Lifestyle Photography: A New Context for Portrait Photography

This is a guest contribution by Georgia McCabe: Georgia spent 30 years as a Sr. Executive in the computer and photo industry at IBM, Eastman Kodak and Fujifilm. As a driving force in conceiving and executing breakthrough approaches to the photo printing, sharing and delivery market place, she literally “changed the rules” for a category undergoing massive technological change and re-invention. She is a certified social media strategist, and is a market and branding consultant helping businesses utilize the tools and power of social networking. Visit Georgia’s blogSurvival in the Digital Jungle.

lifestyle photography

Images courtesy Shima Studios

Lifestyle photography is an exciting new trend in portraiture that brings the photographer into the world of her subject.  While this is a radical departure from traditional portrait photography, and may resemble more of the journalistic shots that magazine photographers usually take, there are some definite benefits to choosing this style of photography to build your portraiture business.  Let’s explore three of the key benefits of lifestyle photography to photographers and clients.

No More Posing, No Studio

Images courtesy Shima Studios

Clients engaged in a lifestyle photography session don’t have to maintain rigid poses, or go through tiring shoots.   This style of photography takes advantage of the patterns and habits occurring naturally in an environment.  Often the photographer doesn’t even talk to the clients and tries to fade into the background as they capture what ‘real life’ is like.  One of the beautiful aspects of lifestyle photography is the far different perspective that they offer than the ‘sit and click’ sessions.  When this method is used, the photographer has the ability to capture a look, an expression, a side of their subjects that would not appear in a studio session.  In many ways, this method of photography opens up a much broader perspective on the clients and their personalities.  Just what we as photographers love to capture.

Authentic Historical Documentation

Images courtesy Shima Studios

While studio portraiture has always been seen as a method of documenting individuals through history, lifestyle photography takes the ‘documentary’ aspect of portraits in a different direction.  Rather than have the subject dressed differently than they normally would, or posed as they would not normally sit or stand, this method takes advantage of the context of the photo as well.  What better way to reveal the reality of lived experience than through a reflection of the reality of daily life?  Imagine lifestyle photos reviewed many years in the future, and the stories that may be told about the precious objects, places and people that appear in the background of a photograph.  Sometimes images of events like a poker game or campfire become powerful statements of community when documented for a family by a professional photographer.

Creation of Stock Photography

Images courtesy Shima Studios

Images courtesy Shima Studios

If you can get a release from your subjects (possibly for a discount on their session) lifestyle photography can help to create a large bank of stock photography that you can release to any number of stock sites.  This can create increased revenue for your studio, and become a method of advertising your lifestyle photography business.   Stock sites are always looking for professional photos of real people that highlight certain themes.  In fact, if you do some research before your shoot, these themes may help you in your initial capture of images during the shoot.

Lifestyle photography can be a great way to offer your clients something they may not expect from a ‘traditional’ studio.  With the focus on reality TV in the past several years, I think there is a subconscious enjoyment clients see in having a photographer capturing their life that can make this style of shooting an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.  If nothing else, we seem to have grown accustomed to the idea of being documented during our everyday lives, and that’s what we need as photographers to get our foot in the door for a lifestyle shoot!

Images courtesy Shima Studios


  1. WOW, great blog post. Perfectly stated! I am a Lifestyle photographer and love it!

  2. Inge says: - reply

    Right. Lifestyle photography = “we don’t know how to pose you or light you, so we’ll capture you doing whatever, and call it ‘Lifestyle'” Pure bunkum! Now that everybody with a camera thinks they’re ‘pros’ this is what you get. And the customers think this is what ‘professional photography’ is because ‘everybody is doing it’. Wrong! These are snapshots. Period.

  3. Georgia McCabe says: - reply

    Of course, any change in consumer habits and expectations can often be controversial. All successful professional photographers have an “eye” for composition and the uncanny ability to manipulate the subject, the lighting and adjacent physical objects to produce that ideal “instant in time!” Portraits focus on the subject and juxtapose often unrelated objects or settings. Lifestyle photography captures the subject immersed in their individual environment…often involved in common everyday events. Subtract the professional eye and the ability to manipulate light and perspective…and you have snapshots!

    Take a picture of mom making dinner. Now, bring in a professional, get the right ingredients in the foreground, clean the counter a little, turn off that light, turn on this one, get the right lens, adjust the plane of focus, use a little bounce flash…you now have a family heirloom! The first picture is a snapshot…the second is lifestyle photography.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


H&H Color Lab