For several years, I introduced myself as a wedding photographer — an introduction that was pretty self-explanatory. Now, the introductions aren’t quite so simple. Most people don’t know what lifestyle photography is, or what family documentary photography means. It’s a job title that requires a little bit more of an explanation.
So here it is:
Lifestyle photography and family documentary photography, as I define them, are actually fairly similar — but they aren’t your standard family portraits where everyone just smiles for the camera.
When I talk about lifestyle photography, I mean photography that is largely spontaneous, natural, candid-looking. Sure, I offer a lot of guidance when it comes to posing for portraits, but my clients receive far more images of themselves interacting with one another than cheesing into the camera. I showcase their personalities in their images, and create portraits that will look stunning over mantles and in albums. Lifestyle photography can take place in any kind of setting; it frequently includes carefully selected and coordinated outfits, and a location chosen for its aesthetics.
My definition of family documentary photography is slightly narrower. I use that term to mean capturing families as they really, truly are — most often at home, simply living their lives the way they do when there’s no photographer present. I provide direction for my clients, but less posing — my input will be centered around simply scooting to the other side of the room where there’s better light, things like that. We’ll take time to pose for a few more traditional portraits, but that won’t be the focus of the session, since family documentary photography is all about providing a record of the way a family lives.
The photographs will be of parents getting children dressed for the day, playing games together, reading stories, cooking, eating together, cleaning up, taking the dog for a walk — the simple, often-overlooked moments that make up real life. That’s why family documentary photography lends itself especially well to being displayed in albums, which can tell the whole story, versus choosing just an image or two to frame on the wall. With documentary photography, there’s less emphasis on outfits, and the location is selected for its significance (typically the family’s home) rather than for its beauty.
I hope this clears up questions about what I do with my photography, and the purpose of my portrait sessions!
While I want to make beautiful images for my clients, that feels almost beside the point. Of course the images will be beautiful — I believe that should be a guarantee with any photographer who has worked to hone her craft. What I truly strive for, what I need my images to be is authentic, evocative, transcendent.
I want the photographs I create to transport the family back to a very tangible moment in time, to a memory they’ve lived a thousand times over and know they never want to forget.