Ep 50: Putting the “life” into lifestyle photography: How to take lifestyle images


These days, lifestyle images abound. They are becoming popular in the world of corporate photography, proliferate on blogs, are common in stock libraries and pervade the advertising industry.

But how can you take a great lifestyle shot without it looking contrived or cheesy? This is easier said than done.

Gina and Valerie discuss practical strategies that can transform your lifestyle shots, regardless of whether you are using real people or models.

#ginachallenge #lifestyle

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show notes


Cindy Lilly (USA)
Cindy took our advice on group shots and came up with this cool corporate shot below.

Cindy Lilly corporate group shot

Mike Hickman
Mike tried a variety of cropping techniques when he photographed marching band. Here are some shots of his daughter.Mike Hickman crop shot 1

Mike Hickman crop shot 2

Mike Hickman crop shot 3
Brian Everingham
Taken in the wild: early morning. Close up shot with 70-300 lens, blurs background beautifully. Young teenage male.

Brian Everingham crop shot bird

Bryan Turner
“Made it through my first photo shoot! It felt busier than I expected (my inexperience no doubt). I think I ended up not being as creative as I would have liked in order to be sure I could give them images they would enjoy.” This was shot with a 50mm, f/1.8 lens.

Bryan Turner family portrait photo

Phil Enn
“Took one look at the sky and raced back in for the camera and speedlight. Single speedlight off to camera left, low perspective for max sky. Processed with Gina’s East Brunswick Ink preset in Lightroom.”

Phil Enn portrait photo lightroom preset East Brunswick Ink photo

Isaac Purcell
Isaac shot at ss180 to capture the leaves and bumped his ISO to 400 & f2.8 on the 70-200 zoomed to 200. Post production: Lightroom
“I warmed up the wb & crushed the blacks to give it that vintage feel & changed the hue of the greens to give them that yellow Autumn look. Lastly I cut out that ugly sign in my final edit.”

Isaac Purcell photo couple kissing in the middle of the road

Photo Critique

Man Gur

Six portraits by Man Gur

Lifestyle photography

What is it and how does this genre differ from portrait photography?

Very popular amongst some portrait photographers

  • Food lifestyle
  • Lifestyle fashion
  • Architectural lifestyle
  • Used a lot in advertising
  • Shopping centres
  • Apartments
  • Beer/food commercials
  • Carona and food shots where meal is half eaten
  • Weddings
  • Magazines e.g. celebs in Hello, OK!, Vanity Fair

Gina has shot lifestyle for:

  • ANZ
  • Emirates
  • Jenny Craig
  • Shopping centres
  • Magazines
  • Apartments

What are the stand out qualities of a good lifestyle shot vs a bad one?


  • overexposed, stiff awkward looking models
  • obvious lighting/overlit
  • poor production values
  • poor location choice
  • badly composed
  • too perfect/slick looking


  • natural/unposed
  • natural looking lighting
  • great location
  • looks like a snapshot
  • may be partly out of focus or include some movement/sunflare/realness

What are the best ways to plan a lifestyle shoot?

Location, location, location

  • Not too cluttered
  • Easily recognisable/have clues about where you are
  • E.g. Xmas lifestyle with Xmas tree in background
  • Beach lifestyle with sky or sand
  • Shopping centre with lights out of focus
  • Family eating lunch for apartment shoot was actually shot in a food court that we added a few props into to make it look like someone’s home

Who is the talent?

Best people for lifestyle are people that are not aware of the camera or natural posers.

Do you need props?

Adding a few key props can help to sell the shot but try not to overdo it.

  • Christmas shoot: might have models holding gifts and some fairy lights in the background
  • Father and son fishing together: pier/water in the background, fishing rod, tackle box
  • Group of people enjoying lunch: meals on the table, drinks
  • Surfer: might be holding a surfboard


Wardrobe/hair and makeup

  • People should look well groomed but not overly made up and perfect. Not overly styled and too matchy matchy.
  • Avoid stripes patterns as this limits background choices because they will clash.
  • Stick to neutral tones and block colours and classic styles so your images don’t date too quickly.
  • The type of clothes can also hint at high end vs casual


  • High end statement pieces like watches and bags for high end looks
  • Jeans/t-shirts for a more casual look
  • Briefcase, iPad or laptop for a business look.


Lighting should be understated and blend in. If you can easily tell the shot is lit, you’ve probably gone too far.

I often shoot daylight with a bit of fill light from a reflector or softbox and try and match lighting
style to the lighting on the day.

Josh Heuston model daylight lifestyle photo

Josh Heuston

Formal Red lifestyle photo black and while Melbourne laneway

Formal Red

Lifestyle photography for Ecove resort daylight cafe front seat

Lifestyle photography for Ecove Resort

Lifestyle image for Melbourne Apartments
Lifestyle image for Melbourne Apartments


Bring your best mood to the shoot. Your model will mirror your mood so do everything you can to bring your best self to the shoot. It’s very hard to have an energetic shoot if you are feeling flat, lethargic or on auto pilot.

Give people actions and ask them to repeat them over and over. Nothing too complicated and one thing at a time. If you’ve every tried rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time you know how difficult this can be.

Look for the in between moments when people start to naturally engage or laugh off camera

Let people settle into a pose or set up and interpret it in their own way.

Shoot vertical and horizontal.

Give eye lines and poses as starting points and allow everyone to relax into each shot.

#ginachallenge #lifestyle


Get your copy of Gina’s guide “The Shot” FREE when you sign up to her newsletter. You’ll also receive FREE Lightroom presets every month.

How to direct and pose like a pro


Want Gina Milicia as your mentor?

About Gina

About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

instagram Instagram