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
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
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
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.

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7 Tips to get kids to cooperate for a photo session!

It's that time of year!  Family photo time!

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Time to get the annual family photo session taken for your Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, or whichever Holiday you and your family celebrate, so you can put it on your Holiday card and mail it off to family and friends in December.

Most parents love and dread having their family photo taken.  They love it because those photos create memories of how their kids (and themselves) look and acted that particular year.

But let's be real, it can be a tad stressful on Mom and Dad.  It’s tough coordination schedules, games. Then you have to find a photographer who’s work you love, book your the photo session, and gather outfits for the family.  Not to mention bribing, threatening, and begging the kids to behave, smile, and act nice during their photo session.

Sound familiar?

It's pretty common.  I can't tell you how many times I've had Moms and Dads stressing about how to get their kids to cooperate for their family photo.  And with four kids of my own, I completely understand and can relate!

So with the busy season of photography starting, I compiled a quick list to try and make everything go a bit more smoothly at your next family photo shoot.

  1. Make sure all your kids are well fed.  Yes, it sounds like their pets, but it works!  Kids who are hungry are generally not willing to cooperate.  Does the term hangry sounds familiar?  So make sure they eat a good meal or heavy snack before the photo session.

  2. Kids should be comfortable in the clothes they are wearing.  If that gorgeous shirt/dress/skirt itches and irritates your child's skin, it's going to show in the photos.  If your little girl doesn't normally wear a hair barrette or headband, but you want it on her for the photos, chances are she's going to constantly be playing with it or taking it off.  If you're kids are comfortable in their clothing, they'll be more relaxed and willing to cooperate.

  3. Bring snacks!  If you have young children, snacks are always a good motivator for them.  As a parent, I know I can feed my child a full meal and 30 minutes later they'll be hungry again.  It's normal.  So having non-messy snacks handy during a photo shoot works wonders!

  4. Talk to your kids before hand about your photo session.  Surprising your kids with a family photo session never goes over well.  Tell them what's going on and what to expect at the photo session.  If they know your expectations from the beginning, they're more likely to cooperate.

  5. Bribes and Rewards.  As a parent, I'm not above bribing my kids sometimes.  Is it ideal?  No.  Does it work? Heck yes!  Promising them ice cream or a special treat afterwards usually gets kids to cooperate better during a photo shoot.  My kids love Dum Dums (even the older ones), so I'll grab a handful and promise them one when we're done.

  6. Allow your children to smile naturally.  I can't tell you how many times I've had parents behind me tell their kids to say cheese.  Although their children smile, it's not natural.  It's my job as a photographer to photograph your kids natural expressions.  I promise I can do it even on a bad day.  Plus, they're natural smile is a lot more photogenic than a 'cheesy' smile.

  7. Just relax!  If you as a parent are tense, your children are going to feel it and be tense too.  Family photo sessions can be a lot of fun and interactive.  A good photographer will guide you naturally through your session and have fun as the same time.  Don't sweat it, I've got ya!

Although these suggestions are more of a guideline than hard rules, they'll help you and your family get through your Family Photo Session with ease.  Just enjoy the moment and allow us photographers to capture your families memories!

I still have a few spots available for Fall sessions. Email me at emilyingallsphotography@gmail.com or contact me here to book your photo session today!

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Tips for clothes styling and colors for family photo sessions

When it comes to group and family photos, the question of 'Should we match?' always comes up.

My suggestion is to color coordinate, not necessarily match.

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Matching isn't a bad thing, at all.  If you have a large group getting together (think family reunion or co-worker celebration) and you're wanting a large group photo of everyone in a special shirt, definitely go for it.  If you want to keep things simple and classic with all black or all white, do it.

However if you don't want to match, but you're not sure what to do, I would suggest color coordinating your outfits.

What's color coordination?  It's choosing colors that match while still styling everyone in the photo uniquely and bringing out their own personality.

In order to help you visualize color combinations, I've put together a few samples.  Basing outfits off of these color palettes will allow you to build outfits around your group or family photos while still bringing out each individual's own unique, personal style.

A few tips on styling group and family photos:

  1. Don't tell everyone to wear red (or any color), then expect all the reds to be the same color.  It's a lot more common than you think.  Clothing manufacturer's all use slightly different dye, so you'll never get just one shade of red.

  2. Black and brown can be combined and look good.  Think black tights with brown boots.  It shouldn't work but does.

  3. Let's face it, young kids look cute when they match.  Older kids, not so much. Older kids want to stand out from the crowd and be themselves. 

  4. If you're uncomfortable in an outfit, don't wear it and choose something else.  If you're uncomfortable in your clothes, it will show up in your photos.

  5. Pick a neutral (white, brown, black, cream), and then start choosing colors off of your neutral.

  6. Think of your setting and background.  Have a warm background, choose cooler colors to stand out.  Cool background, choose warmer colors.  Bright colors really pop with neutral backgrounds!

  7. When in doubt, ask for help.  As photographers, we can tell you if an outfit will photograph well.  Plus, we love to see families and groups rock their photo sessions!  Send us a picture! We'd love to help!

