by Dr. Robert Berdan
July 29, 2016
Photographers on the tundra photographing Caribou near Peterson's Point Lake Lodge
Life style photography simply aims to photograph people in situations doing things they like and presenting it in an artistic manner. The goal is to tell stories about the people's lives or to inspire people. Lifestyle photography often mixes landscape, street photography, fashion including wedding photography and even wildlife. The pictures can include individuals, couples or families. Usually the people are doing things they like and it's important that the pictures not look posed - at least in my opinion. Well I have lots of these type of pictures, most of them are of people taking pictures, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, playing a musical instrument etc. Many of my pictures of people are spread out through different articles so I thought it might be a good idea for me to share some of them in this article and some tips on taking "lifestyle photographs".
Recently I was enquiring about a photography job which would involve photographing people connecting with the nature and the landscape. I sent the prospective client a link to my portfolio and while they liked the pictures, but they said they did not see any people in the shots and they were looking for a lifestyle photographer. I followed up by sending them 35 images of people enjoying nature and they became interested. I also thought - hmmm maybe I need to post some of the images I sent them so I also could refer other potential clients and show that indeed I can and do shoot people in nature and have done so for years.
For several years I worked with fly-fisherman and writer Frank Wood on a number or articles about fly-fishing and was surprised to learn he continues to fly-fish in winter.
Frank Wood on the Elk River, southern Alberta. This picture was used in an article on Winter Fly Fishing - who'd know folks fly-fishing in winter? Fly-fishers also use a d-icer so that ice does not stick to the line in winter.
Amanda Peterson views the Aurora Borealis reflect off Pontoon Lake outside Yellowknife, NT.
When I take the pictures of the people I try to capture them so they look as natural as possible, often the person being photographed is not aware that I am taking their picture . The secret is to make your subjects feel relaxed usually by having them do things they enjoy.
Kayaking in the Great Bear Rain forest with the Mothership III
Heather was my double person kayak partner, on this day she decides to take a single kayak - West Coast, BC
Crew of the Mothership III brings a dory a shore - the Mothership is in the background. We were headed for an overlook to watch Orcas.
I believe effective pictures show people doing things they love - be it kayaking, hiking, playing music or whatever their passion might be. I usually take a lot of photos so I can pick and choose later on. This isn't a new idea most photographers take a lot of shots then edit ruthlessly. Sometimes a photo must be posed as in the case where I have a grizzly bear (movie star Ali Ooop) and bear trainer Ruth Labarge. I tried to depict what a hiker bear encounter might look like, but it is perhaps better as an animal- trainer photograph. The bear was very intimidating weighing over 1200 pounds.
Ruth Labarge - grizzy bear trainer and movie star (Ali Oop) show what a hiker bear encounter might look like.
Happy pair of senior citizens in their swimming pool - they are my parents. Active seniors are popular.
With kids it's important to keep them entertained or doing something fun. Also as a photographer you need to anticipate and pay attention to the environment. It's also important to get some face shots. Many of my photos I photograph the participants from behind as I simply want to depict a figure in the landscape - so that other people can imagine themselves in the shot. Making the person small in the photo also emphasizes the grandeur of the environment.
Frank Wood fly-fishing in the Elbow River near Elbow Falls, AB
Because I love photography, I often photograph my friends taking pictures e.g. Peter Dettling silhouetted at "Spirit Island" - see below. I personally prefer to be behind the camera, though on occasion when no one else is around e.g. one day while hiking in Red Rock coulee - I set my camera on a tripod with a self-timer to photograph myself in front of a rock showing rings. I felt it was important to show the relative size of some of the concretions. In another photo I asked my wife to lay down on on one of giant concretions that had been split open, again to show the relative size of the rocks. How the rock was split and the top moved is a puzzle since the top must weight several thousand pounds.
I am pointing at rings on this concretion that has split open in Red Rock Coulee. As I was alone I used my camera's self timer on a tripod to take the shot. Concretions are like giant rock pearls that formed in ancient oceans.
To provide a sense of scale for the concretions I asked my wife to spread out on one of the concretions in Red Rock Coulee, the top half is on the right how it got there is a mystery.
In one assignment I was asked to photograph people building trails in Kananaskis. While on this assignment some mountain bikers passed by and I stopped to ask them if they would allow me to photograph them. People skills are essential with lifestyle photography. I usually try to get the person's name and email so I can email them some pictures if they work with me. If the pictures are to be used for commercial purposes it is essential to get a written release and the photographer must compensate them (this could simply be a few pictures).
Mountain Biker in Bragg Creek, Kananaskis
Hikers learning about edible mushrooms in the Northwest Territories
Amanda Peterson studying the back of her camera to see if she has the correct settings.
Hälle Flygare resting on an Esker in the Northwest Territories.
Above fellow photographer Hälle Flygare standing in a wheat field. We were searching for owls, rattle snakes and prairie scenes to photograph when I captured this image of him in a wheat field.
Bird watchers and wildlife photographers in the Tonquin Valley
Dr. Margaret McNay - standing in a canola field taking pictures near Jenner Alberta. The owner of the field, a farmer from Jenner stopped to see what we were doing and said to make sure I posted this was the Jenner Colony canola field. Margaret is a new photographer who wanted to photograph Alberta's badlands and prairies.
This lovely young hiker (Donna Berdan ) is standing in front of Gardner Creek Waterfalls near Nakusp, BC.
This is one of my favourite shots depicting a photographer standing in front of Spirit Island, Jasper National Park shortly after sunrise. I under exposed to create the silhouette and to me this image depicts what nature photography is all about. The photographer is Peter Dettling who kayaked to Spirit Island with me.
Almost any camera will do for lifestyle photography, but it is essential to try and make the photos appear natural and not posed when ever possible. The photographer is simply a fly on the wall recording folks enjoying what ever it is they like to do. Sometimes a fill flash will help light up the persons face and put a catchlight in their eyes, but often natural light is the best. Next time you are out taking nature photographs with a friend - consider taking some pictures of them doing what they love and vice versa RB.
Robert Berdan is a professional nature photographer living in Calgary, AB specializing in nature, wildlife and science photography. Robert offers photo guiding and private instruction in all aspects of nature photography and Adobe Photoshop training.
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