Lifestyle vs Portrait vs Documentary Photography... what's the difference?
There are a lot of different types of photography out there. People hear different photography industry phrases and buzz words thrown around all the time. I get asked a lot what lifestyle photography vs portrait photography is. And what the heck is documentary photography?
So today I’m here to break it down for you.
Portrait photography is exactly what it sounds life. People are posed and put into positions for a portrait. Most of the time, the photographer will tell you where to stand, who to stand next to, where to look, hand positioning, leg positioning, etc. You, as the person being photographed, will probably feel awkward because you don’t normally sit/stand that way. It’s totally normal, and you will end up looking great! Most portrait photography is formally posed whether it’s in studio or outside.
Think of it this way… if everyone is looking and smiling at the camera, it’s portrait photography.
Lifestyle photography is that middle ground between portrait photography and documentary photography (which I’ll get to next). Lifestyle photography isn’t formally posed, but more guided posing. Your photographer should be telling you where to stand and what to do. The photographer will give you prompts such as ‘everyone laugh’ or ‘walk towards me but look at mom’ or ‘throw your child into the air’ or ‘whisper a secret into someone’s ear.’ The entire family might not be looking directly at the camera but at each other instead. There’s more action and movement in lifestyle photography. Good lifestyle photographers will bring out emotion within your family and capture small, special moments rather than posed, smiling at the camera photos.
Lifestyle photography… informally posed with prompts from photographer, not everyone always looking at the camera.
Documentary photography is exactly how it sounds. A photographer is hired to document you and your family over a period of time. There is no direction given by the photographer. They are more there as a ‘fly on the wall’ scenario to capture your everyday life or a special event as it is lived. There is zero formal posing going on. Documentary photography typically last hours or a whole day (such as a Day in the Life).
Documentary photography… no posing, documenting life over a long period of time.
So now the big question… which type of photography is right for you?
Whatever you want!
Honestly, it depends solely on your personal tastes and preferences.
Some people only want posed, formal photos which means portrait photography is right up there alley! Others want to see emotion come through their photos, so lifestyle or documentary would be a better approach for them. I’ve noticed the Baby Boomers prefer portrait photography while the Generation X and Millennials often prefer Lifestyle and Documentary, but that’s not hard and true.
You, as the client, has to decide what type of photographs you like and want to capture. Then find a photographer who captures it in a style you like!
I photograph a combination of Portrait photography and Lifestyle Photography. I’ve found that combination works best for me personally as a photographer and artist. And I’ll usually do it within one sessions. I’ll formally pose a family, then start giving them prompts to get a little more interactive with the family and kids.
Check out this family session I photographed with Portraits and Lifestyle photography.