12 tips to elevate your ecomm lifestyle photography

by | Apr 26, 2021

product photography isn’t one-size-fits-all. you need to be familiar with so many varied styles: flat-lays. product-on-white. action. the list goes on. and you may need an assortment of all of these styles for effective marketing and ecomm business. lifestyle photography is one of those incredibly effective and engaging ways to show off your business or product. but lifestyle photography isn’t just a candid photo of your product in-use. this type of product photo offers endless creative freedom — and a lot of challenges too. we’re going to cover 12 tips to get you started showing your customers exactly how your product belongs in their lives.

while you’re here: consider how you can level up your e-commerce photography even more using these quick editing tips.

3 bonus tips for Shopify business owners

promote additional products

a customer is browsing your website for, let’s say, reusable straws. your landing page features an eye-catching layout of lifestyle photos. in one of them: those reusable straws they’ve been eyeing and a matching mug. paired with user-friendly links to both items: that customer now has three times the cart value and they’re more invested in your brand!

use editorial style photos

product photos need to be simple product-on-white for many platforms and in many cases. if a customer is viewing the items in their cart — for example — they’ll want to see a straight-forward photo. but your social media feed or Shopify landing page is the perfect place to branch out from that basic style. utilizing a more editorial style in these cases will communicate so much more about your brand to your potential customers. a great editorial lifestyle photo — lo-fi lighting. nature scenery. action shots. — gives you a chance to show your customer how your product will fit into their lives. get creative!

if your budget allows for renting or owning artificial studio lighting — you can really expand your product photos. always lean towards warmer tones when photographing food as this tends to look more appetizing. play around with angles and quantity of studio lights to minimize unsightly reflections and maximize visual interest.

create a “lookbook” layout

Shopify has layout options that allow you to create a “lookbook” which is essentially an ecomm collage of lifestyle photos to inspire your customers. the lookbook is meant to introduce new products. show product in-use. and suggest potential styling of your products. this is one of the best ways to increase cart value! you want to make sure your customer sees your lookbook before they checkout. lookbooks are also a great way to refresh your content; the same product can be featured in a new lookbook each season. or introduce a fresh lookbook as you drop new releases.

 12 tips to elevate your ecomm lifestyle photography

utilize models — human or otherwise

one of the best ways to showcase how your product will fit into your customers’ lifestyle is through models. while a simple hand model might show off a nail polish line, a full-body model can show off how that amazing color plays IRL. even throwing in a cute pet model can elevate the relatability of your photos!

🔑 to success: remember – you want your customer to relate to your brand and need your product. if glam is what you’re going for: you got it! but you can also create killer lifestyle photos with a model you’d expect to see on a hike or getting ready for bed.

take it outside

many products have just as many outdoor uses as they do indoor. switch up the studio background and take your lifestyle shoot outdoors! you’ve got a plethora of new landscapes. color schemes. textures. and action shots. picture this: you’ve got a granola bar brand. this product practically begs to be stored in that convenient little side pocket of your beach bag. see how that image creates not only a promotion of the product — but a story?

🔥 hot tip: for crisp product photos: bright and indirect natural light is always the way to go. however: with lifestyle photography. you can get a little more experimental with your lighting. try out golden hour (catch a gilded lens flare in the background) or blue hour (capture that pink gradient and cool tones at dusk).

set the scene

props are an important part of product photography. but with lifestyle photos: your props can typically be bigger and more involved in your scene. remember: you’re telling a story about your product. that story might involve an entire setting! let’s say you sell mugs and mugs only. but a lifestyle photo isn’t just a photo of a mug. maybe you want a model. they’re cradling their mug. they’re in a coffee shop. the lighting is warm and low. they’re smiling at the barista. they’ve got a book tucked into their arm. you don’t sell the coffee or the book. but it’s necessary to set the scene!

🔥 hot tip: scenes like this are perfect for creating a vibe. but there is a fine line between setting a great lifestyle scene — and losing your customer’s attention in a crowded photo. don’t be afraid to add props: but remember to use color. light. or texture to continue highlighting your specific product. check out how beauty brands can elevate their content using these techniques.

show off the whole crew

if you sell a product in a variety of colors. sizes. or designs: this is a great time to bring it all together. show your assortment in a way that’s visually interesting. you can use multiple hand models. fan out the products. or toss them up in the air for a “raining product” effect. there are endless ways to show off an assortment in one lifestyle shot.

🔑 to success: who says it’s not practical to own a product in every color? with this technique: your customers will want to. try to layer colors in a gradient or by pairing complimentary palettes together. avoid creating an eyesore by clashing colors.

scope out the competition

no matter what your brand is: there’s another one out there that’s trying to tap into the same market or demographic as you. keeping eyes on those brands’ lookbooks can be a major tool. we’re not saying copy. we’re saying: stay on top of (or ahead of) trends in your market. which lifestyle photos and lookbooks are your potential customers liking/engaging with/following the most?