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The power of the printed photograph

When I was growing up, there was no such thing as digital photos.  Everyone had a film camera with 24 or 36 exposure shots on it.  I took the photos on with my camera, dropped off the roll to get developed, then waited 2 weeks to get the roll back to see how my photos turned out.  There was no instant display or multiple shots to get the perfect image.  You had one, maybe two chances, to get your picture, then crossed your fingers and prayed all was well.

And the excitement of going through all the prints when the roll was finally ready to be picked up was amazing!  Sifting through the photos, laughing at all the cuteness or ridiculous faces you captured on film was priceless.

Nowadays, we take pictures with our phones, see them instantly, then retake if we decide the photo was off or someone wasn't smiling or we just don't like the way we look.  And I'll admit, I am 100% guilty of doing this as well.

But today we tend to forget the most important part of the whole reason for taking photos, and that is the printing of them.

What's the point of capturing your family's memories if you're not going to display them for everyone to see?  The answer is, sadly, not much.

Printing photos is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, your kids, and the next generation.  Seeing a photo on a wall, book shelf, or even a fireplace mantel gives a whole new meaning to keep your memories alive.

At my parent's house, my mom has a couple of dozen photo albums full of 4x6 or the old school instant Polaroid prints where you can write on the bottom of the photo (you know you remember those old instant Polaroid photos that you had to shake to dry off the ink and hope you accidentally touch and mess it up).  Anyway, I love those old photo albums.  I love looking at my childhood on print, take the photos out, and have a trip down memory lane.

I want that for my own children and (fingers crossed) their children one day.  To show them the prints of photos of their childhood, awkward years, and fun everyday memories to share and reminisce.  My own children love going through the photos I've had printed and figuring out how old they were and what were they doing. I just have to get those photos into an album, and I'll be set!

I love the fact as a photographer I can offer my clients the digital prints of their families and newborns so they can print as many photos as they want.  I want they to print their family photos and share them.  Not just keep them on a hard drive for years to come.  It's awesome to see my clients send me photos of their home wall galleries and see their photos on display.

It saddens my heart to think the next generation is losing out of the power of the printed photograph.  Nothing makes a house a home like seeing your families history on the walls with photos.

Whether it's a snapshot you took on your phone or your family photos you had taken by a professional photographer, print them out!  Display them!  Put them in albums for everyone to look back upon and remember the fun times!

And if anyone ever needs a recommendation on where to have your photos printed, email me at emilyingallsphotography@gmail.com  I'll be happy to recommend a some consumer labs to you!

My family Christmas photo from last year! 

My family Christmas photo from last year! 

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Emily Ingalls is a professional photographer in Round Rock, Texas.  Emily specializes in family and children portraiture, family lifestyle photography, and newborn lifestyle photography.  She loves traveling, coffee, and martial arts.

My Crazy Summer... home construction, playing chauffer and more!

Hello!  It's now July, and I feel this summer is both flying by and crawling at a snail's pace.  

I've spent the entire month of June under construction.  Now me, personally.  But my house.  My husband and I have been in our home since 2013.  We went bought it my biggest issue was 'the pantry'.  I mean it was small, like tiny.  It was less than 2x3ft.  And seeing as my family has 4 children, three of those being boys, it was definitely not big enough.

I had food and other sundries in the laundry room, taking up cabinet space in the kitchen, and the coat closet, no joke.  Yes, I had stuff that should be in the pantry in the coat closet.  It was quite frustrating for 4 years going into various rooms to make lunches for school.

Finally, we found an awesome contractor to work with, and the construction began.  Not only did we expand our pantry to triple the size, but we also closed in the formal living room made it into an office and separated the new office and formal dining room.  Check out Amthor Construction and talk to Dane Amthor.  He's awesome!!

I can't even tell how excited I am to have this finished!  It was a little bit of a living hell (for me) to live in a construction zone when I like everything clean, put away, and organized.  But now it's done, and I have an awesome pantry!

Now the pantry, office and dining room is done!  I have an actual office with a separate desk and computer from my husband (yeah!).  I love my husband, but having to share a computer and desk with him drives to a little nuts.  Especially when I have to work and he has to work (cause he's in the tech industry), it didn't work out well.  Now, we have separate desk and computers, and I'm a very happy wife.  Anyway, I'm still here and alive!

Between the construction, the kids being home for summer, being a chauffer between camps, activities and general summer stuff, I'm not just getting time to sit down and write.  And I can't begin to tell you how much I've missed writing and blogging.

I'll be back soon with more writing and more wit!

I can't be the only one with a crazy summer going on.  Tell me how your summer has been!
Have you gone on vacation?
Are you at home with your kids?
Are you like me and have been playing chauffer?

 

One of the many lunches we ate upstairs while the construction was going on.

One of the many lunches we ate upstairs while the construction was going on.

It's moments like these I wish I could bottle up and review when I hear them fighting.

It's moments like these I wish I could bottle up and review when I hear them fighting.

Proof we did make it to the pool a few times!

Proof we did make it to the pool a few times!