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Lifestyle Photography 101: How To Capture Your Products in Their Natural Environment

lifestyle photography on left and right is a t-shirt, a camera, and a pair of pants in a column

Photos are one of the most important elements of your online store. Half of online shoppers use images to decide what to buy online.

Lifestyle photography shows your products being used in an artistic manner by your target market in their natural state. Also referred to as candid shots, this style of ecommerce photography helps online shoppers see your products used in a model’s day to day life.

And, whatever you can do to shorten the customer journey from browse to purchase can only work in your favor, as INK + PORCELAIN’s founder Cindy Ngo says, “It makes it easier for customers to visualize the item in their home to purchase and how to style the item which makes it my favorite reason to do lifestyle shots!”

If you don’t have the money to hire a professional photographer, this guide shares how to take lifestyle photos of your products on a budget.

1. Plan your lifestyle photoshoot

Before arranging your lifestyle photography session, create a shot list. This is an important part of any product photography workflow. When you arrive on set, you’ll have a document that details the products you’re photographing, the ideal shot, and who is involved.

While you’re doing this, build a call sheet so everyone involved in the lifestyle shoot—including models, photographers, and assistants—know what they’re doing on the day.

2. Find models

Lifestyle photography works best when a person interacts with your products in the place they’d naturally be used.

Find models that best reflect your target market. If you sell baby products, for example, find a family with young children. If you sell women’s supplements that ease symptoms of the menopause, find a middle-aged woman to model.

Get your friends and family involved if you’re on a budget. Or, if you have a large customer base, get them involved by inviting them to model. You could run a giveaway and design an entire marketing campaign around the shoot. Followers who tag a friend in your Instagram post get the chance of modeling your latest collection.

3. Choose a location

The aim of a lifestyle photo is to show how your product is used in everyday life. Choose a photoshoot location that reflects this. If you’re photographing baby diapers, for example, find a local nursery or a family members’ bathroom.

Think about fun activities and real life events that relate to your products’ use case. Options include:

  • Outdoor spaces like local parks
  • A studio (some can be set-up to look like a home)
  • City centers

Shortlist multiple locations for your lifestyle photoshoot. It’s better to have more choice when editing than a single session you’re unhappy with. It also provides greater variety for other platforms.

Woman in field, her hands on hair, wrists wearing thin bracelets of silver, gold, and pearl chains.

Lucy Nash uses lifestyle photography to sell jewelry through its online store.

4. Gather your equipment

You don’t need a fancy DSLR camera to take photos for your online business. Modern smartphones have high-quality cameras you can use to snap lifestyle images of your products without investing thousands in a fancy one.

However, there is some extra equipment you might need to produce stunning visuals. That includes:

  • Ring lights
  • Clip-on lenses
  • Tripods
  • Diffusers

5. Take the pictures

Head to your location with models and products in tow. Snap lifestyle photos your potential customers will engage with using these DIY lifestyle photography tips:

  • Think about lighting. Natural light works best when photographing products. Face in the direction of sunlight; it gives the truest reflection of what your products look like in the flesh.
  • Take more photos than you’ll need. Use burst mode and experiment with different angles, backgrounds, and poses. You’ll have greater choice over the lifestyle images published on your online store.
  • Choose your shoot time carefully. It’s best to shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun hits objects under a smaller angle.
  • Help your models feel comfortable. Candid photos look best when the model acts naturally. Get your models camera-ready and encourage them to stay fluid throughout their posing.
  • Put the subject in focus. Blur out the background to prevent viewers from becoming distracted. Tap your phone screen to define the focal point of your image.

Woman, near a beach, wearing a beige satin top and a crescent moon and star necklace.

Alexis Jae uses lifestyle photos on its jewelry product pages.

6. Edit your lifestyle photos

The photos you snap on location won’t be publishable just yet.

Choose a free photo editing tool like Fotor to make your photos look better. Play around with elements like lighting, sharpness, contrast, and filters. Crop your images to have a mix of vertical and horizontal photos; you’ll need these when promoting your products across different devices and platforms

Most importantly, use the same consistent editing style across all images. If your brand guidelines are dark and grungy, it’d be confusing for customers to see bright and airy lifestyle photos featuring your products.

Continue reading: 40+ Tools and Resources For Creating Beautiful DIY Product Photography

7. Add photos to your online store

Once you’ve edited your lifestyle shots, choose the best images and upload them to your ecommerce website to show your products in action.

Include a minimum of three images per product. Optimize each photo by:

  • Compressing the images to improve load speed
  • Writing descriptive alt text to improve accessibility
  • Choosing the correct file format

Man sitting in the back of a van wearing a yellow hat and sweater with a coffee logo on the back.

Back Road Coffee uploads lifestyle shots to product pages on its ecommerce website.

8. Use the photos on social media

Don’t upload all of the edited lifestyle shots to your online store. Lifestyle photography works great on social media, where users want to see real-life events from people they follow—brands included.

Save some shots to post on social media and give loyal customers a steady stream of fresh content. Experiment with sharing lifestyle shots in different formats, such as:

Woman with curly hair wearing a beanie hat, wool sweater, and backpack;looking at a mountain lake.

Adventurist Backpack Co. shares lifestyle photos to its Instagram page.

Create stunning lifestyle photos for your ecommerce store

It is possible to capture your own lifestyle photos. Use the techniques we’ve shared here, grab your smartphone, and start shooting lifestyle images that showcase your products in their natural environment.

If you get stuck, search for local professional lifestyle photographers. It’s a quick (but sometimes expensive) solution if you don’t have the time or patience to take your own photos.

Lifestyle photography FAQ

What is considered a lifestyle photo?

Lifestyle photography is a type of photography that captures real-life events and scenarios. In an ecommerce context, entrepreneurs shoot lifestyle photos to show online shoppers what their products look like in their natural environment.

What is the difference between portrait and lifestyle photography?

A lifestyle photo shows a product being used in its natural state. Portrait photography, on the other hand, is a close up image of a person’s face. It rarely includes products.

What are the characteristics of lifestyle portraits?

  • Relaxed and natural
  • Showcase everyday situations In a recognizable location
  • Showcases how your product is used

How do you do a lifestyle photoshoot?

  1. Create a shot list.
  2. Build a call sheet.
  3. Find models.
  4. Choose a location.
  5. Gather your photo equipment.
  6. Take photos.
  7. Edit your lifestyle images.
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