Lifestyle Photography: Everyday Storytelling in Photo & Print | Dan Rubin | Skillshare

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Lifestyle Photography: Everyday Storytelling in Photo & Print

teacher avatar Dan Rubin, Designer + Travel & Lifestyle Photographer

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Prepping to Shoot for the Day


    • 3.

      Shooting in Soho


    • 4.

      Selecting Your Photos


    • 5.

      Editing Your Photos


    • 6.

      Printing & Digitally Publishing Photos


    • 7.

      Explore Photo Classes on Skillshare


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About This Class

Have a million photos on your phone, and wondering what's next? Join photographer and designer Dan Rubin as he shows how to transform everyday photos from an NYC afternoon into stories to share both in print and online.

Over the course of 25 minutes, Dan shares insightful ways to visually capture an experience or place, including:

  • Prepping for exploration
  • Shooting tips
  • Selecting the best photos for telling your story in print and online

This class will empower photographers and enthusiasts alike to transform a simple afternoon exploration into tangible prints! Your friends are sure to be impressed by the artwork on your walls.


Colorado-based Artifact Uprising offers custom photo books, prints and gifts. Driven by its mission to move stories “Off your device, into your life,” the company is known for its premium quality papers, responsibly-sourced materials, and elevated design.

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Meet Your Teacher

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Dan Rubin

Designer + Travel & Lifestyle Photographer


Born in Miami Beach and now living in London, Dan is a designer, photographer, and teacher.

One of Instagram’s earliest beta testers and a speaker at the world’s first mobile photography conference, 1197, his work was featured in iTunes upon Instagram’s launch and he has become one of the most-followed, non-celebrity mobile photographers, with more than half a million followers on Instagram alone. In addition to co-founding The Photographic Journal and a boutique consultancy, webgraph, Dan travels the world on photographic commissions for select clientele including Barbour, O2, RedBull, Starwood Hotels, Williams Martini, and more.


