I get asked this question a lot. "What's your photography style?" Well, my style is a mix of both: Documentary and Lifestyle, and while there is a distinct difference between these, and most photographers either land in one zone or the other, I am perfectly happy shooting this way. To be honest, there isn't a right or wrong way to shoot, and there also isn't a better way. These are two different styles, serving different purposes and yielding different outcomes.
What is Documentary-Style Photography?
Documentary-type photographs are the ones that have been created with absolutely no interference from the photographer. They depict "exactly" what is happening in front of the lens as it unfolds. You can think of this as a type of photojournalism: think back to the type of images reporters pull from the field when shooting wars, social and political issues, etc, these photos are meant to depict exactly what is happening at a certain place and time. Documentary Photography, as it pertains to family photography, aims to do the exact same thing. Documenting the lives of families, their stories and life and, ultimately, leaving a legacy for future generations of what life in the family was like years ago.
What is Lifestyle Photography?
Lifestyle photography is a very broad term, but what it basically comes down to is a photographer giving some type of guidance or instruction (sometimes really minimal) during a session to capture candid moments. Think of images you see on Pinterest, and almost certainly most, if not all, of these are considered lifestyle.
Which is Better?
It isn't fair to say one style is better than the other. They're both different, and each style has its strength and beauty. If I'm honest, I think most people would absolutely love the Lifestyle photographs today, however, in 10 or 20 years time, it is the documentary-type photos that will leave the biggest impact.
This is why I choose to do both styles. My natural photographic instinct is to shoot documentary (its how I shoot my own family), but I understand that sometimes clients appreciate a bit of lifestyle. This is a personal choice and I respect it, and that is why I organize my client sessions in a way to capture both styles. I give minimal guidance during my lifestyle portion to ensure the images are as natural as possible, though. I prefer to anticipate and observe the people and the environment around me, and I shoot what moves me as a person and artist.
Here are some examples from previous shoots to give you visual examples of the differences.
I hope this has helped clarify the difference between the two! I absolutely love shooting events as they naturally unfold, and the best way to do that is through my "Day in the Life" sessions. You can choose either a full day (8-10 hours) or half day (4-5 hours) and I will come hang out with your family and shoot that day's activities and interactions, with no interference from my part like posing, etc. The results from these types of shoot offer the most candid and genuine of moments, and I really hope you'll consider this when you're thinking of booking your next session! You can get in touch with me here if you have any questions, I'd be happy to help you decide what's the best fit for your family!