Capturing the “mini-moment”: Shooting commercial images in everyday life situations

Decades ago, cameras might have been reserved for milestones like weddings, birthdays, and graduations, but today, most of the photos we take—and share with others—capture smaller moments that unfold in our everyday lives.

On social media, hashtags like #DocumentYourDays, #OurCandidLife, and #MomentsofMine have racked up millions of posts, all highlighting the beauty of the bits and pieces that make up our daily routines.

teeth brushing by Viara Mileva on 500px.com

In the last few years, these “everyday moments” have also filtered into the commercial sphere. In print ads and television commercials, more brands have homed in on small, “in-between” scenes that sometimes get overlooked in the hustle and bustle of daily life: a man singing in the shower in the morning, a woman closing up her shop after a hard day of work, a child learning to tie a shoelace.

Going forward, these small and seemingly ordinary moments will continue to flourish in family photo albums and commercial stock photography alike. Here are our top tips for creating photos that feel authentic and relatable—and resonate with buyers.

Pet Rat Love by Marcia Fernandes on 500px.com

Keep your camera on hand—always

The term “commercial photography” might conjure up visions of high-end studios, professional models, and teams of stylists, but these days, you don’t need a budget to capture marketable images.

Over time, buyers have moved towards more accessible photos. According to one Neilson survey, ads that depict “real-life situations” resonate most powerfully with global customers, and over on Getty Images, buyer searches for “authentic moments” have gone up by 122%.

Keep a small camera available at all times and see what comes naturally as you go about your day. Use your house as a studio and creative playground. Get to know where the best light is, and track the sunrise and sunset to plan for ideal shooting times.

Similarly, a simple commute to work can pose the perfect opportunity to capture some candid street photos in an urban environment, while a trip to the grocery store could offer the chance for a mini-lifestyle shoot. Practice shooting in manual mode so you can grab your camera and get your shot at a moment’s notice.

Room2 by Roman Bádusov on 500px.com

Work with real people

On Getty Images, searches for “real people” and “real family” went up by 218% and 678%, respectively. Your models can be your friends and family—just remember to ask them to sign a model release (any minors will need the signature of a parent or guardian).

Working with people you know will save you money on models, and it’ll also enable you to capture those small, intimate moments that an outsider might miss: brushing teeth in the morning, getting dressed for school, making an afternoon snack, setting the table for dinner, or having a bath before bedtime.

When collaborating with friends and family, you can take an informal, documentary-style approach to lifestyle photography. You can help everyone pick out clothes that look good on camera (if you plan to license your photos commercially, steer clear of logos), but then you can take a step back and give them the freedom to be themselves. Look for casual, off-the-cuff moments between formal poses.

Unrecognizable woman preparing turkish coffee. Pouring water into a cup. by Andrea Obzerova on 500px.com

Shoot what you know

By focusing on the details of your day, you can create images that are universally relatable (and sellable). Start by documenting your personal routine, and consider including your hands or arms in your photos for an immersive, first-person perspective.

Facebook calls these kinds of scenes “once-a-day moments”. While brands still rely on seasonal, holiday-specific campaigns, marketers are also interested in portraying everyday events like drinking coffee or going for a morning run. Find the “once-a-day moments” that make you tick; chances are they will ring true with image buyers as well.

Just like Dad by Esteban Alvarez on 500px.com

Get specific

When shooting everyday moments, don’t be afraid to get granular. These moments are often fleeting, so use context and details to tell a larger story. Sometimes, a small overlooked detail—like a father and a child’s matching socks, in the picture above—can carry more emotional weight than a generic portrait. Focus on specific elements that capture the imagination, spark memories, and stir universal feelings.

Friends by Katerina Annenkova on 500px.com

Bare couple feet by the cozy fireplace. Man and Woman relaxes by warm fire with a cup of hot... by Djamel Hannachi on 500px.com

Stay local

You don’t have to travel far to find these commercial “mini-moments,” so stay close to home, both figuratively and literally.

These days, geotagged, localized advertisements are more important than ever, with a whopping 96% of people seeing ads that reference their location. While generalized images still do have their place, pictures with a specific, local atmosphere tend to appeal to buyers who are looking to personalize their approach to marketing.

Make sure you tag your location on all your photos, even if they’re detail shots taken at home— adding keywords about where you are (e.g., neighborhood, city, town, country) will help clients find and sort through your work more easily, especially if they’re looking to target a specific demographic.

A close-up of a young sporty black man runner tying shoelaces outside in a city. by Jozef Polc on 500px.com

Add appropriate keywords

Most “mini-moment” photos will incorporate people, so it’s important to apply keywords that reflect that.

When editing or uploading your images, remember to add a mix of both literal keywords (e.g., the number of people in the photo, what they’re doing, the relationships between them, their ages, genders, ethnicities, hair colors, etc.) and conceptual keywords that point to the emotion or idea at the heart of the image (e.g., love, joy, wanderlust, adventure seeker, long-term savings, etc.). Read our in-depth article about keywording photos of people for more essential tips for boosting your ranking and discoverability.

Shift your perspective

These small, ordinary moments don’t always take place in our regular plain of view—sometimes, you need to change your vantage point to notice them in the first place. If you’re working with kids or pets, get down on their level and see the world through their eyes, or use mirrors or windows to take self-portraits as you go about your day.

Look down at your feet, or set up your tripod and camera on the counter while you’re cooking. Grab wide shots and then zoom in; experiment with different depths of field to see what works best in the situation at hand.

Woman getting ready while commuting by Jason Hampden on 500px.com

A small girl with grandmother cooking at home. by Jozef Polc on 500px.com

Take your time

These everyday “mini-moments” are similar to what the iconic street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once called “decisive moments” in the sense that they happen quickly and often without warning. Noticing them requires time and patience, but the more you do it, the sharper your senses—and reflexes—become.

These moments can happen anywhere and at any time, so use them as an excuse to practice your photography and get better over time. By integrating these smaller photoshoots into your daily routine, you’ll improve your skills—and build up an impressive and diverse Licensing portfolio.

Lazy morning on terrace by Anna Ivanova on 500px.com

Morning routines by Adrian C. Murray on 500px.com

Seek inspiration

The “everyday moments” lifestyle trend began on social media, and it’s evolving in real-time. Social media hashtags like #My_Magical_Moments, #TheArtofSlowLiving, #OfSimpleThings, #MyEverydayMagic, #DaysofSmallThings, are treasure troves of inspiration for photographers, along with the others we mentioned above.

Remember to check out the Galleries and Photo Quests on 500px for ideas about what to shoot next, and follow the blog for features with Licensing Contributors who specialize in this kind of photography (recently, Adriana Samanez gave a great interview on the topic).

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Catalina´s World by raquel chicheri on 500px.com

Keep it simple

It might go without saying, but mini-moments work best when they’re straightforward. A 2018 study from Kantar—focused specifically on Christmas advertising—revealed that consumers responded better to simple stories than they did to highly-produced blockbuster commercials. Overall, smaller-scale productions featuring families participating in real-life activities—like eating dinner—outperformed more cinematic spots that carried a “grand message.”

Photos of everyday moments are all about conveying these simple but poignant narratives—often without a big Hollywood budget. Buyers crave photos that real customers can identify with; if an image elicits an immediate emotional response in you, chances are it will resonate with others as well.

Roots by Juan Zade on 500px.com

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