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1. Introduction: Hi. I'm Dan Rubin, photographer, designer and creative director. Today, I'm in New York to show you how to tell stories through your photographs in everyday life. I'm meeting up with a friend of mine for coffee and breakfast, and while we're hanging out, I'm going to capture some images, and then turn those into a narrative, tell a story about our meeting through the images. I'm going to walk you through the stages involved from planning before you actually do any shooting to how to shoot while involved in meeting a friend or going to lunch or hanging out with your family without getting in the way, without interrupting. Then, how to select the images and also edit as a set. Finally, how to actually output those, whether it's in print or online. For this class, your project is going to be telling a story through images of something that happens in your day to day life. It's up to you what that is, but the goal will be to end up with 10-15 images that you can use online or in print that tell that specific story. 2. Prepping to Shoot for the Day: So to start things off, let's talk about the planning. We want to make sure that you take what you need and nothing more, and before you are ready to shoot, you want to have a good idea of what kind of shots you need to tell a story later, to stitch things together. Also, that you take at least a couple of minutes to think about where it is that you're going to be. So, you understand what the constraints are going to be about that environment. What the light is going to be, whether you can shoot with a smart phone or if you're going to need some sort of other camera. In general, the idea is that you shouldn't need much equipment at all to capture things that happen in your everyday life. So, let's talk about equipment for a couple of seconds. Today, I have my iPhone, an add-on lens from Moment to get a little wider shots if I need, and then a mirrorless camera, and that's it. One lens, one phone. Nothing more. If I had anything more, I need a bag, and it would over complicate it. I don't want to be switching lenses. I don't want to be thinking about the shooting. This isn't an editorial shoot or a commercial shoot. This is me hanging out with my friend Laura, catching up, because we haven't seen each other in a while, and if the photography gets in the way of the thing that you're doing in your everyday life that you're trying to tell the story about, then you're approaching it wrong. The idea is for it to sit alongside the thing that you're doing. So, you can still experience it and still enjoy it. Then, have a set of images that tell that story after the fact. Now, when it comes to storytelling. There are lots of different ways to build a narrative out of images. What we're going to be concentrating on today is the smallest number of images. So, you don't have to actually be shooting a lot, but you also don't have much to edit after the fact. To do that, the easiest way is to think about the different types of images that help you tell a story. So, some of those are going to be wide shots, some of those will be atmospheric to set up the environment that you happen to be in. A lot of details are great because not only can you use those to transition from one area to another or little parts of the story, but details of how we actually see and experience something. Someone's hands, their feet, the detail of something you're eating. Whatever it is, details are great and they're so easy to capture because you don't really have to get in someone's way to do it. Then, I like shooting portraits, making sure that I capture the person or people that I'm spending time with. Sometimes that's more of a an actual posed portrait. Sometimes, it's just capturing someone while they're doing something. But in this case, meeting up with a friend for breakfast, it's about that friend. So, understanding what the story is that you're trying to tell will give you all the information you need to understand what images you need to capture that narrative. So, if you're taking pictures of your kid's soccer match, you'll want to be able to capture the game itself obviously, but some of the details will be the feet, the cleats, the ball itself, the net, the environment, of course, and the atmosphere, but also the crowds on the sidelines, the parents, people interacting with each other, everything that's happening on the fringes. Maybe you'll also want to capture some of the journey to and from. Some of your personal story about your family getting ready to go, not just the thing itself. So, understanding what the thing is that you're about to capture and giving it just five minutes of thought will tell you the kinds of shots that you want to get and what kind of story you want to tell. Now in general, you can tell linear or nonlinear stories. So, if you're putting a book together or a photo essay in a journal online, people are going to see the first image first and the last image last, and everything is going to go in a linear form. If you're giving someone a stack of prints to look through, they might look through them in the order that you've given them, but they might also mix them up. So, that's more of a nonlinear approach, where you're collecting a series of images but the order in which they're viewed as less important. Therefore, that's better for a larger set of images. You don't have to worry so much about which image comes before another and stitching transitions together. Whereas, a linear story, you really want to think about your beginning, middle, and end, and how you get from place to place. 