Lifestyle Photography Tips | Candid Photos of Real Life
Most of the images in this post are edited with the Reverie Collection or Grace Collection Photoshop actions.
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, 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. Whether you are a professional who is committed to capturing precious, real life memories for your clients or you are passionate about recording your own life’s beautiful everyday moments lifestyle photography for preserving all those memories that are so important to us personally. It’s about 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. Lifestyle photography is all about genuine moments, the real life raw emotion and the relaxed, everyday details that make our lives so special.
CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE
And do it 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.
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 electronics, 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 on the little pegs. They weren’t totally zoning out on devices Christmas morning, but 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.
In this scenario, that “mess” (which is really just colorful and adorable, right?) tells the whole story. While mommy works, my little one often sets up her little station of things to do on the other half of my desk. My little work partner was busy drawing, making playdoh cookies and not eating any of her lunch. 😉
GET IN THOSE PHOTOS TOO!
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!
FINDING THE BEST POSSIBLE LIGHT
No matter what type of photography you’re taking, light 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. Or expose the subject more to add a warm glow around them. The backlight from the window here is a wonderful backdrop for my insane little subject. All hail king of Goofyville!!
CAPTURE THE FULL RANGE OF EMOTIONS
Record 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 Dalmatian, 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
Most especially when it comes to little ones, real life details are beautiful. 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 we only buy stuff that we love (me and the kids). 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 you can tell a story that might not be evident to a viewer, but is a significant memory for you and your family. 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.
Tea parties with teddy bears are a favorite past time. Getting down on their level gives you an image that feels like you’re peeking in on their little world from their viewpoint.
HAVE YOUR CAMERA READY
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.
BEAUTIFUL IN BLACK AND WHITE
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 wonders 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 Collection and Reverie Collection.
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.
SaveTags: Lifestyle Photography, Photoshop Actions by Paint the Moon, this is our life
I can’t wait to start this project this year. I fell behind last year and instead of trying to follow guidelines, I just took a photo a week of my family. I was wondering if you had album pages for that? I was most excited about that because I’m terrible about printing my personal images and I wanted to make a book of the photos from my year. No worries if you didn’t.
Congrats on your little boy, I can’t wait to see your posts with the little guy. I’m sure he’ll love pink, my son just loves pink and anything his big sis loves.
Annie, You make my heart sing with inspiration. What a beautiful ability you have. You awaken the creativity within us.