In the last two years, “home” took on new meanings, with our living spaces doubling as our workplaces. With eclectic interior trends such as “vintage maximalism,” ’70s and 80s disco vibes, gothic “goblincore,” and the “grandmillenial” style making a splash on TikTok and Airbnb’s design predictions for 2022, there’s never been a better time to get creative and give your photoshoots some sprucing up behind-the-scenes.
In advertising, domestic spaces are evergreen backgrounds for relatable lifestyle images. Whether you’re photographing in kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, or all of the above, styling remains an invaluable skill in any artist’s toolkit. The right props and furniture can go a long way toward modernizing your portfolio, telling an authentic story, capturing the perfect mood, and creating a cohesive environment. Here are our top tips for styling your next session, whether you’re using your own home or taking advantage of a rental space.
Play with natural light
“Natural light is great for lifestyle photography, as it gives you that light and airy feel buyers crave,” the 500px team explains. Natural light can be unpredictable, so timing is everything. If you’re shooting at home, it’s worth keeping a light journal and tracking how the light moves throughout the day in various rooms.
While the kitchen might get the best light in the early morning, the bedroom might look fantastic just before sunset, so plan your shoot accordingly. If you’re shooting in someone else’s home, see if you can make a scouting trip to see how the light falls at different times of day and in various weather conditions. The better you prepare, the greater your chances of harnessing natural light to your advantage.
Embrace emerging trends
As a lifestyle photographer, it helps to stay abreast of interior design trends. In 2022, experts in the design community expect to see warm colors like browns and terracottas, cozy textures, and sustainable materials. In the aftermath of 2020’s “cottagecore” trend, tastemakers continue to embrace fun accents like floral patterns, vintage dishware, and natural elements such as houseplants or flowers.
Lush potted plants and fresh flowers are inexpensive, but go a long way toward brightening up a room and adding a pop of color. With biophilic design catching the attention of designers and homeowners alike, we predict more open, calming spaces with plenty of daylight.
Browse thrift shops
Speaking of sustainability and vintage treasures, the days of fast furniture are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, people are gravitating toward higher-quality pieces, built to last. Amid the pandemic, vintage and secondhand retailers saw a boom in interest. With that being said, you don’t need to spend a fortune to start a long-lasting, quality prop collection.
When sourcing props, choose timeless items that will last you more than one season. Keep an eye out for one-of-a-kind gems that won’t break the bank. Old books and picture frames are abundant in thrift stores, as are vases, mirrors, and lamps. You can always freshen up your finds with a DIY coat of paint. Quality wood pieces can easily be sanded and stained.
“Thrift stores have an array of home essentials, from dinnerware to retro sofas,” the 500px team says. “These are great options for both lifestyle shoots and more elaborate stylized shoots.” If you need an item but aren’t sure if it’s worth investing and adding it to your permanent prop collection, ask around. Your friends and family members might have something you can borrow.
Do some de-cluttering
While a “lived-in” vibe can be a positive thing, there’s a fine line between authentic and cluttered. Before any shoot, do a sweep of the place and remove any distracting elements, objects, or straight-up mess. Some pre-shoot tweaks might include rolling up the rug to show off your hardwood floors, dusting and polishing your surfaces and tabletops, or clearing the background of wall decor that doesn’t jibe with your vision.
Choose a room that you feel comfortable re-arranging; if it’s someone else’s place, ask first and put everything back where you found it after you’re done. If you’re planning to bring your own furniture, make sure the space is accessible and that you have plenty of room to try new things.
Consider your angles and compositions as well. Image-buyers often look for photos that have “breathing room” or copy space where they can add their own graphics or messaging, so embrace negative space for a more clean and airy feel.
Finally, keep an eye out for anything that includes branded design elements or logos, as these should also be removed or replaced prior to a commercial session due to intellectual property issues. Also, factor in what your models will be wearing on the day of the shoot, as you don’t want any colors or textures in the space to clash or draw focus from the story you’re telling.
Refine your color palette
“Neutral color schemes are typically preferred in Licensing because they don’t distract from your subjects,” the team at 500px says. “But there is room for color, when placed strategically. Color can create cohesion, break up your scenes, add personality, and convey your commercial concepts more easily.” As we mentioned before, houseplants and flowers can add a dash of color to an otherwise neutral scene, as can props (e.g., a lamp, bedside table, or vase).
When brainstorming, it can help to create a mood board with inspirational images and narrow down your color palette from there. Use the color wheel to find harmonious palettes; using different shades of one hue for a monochromatic look can be effective, as can using complementary pairs. For a timely twist, consider trending colors, such as Pantone’s 2022 Color of the Year, Very Peri.
Make it personal
In 2022, the all-white minimalist aesthetic that defined recent years is on the way out, replaced by a warmer and more welcoming vibe. “Lifestyle photography is not about perfection,” the 500px team explains. “Instead of your models being overly posed, try to capture natural micro-moments as they go about their days.”
The same goes for the space itself; while some tidying is likely necessary, you also want to show off the personality of the space and its inhabitants. You don’t want the room to feel lifeless and flat, so embrace details and pretty accents. Another major trend shaping interior design is maximalism, a movement defined by personal expression and creativity.
Include objects that tell a story and capture the passions of the people you’re photographing. “Adding personality can look like any number of things, such as someone’s favorite pink fluffy slippers, a favorite mug, a guitar, or a reference to an interest or hobby,” the team at 500px adds. Think DIY accents, homemade touches, and sentimental keepsakes.
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