Lifestyle Photography: A Complete Guide (w/ Tips & Examples)

(Last updated on July 22nd, 2022)

There are many types of photography that concentrate on people – portraits, events, headshots, and sports photography, for example.

A newer type that is seeing an increase in popularity is lifestyle photography. This is incredibly fun and aims to capture people naturally without posing or a studio setup.

If this sounds like something you would enjoy, we have created a comprehensive lifestyle photography guide below.

What is Lifestyle Photography?

Simply put, lifestyle photography aims to capture families, friends, or individuals engaged in real-life events but in an artistic, photogenic way.

The photos aim to give a glimpse into the person’s life including who they are, what they do, and what they enjoy. Think of lifestyle photography as a snapshot – you capture a specific moment in time of a family, couple, or individual.

These are not to be confused with candid photos, or something like travel photography, however. Typically when we take holiday photos or home photos, we are capturing moments and creating memories. But, unless you are a professional photographer, the photos are pretty basic and more of visual memory as opposed to a piece of art. Similarly, candid photos are usually taken without the subject being aware – in lifestyle photography, the person or people are fully aware even if you are not asking them to pose.

This is where lifestyle photos differ. You are still creating memories, and showing what you have done, but the end result looks infinitely better and more professional.

There is also virtually no limit to the activities and subjects of lifestyle photos. You could take photos of a family at the park, a couple playing sport, kids playing at home, or even something like the morning school run – the possibilities are endless.

A woman preparing fruit for a snack. You could show something simple like a person preparing for their fitness session
A woman preparing fruit for a snack. You could show something simple like a person preparing for their fitness session

What is Lifestyle Photography Used For?

You may still be unsure why someone could want a set of lifestyle photos – there are several reasons.

Firstly, a person, couple, or family could simply want these photos to create visual memories of the things they enjoy doing. Lifestyle photography is often used for personal reasons – people wanting memorable photos but taken in a more professional way than they can achieve. Similarly, someone could simply want to create a photo album or photo book full of artistic photos that their family can look back on in years to come.

Secondly, lifestyle photography is often used for business and marketing. Businesses may want to convey certain images to their customers and portray themselves as a family-friendly organization, for example.

Similarly, solo entrepreneurs, influencers, and people with lifestyle businesses could benefit from these photos. Essentially, someone with a business where their personal image and lifestyle are important factors. Lifestyle photos can help get across their message in a professional manner.

How to Initiate a Lifestyle Photography Session?


If this type of photography sounds intriguing, you must understand how the process works. The first step is to obviously find clients.

Once you have a client, I would advise arranging an in-person meeting and asking the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the lifestyle photography shoot?
  • What locations do they want to use?
  • Are there any particular activities they want to do?
  • What people will be included in the photo shoot?

These questions are vital so that you are not walking into the unknown. From this meeting, you can walk away with a clear idea of what your client wants. With information like locations and activities, its also then possible to plan things like lenses, camera settings, and the best times of day to visit.

Don’t stick only to these questions – have a general conversation and just make sure that you are on the same page. Make sure the client understands what you are going to do, and you known their expectations.

Examples of Lifestyle Photography

You should have a basic understanding of this type of photography, but I find that visual references are far more effective. Therefore, I have selected a handful of lifestyle photography examples below with a brief description.

Example 1 – Man Cycling in a City Square

Man cycling through a city square. Capturing everyday activities is part of this type of photography
Man cycling through a city square. Capturing everyday activities is part of this type of photography

Lifestyle photography gives you the chance to show the client naturally. You want to convey what they do, how they enjoy themselves, and what makes them the person they are. What better way to do this than showing their morning commute? Clients may want to use these photos simply for personal reasons, or to use as part of their business or brand marketing.

The above photo is a brilliant wide-angle lifestyle shot of a man cycling to work. Here we get a sense of his style due to his attire, and his bike. We also catch a glimpse of the wider surroundings and the place that he calls home. The use of a shallow depth of field here also makes sure the emphasis is on the person – and not the other people walking in the street.

Example 2 – Admiring the Views of a Lake

Show the client's active side with outdoor photos. Here we see someone resting and taking in the views during a hike
Show the client’s active side with outdoor photos. Here we see someone resting and taking in the views during a hike

Perhaps your client has a passion that they want to share with the world? They may have a hobby that they love doing and want some memories of their adventures. This is what lifestyle photography can give – a vision of what drives people.

I like the above photo due to its simplicity but also the impact it has. Here we see a lifestyle photo of a person enjoying a moment of contemplation – looking at the beautiful scene of a lake surrounded by a forest. It shows their love of nature, and the backpack also shows that they are prepared and do this type of thing often.

