, distressed boots or some colorful ballet flats can tie everything together and complete the feel of the session. Think about coordinating those bright and colorful shoes with other accessories and clothing in the photo – not necessarily on the subject themselves, but rather match little sister’s bright turquoise shoes to the sweater or scarf her mama is wearing. It ties everything together without looking too match-y match-y. And many times NO shoes looks best, especially if you’ll be sitting or in poses where the bottoms of shoes can be seen – that never looks pretty. And don’t forget some funky socks to add another splash of color or personality if your overall look of the session is fun and bright.
How will the images be displayed? Think about the primary reason you are doing the session and dress accordingly. For instance, if it’s for Christmas cards you might want to dress in wintry, seasonal clothing … for a gallery canvas in the living room, think about coordinating with the colors and feel of your decor. For the canvases I hung in my girls’ playroom I dressed them in twirly, pink dresses and they ran dancing through the sand on the beach, which meshed perfectly in the girly room that’s always filled with giggles and play.
This is more of a personal choice, but I tend to choose clothing that is timeless, perhaps a little vintage in style … but whatever is your style, make sure your choices won’t look terribly dated years from now (or months in the case of some quickly passing trends). I personally love to use softer or neutral tones (with a color pop here and there) and classic shapes, then add interest with accessories, layers and lots of interesting textures. I also happen to love bright and colorful as long as it’s not obnoxious or distracting from the subject’s personality and face. Of course, this is a personal choice and many families will choose to go all out in the latest trends, thinking of their clothing choices as a sort of time stamp in their images.
When shooting in wide open locations and it involves kiddos, I love to have some movement and flow in their clothing and accessories. Little ones are fond of jumping, dancing, and being wild. Nothing better than a twirly, whirly dress to accentuate all that beautiful movement and childhood innocence. Something as simple as a scarf trailing behind or a playful super hero cape can be fun for the boys.
Get comfortable. Make sure that the children can move freely in their outfits and that they aren’t going to be pulling and scratching at their new clothes … you want them happy and comfortable, not grouchy and miserable during the shoot! This means letting them have some input in what they wear. Kids who help dress themselves will not only be much happier campers when shooting time comes, but you’ll let their own beautiful personalities shine through in the images. Also, try not to make kids change outfits more than a couple times – another reason all those layers and accessories can be handy. The same goes for you – make sure that you select an outfit that makes you feel stunning and relaxed.
Patterns are good – in moderation! Patterns can add visual interest and texture as well as a good dose of personality. Just make sure that either just one person is in a pattern with the rest of the subjects in simple, more solid color pieces or the patterns are subtle and complementary (for instance, a teeny tiny polka dot tie on a little boy next to his sisters bold color blocked pattern can look very complementary).
Think about your location and make sure your wardrobe complements the surroundings. For example, at a location in a field with a rustic barn in the background would be perfect for a little girl dressed in a simple, vintage style dress with Hunter wellies, pig tails and carrying a little vintage tin pail full of wildflowers … that same look might be out of place in an urban setting with a graffiti wall in the background. Also, consider how well the colors and patterns in the wardrobes will stand out against the backdrops of your location … a field of bluebonnets might not be complemented by an outfit with a floral pattern or the same blues and greens in it, but would look beautiful with a solid coral colored dress to pop off of the colors of the flowers and grass. Many times I’ll select a location first and then create the wardrobe, accessories and props to fit with the vision I see for the surroundings and session vibe I want to come out of it.
For photographers hoping to inspire your clients in their choices of clothing and accessories, make sure that the work you are displaying portrays the kind of look that meshes with your style. Offer to help select clothing and even go the extra step to assist in shopping for new pieces or outfits. Many times I’ll arrive at a client’s home and they’ll have put together several options for looks for the kids or family, and then I can assist in making the final decisions. Another quick option is to just have them email you a few quick iPhone shots of the outfits they are considering so you can lend a little guidance. And feel free to point them to this post for pointers and examples!
A few things NOT to do … many of them obvious no-no’s but important to include again as a refresher.
