At Products On White photography, we specialize in product photos for eCommerce sites. However, we also often receive requests – especially from small businesses – about lifestyle photos. And while we don’t offer lifestyle photography, we do have over a decade of commercial photography experience and can provide some tips and tricks for finding, hiring and putting together a lifestyle photo shoot that will wow your customers without breaking the bank.
Lifestyle images tell a story of your brand and can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool that can help you connect with customers, and sell more effectively. However, lifestyle photos can be prohibitively expensive. When taken with traditional models and photographers, you could be looking at an investment of $3,000 or more, which is out of the budget for most smaller online businesses.
So what can small businesses do to compete, and get fantastic lifestyle images? We discussed this topic with Anna Patty, the founder of the children’s bag company Mamoo Kids, and one of her photographers, Emmy Lou Virginia. By following a unique process for sourcing photographers on Instagram, Anna Patty has been able to get incredible, on-brand lifestyle images for a fraction of the cost of a typical photoshoot.
Read on, and learn about the advice that Anna and Emmy Lou Virginia have for small business who are looking to take beautiful lifestyle images for less!
1. Find A Photographer Who Fits Your Brand
This is the point that Anna focused on the most during our interview, and for good reason. Finding a great photographer who fits your brand is half the battle! A common mistake is businesses hire photographers that don’t have a portfolio that match the images that they want to create. For example, you wouldn’t want to hire a wedding photographer to do a product photoshoot.
Anna’s business focuses on children, so one of her most powerful tools for finding photographers is Instagram. By browsing a choice number of hashtags, she focused on finding photographers who are also moms, and who use their own children in photoshoots.
According to Anna, this process delivered truly exceptional results for her brand. She can find photographers who are already taking photos that she loves, and she can get great results without micromanaging them. Best of all, this fits her brand. When moms take photos of their own children, they will be natural and comfortable. This helps create a brand that’s truly authentic and lifestyle images that reflect powerful brand imagery.
2. Focus On Pre Production & Communicate Well
Both Anna and Emmy Lou Virginia emphasized how important pre-production was to a successful lifestyle shoot. Before a photoshoot is actually started, there’s a lot of work to do.
You must determine:
- Pick a specific shoot date
- Pick a location: Check for possible fees and availability
- Lighting Style: this should be match the photographers existing portfolio
- Models: Gender/age/ethnicity of models and availability
- Wardrobe Styling: Outfits, shoes, accessories & other props
- Grooming: Hair & Makeup
Cooperation and communication are key here, especially if you and a photographer are working remotely with each other, like Anna and Emmy Lou Virginia did. Clear lines of communication should be established to nail down all of these details before the shoot begins.
3. Have A Clear Idea Of What You Want
If you’re a business owner beginning the process of taking lifestyle shots, this is absolutely critical. Before you even begin looking for a photographer, you need to know what you want. You need to understand your brand, have a specific set of brand guidelines, know what tone you want to strike, and what story you want to tell.
According to Emmy Lou Virginia, this is the single most important thing a client can offer to a photographer – and that’s why she loved working with Anna. Anna sent over a detailed set of brand guidelines that were clear, yet flexible, and established a clear idea of the aesthetic she was looking for. Using mood boards for lighting, styling, outfits, and more, Anna provided Emmy Lou Virginia with everything she needed, to understand her requirements.
We recommend using Pintrest to gather inspiration images that you’d like to emulate, but not copy. For example; if you see a photo of a hairstyle that you like, add it to the board with a note that you would love to match this style for the shoot.
This communication and collaboration provided fantastic results, as evidenced by the incredible images on the Mamoo Kids website.
4. Focus On Natural, Authentic Images
This point was emphasized by both Emmy and Anna during our interviews. Beyond cost issues, this is the primary reason that Mamoo Kids prefers using photographers who take photos of their own children, rather than traditional photographers who hire models.
Doing so leads to more comfortable children, and a more authentic image that is effective at telling your brand’s story. Of course, not every company will be able to do this. Mamoo Kids is in a unique position, as their brand focuses on children.
However, the point still stands, even if you are taking photos of adults. Authentic, natural lifestyle images are what truly connect with customers. So when looking for a photographer, find one whose work connects with your brand, and looks natural and authentic.
Try and use the photographer’s existing connections to models and stylist that they already have.
5. Trust Your Photographer To Deliver Results
Collaborating with a photographer comes down to trust. Both Emmy and Anna mentioned this during our interviews. Once you’ve selected a photographer, laid out brand guidelines, provided inspiration and instruction for setting, outfits, styling, and other details, you must trust your photographer.
Again, this goes double when you can’t be physically present at the photoshoot. Instead of micromanaging your photographer and trying to ensure that they adhere to every one of your guidelines, you need to trust them to get the photos that they believe will be the most effective.
For example, in the most recent photoshoot that Anna and Emmy worked on, they were taking photos of children on a beach. Anna’s brand guidelines said that the clothes the children were wearing should be “spotless” throughout the shoot – but Emmy knew that this wouldn’t be possible for most of the shoot.
She mentioned this to Anna, and Anna said that was okay – that she trusted her to deliver great photos. This sense of trust is critical for a client-photographer relationship.
Every Brand Is Different – Find Your Own Process!
These tips will certainly be helpful to anyone who runs a small business, and is looking for fantastic lifestyle photography. However, it’s important to realize that these guidelines aren’t set in stone.
Each brand is different, and finding a way to get great lifestyle photos on a budget isn’t easy. But if you follow some of these tips – finding photographers on Instagram, and communicating clearly during the pre-production process – you’re sure to be able to get fantastic lifestyle images for less!