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4 Tips to Help You Get Started Doing Lifestyle Photography


People are my favorite subject to photograph, and one of my favorite ways to capture them is through lifestyle photography. I love documenting a day in the life of a family, student, or child. I love making beautiful photos out of real life happenings; the everyday stuff that we forget to treasure. Some moments are perfect and gorgeous, and other moments are more ordinary, and sometimes even unattractive; but I love every one of those moments, and I find joy in looking for the beauty in everything.

If you would like to get started with lifestyle portraiture, maybe these tips and photos will inspire you to jump right in. These photos are from a day in the life session with a sweet family. I wanted to document what a normal, ordinary day is like for them, and give them photos that they would treasure forever. We had a lot of fun together, and not only do they love the photos, but I ended up being inspired by them as I spent a little time getting to know who they are.

1 – Set yourself up for success


If you decide to do a lifestyle session and just show up without a plan, you may get exactly what you planned for – nothing. I asked the B family to tell me some of the things they enjoy doing together as a group, and we chose some that would photograph well, and represent their life right now.

We took photographs of snack time, with kids helping prepare and eat the peanut butter and apples. We took a few photographs of them jumping on the trampoline, and then we came inside while they played games together. We ended the session with something that they do every single day, and is a huge part of the fabric of their family. They read scriptures together, and prayed as a family. It was important to me to capture the essence of their family, so we planned, ahead of time, the things that would best show who they are.

There are so many scenarios that could be planned and prepared. Families are fun, because there is a lot of interaction. You could have them bake cookies together, or go for a picnic in the park. A family hike might be the perfect thing to photograph if they love the outdoors. It’s so much fun to do sessions on the lake with the family’s boat, or at home with their pets.


Although families are fun, they’re definitely not the only group of people who lifestyle photography lends itself to. A group of tweens painting fingernails together, or some kids playing a game of basketball could make great lifestyle sessions. A day in the life of a college student, or a documentary style session with an elementary school teacher could also be amazing. People are involved in so many great things, whether it be their hobbies, work, or recreation. It’s a wonderful experience to capture them in action, doing the things that they love.

As long as you don’t get too attached to it, it can be helpful to create a shot list. This could be a list of all the photos that you are hoping to capture during your session together. If all the things on your list don’t happen, don’t fret about it, but it can give you some ideas to get going.

2 – Be ready for the unexpected

180Now that you’ve planned and prepared, and set yourself up for success, loosen up and go with the flow. If you try to manage every moment, or even direct too much, you lose the realness of a lifestyle session. Things just happen during your time together, and sometimes those things are what make your most memorable photos.

In the photo to the right, the little one got quite upset over something that happened in the game, and she knew right where she had to go, and exactly what she had to do; standing with her nose in the corner was the standard procedure in her family. Although it wasn’t her finest moment, and she probably wasn’t enjoying it very much, I’m pretty sure this photo will be one that she will love when she grows up, and her parents will cherish forever.

These moments are the ones that aren’t on your shot list, because you can’t foresee them happening, but you need to be ready to capture them and include them as part of the story you are telling. You may even have days where you don’t capture one thing that you had planned, and nothing on your shot list is even available to shoot. If that happens, just go with it, and know that you may create something even better than you could have planned. If you have a calm mindset, knowing that you are prepared, but you are ready to roll with the punches, you’ll be just fine.

3 – Capture the story details


Some of your photos may not even have your human subjects in them. A lot of your photos might not show any faces or expressions. These detail shots can create interest in the group of photos chosen to represent their story, and tell the story even more deeply than if all the photos were of their faces.

For each scene you are photographing, you might consider taking the “big picture” with lots of the surroundings, and all of the participants visible in the photo. This will provide context, and help your viewer understand the setting, and exactly what is going on. Then you might want to break it down a little further, showing a close up of one or two of the people, or a close up of their hands, or the activity. You could then break it down even further, and take detail shots of what is going on, and the objects that are part of your subject’s story.


As you break down these little details, you’ll enrich your story by showing emotions, interactions, and the things that are most important to your subject. Be careful not to get too sidetracked. If you start photographing anything and everything that is in the room, your story becomes muddied, and it won’t be clear what you are trying to portray. Have a clear vision of the story you are telling, and keep that focus as you shoot.

4 – Consider different perspectives


Be creative as you figure out how to best tell the story you are trying to portray. Perspective is a great way to add interest to your photos, and show a unique point of view. There are two different types of perspective to consider.

Your perspective

Where are you located when you are taking the photograph? Try shooting from above, or below. Try shooting from behind curtains, or stair railings. Sometimes having something in the foreground makes the viewer feel like they are really seeing into the heart of someone’s life, and seeing something they wouldn’t normally see. Move closer, move back, move around. Be creative.

Their perspective

How does your subject view this activity? What might the little girl be feeling? How could you portray that in a photograph? What does the mother see when she looks at her family? Can you capture her feelings and perspective? When you are creating lifestyle portraits, your vision will definitely be part of the process, but trying to capture your subject’s perspective can add a whole new dimension to your photographs.


One of the best things about lifestyle portraiture is that there really are no rules. This opens up so much more room for fun and creativity, and takes a lot of stress off of you as a photographer. Have fun with it, and get you and your camera out there to tell a really great story. I’d love to see your lifestyle photographs in the comments below!

People photography week

This week on dPS we’re featuring articles all about different kinds of people photography including portrait, event and travel photography. See all the previous ones below, and watch for more people photography articles over the next few days.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Melinda Smith
Melinda Smith

was born to be a teacher. She teaches violin lessons and fitness classes, as well as photography classes and mentoring. She lives on a mini farm in Eastern Utah with her camera, husband, kids, chickens, horses, bunnies, dogs, and cats. Visit her at Melinda Smith Photography.

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