Example 3 – Daily Fitness Routine

Going out for a run A great lifestyle photo
Going out for a run? A great lifestyle photo. Daily activities like running and walking provide good photoshoot opportunities

Oftentimes clients want lifestyle shots for their business or to use for social media. For example, Instagram influencers often use photos of themselves doing their daily routine, or fitness instructors have lifestyle shots of the different activities they do.

These are meaningful and show the person doing something they enjoy. However, they also serve a purpose and can be incredibly effective for marketing. The above photo is a great shot of a woman running – she is perhaps enjoying some music or a podcast as she runs. I like this image due to the golden glow of the sun shining through the trees too.

Example 4 – Reading a Book

Many people enjoy reading daily. Here we see a simple photo of a woman reading a book
Many people enjoy reading daily. Here we see a simple photo of a woman reading a book

Lifestyle photos don’t only have to be outdoors – you can create superb images in the client’s home where they are the most comfortable. Also, they don’t have to be doing something incredibly active – why not show their intellectual side and present them by reading a book? Clients may want to show different characteristics or interests that help reinforce their brand image, for example.

This lifestyle shot looks great due to the consistent color pallet – the white walls, the white top, and the white items on the table. I like how it tells a simple story, too – we can see an out-of-focus coffee mug that the lady has enjoyed – perhaps this is a tradition she likes before reading?

Example 5 – Family Lunch

Meal times, parties, and occasions are often great settings for lifestyle photography. Firstly, there is usually a lot going on, and you can easily capture some interesting action shots. Secondly, people often act more naturally when they are doing something enjoyable like this.

The below photo perfectly demonstrates this. The family is sitting enjoying cakes and drinks at what looks like a small party. Everyone looks happy and like they are genuinely having a good time – it’s authentic. People may want photos like these for a family photobook, or even for a family business venture, for example. Lifestyle images like these are also great as stock marketing shots.

Family enjoying an outdoor meal. Here we see a family enjoying food and drinks outdoors in their garden
Family enjoying an outdoor meal. Here we see a family enjoying food and drinks outdoors in their garden

Lifestyle Photography Tips

Now that you have some visual examples, we can look at how to be an effective lifestyle photographer. Compared to other disciplines and genres, there is nowhere near as much to learn! This also makes lifestyle photography great for beginners.

Get To Know the Client’s Routine and Hobbies

Lifestyle photography is meant to be impulsive and natural. However, a little planning is required. Before the day of the photoshoot, I advise meeting with or speaking to your client. Talk about things like their daily routine, and what they enjoy doing for fun.

With these things in mind, you can plan the types of photos they want, and the activities they want to do. This will also make sure you can pick the right type of equipment such as lenses and filters.

A person eating lunch and scrolling on their smartphone. Something simple like eating a meal could be a great lifestyle photo
A person eating lunch and scrolling on their smartphone. Something simple like eating a meal could be a great lifestyle photo

A Vague Plan Is OK

Building on the above, it is fine to have a plan. As a bare minimum, I would suggest having a clear set of locations for the lifestyle photography photoshoot. You should also agree on the order in which you visit them as this could help with storytelling or using different lighting conditions to your advantage.

With a clear set of locations and visiting order, you can also do some pre-planning. For example, you could scout the areas using Google Maps, or a service like Instant Google Street View to look for interesting structures and features that could make fun photography backdrops.

The key is to keep the planning strictly to the locations, and then let the clients act naturally for the actual photo shoot.

Give Some Direction, but Not Too Much

I like that lifestyle photoshoots are usually free-flowing with little structure. You essentially want the clients to have fun, and do exactly what they normally would!

As a result, you don’t need to give much advice on things like positioning and poses. Instead, you are using your camera skills and eye for a good shot to do the work!

However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t give any direction at all. After all, you are a professional photographer! Therefore, if you think a particular action or shot would work well, suggest it to the client!

Always Have Your Camera Ready

During this type of photo shoot, you never want to put your camera down! Always have it ready, switched on, and ready to shoot. You never know when the perfect photo opportunity could arise and you don’t want to be caught with your camera lens cap on!

To make sure that you are always ready, wear a camera strap, and have a spare battery or two in your pocket. Also, you could consider using a burst shooting mode to make sure you capture the action in fine detail.

Lifestyle photo of a man skateboarding
Lifestyle photo of a man skateboarding. Here we see a man at a skate park doing something he enjoys

Bring the Right Equipment

Unlike some types of photography, for lifestyle shoots, you generally do not need as much equipment. In most instances, a camera, a selection of lenses, and maybe a tripod are all that is required.