• Avoid anything with logos, graphics, characters, labels, etc. These tend to take the “finished” look of a professional portrait down a few notches, can be distracting (who wants people to first notice the Nike or Gap logo before the adorable little kid’s smile?) and will date a photo quickly. I’m having flashbacks to me wearing Esprit tee-shirts with my Guess jeans back in grade school, right along side my little brother in his Gotcha shirt (and if you’re sitting there wondering what I’m talking about, you must not be an 80′s child, LOL). Note: There are a few instances where a more stylized graphic on a shirt can look good if it fits the vibe of a photo, for instance, in my six year old’s birthday session we did a total punk rock theme to go along with her party … she wore a Johnny Cash tee with her tutu and baby sis rocked a Ramones tee.
• If anyone is needing a trip to the salon, be sure to let the hair cut grow out a week or so in order to look most natural.
• Don’t make everyone wear all the same color … matching is boring and dated. Coordinate colors and looks, letting everyone have their own spin on the color palette (and every person does not – should not – have every color used in the color palette). And please no families all dressed in khaki pants, or all in denim and white shirts.
• While trying to stay current and fashionable, do avoid obvious trends that will be dated soon. You can do fashion forward while still remaining timeless.
• No bright white socks and no sneakers unless we’re talking about something fashion forward and simple like Converse or Vans. And also be sure to remove watches or jewelry not complementary to the session’s look.
- Clothing for Girls and Boys
- Clothing for Girls
- Sale Boutiques - for women and the whole family
- Miscellany and Accessories
Clothing for Boys and Girls
Zulily (visit the kid’s sections often to catch the good boutiques when they pop up)
Rue La La (visit the kid’s sections often to catch the good boutiques when they pop up)
Hautelook (visit the kid’s sections often to catch the good boutiques when they pop up)
Gap Kids (shop selectively – much of it can be on the tacky side, so pick and choose carefully … and the good stuff seems to sell out fast)
H & M (only in stores if you have one nearby, unfortunately there is no online store)
Target stores also have great options for the littlest kids. I think most of their stuff for children once they hit about 6 years old starts to get a bit on the tacky side of things though.
Clothing for Girls
My Little Jules – A wonderful boutique that carries a wide range of clothing, shoes and accessories for little ones. Dollcake is one of our favorite brands there, as well as the Livie and Luca shoes.
Zulily (visit the kid’s sections often to catch the good boutiques when they pop up)
Rue La La (visit the kid’s sections often to catch the good boutiques when they pop up)
Hautelook (visit the kid’s sections often to catch the good boutiques when they pop up)
a. bird – Timeless, classic creations.
TutuDuMonde – Gorgeous creations for little girls … a bit on the spend side, these are investment pieces.
ETSY Seller – Mary Gao – Inexpensive, unique finds. We love the little matching jacket and skirt combos, as well as the suspender skirt rompers.
Sanguinetti Clothing – Unique, beautifully made designer clothing for girls.
Lil Blue Boo – My girls love LBB dresses for playtime – perfectly cute and comfortable!
Wild Things Dresses – Handmade, adorable dresses featuring sweet animals and lots of whimsy!
A good portion of what I choose for my own kids and for myself are finds when good boutiques come on the following sites (you have to keep an eye out because when a good brand pops up they tend to sell quickly).
These sites also have great finds for the rest of the family, even for your home. I find a lot of my jeans there, as well as fun shoes, accessories and sweaters. Some of the brands I’ve picked up for myself there are 7 For All Mankind jeans, Hudson jeans, Paige Denim, Current & Elliot jeans (yes, I love my denim), Free People, some vintage finds when they have a Vintage Bazaar boutique (great for props), etc.
Other sites and stores I like shopping at for myself are
Miscellaneous, hats, newborn goodies and fun accessories
Newborn accessories (and amazing guidebook and workshops) - Robin Long Photography
Bonnets, hats, newborn accessories - Veronika G.
Knit hats - Sweet Pea Toads
Newborn hats, pants, accessories, etc. – FAAS, Inc.
Shoe Wings - SmallFly
Big and little girls hair pieces - Emily Zych
Newborn accessories - Lilian Grace
- What to Wear Example 1
- What to Wear Example 2
- What to Wear Example 3
- Personality in Props and Accessories
- Let Them Be Little and Have Fun
- Coordinate Color in Accessories
- Frame the Face
- Light, Soft Neutrals
- Coordinate With Location, Match Accessories
- Neutrals, Layers and Textures
- Interesting, Layered Accessories
- Colorful Brights Complement Location
- One Big Statement Accessory
- Soft, Complementary Color Palette and Details
Posted on January 4, 2013
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! 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 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.
All the links …
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