Lifestyle Photography is a new branch of portraiture and is the modern way to photograph people… but, what is it really?
Defining Lifestyle Photography
Take what you learned about Portrait Photography, such as having nice composition, good light, pretty background, perfect exposure, the right balance of light vs dark, and fantastic eye contact and position of your subject. Now throw that all out the window!
Alright, not exactly.
Lifestyle Photography still requires you to utilize your knowledge of fine portraiture, but the focus is on capturing your subject’s life. Personalities. A relationship. A feeling. A reaction.
It starts with shooting in a natural environment – be it your client’s living room or their favorite outdoor café. From there, you carefully balance giving direction to your clients with giving them room to express themselves.
True Lifestyle Photography is a combination of photojournalism and fine art portraiture. Rather than posing your subjects in a controlled or semi-controlled environment as you would in traditional Portrait Photography, Lifestyle Photography has more of an unknown variable. A Lifestyle Photographer has to think on her feet and feel out the shoot to determine how to massage it to produce a photo-worthy moment. Let’s be honest: not all real moments are images that translate well in photographs. A Lifestyle Photographer knows how to produce Art with the subjects, light and location she is given.
Who is a Lifestyle Photographer?
Shooting candid images doesn’t make you a Lifestyle Photographer.
It requires a certain skill set beyond understanding your equipment and capturing images of people, as I believe it also does for being a Wedding Photographer and Newborn Photographer.
Lifestyle Photographers need to be able to get their subjects to relax and be themselves while being in a very unnatural setting. (Unless you are a model, there is nothing “natural” about having a camera pointed at you!)
You need to make your subject feel comfortable enough that they show their love for their partner. You have to put them in a situation that allows them to be playful or silly or reflective. You need to bring out a parent’s nurturing side, so they snuggle lovingly with their child or gently brush away a stray hair.
You can’t order these moments to happen. And they don’t always happen on their own.
When is Lifestyle Photography best used?
Lifestyle is perfect for photographing people who prefer to show the reality of their lives.
It’s for people who would easily trade a perfectly posed photo for one that tells a story.
How do you plan a Lifestyle session?
Talk to your clients before their session. Plan it together. You are the expert at photography, but they are experts at knowing what will work for them.
Photographer Rachel has a family shoot coming up. She envisions the family sitting on the bench and having “a moment” while the warm sun is glowing behind them. Ooh, that sounds pretty! However, she gets to the shoot and doesn’t know why they look so awkward and stiff when sitting there. Without talking with them, she didn’t know that this family is serious about sports and are happiest when active. Having them kick a ball or run around would have been a better choice.
Photographer Mark went on Pinterest and found inspiration for a Senior session. He took his 18-year old subject to an old deserted railway. It was grungy and cool, just the way he imagined. His subject had the perfect hair, makeup and attire, but she didn’t move comfortably during the session. He assumed she was self-conscious about herself as many teens are, so he didn’t talk to her about it. In reality, the teen was a confident Class President who likes being neat and clean. A grungy setting didn’t allow for her to show her true colors.
Know your subjects. Communicate.
What else do I need to know?
The term Lifestyle Photography is popping up everywhere. Though the definition may vary slightly amongst photographers, the style of photography is here to stay.
My advice for Portrait Photographers is to find a style that resonates with you. Don’t shoot a certain way just because that’s what you think is popular or because a photographer you know has that style. Choose a style that represents you and your brand. People who love it will find you, and those are the best clients to have.
Annie Tao is an award-winning Lifestyle Photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is best known for capturing genuine smiles, emotions and stories of her subjects. You can visit annietaophotography.com for more tips or inspiration and stay connected with her at facebook.com/annietaophotography.