3. Shooting in Soho: So, today's story is all about catching up with my friend, Laura. So, what I wanted to do today when we met up was capture the environment and the atmosphere and the place where this was being set, but I wanted it mostly to be very intimate, very personal about catching up with this really good friend. So, a lot of the shots that I captured were details of Laura cutting food. There were a lot of things that were still life setups as well that were environmental. But most of my focus was on images of Laura, not staged portraits but a couple of wide shots, a lot of details along the way as we were outside after the cafe and inside the cafe just kind of eating and drinking and sharing stories. That's the core of this story I'm trying to tell, is that it's about meeting up with this specific person. So, that naturally led me to capturing more pictures of Laura and of details around her, then images of the people who are around or just random people on the street. So, this morning, Laura and I spent most of our time in the cafe, which was a great environment full of so many details, great walls, great chairs, tables, everything had so much texture and really phenomenal light. So, the challenge is using a handful of images to represent that kind of atmosphere, that feeling. So, I can convey what it felt like to hang out in this cozy little Soho cafe. A lot of that, for me, revolved around the cakes and pastries that were up at the front to set up, and also capturing what we had, our coffees and some of the cookies and pastries actually on the table. That's pretty basic straightforward stuff but that's all you really need to set the tone without it being about the people. Then everything else was really focused on shots of Laura's hands, a couple of wide shots just in case I want to use them, because again, not knowing whether I'm going to tell a linear story or a nonlinear if it's going to be a wide edit versus a very narrow one, I do want to give myself some room to maneuver. But again, I want to be having a conversation with her not snapping pictures the entire time. So, capturing a couple of these types of images was really, really straightforward. While we were waiting in line, it was very easy to capture a lot of the detail shots about the front of the cafe. When we were eating, it was really easy for me to shoot a couple of picture of Laura while she's speaking or maybe while she's speaking or eating, I can capture pictures of her hand so I'm not getting her with her mouth full or anything like that that you wouldn't really want to show because that makes someone uncomfortable. Because we were catching up and telling good stories and having a good time, it was really easy to get some shots of Laura laughing and just not being too serious, and again, that was the whole point of this meetup. Without having to spend too much time thinking about it or too much time interrupting our meet up, I was able to get the things that I knew were setting the tone of the morning. Now, when we left the cafe, we just randomly walked around. So, I didn't have anywhere specific in mind that we're going to hit. There wasn't anything I was intentionally going to set up as far as images were concerned, and mostly, I didn't shoot. We spent most of the time talking, and this is again what you should be doing. You should be focused on what you're doing not on spending all your time capturing it. As we went along, I was able to capture a couple of maybe pose shots. If I found a little bit of good light or good texture, I just ask Laura to sit somewhere to lean up against the wall, and we found this really nice park where we just sat in the shade and again caught up, talked about where we might want to each live and where I might move next. During that time, because we've found some nice shade, I was able to get some nice detail shots of the juice cups that we had. Then as we left the park, there was a great little scene that caught my eye that just kind of said typical New York Street, a nice metal silver van against some buildings in the background, and that's the kind of thing that my eye is looking for. I just want to be able to get the shot and then move on and keep the conversation going. As we reach the end of our walk, we passed a bookshop which allowed me to get some reflection shots of Laura looking through the windows at the books, and also allows me to position the camera over Laura's shoulder. So, she's still in the shot but it gives the viewer the point of view that she has, which is a really great storytelling trick. Then I just got some additional wide shots where I ran across to the other side of the road and took pictures of Laura, she's just walking down the street. So, they're wide, they're atmospheric, they're kind of setting up the neighborhood that we're in, but they also include the focal point of the story. So, it makes it a little bit more personal rather than being some random shot of the street that doesn't really have anything to do with the story. 4. Selecting Your Photos: So, now I've captured all of the images from this morning. I've imported them into Lightroom and I've also got some on my iPhone. The first step in the editing process is to do my selects. What I mean by that is to look through everything that I've shot and give some sort of rating to the good shots. Remember, I want to end up with somewhere between 10, 15, 20, 25 at most images. This also gives me the opportunity to see what I captured. This is the stage where you start thinking about what story you can actually tell, because you see the shots that are your favorites. The ones that tug at your heartstrings a little bit or make you smile, and give you some sort of memory of the thing that you've just done. That's a really good measure of whether to keep that image or just move on. Now, the way that I rate my images in Lightroom is just by giving them one, two, or three stars. My first pass is always one star. It's really easy. I can just hit the one on the keyboard and then I move on. That tells me it's an image that I want to go back to. You'll see here that, I've got smart collections setup for one, two, and three star, and that automatically will put anything that I set. One star will just show up in the one-star smart collection. When I make my second pass to try and narrow that down even further and get