One of the biggest lessons I learned early on when I became a professional photographer, was that I am not the right photographer for everyone. It’s my job to try to make sure that the right clients can find me, while those who are not a good fit for me, recognize that and find a photographer who is a better fit. So when I show up at a lifestyle family portrait session and feel like the clients are exactly right for me, I get really excited.
There are lots of things that go into a photographer’s style. But what I want to talk about today is what it really means to be a lifestyle photographer. “Lifestyle” has become a buzzword in photography world, but I’m not sure a lot of people truly understand what it means. And that meaning can vary a bit between photographers. To let you know how I see lifestyle photography, let’s first talk about what it is not.
What most of us grew up with was traditional portrait photography. This was typically done in a studio (raise your hand if you went to Sears!!) with studio lighting and a photographer who told you exactly where to stand, where to put your hands, how to hold your chin just so, etc. That is a perfectly lovely form of photography when done by a true artist (like, not Portrait Innovations). But it’s not me. My goal is that no one shows up at a portrait session with me expecting traditional portrait photography. Because if they do, then they will likely spend most of the session staring at my camera with a forced, fake smile waiting on me to tell them how to stand.
At the other end of the spectrum is Documentary photography. I think documentary photographers are super cool, and I do dabble in that occasionally, but that’s not what most of my family sessions are either. When shooting, a documentary photographer would not become part of the story at all. They would simply document what happens naturally, without controlling or guiding the story at all. My birth sessions are this way mostly. I’m like a fly on the wall, capturing events as they unfold.
But as a lifestyle photographer, my approach is between these two extremes. As a lifestyle photographer, I want to capture real life interactions between your family, but I’d prefer those interactions to happen in pretty light, and I’d like to get a variety of interactions to happen in a one hour span of time, so I offer some guidance. Instead of “hold your head like this”, I’m more apt to tell you to “snuggle up” or “have a tickle fight”. I’m looking for things that capture your family as they are, and this might mean different things for different families. You may catch me noticing an interaction between you, and it’s possible I might ask you to do it again, maybe while standing in the pretty light this time.
Side note, but after all these years, I’m not sure my husband understands the difference between lifestyle and documentary. Whenever I try to get a photo of him and my girls interacting in a certain way, he always complains “but I thought you didn’t like posed photos.” Dude, I’m not posing you, I’m GUIDING YOU. Also, just do what I said.
Anyway, in trying to find the right clients for me, I work hard on educating clients both before they hire me, and before the session so they know what to expect. Some of that comes from written blog posts like this one, or client emails, but I also do it in more subtle ways. If you follow me on Instagram, you may notice that in a great number of the photos I share there, the subjects are not looking at the camera. I always get photos of clients looking at the camera at a session because everyone wants at least a couple of those, but my favorites are almost always ones where the family is involved with each other and not looking at me. So I make a point of sharing what I love to shoot, in an attempt to attract the right clients.
Well, let’s just say I felt like I hit the jackpot with this family. They were so much fun to photograph and immediately took to my guidance and silly requests. There was so much dancing, and snuggling up and giggling and LOVE that it made my job so super easy. I just adore this family portrait session and hope they do too.
Also, the family is fairly new to Spring Hill. Please join me in welcoming them to town!