Lifestyle photography is literally capturing life as it happens, rather than posing people or telling them what to do when taking their photograph. It also means you don’t alter the environment you’re shooting in (such as moving furniture). Two particular styles of photography fall into this genre – street photography and photojournalism.
Street photography is all about capturing the culture of a city. It can involve having a subject look into the camera, like in Humans of New York , but generally it’s uncontrived and quite raw.
Photojournalism (documentary photography) visually tells a news story through action shots, without any direction from the photographer (and these photos usually have minimal editing or no editing at all, for authenticity).
Lots of portrait photographers use the word “lifestyle” to describe their preferred relaxed style of photography, compared to a formal session in a studio, but they still pose their subjects and carefully choose their shooting location. True lifestyle photography is about shooting people in everyday situations, in a candid and unobtrusive way. Any images that you take that are of natural moments could be considered lifestyle photography, but it’s the emotion, mood or the importance of the moment you’re capturing, that makes the difference between a great photograph and a simple snapshot.
For example, in the photos below, some of the photographers are observing from a distance, and others are more closely involved with the subjects, but they’ve all frozen time in a single frame:
Photo taken by Julie Byrnes. In this photo the photographer has caught an intimate moment between two people in a busy, public place.
Photo taken by Bryon_v2. In this boardwalk scene the photographer has captured the vibe and activity of the local community.
Photo taken by Julie Byrnes. This photo has a unique perspective looking down into the pool, with lots of subjects within the one scene to watch.
Photo taken by Anna Larson. This photo gives us a glimpse into the relaxed morning routine of a family at home that we wouldn’t otherwise be privy to.
The general etiquette for lifestyle photography outside your own home is to shoot people without them realising or making them feel uncomfortable. It’s okay for a subject to look at the camera if they become aware of you, however someone who doesn’t want to be photographed will rarely give you a good photo, so if they do notice you it may be necessary to focus on a new subject.
As long as you’re in a public place, or have permission to shoot in a privately owned area, it is usually okay to photograph people for either artistic or personal purposes. However, if you intend to publish any of the images or use them commercially you should ask your subject's permission and provide a proper model release form for them to sign, if they agree. You should also be prepared to explain what you’re doing or find a new location if there are any concerns regarding public safety.