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There are so many different styles of photography, it can be overwhelming to try to define each and every one. When it comes to choosing the style that is best for your family portraits, I am a champion for lifestyle photography. It allows you and your family to be your true selves, in all silliness and love. No hard poses, no stern rules, and no pressure!

lifestyle family photography session outside in a field

What is This Style of Photography?

Lifestyle photography is focused on portraying a “slice of life”.  A lifestyle session usually involves a family doing typical family things in a personalized and storytelling way.  While some photos can be formally posed with everyone looking at the camera and smiling, in a lifestyle image, it is not necessary (it’s actually sometimes discouraged) for family members to smile and look at the camera. The latter style is traditional, posed photography or portrait photography which involves a lot of photographer direction and input and less candid, action-oriented photographs. Additionally, in lifestyle photography, most of the images tell a story on their own or though the series of what each family member and what the family as a whole about through candid photos and action.

dad tossing toddler son in the air during a lifestyle family photo session

Lifestyle vs. Documentary Photography

If you’re thinking that a lifestyle session would be a free-for-all, that’s not exactly right, either. The sessions are still organized and guided, just not in a highly regulated way. Lifestyle photographers give gentle guidance and encourage play for different action. If you’re something who struggles in front of the camera, lifestyle shoots are a great way to enjoy a relaxed photography experience.

The difference between lifestyle photography and documentary photography is the amount of direction the photographer gives the family.  While a lifestyle photographer directs the scene relating to light, background, and family position relative to each other, a documentary photographer only documents what they see.  They don’t pose, direct, or interfere in the family dynamic in any way.  A documentary photographer takes a similar approach to what a street, nature, or the Associated Press does – capturing the scene they observe happening in front of them.

So to recap, lifestyle photography is:

  1.  Catches a slice of life of the family in a storytelling way
  2.  Subjects are typically doing something fun and true to them, showing their personalities
  3.  The photographer DOES direct the family into the best light, angles, etc. It looks natural and unposed but also allows for candid moments to happen
  4. The background and environment are planned, but not too much.  We want the whole photograph to tell a bit of the story, but don’t want it so candid that it is distracting to the subjects (i.e. – a tree sticking out of someone’s head)
  5. Imperfect and candid, not stiff and posed traditional photography

I hope you’ve found this helpful! Be sure to scroll down a bit more for other informational tidbits. I love talking about family photography, choosing a photographer, and what type of session is best for you! Reach out at any time with questions or to book a session!




Kim Hildebrand