Lifestyle content is the bread and butter for many of our influencers, and with good reason. It’s a great opportunity to connect with followers by giving them a glimpse into a real life that they can relate to. Lifestyle photos that are taken candidly and “just because” play a huge role in the personal relationship that influencers create with their audiences.
Last week, the TapInfluence team created a fun lifestyle campaign for Express, shot by our very own Dustin Bradford—freelance photojournalist, sports photographer, and TapInfluence Controller extraordinaire. Today, I sat down with Dustin to learn some pro tips for shooting lifestyle photos that live up to their name. Here’s what he had to say.
Don’t Overthink the Backdrop
When composing a lifestyle shot, it’s tempting to overdo it with your background—maybe spending an hour searching for a fountain, mural, or extravagant garden to set your scene. Dustin says it’s best to resist that temptation. “When I shoot people for portraits, weddings, or sports, I am always looking for a clean background with minimal distractions” he said. “A lot of times, people I shoot with will try to find things to place in the background of their photo—but I think big areas of color are better than any ‘prop’ or ‘item’ you can find. Think ‘clean’ with composition; only let things into your frame that are supposed to be there.”
Use Light Deliberately
When shooting, be conscious of the time of day. Photo editing tools have come a long way, but they can’t manufacture good natural light. Dustin has a few suggestions to help. “If it happens to be the “magic hour” (early morning or late afternoon), by all means use the direct sun or go for backlighting or a silhouette, and find and use contrast” he says. “If not, look for soft, indirect light. Areas of bright shade are great on sunny days, but bright overcast days are even better. High noon is a photographer’s worst nightmare. You might as well put your camera down and go get a sandwich.”
Skip the Props
“Again, I prefer ‘clean’ shots, so I’d keep props to a minimum” Dustin said. “Focus on the subject of your shot and minimize distracting elements. When I shoot inside, I remove almost everything from counter tops, coffee tables, etc. In my opinion, stacks of magazines, ornamental bowls, flower vases, plants, and such really clutter up a picture. Make sure you focus on what your shooting.”
Keep it Natural with your “Models”
This is an area that many photographers struggle with, but again, Dustin says it’s best not to overthink it. “I wish I had more direct advice,” he said, “But, the best I have is try to get them as comfortable as possible, and to avoid posing. When I shoot candid lifestyle scenes—a wedding, for instance—the worst thing that can happen is for people to notice me shooting and change what they are doing. Usually, I’m purposely taking the picture the way it is and they just spoiled it for me by freezing up or trying to ‘stay out of my way’. As a photographer, it’s all about setting a comfortable environment for the model, encouraging them to do what you want but not ordering them around, and to try to get them to completely loosen up. I put my camera down a lot and spend time trying to keep folks loose and comfortable by talking or joking around. Then, when their guard is down, I raise the camera up and the magic can happen.”
“I started using Adobe’s Lightroom and only RAW files in 2013 and developed a workflow around that, and have never been happier to edit hundreds of photos in one sitting.” On the topic of editing, Dustin’s advice is to reign it in. “I don’t like to over-process pictures” he explained. “I like to preserve details in the shadows, but, I prefer any blackness in the photo to be purely black. I’ll play with sliders in Lightroom and can get the look I like in seconds, and then apply the same settings to entire groups of photos at once.” Remember: lifestyle shots should resemble, well, life. Not some idealized version of it.
We hope this gives you some things to think about the next time you step out to snap some lifestyle shots. Have fun with it! Your audience will thank you.