How to Create Gorgeous Lifestyle Photography

Published by
Tara Jacobsen

Whether you are selling on Etsy, Amazon, or your own website, having amazing lifestyle product photography can mean the difference between getting an abundance of traffic and sales from Instagram or Pinterest and nothing at all.

Lifestyle photos are shared on social media more than standard, plain white background ecommerce pics (although there’s a place for those, too). According to Pinterest, “lifestyle images are often more effective for grabbing attention than plain product shots.”

Why Create Lifestyle Photography?

Why? Because Pinterest is a wish list, Instagram is for eye candy, and everyone wants to look at beautiful things with context. On Pinterest, people search for inspiration, and when they find it, save Pinterest Pins to keep something in mind to buy later… yay! On Instagram, a gorgeous photo can stop a scroller right in their tracks!

And what you want to sell them is the idea that your product will make their life better. It will make them happier, or prettier, or a better decorator or host.

When you are taking your pictures, think about the feeling and lifestyle you want to portray.

Last but not least, don’t require people to use their imagination when it comes to the use of your products.

It is up to you to show them what joy your product can bring to their lives!

For example, which of these ratty old Coke containers from my vintage Etsy store can you picture using immediately? The white background pic is obviously a product listing photo – which is good to have… But the other is an image that could go viral on Pinterest for things like Coke lovers, home decor, or even 4th of July Decorating! And the potential for likes on Instagram – massive.

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Lifestyle Photography – “Trending” on Pinterest and Instagram?

I recently did a search on Pinterest and these were the product Pins on the “popular” tab minus promoted pins. (source pins quilt block, gucci bags, ring, dog shirt, skincare, mason jar, bedding, hourglass, earrings). Note: the “popular” tab has been deprecated.

As you can see, there was only one that was a straight product shot shot (and that one was Gucci for goodness sake – their brand pulls off the look!).

All the other popular downloads were at least a little fancy and lifestyle-y. 😉

It’s the same on Instagram. A search for #homedecor shows these “top” posts:

You can scroll and and scroll (for research, of course!) and not encounter one product shot that isn’t lifestyle photography. It’s clear – lifestyle photography is one of those skills ecommerce sellers need to learn.

Lifestyle Image Insights – from Etsy

Etsy sent out a great email with a link to the products they had posted on Instagram which had the highest engagement. This kind of data is gold for figuring out what kinds of images you should use for your social media and Pinterest posts! While Pinterest and Instagram are two different platforms which are used slightly differently, there is certainly some overlap in what works.

Looking at these images, we can see that while some of them are “crazy stylized”, most of them just have a little something added to spruce them up a wee bit! You can do this!

How To Create Lifestyle Photography for More Online Sales

When taking pictures for Pinterest, start with the 2:3 ratio recommendation. Images in 2:3 take up more visual space in the feed. Oh, and 2:3 translates to 600x900px or 735×1102 – anything equivalent will do!

Naturally, your Instagram photo will be square. You can either take a second shot for Instagram, cropping as you photograph, or use the same photo for both, cropping after you shoot. Creative cropping can result in really interesting images.

I was super happy when one of my coaching clients, Big Whiff Candles sent me a “goodie box” with some of their products so that I could show you ways that you can spruce up your pictures simply but effectively, just by adding a wee bit of creativity.

Here is their store … super clean, consistent and nice pictures that anyone would be proud to display. But not all that sexy for Pinterest or Instagram!

No Fancy Equipment Needed – Create Gorgeous Lifestyle Photography Using Your Phone

You don’t have to have a fancy DSL camera to create lifestyle photography! All of the photos for this post were taken with a iPhone 7 Plus. The fuzzy background ones can be accomplished using either Portrait Mode on the iPhone or Lens Blur in the Google Camera App.

We have lots of fancy cameras in my house (my husband is a semi-professional photographer) but my goal is not to take perfect pictures, my goal is to take INTERESTING pictures that people will like and share on Pinterest! With my phone – not only am I comfortable using it – I always know where it is!

How to Easily Turn Product Shots Into Lifestyle Photography

I find that just looking at photos on the internet sometimes leaves me with a, “yeah, that is great but I could never do that” kind of feeling. Seeing my simple setup, you’ll know you CAN do it!

I also progress from “a little lifestyle” all the way to fancy, blown out backgrounds shots that are more like the images “real” photographers produce.

A White Background

Okay, this is a basic background like you would see on almost any ecommerce site in the world. It screams, “I am promoting an item for sale” and would probably not get many clicks, likes, or shares.

Lifestyle Photography Tip #1 – Add A LITTLE TEXTURE

But what if all we do is add a wee little bit of texture to this shot? All of a sudden you can see that it makes the product look more interesting!

That is just a white foam core board with a sheet of wainscoting that I got from Home Depot to use as an interesting white neutral background.


I used two pieces of scrapbook paper to take this shot and moved the lid beside the candle to help with branding. You could set up a little “assembly line” of papers and do nothing but set your product on each one to make your pictures look different and fun.

Lifestyle Photography Tip #3 ADD A PROP

I made little wooden decoupage blocks that have different sides that I can use for different looks (I am all crafty like that). As you can see in this shot, adding a pop of color underneath takes the scrapbook pic to the next level.

Pro tip: Mess around with your shots, take a whole bunch of different pictures when you have your room set up and then just share them over time. We get sick of our pictures way before our audience does!

Lifestyle Photography Tip #4 – Add a POP OF COLOR

I find that having a pop of color in my pictures makes them stand out on busy Instagram and Pinterest feeds! This little stand from Michaels cost a couple of bucks after using a coupon, and it is a great way to add easy interest!

