"Photography is a love affair with life." ― Burk Uzzle
Lifestyle photography is quickly becoming a popular style of photography in recent years. In a world where social media is such a big part of our every day, people are looking for a more organic and creative way to document their lives. With it's candidness and genuine approach to documenting "real life," lifestyle photography offers a beautiful way to capture people as they really are in their natural environment.
Here are some ways to add "life" to your lifestyle photography
DIRECT AND DISAPPEAR
“The camera makes you forget you're there. It's not like you are hiding but you forget, you are just looking so much” ― Annie Leibovitz
Even though this type of photography is more candid there are times where some direction is important (especially with paying clients). When I'm doing a photo session with my clients, I must give some direction so they know what I'm needing them to do for the shot. This usually includes me telling a family to tickle, play, hug or kiss each other. This direction to be playful usually turns into a more natural and candid moment as the family continues to get more comfortable and be themselves. I want them to forget I am there, that's why I call it direct and disappear.
In this shot I told this little cutie to twirl in her dress. Before you knew it she forgot all about me taking pictures and got lost in her own little world.
TELL A STORY
“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.” ― Robert Frank
Imagine your pictures have to tell a story but without any words. A person's environment is so important to the story a photo conveys. Composition is also important in this. Ask yourself "What do I want to be the focus?" The picture above is of my husband who is deep in thought as he writes a new song at the piano. I wanted him to be the focus but for his environment, that is softer in the background, to help convey a story. *All of the proceeding tips continue to aid in this ability to achieve storytelling through your images.
USE A CREATIVE PERSPECTIVE
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” ― Dorothea Lange
Don't be afraid to take risks and get out of your comfort zones by shooting at different angles like in the pictures above where I am shooting at a bird's eye view.
Get on the floor! Utilize your camera's "live view" mode and set your camera flat on a surface to get a different perspective. *The photo on the right was taken with a self-timer.
Here is an example of a pullback where I have my camera on the floor and I'm using my "live view" mode to compose the shots. *When I was actually shooting I propped my camera up more with my strap so that you could see more of my daughter.
Cropping a photo can also give a unique perspective. By using a tighter crop to draw the eye to a portion of the photo you are wanting to bring attention to, you can achieve a different viewpoint.
GIVE YOUR IMAGES DEPTH
“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” ― Ansel Adams
One of the things that makes a person's photography stand out is their ability to create depth in a photo. Rather than having images that are flat and less interesting, play around with depth of field. By using a wide open aperture you can achieve shots where parts of the image are sharp and other parts are more blurred. This also helps to tell a story. *Shooting wide open takes lots of practice but it makes so much difference once you master it.
Another way to create depth is to use something to obstruct part of your camera len's view. In the example above my coffee cup (which is out of focus) on my breakfast table is the closest object to my lens but my son eating yogurt is the focus. Depth always makes a photo more interesting!
Another example above where depth is achieved by having the muffin ingredients (out of focus) be in front of my daughter and my husband.
One last example of how to create this kind of depth is to shoot beyond a doorframe or through something like plants. Above is an example where I shot from outside the doorframe while my daughter and dog were having story time.
Here is an example where I am shooting from beyond a bush. You get the feel that you are sneaking in on a beautiful and treasured moment. This technique really allows you to feel like you are entering someone else's world.
UTILIZE THE BEST NATURAL LIGHT
“Wherever there is light, one can photograph.” ― Alfred Stieglitz
When shooting outdoors this is pretty obvious but it can be tricky when learning to shoot indoors. What I do in my home when I want to photograph something is turn off all the artificial light (I know this may sound weird but it throws the white balance off) and open every window I can find to pull in as much natural light as possible. Learning to use good natural light indoors takes some practice as well but when you figure it out, the results are beautiful!
PHOTOGRAPH KIDS IN THEIR ELEMENT
― Andy Warhol
The challenge when photographing children (or anyone for that matter) is to try and capture their personalities. The easiest way to capture a child's beautiful spirit is to get them in an environment where they can just be themselves. Where they can play and do the things that bring those beautiful REAL (not fake) smiles to their faces! If you're snapping shots of your own children just grab your camera during those everyday moments that bring the giggles out... like the bath time of course :)
Get a shot of tea time.
Of them reading their favorite books.
Hanging out with their furry friends.
And who doesn't have the biggest smile in the backyard sprinkler?!
Practicing for ballet. (Notice the wall on the right is giving depth by obstructing part of len's view)
And when all else fails, take them out to an open field and just let them run!
DON"T BE AFRAID TO TAKE YOUR "REAL" CAMERA OUT IN PUBLIC
We are an iPhone generation relying on it for everything including our photography. But every once and a while bust out your big guns and bring your "fancy camera" out. Especially for special moments like your son's first haircut (pictured above).
A trip to the pumpkin patch.
The magic of Christmas light gazing.
To get some shots before a Daddy Daughter Dance.
Or a reunion dinner with sweet friends.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS
“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind.” ― Ashley Smith
When snapping away don't forget to catch the small things, like writing your daughter's name in the flour while baking cookies. *All pictures above taken with a self-timer.
Here is a pullback to show how I took the pictures of my daughter and I baking cookies above. *It really wasn't hard to keep these shots candid, even with it being on a self-timer because I just had to give my daughter very little direction, like "mix the dough now." or "can I have a chocolate chip?" All things I would have had to direct her in anyway so it still felt very real and natural. She was so excited about making cookies she could care less that I was snapping a few pics of us.
Some shots of my Thanksgiving table setting.
Or how about this small green intruder I found the other day in my house? There is so much to be said for the little things in life, don't forget about them.
MAKE IT BLACK AND WHITE
“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!” ― Ted Grant
Making an image black and white can do many powerful things (you may have noticed a lot of my lifestyle work is edited in black and white). Black and white can be much more forgiving and can camouflage things like a messy kitchen countertop (pictured above)
Here you can see how the color version is much more distracting and it doesn't look as appealing.
Black and white can make an average hotel room a cherished memory that you will want to frame.
It can add more drama to a shot... not that a 4 year old girl needs more drama ;)
And it's the perfect choice when you are trying to show real emotion.
UTILIZE YOUR SELF-TIMER AND GET IN SOME SHOTS
(Also anything can be used as a tripod)
“There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” ― Ansel Adams
If you're the photographer in the family like me, you may notice that pictures including yourself are pretty few and far between. I started to notice that trend and so my challenge to myself for this year is to get in more shots with my family... to show my kids someday that I was there too. For this shot of my kids and I pictured above, I placed my camera on my coffee table and used my self-timer with a 10 second delay. I may have been super brave and let my 4 year old daughter run back and forth to push the shutter button ;)
It even works for shots with your entire family. This was shot on a tripod and my daughter may or may not have been responsible for the shutter button pressing again ;)
For this shot of my husband and I on a beach in Grand Cayman, my camera was on my towel on a beach chair and I used my self-timer again.
THERE IS BEAUTY IN THE IMPERFECT
“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” ― Ansel Adams
We all know life is not perfect and lifestyle photography is about capturing "real life" moments. So give yourself grace to embrace imperfect (yet beautiful) things like a blurry image, a messy house, a crying kid, etc. Life moves fast and is messy at times. Shouldn't lifestyle photography be an accurate reflection of what real life is about?
“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” ― Henri Cartier-Bresson
Finally, one of the most important things you can do to bring life to your lifestyle photography is to grab your camera and shoot consistently! Practice is one of the best ways to improve any skill and it will sharpen your eye for things that are worth documenting. Also, joining a challenge like a 365 Project can help add accountability to consistent shooting and push you to get out of your comfort zone.
Life is going on all around you. Go capture it.