Tips To Improve Your Lifestyle Photo Shoots
"To take photographs means to recognize—simultaneously and within a fraction of a second—both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one’s head, one’s eye, and one’s heart on the same axis.
As far as I am concerned, taking photographs is a means of understanding which cannot be separated from other means of visual expression. It is a way of shouting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one’s originality. It is a way of life.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson
Improving Your Lifestyle Photography
Lifestyle photography gains its power from the vicarious nature of seeing people engaged in activities with which we are familiar, or which we long to experience. The unscripted appearance of lifestyle photography, where the viewer feels as if they’re getting an uncensored peek at the life of a real person, makes it a perfect fit for family portraits or selling products.
And as we become more reliant on social media for connection, where we see into other people's lives regularly, lifestyle photography that looks and feels candid will likely continue to gain popularity.
"There is nothing in the world that does not have a decisive moment."
— CARDINAL DE RETZ
WHAT IS LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHY?
Lifestyle is a genre of photography that aims to capture subjects in real-life situations or engaging in everyday activities It is characterized most often by the subject’s dissociation from the camera. The most effective lifestyle photos generally appear as if the subject is unaware of the viewer.
Take candid snapshots, but make them art!
If you’re interested in adding lifestyle photography to your repertoire, keeping these three tips in mind could help you create more believable, moving, and engaging photos.
PEOPLE TELL A STORY
It’s easiest to plan and execute a lifestyle photoshoot if there is some kind of story to serve as the foundation for knowing where to shoot and what to include in your session. It doesn’t have to be a complicated story to be effective, it could be as simple as, “a husband and wife go out for ice cream,” or “some friends go for a hike.”
Whether your story is complex or not, knowing the purpose and story will help you choose locations, decide how you’ll approach framing, and direct your subjects so they feel and act natural.
MAKE YOUR SUBJECTS DO SOMETHING REAL
Posing subjects so they look and feel unselfconscious is one of the hardest parts of lifestyle photography. Most people can’t help but react to a camera, and that makes getting candid emotions, reactions, and body language tricky.
One of the most effective ways to get your subjects out of their heads and create natural-looking body language and natural reactions is to give your subjects something to do. This is where that story comes in handy.
If the story is, “a husband and wife go out for ice cream,” then getting real ice cream and having your subjects both eat the ice cream and engage in conversation will help them stop thinking about what they look like in front of the camera.
If the story is, “friends go for a hike,” then getting the subjects to chat, laugh, and engage with their environment will help them look natural and create those decisive moments that make compelling photographs.
CAPTURE THE DECISIVE MOMENT OF ACTION
Popularized by humanist photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson, the concept of the decisive moment can be traced back to a quote by 17th-century French churchman, Cardinal De Retz “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.”
In photography, the idea of the decisive moment could be described as the instant in which everything comes together to create a balance between the undirected actions of the event and the artistic eye of the photographer so that the final image not only captures the essence of what was important about the event but communicates it in an artistically pleasing way that creates a sense of meaning for the viewer.
The decisive moment can be seen through the history of iconic photography and requires the photographer to pay careful attention to the composition of the scene, find good light, and understand the subject matter, but also to anticipate the action of the subjects.
This careful balance of seeing, anticipating, and foreknowing allows the photographer to capture real moments in an artistically meaningful way.
To capture the decisive moment requires instinct, intuition, and careful observation, but mastering this ability will create profound improvements in your lifestyle photographs. If you want to learn more about the decisive moment, check out this fantastic article by John Suler.
Like any genre of photography, Lifestyle photography has its own visual cues and expectations. Learning them will help you communicate within that genre, and these simple tips will have you well on your way to unposed, candid-feeling photographs that feel natural and artistic.