rid of duplicates for instance, then those who get two stars and those images will automatically show up in the two-star smart collection. That makes it really easy for me to just do this the first pass, second pass, and then onto the third pass which will be my final images that tell the story really quickly without having to do any other work. Lightroom helps me in that way. On the iPhone, basically doing a similar process but instead of being able to put multiple stars, I'm just using the iOS favorites. So, I've got the images that I shot, I've selected all of those, and put them in their own album. So, they're just nicely contained. Then, I'm just looking through each image and hitting the heart to signify that I like that image and it's worth me considering using. So, now back into Lightroom, you'll also see that I've got some collections that I've set up manually for different types of shots. So, atmosphere, cafe, details, Laura, and wide shots, based on what we've already talked about. Those should be pretty obvious. But in my head, the atmospheric images you'll see here are just shots that say New York street scene. Only one of them features something that we actually went to, which is the signage for the cafe. The rest are just random shots that setup what they felt like and what the surroundings we're in a very generic way. Cafe, very obvious, it's a mixture of details and wide shots in the cafe. But it's just everything that was environmental about the cafe itself. Details is just that any shot that is a detail shot, more of a close-up shot rather than a wide shot. Laura, any shot that included Laura whether it's details or not, because that means when I'm ready to stitch my final images together, if I'm thinking, what would be great here is to get another shot of Laura's hands or something like that. I know they're in one place. My next step is to is to start editing the images. But while I'm actually doing the post-production editing how they look, correcting white balance, giving every image in the set a consistent look and feel, I'm also going to be thinking even more critically about which images are going to stay and which images are going to go. Now, again, my goal here is to cut this 63 down to 10, 15, 20, maybe 25 at a push final images. So, I've got to do another call of about a third of these shots to get to my final selection. Ultimately, after editing those shots, I'll then take those edits and sync them with other shots that were taken in the same environment, same lighting, same white balance, and then just tweak. So, there really isn't a ton of work that needs to be done to edit a large selection of images. You really just need to pick and choose a few shots that represent the shots around them. Then, it really cuts down on the amount of time that you have to spend both in Lightroom and in apps like VSCO Cam. 5. Editing Your Photos: So, I'm going to look at this wide shot of Laura in the cafe, one of the portraits that I shot of her outside, and then a detail shot of the cups from the park. Across these images, it gives me a range of both the style of shots, the wide, the detail of the portrait, but also, some of the different lighting, shade, outside, different colors and textures, and of course, inside the cafe, and all of the white balance issues that go across those different environments. This isn't going to be an editing class. There are other great courses on Skillshare that you can take to learn the ins and outs of post-production. But what I'm going to do is just quickly walk through each of these images, and why I'm going to edit them in a certain way, so that they look and feel like a set across all of these different environments. So, let's start with this image of Laura in the cafe. The biggest issue of the cafe as an environment is the mix of white balances. You have very orange tungsten light bulbs, and then natural light, daylight that's coming in through the windows. So, what I want ultimately is to make sure that Laura's skin tones look well balanced. That's also why I've chosen a shot that includes her. So then, even if she's not in the shot, as long as the white balance that works for natural skin tones in this environment is transferred to those other images, they'll all look the same. Now, I don't need to get it exactly the way I want it to yet, I just need to get it close because when I've made my final selection of images, I'll go and do one more pass specifically for white balance, and also exposure across all of the images to make sure that they feel like a series, like a set, that none of them stand out as being too dark, too warm, too cold, too bright. The next shot is a detail shot from the park of our juice cups, and the shadows, and the light play. I really like the shot. I'm not sure yet whether I'll use it horizontally, or in portrait, orientation, or if I'll crop it at all. But I really love the tones, and the colors, and the little bit of yellow that pops out from the leaves as well as the orange juice. There's just a lot of really neat stuff going on there that I know will stitch together parts of the story. So here, we're not dealing with a white balance issue thankfully. You can see that if you click on different parts of the concrete, different types of neutral, you really get either too warm or too cold. So, a lot of setting the right white balance ends up being trial and error. But across a set of images in different environments, you're going to likely spend more time on white balance per image, and per lighting situation than on any other edit that you'll make. By comparison, adjusting the exposure, and the contrast and actually even using presets like from VSCO Film, that takes very little time as long as you've got the white balance correct. Finally, here, I'm looking at another shot of Laura, but this is a portrait, a candid portrait from when we were outside after the cafe on our walk. There's just a lot of texture in this shot, some really good light, really nice soft