Lifestyle Photography Tips
Whether you’re capturing downtime after a day fishing the flats of the Bahamas , or snapping pictures of memorable moments with your new friends on an Alaskan adventure cruise , lifestyle photography forever preserves the pieces of the story which may otherwise be forgotten. With a little practice and knowledge of your camera, your lifestyle photographs will hold up to, or even outshine your action photos from your next adventure trip.
As mentioned in Fish Photography Tips, most travelers today have a variety of cameras to choose from, each with their pros and cons. And where one camera may excel for action photography on the water, another may have greater benefits for lifestyle photography.
The go-to camera for modern lifestyle photography, smartphone cameras are improving every year. Today most smartphones can take a high-resolution image with rich colors, and some even offer improved aperture options for impressive depth of field portraits. Learn how to optimize your smartphone camera for the best possible images in every situation and you’ll have a powerful lifestyle photography tool with you wherever you go. Smartphone cameras also tend to offer wide focal lengths, which is convenient for indoor, portrait, and landscape images — the most common lifestyle photography situations.
Smartphone Camera Tip: If you have limited storage on your smartphone, back up your images and video to the cloud and then clear them off of your phone storage before each trip. This will help you avoid the awkward dilemma of deciding which photos to throw away while in the field.
Like smartphones, action cameras are extremely convenient. With ever-improving sensors, action cameras perform well even in low light. However, most have limited aperture, so getting a sharp focus, narrow depth of field, and nice bokeh (the soft-focus area behind a subject) may be difficult or completely out of the question.
Point and Shoot Cameras
Providing a wide range of settings, focal lengths and big sensors for low light, point and shoots cameras provide incredible versatility in a small package. Many professionals may carry these little powerhouses as backup cameras but often find themselves reaching for them more often than their big DSLRs. If you feel comfortable shooting all of your images on a point and shoot, and want to leave the weighty DSLR at home, go right ahead.
DSLRs and Mirrorless Cameras
With big sensors for great low light photography, interchangeable lenses for the perfect zoom and depth of field, and big batteries and storage for endless shooting, it’s hard to beat a DSLR in any lifestyle photography situation.
Lens Selection Tip: In most lifestyle photography situations, you’ll want a big open aperture of f/1.4 or f/1.8 for sharp images that draw the eye directly to the subject. These f-stops are most widely available in fixed length prime lenses. If you can only choose one prime lens to travel with, figure out which focal length works best for your style of photography. There are seemingly endless debates over the best "walkaround lens" focal length — 28mm vs. 32mm vs. 50mm. If you can’t pack them all, try them all first and decide which you like best. And if you have room for a zoom lens, an f/2.8 24mm-70mm provides 99% of the versatility needed for lifestyle photography.
While versatile, DSLRs are quite big and noticeable, so it may be difficult to capture your subject in truly candid situations. The answer to making your lifestyle photography subjects more comfortable around the camera?
Shoot Shoot Shoot
Whatever camera you choose as your primary shooter, have it ready at all times and shoot frequently. Often the best lifestyle photographs capture unique moments, where the light just happens to illuminate the subject perfectly, or the subject’s expression tells the story. Have your camera ready at all times, and take more photos than you think you want. Not only will constant shooting help you capture unique moments, but it will also help your adventure partners act more naturally around the camera. Ever wonder how documentary subjects are able to ignore cameras? It’s because the filmers are always around. Keep shooting and your subjects will forget the camera is even there.
Work with Light
Photography is all about the use of light, and the best lifestyle photographers are masters of using light to their advantage. In the studio photographers have endless tools to help them control light, but in the field you may have to position yourself (vs. positioning the subject), or wait for a cloud to filter some sunlight, to get the perfect light on your subject.
Composition Tells the Story
The bottom line in lifestyle photography is the composition of your photograph. The light and exposure can be off and a well composed image can still shine through. As you’re framing your photography pay attention not only to the subject, but what else may be happening in the photograph all the way to the edges of the frame. If you’re constantly shooting, alternate between landscape and portrait orientation to see if one captures the story better than the other. Don’t be afraid to play with the camera level, too — get low to make your subject more imposing, or get to a higher vantage point to make your subject more equal to its surroundings.
Wherever your adventure travel takes you, knowledge of your camera and light, along with continuous shooting will help capture memorable moments that will wow your family and friends. Have fun, keep your camera ready, and fill up your memory cards.