Family photo season is almost upon us. In many parts of the country, fall and even early winter are a popular time for outdoor photo sessions. The cooler weather and fall foliage make for pleasant and beautiful conditions. If family photos are something you are considering this year, you may be thinking about what style of family photography is right for you. Having this in mind will make it easier for you to find a photographer who is a good match for you, and come away with photos that you will cherish.
So, let’s talk about three different styles of family photography. Lifestyle and documentary family photography are up first – somewhere between those two is where I live!
Lifestyle Family Photography
I think of lifestyle family photography as a way to capture the beauty of everyday moments. The words that come to mind most often are natural and authentic. Candid moments, connection, and a focus on storytelling via images. During a lifestyle family photography session, your photographer will offer some direction but probably won’t be super hands on with posing and direction.
Along these lines, something I love to do at sessions is incorporate activities that you enjoy doing together. If we are outside, that could mean playing a physical game like freeze dance. At home, I might ask you to play a board game, read a book, cook something together – whatever it is you enjoy doing with your people. Why? When you are doing something together that you love, I get to really see you and capture genuine emotion, connection, and candid moments.
Here are few of my favorite images that are examples of this style of family photography:
Documentary Family Photography
Sometimes I live here too and I love it! Think of this approach as family photojournalism. The photographer is documenting moments as they happen without prompting or direction. The goal is producing a visual narrative. Maybe there is an entire story in a single image, or perhaps it is the story unfolds over a longer period of time.
While lifestyle and traditional portrait sessions typically last around one hour, documentary sessions may last longer – sometimes half a day or even a full day in order to give the photographer time to properly document your family. I tend to find moments during an hour long session to take documentary style photos, but am open to long form sessions as well.
These are a few of my favorite documentary images. Can you find the story in each photo?
Traditional Portrait Photography
Some of the hallmarks of traditional portrait photography are that subjects are looking at the camera, and have been posed by the photographer. This type of session usually happens in a studio or outdoors in a park, garden, or similar location. Lighting will probably be used if the session is done in studio, and a backdrop (usually a simple solid color) may be incorporated as well. Oftentimes, attire is somewhat formal and outfits may be coordinated to achieve a cohesive look. This is a classic approach with the goal of formally capturing your family at a specific point in time.
I sometimes take a few photos during sessions where my families are posed and looking at the camera (I think of them as holiday card photos!), however I do not have examples to share that I would consider true traditional portrait photography. If this style is of interest, I would encourage you to do a few google searches to find local photographers and examples of their work.
OK, so how do I decide which style of family photography is the right one for me?
Let’s start with what you read and saw here – do any of the words or terms used resonate with you? How about the images? Do any of those feel like the way you want to have your family and memories represented?
The other thing I would recommend is as you are thinking about which photographer you want to work with, spend some time looking at their work to see whether it aligns with the kind of images you want. In order to do this, you need to go beyond the home page on their website and look at their family photography portfolio for image examples, and session detail page for information on their approach.
If you would like to hear more about my approach, you can listen to my conversation about this on the Sustainable Photography podcast here.
I hope this has been helpful! As always, I’d love to hear from you. If you have a question, you can email me at email@example.com and if you want to inquire about a session, this is the best place to do so.