I have a bunch of those “pointy” boards that I have painted white, as seen here, and others I painted black and blue for when I have lighter products to feature. Having multiple levels of texture helps increase interest in your shot!

Lifestyle Photography Tip #5 – Create EASY, FUN HOLIDAY SHOTS

I have been known to get a little crazy with my Christmas holiday shots…

This was super easy for me, I just stuck these cute little reindeer from my shop into my family’s Christmas decorations and snapped a quick picture.

But you can do a much simpler setup with just a few props and some scrapbook paper!

Lifestyle Photography Tip #6 – Try some FANCY PANTS LIFESTYLE PICTURES

Sometimes it is fun to mess around and see how you can pair your product with props that play off its name, color, or style.

This candle is called “Watermelon Smash,” so I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of it on my back lanai with… a watermelon! Super easy and fun to do – and my kids loved eating the leftover watermelon!


Last, but not least, is something that I have been testing out… going on the road to take lifestyle pictures “on location”.

This is my favorite shot of all of them!

Conclusion: How To Create Gorgeous Lifestyle Photography

Lest you feel that any of this is out of your reach, I want to make a confession: It was only after committing to taking a picture a day for a month that I really got into a groove and felt like I was doing good work.

The easiest way to get better at taking pictures is to take lots of them. As I took more and more, I got better and better!

Obviously, it would be awesome if we could all afford to have our social media pictures taken by professional photographers. However, most of us have to try and get better on our own.

I believe in you! Just start taking more and different pictures until you are the crazy lady in the fruit stand moving their watermelons around!

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Tara Jacobsen

Tara Jacobsen writes super interesting marketing blog posts at Marketing Artfully, has two successful stores on Etsy, and coaches rebel entrepreneurs. She is a Mom to 3 kids, 2 cats, 2 dogs, a turtle, some fish and a lizard (it is her daughter’s but she has to schlepp to the store for crickets so it counts!).

View Comments

  • This is a great post, lots of great ideas here.

    Your focus however is on physical products. How though would you do this for a digital product, such as an eBook or eCourse?

      • Great, thanks Tara. So in that example you actually printed it out and bound it. That can't be done with a course or an instructional eBook, but I guess maybe doing an iPad flat lay with the course or ebook displayed on it might be a good way to do it?

        • For sure! AND you can do a screen capture and plop it into a mockup to make it look pretty...:) Also think about doing one of those that have the computer, iPad and phone to show that they can see your course on any device!

    • That is what is so funny April!!! Some of my most popular picks are the ones that were super easy to take...:)

  • And if you want to take an already successful store to the next level, find a professional photographer to increase the perceived value of your brand and your products. (But I am a little biased)

    • Hi Pete... for most of us it would seriously cost prohibitive to every set of pictures with a pro but I am super for getting your own "stock photos" done if you can afford it with a photographer...:)

      • Hi Tara,
        I 100% agree. I am a blogger as well as a photographer so I really recognize how much money I am saving by having the skill set to do my own photos at a professional level.

        I was more implying that when someone reaches a certain income level, professional images (and even video) is one of the things that can take things to the next level. High end images (whether product or even personal branding images) can increase conversion rates and perceived value.

        • Yeppers... that is true. Oh and another consideration is the cost of your items for sale. If you are selling items in the $20-250 range like my vintage items are, a DIY photo is probably good enough. that said, if you are selling $1,000+ products it would be worth investing in some professional photos!

  • I love this for my Etsy shop where I sell my handmade crafts. Now I just need to figure out how to do the right kind of photos to sell my crafting EVENTS. I do crops and cruises, and I have the hardest time coming up with good photos that sell the event. Obviously, I have lots of pictures of the cruise ship and the beach, and even the projects that we make in our workshops, etc., but how to capture the people doing the workshops AND having fun so that it's interesting...that's what's hard for me!

    • This was the hardest for me too because I am so literal! But here is something weird... one of my pictures of hands on my ARC planner is going "semi nuts" on Pinterest. I have beautiful, styled pictures of planners and they choose my chubby fingers pushing down on paper? Yep! For sure you could do "hand pictures" doing crafts.

      You could also do "friends", women crafting together or just hanging out. Think about the type of woman who comes to a group crafting event... are they older or younger, moms of infants or teens, do they wear splotched up shirts or are they snappy dressers. You want to SHOW the people the way you show the boat and the beaches...:)

    • Hi Gulten! Seriously, the way to take better photos is to take more photos. Last Christmas season I took one a day for a month and got SO MUCH BETTER!

  • I love these ideas 💡 Especially the one using scrapbook paper. My challenge seems to be lightening. I hate the shadows or glare lights from my “staged photos.”

    My home doesn’t have a nice flood of natural light.

    I’ve tried going outside in my yard, which works great. But on rainy or cloudy days, that option is out.

    Could you give me some tips for lightening when taking my pics?

    Thanks so much!

    • Our house is wicked dark too with huge Florida overhangs to keep out the sun! The one thing that helped more than anything is a giant light bouncy thing my photographer husband gave me (that is TOTALLY the 'official" term... hahaha). Anyways here is what it is... Photography Light Reflectors.. about $20 on amazon. I would do the bigger the better on this one to get the most light in your shot!

  • Great post Tara, thank you for all the new ideas. I was going to ask you the same thing about lighting lol, but I’m glad I didn’t have to. That seems to be my biggest obstacle.
    Thanks again!

  • I love your idea of using crafting paper for the base and background of your product shots! Thank you for this ingenious idea.

Published by
Tara Jacobsen

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