It started out innocently enough. You were a landscape photographer, a solitary scenery hunter, a planet-loving, tree-hugging, mountain-climbing, river-crossing, track-scrambling wanderer in the wilds. You loved documenting our planet and all of its hidden little nooks and crannies.
You lived for sturdy tripods, graduated ND filters and focus stacking. You used to pore over Google Earth searching for new photographic adventures, new vistas, new outlooks, new amazing views to capture in your own unique way.
But then things started to change. One day you brought along a lady friend with you and you decided to photograph her in silhouette in front of the setting sun. Sure it’s something a bit different from your traditional landscape photographs, but that’s cool because it’s good to experiment. You upload it to social media and your audience go nuts over it. “Those tones,” they cry. “#travelstoke,” they chat. Maybe there’s something in this, you ponder.
Over the next few months, your style starts changing. Where once your photography was all about the location – now it’s all about the mood. You are displaying all the signs of a transition. You’re transphotographic. You’re becoming a lifestyle photographer.
And you know what? That’s totally cool. You do you.
Official advisory: if you or a photographer you know is making big changes in their life, try and support them. To assist you, we have compiled a list of nine signs of transphotographic behavior that are early manifestations of photographic reassignment from landscape to lifestyle photography.
1. Tan and Teal
Nothing screams lifestyle photographer louder than the old tan-and-teal Lightroom filters. Those muddy oranges and dirty browns are the unofficial color scheme of this tight-knit group and they are happy to apply them to each and every shot they post on their Instagram feed. So strong is the desire to recolor the world in these 1970s throwback colors, that they have been known to retouch their old high school photos. If a photographer you know has bought the Sunkissed Traveller Lightroom Preset Collection – it could be a sign that they are transitioning.
2. Bikini Babes
She might be the girlfriend, she might be the wife, she might be an aspiring model who they connected with on Instagram, but the important thing is that she looks sen-f***ing-sational in a bikini. She’s the perfect foreground interest for a beach shot, the ideal muse for a waterfall medley, the perfect picture postcard poser for a rainforest creek.
Get her to turn around and aim those perfect little butt cheeks at the camera, get into a flighty arms-aloft stance or, for the quintessential lifestyle image, pull a yoga pose. This is an absolute mainstay of the lifestyle photographer’s toolkit — mastering it is the very key to mastering the style.
3. Could Be Anywhere
If landscape photography is all about creating a sense of place, then lifestyle photography is the absolute opposite. An image taken by a lifestyle photographer often contains no identifying features whatsoever. It could be any beach on the planet, it could be any field in the world, it could be any woodland trail on the continent. Bomb shots taken with a drone are absolutely perfect for this kind of imagery, but if they do shoot from ground level, they always choose an angle that disguises all identifying features of the location.
4. Prayer Hands
5. The Lonely Wanderer
Remember – it’s all about mood. Anonymity and mood. Anonymous moodiness. So a sure-fire sign of photographic reassignment is the ‘lonely wanderer’ shot. Yes, it has a person in but they must always, ALWAYS, have their backs to the camera and they must always, ALWAYS, be on their own.
6. That Hat
If, while out shopping with your transphotographic friend, you notice them browsing the selection of quality boho hats in that little boutique, then they could be entering the ‘That Hat’ phase. The hat is a key element of lifestyle photography and no self-respecting lifestyle photographer would ever send their bikini-wearing muse out onto that windswept rock without wearing one.
7. Pastels. Everywhere.
Yes, tan-and-teal is a sure sign of a photographer going through ‘the change’ to lifestyle photography, but it ’s not the only color scheme that gets the certified lifestyle stamp of approval. If there’s an abundance of pastel shaded imagery appearing in someone’s Instagram feed it’s a safe bet they are transphotographic. Watch out for dreamy beach scenes — in particular, those featuring a bikini-babe.
8. High Key
Landscape photographers will go above and beyond to get a perfectly crisp photograph, even to the extent that they will focus stack to achieve maximum crisposity. So if you notice your friend is starting to open up that 50mm prime of theirs and venturing into the forbidden zone beyond f/4, it’s a pretty safe bet they’re transitioning. If you spy any images of raindrops on windows at night then it’s already too late.
P.S. No, I’m not being serious, so please wind the old outrage meter back to its idling speed. I understand that heavily sarcastic writing sometimes goes over people’s heads, so to save you a bit of trouble I’d like to point out a couple of things.
Yes, I’ve been known to take the occasional lifestyle-y photograph myself. Guilty as charged. So yes, in a sense I’m poking fun at myself too. However, I do know folks that have abandoned traditional landscape photography completely in favor of highly stylised Instagram-friendly lifestyle imagery, and this article was inspired by them. Many times I’ve been flicking through my Instagram feed and the same thought occurs to me over and over again: why do they bother mentioning the location of their images when they could all be the same completely anonymous-looking place?
About the author: Andy Hutchinson is a photographer and journalist based in South Coast, New South Wales, Australia. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work and words on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram. This article was also published here.