You can have fantastic products, but if you don’t show how your products will benefit your customers, how will you convert leads into sales? Your products can be introduced to your customers more effectively with lifestyle photography. Best of all, it doesn't need to cost a fortune.
Learn more about lifestyle product photography and how it can boost your brand's shop listings, website, and social media presence.
What is lifestyle product photography?
Lifestyle product photography shows products for sale in the context of the environments in which they’re intended to be used. It makes products more relatable and helps shoppers envision how they’d use the items in their own lives.
Whenever consumers shop for new products online, they learn more about them through text and photos. Written descriptions are great for explaining every little detail—what the product is, how to use it, top features, size, and available colors or materials.
Lifestyle photography, on the other hand, puts the product in the context of everyday consumers. Using the right location, props, and often models, lifestyle photography helps buyers envision what it’s like to own and use the product—as well as how the product might improve their life or how they might feel after purchasing it.
For example, if you sell computer accessories, buyers want to see what the keyboard or mouse pad may look like on a typical desk. If you sell shoes, buyers want to picture how they might style their outfit or use the shoes on appropriate surfaces—trails for hiking shoes or the dance floor in high heels, for example..
Lifestyle photography takes the guesswork out and shows a lifestyle the brand promotes—often aspirational but not entirely out of reach. After all, the goal is to grab attention and encourage shoppers to hit “add to cart.”
Healthcare product provider Carstens supplements its wall-mounted workstation product photos with lifestyle ones. The product shots on a white background are great for inspecting the product. But the lifestyle shot of a nurse attending to a young patient brings context to the company’s products.
Prospective buyers can visualize the product as a valuable addition to their healthcare facility when they see the nurse's positive interaction with her patient. It also shows Carstens customers that the brand knows patient care and support are pillars of the healthcare industry.
A recent survey found that 51% of consumers believe their relationships with brands start the moment they feel understood by those brands. Lifestyle photos can kickstart that connection, demonstrating you understand consumers’ pain points and how your products can solve them.
What makes lifestyle photos successful is the photography team’s ability to create themes people can relate to. It goes beyond creating a photo that looks good on a website. It can be the start of a positive relationship if customers feel like the brand understands what they need and desire.
Lifestyle vs. product photography
Lifestyle images and product photography both feature products, but the styling and purpose of photos differ. Product photos show your customers exactly what they’re buying, providing views from different angles, with and without packaging.
As a health and beauty brand, you could show a facial cream’s color or texture and the jar it comes in. If you sell lipsticks, you can show different color swatches to help consumers compare them. Some product photos also display what’s included in the purchase, such as any extra accessories, cleaning or care products, or other complementary items.
Ecommerce product photos generally have a white or light gray background—ideal for browsing, hero shots, and third-party marketplace selling. Some brands use colorful backgrounds, props, or product groups to add creativity. Most product shots are high quality and high enough resolution to allow consumers to examine the product from every angle. Some products even have a 360-degree spin.
Lifestyle photos, on the other hand, focus less on product information. The goal of lifestyle photography is to show where and how consumers are likely to use the product, along with the intended results.
Home goods and gifts merchant MOXON London lists a diary for sale on its website. The product page features a lifestyle shot and a white background product photo side-by-side. The left image shows a young professional flipping through a diary—a familiar moment for many at the start of every workday.
The white background product photo on the right shows the layout of each diary spread. A combination of product and lifestyle photos provides consumers with practical information and aspirational lifestyle.
Another example is lifestyle and wellness brand Paris Laundry, which uses both types of photography for its online store. The first photo for the brand’s nourishing facial oil shop listing is a straightforward ecommerce-style product shot with a white background. It shows the packaging and the glass bottle.
Following that, you can see a more creative product shot that still features the same glass bottle with added oil drops and a vibrant grapefruit.
Paris Laundry also uses a group photo of its skincare products. This photo highlights other products by the same brand and may help upsell other complimentary items.
The brand has chosen a female model with dewy skin and minimal makeup for the facial oil’s lifestyle photos. With a smile, she’s holding the glass bottle, ready to use the oil. The styling of the photo mirrors the product’s signature colors of white and gold.
With the claims of rejuvenating skin and minimizing signs of aging, the facial oil’s target audience is likely reflected in the model’s appearance: women buyers who want to look after their skin using luxury skincare with long-lasting benefits.