However, making sure you have the correct lenses is imperative. Without a suitable lens, you will be limited creatively and may miss out on some opportunities.

I would recommend a multi-zoom kit lens with a focal length of something like 24-70mm. This will give you great coverage and make sure you can take wide-angle photos, close-cropped portrait shots, and even some detailed photos.

Also, by using a multi-zoom lens, you can save time switching lenses and not potentially miss out on some great photo opportunities.

Allow the Clients to Act Naturally

The best lifestyle photos look natural. Generally, you can tell when a subject in a photo is being asked to smile or is posing as it can look forced. You don’t want this to happen in a lifestyle photo shoot.

Therefore, just let the clients do what they want. Don’t ask them to look a certain way, or smile at a particular time. This will only add to the tension and perhaps even make them feel nervous.

It is up to you to do the creative work and look for the right angles, compositions, and scenes to produce memorable photos.

Child playing in a park
Child playing in a park. Outdoor locations like parks are great for lifestyle photography

If Kids Are Involved, Make It Fun

Oftentimes kids and photoshoots do NOT mix. Have you ever tried to get a kid to pose properly for a photo? I’ve tried with my niece with varying levels of success! It can be hard work, and they can quickly get bored.

Luckily, lifestyle photography is usually more fun and involves activities kids love. However, you should still attempt to make the photo shoot fun for any children involved. Encourage them to be silly, run around, and play – these moments of unrestrained action often produce the best results.

Lifestyle shots including kids show joy and happiness. Here we see a couple taking their child for a bike ride along the street
Lifestyle shots including kids show joy and happiness. Here we see a couple taking their child for a bike ride along the street

Be Alert and Try to Anticipate Moments

Lifestyle photography requires concentration, alertness, and anticipation from the photographer. You are relying more on your creative skills, camera operation, and eye for a good shot than any other type of photoshoot.

This is because the photos are not scripted. You have to watch the clients and use your creative genius to pick the right moments to photograph.

Also, look at what they are doing and preempt actions. For example, the below photo shows a man doing a handstand. This would have required anticipation and watching for the build-up to photograph him at the right time.

A man doing gymnastics on a beach. Try to photograph active moments for more authenticity
A man doing gymnastics on a beach. Try to photograph active moments for more authenticity

Tell a Story With Your Photos

The best lifestyle photos tell a story and aren’t simply a disconnected series of individual photos. Ideally, you want your images to interlink events, and show progression.

For example, perhaps you have a photoshoot with a family at their local park. You could take photos that show the kids at different stages of the day – their mounting excitement as they get near the park, the manic energy as they play on the climbing frame, and the aftermath where they fall asleep in their parent’s arms.

The below photo demonstrates this and could be part of a wider story. Maybe we see the lady heading out later to a party or event wearing the clothes she bought earlier in the day?

Who doesnt love a weekly shopping spree! Here we see a lady holding shopping bags after a spending spree
Who doesn’t love a weekly shopping spree! Here we see a lady holding shopping bags after a spending spree

Conclusion

As you can see, lifestyle photography can be incredibly fun! Photography is often daunting and taken too seriously which makes lifestyle photoshoots refreshing and a welcomed contrast.

If you are getting into lifestyle photography, I would advise practising with your friends and family first. Use them as your test subjects! All you have to do is take your camera with you when you do things with them, or when you visit them. By doing this, you can build your confidence and get used to capturing the action in a natural, non-studio setting.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between portrait and lifestyle photography?

Portrait photography concentrates on a specific subject and is usually posed. In contrast, lifestyle photography captures multiple subjects during different activities and encourages natural actions and no set posing.

How do you create a lifestyle photo?

The easiest way to do this is to go out with your camera with a friend or family member, and simply take photos of them doing something they enjoy – something that is part of their life.

How do you plan a lifestyle photoshoot?

For this type of photography, the only real planning is the location and activities. Sit down with your client beforehand and discuss their daily routine and what they enjoy doing. From there, you can create a simple plan and choose photoshoot locations.

What is the difference between family and lifestyle photography?

Traditional family photography is usually staged and scripted. For example, many people have family photos taken in a studio setting against a white backdrop. In contrast, lifestyle photography is more free-flowing and usually takes place in the client’s home, or locations personal to them.

Should you use a studio setup for lifestyle photography?

In most instances no. This type of photography aims for authenticity with natural surroundings. Therefore, you usually have to rely more on your camera and photography skills to get the required photos.

How should the clients pose for lifestyle photography?

Naturally! Oftentimes you simply let the clients have fun and go about their typical daily activities and/or routine. Asking for specific poses can reduce the authenticity of the photos and put pressure on the clients.

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