🔑 to success: the goal here is not to replicate. your brand is unique and your lifestyle photography should reflect that! but trends come at us fast and saturate the market quickly. so continuing to do competitor research in your market as you plan your photo shoots will keep your product where it belongs: in the forefront of your customers social media feeds. in their carts. in their hands.

you can also check out soona.co for lifestyle photography inspo.

stay true to your brand

your brand should have it’s own identity. you know the words you’d use to describe it. maybe you know the color palette you like to use for branding. or the style of font you use on your website. all of these things shouldn’t just exist in your head. they also need to exist on a moodboard (either digital or IRL). your brand moodboard is what you’ll refer back to for inspo. and what you’ll refer others to (like photographers or stylists) to make sure their work reflects your vision for your brand. this simple tactic is an awesome way to keep your content cohesive — even as you continue to refresh.

💡 check out this article for a list of photo-editing apps for product photography. we’ve outlined apps fit for every budget and user experience. for brand kits and mood boards: an app with design capabilities like Canva would be perfect. Canva also allows you to save your work to your account so you can access it from any device.

 experiment with GIFs

so you’ve got four or five lifestyle photos of the same scene and you just can’t pick which one is best? try using all of them in a GIF! movement in an image — even if it’s subtle — is very engaging to a customer. it creates an even stronger sense of action and application. put simply: it’s a great way to show your customer that your product belongs with them.

🔥 hot tip: GIFs made of lifestyle pics are perfect for Instagram stories and similar formats. your customers are swiping quickly through their feed and you’ve got mere seconds to catch their eye. sometimes the dynamic movement of a GIF is enough to capture their interest and highlight your product.

explore platforms

speaking of platforms. it’s becoming clear that content doesn’t necessarily translate fluidly across all social media sites. what receives engagement on TikTok might be totally different from what receives engagement on IG. you need to have content strategies for every platform presence. this might mean short unboxing videos for one. artsy outdoor photos for another.

🔑 to success: keeping up with content and fresh photos for multiple platforms can be difficult. using a program to schedule your posts ahead of time can really invigorate your social media feeds. this way: you can get a great assortment of content at one time and schedule it to post frequently to promote higher engagement. then your time is free to run your business!

diversify your set

if you’re going to have multiple models in a lifestyle shoot. make sure they’re diverse in size. skin tone. gender. and more. you want any potential customer to scroll through your lookbook or feed and see themselves owning your product. representation is vital; not just for capturing customers. but for creating strong brand values.

🔑 to success: it’s your job to bring the convenience. style. or necessity of your product into your customers’ lives. not alienating them is the first step in inviting a customer to be a part of your brand story. this means celebrating the vibrancy. culture. and diversity of every customer. this should be a consideration for every shoot.

speak up for your values

if you want your customer to know that your brand values something — don’t be afraid to speak up. major brands like Patagonia spend their ad money making statements about the things they believe are worth fighting for (like sharing their stance on oil companies taking over unceded native lands). maybe you don’t have a hugely successful outdoor brand’s budget. but you have a platform — however big or small. consumers are more conscious and informed than ever. show them what matters to you if you want to matter to them. how does this fit into lifestyle photos? well the stories we tell in photographs are some of the most powerful. make an impact — loud or subtle — with your product photography.

💡 Google searches for “companies that support ______” are skyrocketing. this is because consumer power is one of the individual’s most important tools in affecting change in the world. you have a business to promote. create. design. maintain. you don’t have to also save the world. but you have a little niche in the endless internet to cultivate a healthy and happy brand culture. this is what builds lifelong customers.

amplify customer voices

your product photos should be the main character of your feed and website. but who says you can’t have a little fun sharing your customers’ photos as well? when the mirror selfie came back into vogue — we saw it everywhere! Glossier posted a car mirror selfie of their customer with a dewey and natural makeup look. it shows a real-world application of their products. and creates a more relatable brand identity. this tactic can also encourage tons of customer engagement. everyone wants their mirror selfie to be featured by their favorite brand! Aerie is also known for using the customer #regram to show how their customers style their clothes.

🔥 hot tip: make sure to ask permission and tag your customer’s social media profile if you repost their photo. try to select customer photos that flow with your content. you worked hard to cultivate a beautiful feed. let your customers join in!

schedule a refresh

ou may complete a lifestyle photoshoot and — whew! — you got everything you needed from your shot list. you got all your picking and editing done. you know how much goes into it! now get ready to do it again! lifestyle photos should be refreshed just as often as the seasons change. the trends arrive. the products drop. a major aspect of consistent customer engagement — in your website or socials — is consistent content. if you plan ahead for your next lifestyle photo shoot: you’ll be ready to take on the next wave and your content will always be up-to-date and catching customer attention.

💡 soona has seasonal trend sets designed by people who stay in-the-know on product photography trends. check out our website to get inspired!

need high-quality lifestyle product photography?

there’s so much to consider when it comes to lifestyle photography. when you’re ready for some high-quality lifestyle images — and to work with a team of photographers who crush the content game — try soona for only $39/photo. 

if you’re looking to ramp up your content game but still feel unsure where to start – check out these resources:

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