One of my fondest memories growing up as a child are of mine and my sisters dance competitions. We were 90’s babies and grew up amongst the generation of listeners who rocked out to the Backstreet Boys, *NSync, and the Spice Girls. I remember countless “concerts” that she and I would put on for my parents (despite the fact that neither of us could really sing or dance that well) and ask them to endure. Yet, 20-something years later we do not have a single photo of one of those events. There are no images of her and me when we were fighting (because believe me, we fought). There are no photos of either of us when we were upset or ridiculously happy and excited. There are few if any, photos of us just being kids with our parents and our parents just being with us.
Now. I’m also aware and acknowledge that I grew up in an age much less technologically savvy than the one we live in now. There was no such thing as a digital camera and film had to be processed at the One-Hour-Photo at the local photo lab or Walmart. There were always plenty of images of us smiling happily and looking at the camera. I remember Easter photos every single year, in our matching outfits, in front of my grandmother’s azalea bushes (I also remember being petrified of being stung by a bee while we took photos). My mom was pretty incredible behind the lens and my sister and I had ample headshots and posed photos together. But, it’s always been the candids that I love the most. The ones that tell the stories. The ones that actually take me back to a moment.
When our oldest son, Noah, was born, I wanted to immortalize every little tiny moment of his childhood. I had a simple point-and-shoot camera at the time, but I did my very best to capture photos of everything. When he was about six months old, as a gift my husband gave me my first SLR camera…a Canon Rebel Xsi. I was elated! Immediately after he bought me the new camera, I discovered and joined the Clickin Moms community and my passion for photography grew. With that growth, came a newfound love of capturing images in a way that would tell the story going on around me. Rather than taking photos of my baby boy posed, looking into the camera, and smiling because that’s what I was “supposed” to do, I started taking photos of him, just being him. The birth of our second son, Jonah, only solidified that love for documenting as I sought to capture the relationship that was growing between the two of them.
Granted, over the last five years my skills at both editing and shooting have improved (keep in mind these are very old images…no judgment on my lack of abilities at this point in time). Each one of these photos, however, bring back a feeling. An emotion, the memory of the moment that was captured. In the first image, Noah (who had just turned four at the time), was completely mesmerized by this tiny little baby we were about to bring home. We were waiting on one piece of paper so we could leave the hospital and Noah refused to leave his brothers side. In the second, Noah insisted on rocking his brother many, many times throughout the day. He wanted nothing more than to sit and hold him…and he was insistent that he wrap him up in the blue blanket he had chosen for him as a gift.
That’s really sweet and all…but what does that have to do with lifestyle photography and traditional portraits?
I’m glad you asked. First and foremost, there is no right or wrong style of imagery and photog raphy. Art, as it’s often claimed, is subjective. What works for one family, may not work for another. I personally, love a bit of both…standard portraiture and lifestyle portraiture. (Which is why my Storymaking Sessions are my absolute favorite; they’re a mix of both.)
Traditional portraiture is exactly what you’d expect…coordinating outfits, a beautiful location (whether a studio or outdoors), and directed posing. Generally, your photographer will tell you how to stand, where to move, where to look and what to do. You’ll capture beautiful images worthy of those gorgeous Christmas cards and achieve classic family photos to hang on your living room wall until the next year’s portrait session. These sessions are what most people are accustomed to and what people come to expect. They want to look their best, want their children to look their best, and showcase that to friends and family. Who doesn’t love a beautiful photo of your family hanging in the living room?
Lifestyle Photography is a newer trend (often called “documentary” photography) and varies in style depending on the photographer at hand. Lifestyle images are meant to capture just that…lifestyle. They are meant to capture your life, your family, your moments as they are. They’re meant to immortalize those moments that make your family, YOUR family. No family, no child, no individual is the same. Why should your photos be the same as everyone else’s? With lifestyle photography, there is little guidance by a photographer. Many photographers will offer “prompts” to guide your family into an activity and they will very often make recommendations for location (especially if you are doing sessions within your own home) that has the best lighting.
There is not a right style or a wrong style, in terms of what kind of photos you want for YOUR family. Many people love to stick with what is comfortable and traditional, filling their homes with beautiful photos of their whole families and their children in their best attire. I am a mama of two little boys, and I love nothing more than being able to capture a photo of them when they are CLEAN and not wrestling with one another on the living room floor. Yet, at the same time, I love wholeheartedly having photos of my boys just being boys. Doing the things that they love, wrestling and fighting and playing superheroes while they are laughing. One day, they’ll grow up and they’ll move out and have lives of their own. When that day comes, I want to be able to look back and remember BOTH of those moments…the clean, smiling, groomed faces and the dirty, jumping, baseball throwing moments that made up their childhood.
I’d love to hear from you! Which style of photos do you prefer for your family?
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