light, great for portraits. Again, here, the main thing I want to look at is the white balance. The camera itself seems to have captured almost what I want, a little bit warmer, makes me a bit happier. Of course, I'm going to do some other processing to all of these images in a little bit. Now that I've got my images in Lightroom, to a point where I'm happy with the edit, and look, and feel, I want to do the same thing to my shots on the iPhone. Now, I could import those into Lightroom, and just edit all of them at once, but I kind of like to keep my iPhone shots on the iPhone, and edit them with iPhone apps. So, what I've done is take the iPhone favorites that I had marked earlier, and imported them into VSCO Cam. Now, I'm going to use VSCO Cam because I know I can get similar tones using the VSCO Cam presets as I can with the presets in Lightroom from VSCO Film. This means that it just takes less work for me to get the images looking and feeling the same. Now, because I've already got a look and feel that I'm happy with with my images in Lightroom, it means that I have to do less experimentation on the iPhone, which is great because that means it takes less time. I can already see that some of them are going to work pretty well alongside the bigger camera shots, and others, maybe I won't be able to get them feeling similar enough. But that's okay because again, it helps me further reduce the final number of images that I want to work with. Again, if you want to know more about editing your iPhone shots, there are tons of amazing classes already on Skillshare that dive into the nitty gritty details of editing on an iPhone. Now, before we move on to the last stage of publishing or printing the images, and putting the final story together, I need to make my last cut of selections to get us from 63 images here to somewhere around 20, 25, maybe 30 at most, where I can actually tell a really tightly edited story. 6. Printing & Digitally Publishing Photos: So, now that we have our final selection of images, it's time to figure out what to do with them. I'm going to publish a short selection on VSCO Journal which is essentially a photo essay. There are lots of different ways that you can publish images online but if you can find a good tool like VSCO Journal to allow you to publish a linear essay, add some words around some of the images, whether it's just short captions or more detail, it's really, really easy to kind of get something online that you can share with the world. I'm also going to make some selections for prints. There are a lot of different ways that you can output your images to print. You can do small number of large images like these prints from Artifact Uprising. These are eight-by-ten signature prints. These can look really really great. They're good for gifts or just to put up in your home. If you have a wider selection and you just want to make a bunch of prints, things like this Artifact Uprising square print set works really, really well. Here, I've got some images from a visit to a hotel in London and another set from an editorial shoot I did for a magazine in Ireland. So again, it doesn't really matter what order the images are in. For another linear presentation, books are absolutely great if you don't want to do that just online. So, a book is also great for a larger selection of images. So for instance, if you really didn't want to take images from 60 some down to 20 or 30 or fewer, a book like this makes it really easy to present a bunch of images in a linear form and you can even include some text if you want but the presentation of it is really, really nice and what you ultimately do with your images is up to you, whether it's just online, or a mixture of online in print or just print. The point is is that having these options makes what you're doing with the images more meaningful. If you share it as a photo essay online, you've put this story together like we've talked about, and now you're sharing that story with others. If you put it into print in whatever form, again, it allows you to share that story with others and ultimately that's what we want to do. Luckily, creating a journal through VSCO Cam is really easy. All you need is VSCO Cam, the app which is free, and to sign up for a VSCO account which is also free. Now, once you have the images on your iPhone in VSCO cam, the last thing you need to do is get any of your images that you might have in Lightroom into your VSCO library. That's pretty straightforward, you just export your images from Lightroom and upload them to your VSCO Cam account that will add them to the library. It's pretty straightforward, only a couple of clicks and then all of those images will sync onto your smartphone. Once all of the images are synced that you want to use for the journal, you just select the images by tapping on more than one and it's already loaded all of these images in the order you selected them and you can move these around, you can add text here in the middle. If I tap there, it gives me opportunity to add either another image or some text or I can move the images around or change their layout. Just enough settings that it gives you the ability to customize it a little bit to your liking without having to spend too much time on it. Once you've got the images in the order you want them and you've added some text, all you have to do is hit the arrow icon in the top right, give the journal a title, and maybe a subtitle if you want, and hit the circle icon, and now my journal is published. So, now you know what it takes to plan, shoot, and edit into a manageable number of images, the photos that tell your story. I'm really looking forward to seeing what stories you tell and you can see the story from today on my VSCO Journal. Because I had so many images I was happy with today, I decided to also make a set of 25 square prints from Artifact Uprising. These have turned out beautifully and I hope you decide to print some of your images, too. 7. Explore Photo Classes on Skillshare: