As I write this, the garden behind my apartment in north Brooklyn is playing host to a lifestyle photo shoot for Intel. The production team has blocked off part of the street outside to make room for a huge Hollywood-style trailer housing the costumes, props and myriad people required for the shoot, which – as far as I can tell – is of a group of kids splashing around in a paddling pool. There’s no sign of Intel products around, but there are beach balls, parasols and other assorted summery outdoor accessories.
Like so many tech lifestyle shoots, it's big, it's expensive, and the gadgets themselves are wielded by glossy, healthy-looking people with perfectly-coiffed hair as they frolic in the sun. Of course, lifestyle photography exists because not every magazine or website wants to publish photos of products against a plain white or black background. Sometimes, it’s better to see them being used in their true context – or at least the context that the manufacturer intends for the public to see.
So why are tech companies so uncreative, so predictable and so frequently cheesy when it comes to lifestyle photos? Why so many blinding white smiles, flawless faces and gleaming white penthouse apartments?
The obvious answer is that they’re selling you an ideal, a lifestyle that’ll become your reality once you shell out a few hundred dollars for this camera, this phone or this flat screen TV. And really, we sympathise with them: they have no other choice than to go for the most mainstream visualisation of that – as you’ll see from the images below, attempts by huge brands to appear truly “cool” are almost always destined to fail by the mere fact that they’re being attempted by huge brands with huge budgets and no clue of what “cool” actually is.
But while we might feel for them, we’re still going to laugh at them. Without further ado, here are some of our favourites…
Huawei Ascend Mate – the travelling executive
Just look at this image to promote Huawei’s Ascend Mate phablet. It's straight out of the late 80s: high-powered Scarlett Johansson Lite exec is late for her plane in some gleaming terminal of Shanghai airport (smog Photoshopped out), but she’s not fussed: her Ascend Mate is keeping her up to date with her stock portfolio or whatever. The First Class cabin can wait.
This is just Ludacris
Here’s South Korean pop star Taeyang (on the left) and a buddy chilling hard in a limo, all thanks to the Soul headphones “designed” by rapper and actor Ludacris. A clear attempt to appeal to the youth market via sequins/luxury vehicles/sunglasses/jewellery. Tell us, kids – does it work, or does it make you more likely to go for a pair of 50 Cent’s overpriced cans instead?
Samsung Galaxy S II times two!
Ah, here we go! Sticking with Korea but this time we’re dealing with the country’s chief tech giant Samsung, which at home does a neat line in “pretty girls holding things” that would be viewed as shockingly sexist and just kind of weird in pretty much any other part of the world. Are these truly “lifestyle” shots? We don’t know – but we know they’re cheesier than a mountain of nachos.
LG Optimus True HD – flagged for review
Just to show we’re not biased against Samsung, here’s the company’s greatest rival LG with a similarly bizarre show of phone-holding creepiness. The flags are something to do with the Optimus True HD LTE rolling out in Europe and Asia. Obviously.
Olympus voice recor….. snore
A textbook example of the “profoundly uninspired” school of lifestyle photography. But hey, it’s a voice recorder… it records… your voice.
Time to leave the rich shores of the Far East for a trip to America. Remember Will.i.am’s US$475 iPhone camera add-on, the i.am+? If not, apologies for reminding you that this grotesque gold-plated assault on the senses exists. At least hold it straight, Will.
Sony WH-1200 – snow joke
We actually think this one is pretty cool (no pun intended). How did it get on the ski slope and why is it reflecting light so strangely? Even the skier has taken his eyes off what he’s doing to check it out. The Photoshop job is adorably amateur given Sony’s status in the tech world, and for that reason we give it a chilly thumbs up.
PSP Go (home, you’re drunk)
Gillette – the worst a lifestyle photo can get
Congrats to face fuzz management company Gillette for drafting in three genuinely likeable, stylish stars for its “Masters of Style” shaver campaign and somehow making them super lame. There's not even a product on show here: just the over-maintained visages of Andre 3000, Adrien Brody and Gael Garcia Bernal screaming "I've been groomed! Look!"
Olympus PEN is envy
Oh, who are we kidding? We dream about being this guy and we’re crushed when we wake up and we’re not him.