Whether you are thinking about being more intentional with your own photography or you are thinking about finding the right photographer for your family, there are three types of photos to keep in mind. I always had a vague idea of these different types, yet when I actually sat down to learn more about them, it really shifted the way I approach being my family's (and my client's) visual story teller and documentarian.
The Three Types of Photography:
This is the style that's almost always referred to as those photos "for Gramma". You know the ones, everyone looking at the camera and smiling. It might be in a studio (think all those matching jeans and white t-shirts photos from the 90's) or it may be on location. The editing style can vary from bold and bright to light and airy to muted tones, yet if everyone is smiling and looking at the camera...you've got yourself a pretty traditional photo. Often these photos get poo poo'd in the photography world, yet it's TOTALLY ok if you like them! Seriously, photos are for you and your family. As much as I love the other two types of photos, I still love a great traditional photo.
Lifestyle photography is what is currently all the rage. Lifestyle are the photos that often capture connection, laughter, movement, details, and emotions. Often lifestyle photos are meant to look like you are just capturing everyday interactions, locations and typical behaviors. Lifestyle photography is often semi-staged with the photographer giving prompts to create the look and feel of everyday. So, for your own purposes at home, instead of chasing your kids around with a camera making them stop what they are doing to look at you and smile (see traditional), a lifestyle approach might have you document a child's hands full of legos or the eye roll from one sibling to another after you gently whisper a prompt you are sure will inspire that reaction. Lifestyle takes some intentionality AND it can often be a less imposing way to capture your family. When hiring a photographer, it's helpful to let your photographer know what types of interactions and connections or details you'd love to capture. Let them know that you'd love to see images that show this age and stage of your child (like their little converse shoes in your hands) or the fact that you love images that show people laughing.
Documentary style photographs are those that are, according to wikipedia, "used to chronicle events or environments both significant and relevant to history and historical events as well as everyday life." In a documentary style photo all parts of an image are intentionally included to tell the story. This is where you may see the background or foreground play a more important role in telling a story, for example strategic choice in where your child sits in their room in order to show this phase of their life thanks to posters or toys. Documentary differs from lifestyle because in documentary you truly let the subjects direct most of the story. In lifestyle, you are guiding the subjects more. Documentary style is also another helpful way to approach capturing your family in a way where you aren't met with groans and eye rolls as you are way less invasive of the moment.
Finding a Blend and Balance
When conducting each of my family or newborn sessions, I take the blended approach. I usually start with traditional and move back and forth to more lifestyle images. Finally, towards the end of my sessions when I'm sure I have most of the images my clients want, I will direct families to just do their thing. It's at this time that I am in pure documentary mode and I often get some of my favorite images.
I urge you to be intentional when pulling out your camera or camera phone. Which mode are you going for? Do you have a purpose for taking this photo other than wanting to remember the situation? Which pieces of this post did you find helpful? What would you like to know more about?