Lifestyle photography is a genre that has been gaining in popularity in recent years. A far cry from traditional posed portraits, lifestyle photography set out to break the rules. But what is lifestyle photography?

This guide will explain the lifestyle photography definition, recommend the gear that’s best for a lifestyle photoshoot, and give you some tips to capture your best lifestyle photography.


What is lifestyle photography?

Lifestyle photography can be defined as a style of portrait photography that seeks to portray real events artistically.

Unlike documentary photography, which captures real events as they happen, lifestyle photography is part-planned and part-candid. In other words, a lot of effort goes into making lifestyle photographs look completely effortless.

lifestyle photography
Photo by Agung Pandit Wiguna from Pexels

What is the best camera for lifestyle photography?

You could use any camera to take a lifestyle photo, but a DSLR or mirrorless camera that will allow you to dial in your exposure settings like shutter speed, ISO, and aperture and one that will allow you to use a quality lens will give you the best results.


What is the best lens for lifestyle photography?

There’s no single lens that will be a perfect fit for every lifestyle photographer. Many times, photographers will carry several lenses and swap them out depending on the situation.

Here are some suggested lenses and when you might use them:

  • Wide Angle (24mm or 35mm): this is a great focal length for situations when you want to show a family and their environment, whether it be inside their living room or walking along a beach. It is not a good lens for headshots because of the distortion it creates.
  • 50mm: a 50mm lens is a staple in any photographer’s bag for good reason. The ‘nifty fifty’ is a great lens for beginners because it’s a perfect combination of value, convenience, and quality with its compact size, low price, and wide aperture. 
  • 85mm: This is a great lens for portraits, but the focal length is usually too long for anything inside. Use it outdoors when you want to take detailed shots from far away.
  • Telephoto (100mm+): As with the 85mm, telephoto lenses are usually too long to use inside, but they can be useful outdoors when you want to give your subjects space to be themselves.

A great all-around zoom lens for lifestyle photography would be a 24-70mm f/2.8. With it, you’ll have the benefit of the wide end to capture your subject in the environment and can use the long end of the lens for details, portraits, and close-up shots.

This is a very popular lens that is available to fit nearly every brand of camera on the market.

lifestyle photography
Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

Lifestyle photography tips:

As we’ve mentioned, lifestyle photography is meant to create the appearance of real-life events even though the photos are very much planned.

So how do you learn to shoot lifestyle photography? Here are some tips to get you started:

Be Authentic. Since the goal of lifestyle photography is to look like real-life, it’s important that your images are as authentic as they can be.

That means capturing photos that reflect your subjects’ real lives. Don’t add props or artificial lighting. Let them wear their own clothes. Encourage them to be themselves and do things they would normally do.

Make a Plan. Yes, the idea is to capture spontaneous moments — but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan your shoot ahead of time! First, learn about your subjects. What do they like to do? Are there activities they enjoy doing together? What are they passionate about?

Next, plan where you’ll have your photoshoot. Will it be in their home? In a park? Be prepared for the unique lighting conditions that the setting will present and what gear you’ll need.

Build a Rapport Beforehand. Most people find it difficult to completely relax with a camera in front of them — especially when that person is a stranger!

Do what you can to break the ice, especially if children are involved, so that everyone is comfortable and can be themselves.

Choose Locations from Everyday Life. This goes back to our tip about being authentic and will also help your clients feel most comfortable. Photograph them in places from their everyday lives — their home, a park they visit regularly, or their favorite ice cream shop.

lifestyle photography
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Direct, But Don’t Pose. The goal, again, is to get natural photographs, not posed portraits. So don’t pose your subjects. In other words, tell them what to do instead of how to do it. Don’t be afraid to change the activity if the current one isn’t working.

It’s All About the Details. Details provide important context and help tell your subjects’ story. So remember to take close up shots of details that are uniquely theirs, whether it’s a child’s hands, a dog sleeping by the fireplace, or a worn-out pair of work boots by the door.

Keep it Fun. This is especially important if you’re working with kids. Try to schedule your shoot during a time when they’re not hungry or tired and everyone will be more agreeable. Find out their likes and dislikes and try to keep them engaged by incorporating games into the shoot.

Tell a Story. Your client chose lifestyle photography because they didn’t just want pretty pictures of their family. They wanted to capture their story. Think about how each of the images you capture tells their story from one photo to the next.

lifestyle photography
Photo by Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash

Always Be Ready. No matter how much planning you do, the shots you want to get will happen at a moment’s notice, so always have your camera in hand. Try to anticipate what will happen and be ready for it.


Final Thoughts

Lifestyle photography is a style of photography that has found its place, tucked somewhere between documentary photography and portrait photography.

An artistic way of portraying real-life events, successful lifestyle portraits are uniquely authentic and unscripted, but at the same time meticulously prepared for and planned.