The importance of lifestyle product photography
Lifestyle product photography brings a new level of intimacy and transparency to browsing products. It can also make the difference between opting in or out of a purchase. Or help decide on keeping the product or sending it back for a refund.
To put it into perspective, a recent study found 37% of shoppers returned their purchases because of unmet expectations. Another 29% felt unhappy the product looked different in person than online. Accurately representing your products through photography is critical to your bottom line.
Lifestyle photos can also answer questions buyers may have. For example, you can show where best to use the product, like at home, in an office or business environment, or outdoors. You can also show the scale of the product. Plus you can repurpose your lifestyle shots for other uses—social media, digital ads, press releases, packaging inserts, brochures, and more.
You can commission two types of lifestyle photos: composites with existing stock photos and your product or photoshoots put together from scratch by photographers, studios, or agencies.
Lifestyle photography composites involve Photoshopping a product image(s) into another image that features context for your photo setting. This means you don’t need to worry about props or models on set, and you can source backgrounds and context images from stock sites.
A good composite will look natural, so much so you can’t tell it from an actual photograph. To get a natural result, photographers and editors will add elements like natural shadows and make sure the product doesn’t have sharp cut out edges. For example, we created the lifestyle composite below with a stock photo of the kitchen for the background and added the product photo we shot for our client in the foreground. Without knowing, you'd likely think it’s a real photograph.
Some of the benefits of using lifestyle composites instead of organizing a photoshoot include:
- Save on model fees. Professional model fees range from $300 to $3000 per day. Plus, photoshoots with models often include hiring a professional hair stylist, makeup artist, and stylist. You also need to add time spent on casting the right talent
- Avoid hassle with photoshoot locations. Shooting on location at a private residence usually requires a property release and can cost between $400–$2000 for the day. With a full-on lifestyle shot, you’d also likely need props, a set, and a stylist. The photographer may also require special equipment and an assistant. And if the location has complicated lighting, more advanced retouching may be required.Not to mention the food for cast and crew is an often-overlooked expense.
- Reduce costs overall. A full day of professional-level lifestyle photography can result in around 5–10 final looks in a day, can involve between 5–6 different parties, and cost $2000–$10,000. The budget for composites pale in comparison.
2. Products in-use
Lifestyle photoshoots organized from scratch show products in use. These photos are taken on location in the original scene they depict. Unlike composites, lifestyle photos aren’t edited onto new backgrounds. Instead, it’s all shot together at once.
For example, baby and children clothing brand Monica + Andy uses lifestyle photos, both with and without models. The first photo shows a set of play chairs for toddlers. The background looks like an authentic children’s room, although the image might have been shot in a studio. The leftover fruit on the table implies children have just been there. The second photo shows two content toddlers sitting in chairs and playing at the table. The model outfits are carefully coordinated, as are all the props in the photo.
To execute a photoshoot like this, it’s essential to hire an experienced lifestyle photographer—even though it comes at a high price.
Lifestyle photography tips
If you want to hire a photographer for lifestyle photography, follow our tips to make the most of your photoshoot. If you haven’t done this before or weren’t satisfied with the results the first time, these suggestions will help you prepare for every stage of the process.
As you start with your first lifestyle shoot, set up a simple, accessible file management system to store your photos. You may reuse them in the future. Having an organized asset library will speed up the process when you or a marketing team member need to use a photo you’ve ordered in the past, even more so if your team works remotely. We recommend using a standard naming convention for your assets so that as your business expands, your organizational process can also handle the scale.
Be clear with your vision
Once you have a better idea of your brand’s visual identity, it’s time to brainstorm and share shoot ideas with your photographer. You can use Pinterest to create moodboards with photos that align with your branding and ideas for scene setups, model outfits, product placement, and more.
It’s easy to go overboard with your vision, but your photographer can advise what’s feasible, given the timeframe and budget. Make sure you know which products you want to shoot and have the stock ready—you may want to get more than one unit of the same product in case any get damaged before or during the shoot.
To keep everything on track, it helps to create a shot list. This will help you ensure you’ve covered all the bases as well as your photographer understand your expectations.
Show your brand’s values and personality
Lifestyle photos should reflect your brand’s values and personality. For example, is your business eco-friendly, or does it target the latest technology trends? Is your brand inclusive, or does it stick to traditional values? Knowing if your brand is more playful, relaxed, serious, or polished can help your photographer understand what photos to create.
Fur, a vegan skincare brand, markets itself to bodies of all types. The brand’s modern, off-the-cuff vibe is also reflected in its product shots. For example, the lifestyle photo for bath drops shows a grainy photo taken with direct camera flash, reminiscent of retro film photographs taken in the spur of the moment.
On the other hand, the sea-inspired bath and body brand Old Whaling Company opts for a more polished, classic look. The lifestyle photo for its bar soap set is bright with soft lighting and crisp details. The styling signals a more traditional bathroom setup compared to Fur.
Mix it up
Why only promote one product at a time when you can include others in your photos? Use other products from your line as props in the background or mix and match to add texture, color, and visual interest.
Sustainable home care product retailer Full Circle highlights its soap dispenser in the lifestyle photo above. But you can also see other matching products in the background. Not only do the other items help create a realistic kitchen scene, but they also show consumers how the products work well together.
All natural skincare retailer Bare Botanics highlights its Grapeseed Oil in the lifestyle photo above. But you can also see other products in the background. Not only do the other items help create a realistic kitchen scene, but they also show consumers how the products work well together.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes
If you need ideas for lifestyle photos, think about questions your customers may have about your products, such as where they should use them. For consumers to be able to relate to your photos, use models whose appearance, body language, and outfits reflect the product’s target audience.
Not sure what questions your customers have? Check with your customer success team to see what types of queries they’re getting. You might also check your on-site search report to see if people are searching for answers on your site.
Maintain your standards
If you receive poor-quality photos, consider whether it’s worth using them at all—a bad-quality photo may be more damaging than no photo at all. You don’t want to get off on the wrong foot and scare people away with a bad first impression. At the same time, reflect on what may have gone wrong to lead to a negative outcome.
Double-check your brand guidelines and photoshoot requests in case of a communication breakdown. It’s also possible it wasn’t the right photographer for your brand.
Maximize your investment
You’ve already invested time and money into a new set of lifestyle photos—now is the time to bring a return on your investment. Make the most of them in other parts of your marketing besides product listings on an online store or website.
Sharing lifestyle photos on social media is an excellent way to raise brand awareness. In a recent study, almost half (48%) of online shoppers reported social media is a good source for discovering new products. As many as 87% took action after seeing a product they liked on Instagram: they followed the brand, visited its website, or made a purchase.
How to get lifestyle photography
Depending on your budget, you have several options to get lifestyle photos for your business. Don’t be discouraged if your business is small and you don’t have a substantial amount for photography now—there are ways you can still get lifestyle photos worth sharing on your website or online store.
Hire a photographer or a studio
Hiring a qualified photographer or studio gives you access to professionals who live and breathe photography. While the most costly route, it typically yields the best results.
- Find a photographer with a portfolio that matches your brand style. Every photographer has a different style and niche. A photographer who takes dark, edgy photos outside may not be a good fit for a bright, fun indoor children’s product photoshoot.
- Compare at least three estimates. This is standard, and it’s the only way to get a sense of what’s realistic and required to make your expectations a success.
- Keep your expectations reasonable. A normal lifestyle shoot is around 5-10 looks in a day with one model. Think of a look as a scene or setup. If you want an estimate for 100 looks, the quote will increase accordingly.
- Pay attention to each photographer’s portfolio. Some beginners might have a few nice photos, but you don’t want to hire someone who is not up to the task. The more you compare, the better you’ll get at spotting good and bad photos.
- Hire a studio to photograph your product and then edit it onto a stock photo. An experienced team of photographers and editors will match your product with an existing stock photo for a realistic composite, so you don’t have to spend time and money organizing a lifestyle photoshoot.
Get creative using social media
If you have a fun lifestyle brand Instagram influencers will love, you might be able to get someone to do it for trade or part-commission-part-trade. When looking for potential collaborations, keep an eye out for influencers who do their own photography in a style that will work for your brand, too.
Do it yourself
If you’re not up for hiring a professional product photographer, you may want to try doing it yourself. The results will probably be similar to a low-production shoot.
There’s nothing wrong with that, and you should go for it. Especially if you have creative or technical experience or have friends, family, or industry colleagues who are glad to assist and can contribute their talents or experience.
An essential thing to look out for is lighting in your setup. Soft lighting works wonders. You can use a large white diffuser to eliminate harsh shadows or bright spots. A solid backdrop is also a good idea, and getting the product in focus is key.
It’s okay if you don't have the latest photo equipment—the camera on the smartphones released in the past few years will be fine, too. Just remember lighting makes all the difference if you’re going to DIY lifestyle product photography.
Where to find a lifestyle photographer
There are many places to find photographers, but it’s important to compare your options to find the best one:
- Google: Search Google for "lifestyle photographer." Add the name of your location if you want to work with a local talent.
- Directories: Search professional photographer directories with vetted professionals, like Workbook and Wonderful Machine.
- Organizations: Browse commercial photographer organizations, like The American Society of Media Photographers and American Photographic Artists.
- Social media: Use social media to reach photographers
- For Instagram, search hashtags relevant to your industry to find talent. Use localized hashtags if you need someone closeby. You’re likely to also come across tagged talents, from makeup artists to models, which can also lead to finding the right photographer.
- You can use “lifestyle photographer” as a search term on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Behance, Pinterest, and other social media apps.
- Consider putting a call out for lifestyle photographers—your customers may be able to respond to your post or story with recommendations. As a bonus, your brand gets extra engagement.
Carefully review the portfolio before booking
After shortlisting a few photographers, keep an eye out for any red flags before hiring the right person for your brand:
- Beware of deals. Similar to hiring service providers in other industries, avoid photographers whose photoshoot quotes are suspiciously low for the amount of work and expertise involved. People who offer lifestyle at a discount are usually cutting a lot of corners. They may take photos of their friends and family in their homes or workplaces, not professional models. It’s also possible someone on the team is not getting paid for their time. Low service quotes may also pose legal issues because photographing models and using private property requires releases for commercial use. Similarly, the photographer may not have the correct licenses or insurance to run their business.
- Ask questions about their portfolio. Make sure you’ve reviewed the photographer’s past work, and they can answer any questions about the shoot or the photos. Some photographers may use assistants to deal with any client queries while they’re working at the studio or on location.
- Get all the info. If the photographer fails to provide a detailed quote for what’s included in the fee or if the payment terms are unclear, be cautious. As a customer, you have the right to know exactly what you’re paying for.
- Ask for a call. You may find it helpful to get on a call with the photographer if they’re available. Doing so can help clear up any questions or concerns you may have. Hesitation to do so indicates a red flag.
Lifestyle product photography pricing: how to budget
Now that you’re a step closer to hiring a lifestyle photographer, make sure to set aside a realistic budget. The costs involved in the production quickly add up, so it’s helpful to consider a few factors from the start.
If you hire a photographer or a studio for a photoshoot, the fee can be comparably high for smaller businesses. Working with an experienced lifestyle photographer or studio often includes other expenses: talent hire (models, make-up artist, stylist, photographer, retoucher, assistant), location (studio, a venue, or an outdoors location), additional equipment hire, relevant insurance, retouched photos, and image licensing fee.
Influencers or social media photographers cost less to hire. Still, it’s essential to have clear shoot expectations and payment or product-for-photography exchange agreements to avoid confusion or late shoot completion. Also, if you want to save money, avoid agencies and go to influencers directly.
Use lifestyle product photography to connect with shoppers
There’s a lot of competition for online businesses, especially in a crowded space like Amazon or Etsy. This is where lifestyle product photography comes into play. Presenting a more realistic image of your products helps better engage customers and encourages them to buy. Make the most of our tips by finding a lifestyle photographer that fits your business—even if you're the one taking the photos until your marketing budget grows.
Lifestyle product photography FAQs
How do you make a lifestyle product picture?
To create lifestyle photos, show the context in which your target audience would use your product or services. Start with simple, authentic scenes using natural light indoors or outdoors. Don’t forget to shoot plenty of angles so you can choose the best photos. You can even take your lifestyle photos with a smartphone if you don't have a professional camera.
What is the difference between lifestyle and portrait photography?
The difference between lifestyle photography and portrait photography is lifestyle focuses on a scene while portrait focuses on a person. Lifestyle photography captures company products or services in context for commercial purposes. Portrait photography captures a person and not always for commercial use—they could also be shot for creative expression, social media, as a confidence boost, or as a personal gift.