Memories of Family Photography
I still shudder at childhood memories of the dreaded family portraits with the fake smiles and awkward formal posing in front of badly painted canvas backdrops in a stuffy, brightly lit studio. Then came the disappointment of getting portraits that kind of looked like us – or at least a bland, uncomfortable, ‘do we really look like that?’ version of us.
Those experiences didn’t dampen my enthusiasm or love of photography, but they certainly coloured my opinion of studio photography with a great big brush of ‘boring’.
Alternatives to Studio Photography
Luckily today (30+ years later), Documentary and Lifestyle family photography are alternative choices when you prefer portraits that are a more authentic representation of your family. Documentary and Lifestyle family photography are two genres that have blossomed over the past decade. They share similarities and the terms documentary and lifestyle are often used to refer to any photography that is natural, candid, relaxed and informal.
While similar, the images will differ so it is important to know how they differ so you can choose the family photography style that best suits you.
Documentary Family Photography
In its purest form, Documentary family photography is strict photojournalism – an accurate portrayal of everyday reality that tells a story – warts, wrinkles, toddler tantrums and all. The photographer is purely an observer, she does not provide direction or guidance and does not manipulate or interfere with the scene or subjects. The family is free to behave exactly as they would in everyday life when the photographer was not there. The focus of these sessions is less on aesthetics and more on raw emotions and details captured in a meaningful environment that represents an iconic moment in time for the family.
It is the rawness captured that is the intrinsic beauty and appeal of the documentary style.
Documentary session images are often black and white, but even when they are in colour, there is very little post production editing done. This means there is no skin retouching, object removal or ‘cleaning up’ afterwards to perfect the image in photoshop.
Lifestyle Family Photography
Lifestyle sessions involve guidance from the photographer with everything from location and wardrobe advice to gentle direction to create interaction and connection during the session. The lifestyle photographer will remove distracting elements and position themselves and the family to make use of the best natural lighting and scenery available.
The aim of a lifestyle photography session is to create aesthetically pleasing images that show the personality, character and genuine connection between family members.
In other words, the final images from your family photography session will show the very best version of you and your family. Lifestyle sessions are designed to be fun, enjoyable and stress free. The photographer works to make each person feel relaxed and comfortable and will create genuine opportunities to capture authentic, candid moments that are full of personality and emotion.
Lifestyle Family Photography is natural, authentic and informal
Lifestyle family photography shouldn’t be confused with formally posed sessions that happen outdoors. Firstly, lifestyle newborn sessions are done inside the family home and secondly, lifestyle photography is natural, authentic and informal. This is not to say that Lifestyle photographers don’t understand formal posing to position subjects in the most flattering way, but this knowledge will vary between photographers.
If you are like most of us and self conscious about your arms, weight or jawline for example – before you book your session ask your photographer if they have tips to help minimise that problem area.
Editing and Re-touching in Lifestyle Family Photography
Lifestyle photographers also re-touch and post process edit to perfect the final image. The level of editing a photographer will do is based on skill and experience. Editing includes removing fly-away hairs and temporary skin blemishes to naturally minimise wrinkles, replacing boring skies with vibrant ones and ‘head swapping’ from one photo to another.
Lifestyle family photographs are not retouched to the level of photoshop editing involved in glamour portrait photography, so rest assured your photographs are not going to show a fake, airbrushed version of you and your family.
As a family photographer, my style is more Lifestyle than pure documentary. I am a bit of a perfectionist so I like to maximise the best scenes, composition and positioning to utilise beautiful natural light and gorgeous outdoor locations. A documentary approach comes into my work at times through a session if the opportunity arises. I have found a documentary approach is suited for children on the autism spectrum or with other special needs that make following directions difficult – as a mum of children on the autism spectrum I have plenty of personal experience working with different challenges and boundaries to create beautiful photos.
You already know that you don’t want boring formal studio portraits, but I hope this gives you clarity on why a lifestyle family photography session would be the right choice for your family. If you have any questions or would like to book your lifestyle family photography session please email or call me for a chat to see how I can help you.