Traditional vs. Lifestyle vs. Documentary Photography: What You Must Know Before Hiring Your Next Photographer
There are many different approaches to family photography, and along with that, many terms to describe how a photographer structures their sessions. It’s confusing, and oftentimes words are interchanged incorrectly, which makes it even more challenging to find a photographer that is the best fit for your family photography needs. You want to make sure that before you hire your next photographer, you know what to expect! And you know that the approach they will take in your session will yield the best images for you based on how you want to document your family at this particular moment in time.
There are three main approaches to photography that generally cover family photos: traditional, lifestyle, and documentary. No one is better than the other, but they all are different and all yield a different type of photo. Below I will discuss the three different approaches so you can better understand what to expect when choosing your next family photographer.
Traditional family portraits are the classic family photos that many envision, and the photographer takes full control during these types of sessions. Everything from the lighting and environment to posing of the subjects is controlled and intentionally chosen by the photographer. These photos are typically more formal in nature.
Below is an example of a traditional family photo. The environment and lighting were chosen to produce the best results, and the subjects were posed and instructed to smile and look directly at the camera.
Lifestyle family photography is a mix between the traditional portrait sessions discussed above and documentary photography discussed below. There may be some directing during the session, such as where to stand for the best lighting, and subjects may be prompted to produce certain emotions and connection for an image.
Below is an example of lifestyle family photo. This image was created by positioning the family together and prompting them to start a big tickle fight!
Documentary photography, the approach I now use in all of my sessions, involves no control of the situation or environment from the photographer. Nothing is posed and the photographer literally captures what is unfolding in front of them without any adjustment of the subjects. The photographer adjusts themselves to the situation at hand, rather than adjusting the situation.
Below is an example of a documentary image. These two cuties decided to play in the first crazy snowfall of the year and were loving every minute of it. They did this on their own and I followed along to capture the joy.
I hope by clarifying the different approaches to family photography that you can better decide what is the best fit for you, and therefore find a photographer that best fits what you want out of your family photography. There is no wrong answer, and not every approach works for everyone. And guess what, that’s okay!
If you’ve decided my documentary approach to family photography is the best fit for you, and you’d like to start documenting your family’s real life STAT, contact me here! I’d love to work with you and help tell your story.