Lifestyle vs. Ecommerce Photography


Today we are digging in to Part 2 of our three-part blog series partnering with Kirby Cox, stylist at BHLDN and former stylist at Free People. We’re be talking about the difference between lifestyle and ecommerce photography: the definition of each, where to use them, and how to capture them effectively.

What we are covering in this series:

Part 1 • How to prep for your photoshoot like a pro. (Click here to check it out and learn more about Kirby!)

Part 2 • The difference between lifestyle and ecommerce images.

Part 3 • Everything you need to know about working with models. (Check it out here.)


Okay, let’s dig in!

Most of you are not only operating your brick and mortar space, you’re also running an online shop; and you’re promoting your business through various social media platforms, digital ads, and print materials. There are SO MANY different ways you use your content.

  • Website: product shots, banner and supporting images, blog content

  • Emails

  • Print Materials: in-store signage, advertisements, fliers, postcards, catalogs, etc.

  • Digital Ads

  • Instagram: posts, stories

  • Facebook: cover photo, posts, event pages

  • Other Social Media Platforms: Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

Understanding what type of image you need for each platform is such an important step in the content generation process that we decided to dedicate an entire post to it!


Lifestyle or Creative Photography

Description: communicates a feeling, a lifestyle, or the identity of your brand; focuses more on the story behind the product and not just the product itself; typically shot on location where the product is captured being used in real life.

Where to use:

  • Social Media Platforms

  • Website — home page, banner images, blog

  • Emails

  • Lead Image for Web Products (The cover image you see as you scroll on a product page.)

  • Print Materials — fliers, postcards, catalogs, etc.

  • Advertisements — print and digital

  • In-Store Signage

Who are you telling the story to?

Because lifestyle images are all about the story you’re telling, you need to know who you’re actually telling the story to. Really getting clear on your target audience is key to being able to capture great shots that will resonate with your customer. Who is she? Where is she going? What is she doing? How does your product fit into her life?

Not quite sure who your ideal customer is or just want to enhance your marketing strategy? Access the Client Discovery Workbook through the Free Resource Library! It will help you discover who your ideal shopper is and provide you with a list of questions and ideas of how you can improve your strategy.

Get creative.

These shots are an opportunity for you to take more risks and use your imagination! Play around with various locations and backgrounds. If your customer loves to travel, do a road trip photoshoot. When you know who you’re talking to, it’s easier to develop a story around how the customer would use your product.

Make sure you get both portrait AND landscape shots.

It can be really easy to get stuck in the habit of only taking portrait (or vertical) shots. There are various platforms we mentioned above that require landscape (or horizontal) images, so don’t forget to rotate your camera and snag a few both ways. I promise this will allow you to maximize the use of your content and all that time spent!


Ecommerce or Product Photography

Description: clean shot that showcases the product well; purpose is to accurately depict the product being sold; typically shot on a clean, solid background; sells product better than lifestyle shots.

Let’s pause real quick because you may be thinking, “Wait, how do ecommerce shots sell better? They don’t seem as engaging.” We totally get that. Like we talked about the purpose of a lifestyle photo is to capture the customer, but then the ecommerce photo does the real work of selling it.

Think about the last time you bought a shirt online. You may have seen it on social media and clicked through to check it out because you loved the way it was styled. Once you got to the product page, you were able to see all the details: front, back, side, and a close-up shot of a special detail you didn’t even realize was there.

That’s why ecommerce images tend to actually sell product better—you get to see everything. Even in that scenario you can see that both types of photos are important to the overall strategy, though. The lifestyle image captures your attention and the ecommerce photo gives you all the info you need to make a decision.

Where to use:

  • Website Product Shots

  • Emails = to provide additional information to a lifestyle/creative photo (ex: more color options)

Consistency is key.

When it comes to ecommerce images, you’ll be taking numerous shots of the same item. You want to think about your lighting, the background, and color checking product so it accurately represents the color in real life. The worst is ordering an item and it being a totally different color when it arrives. So with that being said, don’t use filters for ecommerce shots!

It’s all in the details.

Really study each item you shoot and be sure to get a shot of each thing that makes it unique. Does the item have an interesting lining or button detail? Get a shot of it! And it’s easy for a customer to overlook a detail if it is just mentioned in the written description, so don’t count on that. Make sure you capture it in a picture.

Ensure items are accurately depicted.

This is especially important when it comes to shooting clothing. Ensure your images accurately depict how an item fits the body. Don’t over “alter” the clothing by pinning or tacking it. The customer will inevitably return the item if it doesn’t look the way they thought which means more processing for you, wasted time, and a not so stellar customer experience.

Better images = better sales. Selling is the primary goal of having an online shop so it’s extremely important to prioritize informative images over a pretty shot. Save that for your Insta feed!

You can still have fun!

When it comes to product shots and shooting on a clean backdrop, it can be a struggle to capture images that are as engaging as your lifestyle shots. We feel ya and here are some easy tips. For model shots, try using different kinds of seating and play with how the model is positioning her body. For items not on a model, keep relevant props on hand that can add a little interest to the photo without overpowering the featured product.


That’s your crash course on lifestyle vs. ecommerce images.

Did any questions come up for you? If so, drop a comment below. Thank you again to Kirby for all of your valuable insight. You can follow along with her on Instagram at @kirbyjoanna. Next week in Part 3 we’ll be talking all about working with models!

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