- What Is Lifestyle Portrait Photography?
- Lifestyle Portrait Photography Gear Choices
- Photography Settings for Lifestyle Portraits
- Lighting Configurations for Lifestyle Portrait Photography
- Lifestyle Portrait Post-Processing
- Recommended Photography Gear
- Essential Camera Accessories
- Portrait and Landscape Photography: Similarities and Differences
- Headshot Photography Tips
- Beginner Photography Tutorial: Take Sharp Photos in Low Light
- Quick Tips for Great Self-Portraits
- Outdoor Portrait Tips
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Lifestyle portrait photography is a wonderful way to provide interesting and very personalized images for ourselves, our friends and family, and our clients. Lifestyle portrait photography can be done with simple techniques and basic equipment.
The methods and techniques used for lifestyle portrait photography include lighting configurations, lens choices, exposure and focus techniques, and both advanced and basic post-processing workflows. Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents:
What Is Lifestyle Portrait Photography?
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When we say lifestyle portrait photography, what does that mean? In most classic portrait photography, we primarily focus on posing and composition for a head and shoulders image, maybe a little closer or a little wider than that, and isolating the subject from the background.
In lifestyle portrait photography, we are concerned with telling a story or providing a visual description of the subject. This could include background and foreground elements, using deeper depth of field focus techniques, and perhaps lighting for mood. Post-processing ideas may consist of bracket and merge exposure and decreasing or increasing contrast levels.
The general idea behind lifestyle portrait photography is proving clues about who the person is, not merely what they look like. Is the person a dog lover? What could show that? Are they an artist? Do they come from a large family? What are their passions? A lifestyle portrait, also sometimes called an environmental portrait, can give a viewer a clear picture of the answers to these questions and many more.
Lifestyle Portrait Photography Gear Choices
Since lifestyle portrait photography often shows more of a view than a fairly tightly cropped pose, lenses of wider focal lengths than the standard portrait lens short telephoto are an obvious choice, from normal for the format to wide angle.
Ultra-fast lens apertures aren’t as important for lifestyle portraits because of usually stopping down the lens a bit for deeper depth of focus. A high-quality zoom lens is helpful for an active shooting style, something in the normal range for kit lenses, but perhaps a replacement for the kit lens with better performance, wider apertures, and a more rugged build.
Lighting configurations and longer than handheld shutter speed times may necessitate camera and light supports such as tripods, stands, or alternative mounts. Among the most useful tripod alternatives that can hold either a light or a camera is the OctoPad Camera Mount.
OctoPad may be the best item in our gear kit for lifestyle portrait photography outside our favorite camera and the right lens. It’s a weighted disk made of heavy-duty material with a ball head on top and a non-slip pad on the bottom. It can hold a portable LED light, flash unit, or camera.
They can sit on virtually any type of surface, even if the surface is angled up to 45 degrees. Our lifestyle portrait photography session often happens on location instead of in a controlled studio environment, so placement versatility is a huge boon. Using three Octopads, one with our camera and two with portable LED lights, is a great traveling setup for lifestyle portrait photography.
Photography Settings for Lifestyle Portraits
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What kind of camera, lens, and flash or lighting settings should we use for lifestyle portrait photography? Obviously, there will be a lot of variables involved here, but we can provide some basic guidance.
Lens choice will depend on the distance to the subject and how much besides the person you want in the image. Generally, we move away from the standard short telephoto “portrait lens” in favor of wider optics. A normal lens for our format or a moderate wide-angle works well in many instances.
For Full Frame format, lenses like the Nifty Fifty, a 35mm semi-wide lens, or a 24 or 28mm wide angle lens. A high-quality zoom lens that covers those focal lengths is valuable and versatile. I don’t like recommending the kit lens zooms for this, even if they cover those focal lengths, primarily because the maximum aperture is so slow, especially at the telephoto end of their range. But a normal range zoom lens such as a 24-85mm or 28-105mm works well.
Moderate lens apertures produce a fair amount of depth of field at medium distances. Even though we’re stopping down the lens a bit, having a decently wide aperture assists us in focus determination and gives us more options, such as getting a selective focus head and shoulders portrait along with the lifestyle portrait we’re working on.
So, a medium distance also fits in because we are attempting to capture more in the image than just the person. Without lights, a moderate aperture in a setting for a lifestyle portrait will likely result in a slower shutter speed, so that camera mount comes in handy.
If we try any bracket and merge HDR photography, we also need a solid spot for our camera to eliminate movement. If we opt for HDR imaging or longer exposures, we need to communicate to our lifestyle portrait photography subjects the need to stay still during the exposures.
Lighting Configurations for Lifestyle Portrait Photography
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We may be on site for our lifestyle portrait photography sessions, so it may seem that setting up a lighting configuration might be difficult. Still, with portable LED lights, battery-powered camera flash units, portable camera mounts, and light stands, we can light up things as easily as we can in a controlled environment like our own studio.
Many of the same lighting configurations and lighting ratios used in regular portrait photography will work just as well in many lifestyle portrait photography situations. Using two lights in a 3:1 lighting ratio works the same as in a standard portrait. Experiment with various power settings and how many lights or flash units to use. What out for reflections from items in the image view, unless you want them, of course.
Lifestyle Portrait Post-Processing
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Post-processing for lifestyle portrait photography is how you can correct for different light color temperatures, opening up or blocking up shadows and highlights, perspective correction, and any bracket and merge HDR photography.
As with all serious photography, post-processing is best used when “tweaking” a great image into a superb one as opposed to attempting to “save” a substandard image file. Enhancement and slight corrections lead to a very natural final image.
That’s most likely what we expect when engaging in lifestyle portrait photography, a natural image, comfortable people, and a little story being told about the subject by what we have captured.
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