Somewhere between portrait photography and photojournalism/documentary photography, lies “lifestyle photography.” Lifestyle photography is a multi-disciplinary genre that’s more than just taking snapshots of candid moments – it’s about capturing a connection, telling a story, documenting real life.
Whether indoors or outdoors, at home or out and about, here are some lifestyle photography tips you can’t live without if you’re looking to specialize in this popular type of photography.
Must Have Lifestyle Photography Tips for Professionals
No.01Light is king
As with any type of photography, light will always drive your image. Without good light, the image will fall flat. Be familiar with types of lighting scenarios and the mood it can lend to your images.
Read more: 7 Creative Ways to Use Outdoor Light
Backlighting will lend a light + bright feeling to your images. It can provide a dreamy effect to your image, but the colors may be washed out due to flare or haze.
Sidelight will provide lots of mood. I love to capture quiet moments with somewhat dramatic sidelight.
Flat light (or directly lit) images will have lots of contrast and color. I like to move around a LOT and photograph my subject(s) from all sorts of angles, with various lighting scenarios. This allows me to get a diverse series of images quickly.
I always arrive early, so that I can assess the light at the location we are shooting. This also allows me to calm my nerves, take some deep breaths, and block out the rest of the day’s craziness prior to starting. If I’m shooting in my clients’ home, I take the first five or ten minutes to look around and notice the light + windows.
Read more: 6 Lighting Patterns Using Only Natural Light
I try and get any “must have” shots out of the way first. Does the family want to try and get a safe shot of everyone looking and smiling at the camera? I capture that right away, when everyone is expecting it.
I group the family in every configuration I can think of – mom with kids, dad with kids, kids together, kids alone, etc. Then I let them know they don’t have to look at me ever again for the rest of the session. We just relax and have fun.
Once I’ve gotten all those safe shots (I call these “grandma shots,” because they’re always the ones grandma loves), I can get more creative and shoot for me. This is where I get to play. I shoot the images that fulfill me as a photographer, and the ones that fit my style.
Another benefit of this is that if/when the kids start to melt down, I can tell mom I was done a while ago… that everything I’ve been shooting for the past 15+ minutes (or whatever) was a “bonus.” The relief on mom’s face when she hears that is always refreshing.
No.03Stay in control
I like to give the kids options during a session because it helps give them ownership of what we are doing, but I’m always in control.
For example, if I’m photographing a young boy at home, I might ask him “Do you want to stay here and take some photos, or do you want to show me your room?” I’ve given him the option to choose, but I’m in control of those options and I know either location will be fine.
I do the same thing outdoors as well. I might say, “There is a cool bridge we can go look at over there, or over that way is a really neat tree. Where do you want to go?” Because I arrived early to scope the light, I know one location is backlit and the other has pretty filtered light so we can’t go wrong.
This is a great way to get kids involved in the session, which makes it more likely everyone involved will cooperate.
No.04Give them something to do
Whether I’m shooting indoors or outdoors, I try to come prepared so that neither myself or my clients are left looking around thinking, “Now what?” Movement is huge. I like to keep the family walking, interacting, and/or laughing with each other (laughing AT each other is fine too!).
Dads can be challenging as well, because they often default to smiling at the camera. So I always tell mom and dad (dad specifically) that if they ever don’t know what to do, simply make the child closest to them laugh. This way I avoid the image where everyone looks super casual and in the moment, except for one smiling at the camera like a goober.
I also like to give prompts or play games with my clients. If knowing what to do to create “perfectly imperfect” images is something you personally struggle with, take a look at my Lifestyle Photographer’s Toolkit.
No.05Don’t stop shooting
When I think I’ve got enough images to round out a full gallery, I step back and try to remember to capture details – curls from little girl’s hair, freckles on faces, chubby little hands or feet, mom or dad holding their child’s hand.
I also make an effort to ALWAYS capture the in-between moments. These are all things that the family will treasure later on.
No.06Everything is always “OK”
Whatever I do with my clients and during sessions, I always make sure I don’t get flustered. Is one kid misbehaving or totally losing their cool? It’s ok! I shoot the other kid(s) for a bit and don’t give the misbehaving one any attention at all. They ALWAYS come around eventually.
Do other people or photographers crowd the location? It’s ok! We can go for a walk (I call it an “adventure”) to try and find a spot with great light that isn’t as crowded. Cropping in tight means it doesn’t really matter WHERE we are! Then I head back over to the crowded locations when they’re not so crowded any more.
Whatever the case may be, I think I end up saying “It’s OK!” or “It’s totally fine; this is perfect” about a thousand times at a session.
Hopefully these tips help you have a successful lifestyle family session. Remember to just stay calm, collected, and confident and it will show in the final images.