Recipe for a Stylish Lifestyle Shoot

by Leila S Posted on July 04, 2011

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Want to turn quality time with your family into a stylish lifestyle shoot like they do in the magazines? We worked with Mike and Ryan who love making pizza together to show you how. (Feel free to substitute your favorite – preferably messy – dish!)

Props and Wardrobe
Lighting and composition always play a role in a photo shoot, but much of the final look comes courtesy of the props and wardrobe. We started by having a look around the kitchen at what should stay and what should go. Decluttering is just as important as the props you bring to the table. The blender was not necessary for our pizza story and the paper towels were distractingly white. Once we had a simpler backdrop, we moved in a bowl of fruit for a pop of color and balanced what was already there. We had our models stand in to help us determine where to arrange background objects.

Now the real styling began! Our props included all the yummy ingredients, measuring cups and spoons, and a fresh set of dish towels to compliment the kitchen’s color scheme. We wanted the attention to go to our father and son and their pizza creation so we went with soft solids for their wardrobe and a casual look to convey that ‘at home’ feeling. With that in mind, we pulled several shirts and took more test shots with them in the kitchen wearing a few of our top picks to see what looked best. We finally landed on a simple butter cream shirt on dad, a sky blue tee on Ryan, and some khaki shorts on both of them. Go with what works for your story like maybe whites & brights for decorating cupcakes.

Hair and makeup is super easy on guys. A little front flip in Ryan’s hair and some powder to reduce shine on our guys and we were set. Oh wait… did I say shine? Ryan actually still had the remnants of a shiner, courtesy of a misdirected baseball at little league practice! After a touch of expertly applied cover up I breathed a sigh of relief thinking about all the time saved in Photoshop!  I can’t tell, can you?

Tell a Story
Once you have all the elements in place, it’s time to play! Have your family take their time and exaggerate the process so you get your shot. Our pizza dough was actually thrown up a couple times too many and got pretty thin. Mike was able to squish it all on the pizza stone though and none of us tasted the wrinkles. If you’re willing, how about a spontaneous flour fight? Okay it was a little messy (there was a fine sprinkle of flour all over) but so much fun. Ryan couldn’t get enough and we were all laughing. Nothing a broom and wet wash cloth couldn’t take care of…  Remember fresh ingredients and home cooked food are very photogenic too!  Get some close-ups. Lighting tip: use only daylight or off camera flash.

The Food
If you’re Italian American like this family, making pizza may come naturally. When I asked dad for his recipe it was all up there in his head. For the rest of us here are some directions…

Mike’s Easy as Pie Bread Maker Pizza
4.25 cups flour
1.5 cups warm water
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tbs olive oil
2 tsp active dry yeast
marinara sauce
fresh mozzarella
your favorite pizza toppings

Makes 1 very large pizza or 2 medium pizzas.

Add all the ingredients to the bread pan of your bread maker and process according to the manufacturer’s dough setting.  Meanwhile, preheat a pizza stone in your oven at 450 degrees F for 30 minutes. Prepare your favorite pizza toppings. When the bread maker has completed the dough cycle, remove the dough from the pan to a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough several times then form it into an oval and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Roll and stretch the dough into a 14-inch circle and place it onto your heated pizza stone. Spoon on your favorite homemade marinara sauce and sprinkle on a generous portion of freshly grated mozzarella. Add any toppings you like. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom and the top is bubbly. Remove your pizza from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes (that will allow the crust to stay crisp). Once cool, make slices with your pizza wheel and dig in!

So what are you going to cook up?

Leila and Jo-Ann are a photographer and make-up/stylist team who write a monthly blog
called Foto Shui – make your photos flow. and


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  1. Earl J Says:

    Fridays are our home-made pizza day. Can’t remember when we have bought the boxed pizza. They are different, and terrific, each week. My thanks to wife, Diane. It is good to see how much fun you have in putting them together.

  2. Leila Sutton Says:

    I love that Earl – what a fun Friday tradition! I bet they’ll continue it with their own kiddies. :)


  3. Joey Says:

    Oh my gosh what a great photoshoot. These photos do look like something out of a magazine!! What a wonderful idea and you have everything so planned out to what the father and son wore to touching up the son’s shiner – and no I couldn’t tell! Good work. I loved all these fabulous pictures, great light and it looks like they had a ball working together. I like the toss up of flour to each other. A flour fight sounds like a messy good time. Loved reading this article and seeing these amazing pictures. So inspiring.

  4. Leila Sutton Says:

    Thanks so much Joey! I hope it inspires you to cook something up. :)


  5. AnnAbbott Says:

    Lots of fun! I did a making Thanksgiving Day dinner will my whole gang! It was so much fun to do..before and after!

  6. Leila Sutton Says:

    I love your book, Ann – and your daughter’s Annie T-Shirt too. I might have to get me one of those!


  7. petiam Says:

    Oh, how I love this article! I wish my shots came out as good as yours – I try though… I will use your tips for the next occasion.

  8. kayb Says:

    You provided some great tips, thank you!!! Looks like you all had a great time, especially with the flour fight! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Leila Sutton Says:

    I feel like part of the joy is just having the memory on paper, petiam. Your results will get better and better the more you shoot. Many thanks, kayb – the flour fight was a blast. I love a little controlled chaos!

    Best, Leila

more about Leila S

My name is Leila (l-eye-la) and I'm a NYC kids lifestyle photographer. I shoot kids and families for advertising and editorial clients, and everyday moms & dads from all over the world. I'm always aiming for that perfect balance of expression, action and environment to come together and tell a story. In my case, that story is most often honest and joyful. When I'm not out shooting with clients, you'll find me toting around my gear whenever I have the opportunity to travel or in my own neck of the woods at family parties. I just can't get enough. Parents, friends and family (even my own mom!) often ask me how I get them and their kids to look so amazing. Some of it is technical and some of it is just learning to notice the right details. I'm thrilled to be able share with my fellow Shutterfly enthusiasts my professional advice on how to "make your photos flow". And yes, I use Shutterfly too for my personal snapshots! I've made beautiful photo greeting cards and love their share sites for giving my friends & family insider access to the gazillion shots they're always seeing me take. Visit my website at, follow me on, or peruse my blog - make your photos flow.

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