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Creating a lifestyle portrait gives you the opportunity to tell the story of the portrait subject in a way that communicates intimate details in visual form. A lifestyle portrait places the subject in surroundings that fit the person.
Some lifestyle portrait subjects that I’ve seen have a business person in their office, a sports star on the practice field, a craftsman working their craft, or a parent at home playing with the kids. As you can see, a lifestyle portrait can describe a person’s real life, not simply how they look.
Lifestyle Portrait Photography Tips
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The techniques, gear, and methods for lifestyle portraits are pretty much the same kind of things I share as regular portrait photography tips.
At its simplest, portrait photography is composition, posing, lighting, and focus. Interweaved in this is using your photographic equipment properly, sometimes choosing the right gear is part of that.
Composition and Posing
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When engaging in lifestyle portraits, the rules of composition are important to use to create a sense of balance. Since you are incorporating scenic elements with the main portrait subject, using some of the most common rules of composition can make positioning the subject within their surroundings.
The Rule of Thirds and the Golden Ratio are two of the rules that tend to work best for making lifestyle portraits. Both of these portrait techniques work by putting the viewer at ease with the placement and spacing of the visual elements involved.
Posing goes hand in hand with composition in making the final image comfortable to look at. A choice that needs to be made in regards to posing is whether to have the portrait subject make eye contact with the camera or to present the scene as some sort of slice of life scene.
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As an example, a lawyer in an office can be posed in front of their bookshelf of law books, slightly off center, looking straight at the camera. Another pose could be the subject in front of that same bookshelf, but this time looking an open book in their hands, the subject’s head and shoulders on one point of the Rule of Thirds, and their hands and book on another.
Both of these poses and compositions will make a great lifestyle portrait of the main subject. Search for examples on some of the photo hosting sites. In addition to the term lifestyle portrait, also include in your search the words environmental portrait.
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Portrait Lighting Techniques
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Just like with the rules of composition, the same portrait lighting tips that are good for regular portraits are also usable for lifestyle portraits. A couple of techniques I like to employ for lifestyle portraits are Rembrandt lighting and loop lighting.
This is one of the cases where having the proper lighting gear for portraits can make the job easier. One of the newest lights I’ve been using for lifestyle portraits is the Hakutatz Pocket Size LED Light.
What makes this light so useful is that it’s battery powered, portable, can sync with iPhones for iPhoneography, and is very well corrected for color. Just because we are taking the pictures on location doesn’t mean we can’t control our portrait lighting.
Place a couple of these small LED lights on multi use mounts and you can set them wherever you need them for tha lighting technique you’re wanting to use. Since they are continuous lights, you can even leave your camera in auto exposure mode for ease of use.
Or use manual settings in combination with the Hakutatz multi power settings for creating the lighting ratio needed for the lighting technique you’ve chosen.
Focus and Lens Selection
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Among the more useful portrait photography tips are selecting fast lenses and short telephoto lenses to take advantage of selective focus. When engaging in lifestyle portraits, it’s often more beneficial to use wider lenses and smaller f-stops for deeper depth of field.
Incorporating the surroundings into the image is part of the process for telling the story of the subject. A normal lens such as the Nifty Fifty for full frame cameras is also an excellent option. This lens focal length makes great lifestyle portraits due to its natural appearing perspective.
A lens like this can do double duty for portrait work. Used at a middle distance and a small aperture, it’s perfect for lifestyle portraits. Move in a little closer and open the f-stop for employing selective focus for a regular style portrait.
Other Lifestyle Portrait Tips
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In addition to what is listed above, some other helpful tips are to use the RAW file recording option when you can in order to be able to pull out detail in some of the shadows of the scene of the lifestyle portrait. A second option for this is to use HDR photography in order to balance out the dynamic range of the scene.
Take advantage of good outdoor lighting such as what is found during Golden Hour to add interest to the portrait. A small LED light like the Hakutatz discussed above can ensure proper exposure in the fluctuating light conditions of Golden Hour.
Try out multiple light techniques, vary up your composition and posing, and employ various camera settings for beautiful and interesting lifestyle portraits.