Have you heard a photographer throw around the terms “traditional”, “lifestyle” or “documentary” and wondered exactly what the difference is? These are all different styles of photography, so let’s clarify what the differences actually are…
Plain and simply put, traditional photography is what I like to think of as that picture perfect portrait. The photographer poses the subjects and everyone is looking directly at the camera. When I think of traditional photographs, my mind immediately jumps to those very traditional Olan Mills portraits that my mom had of my sister and I when we were growing up.
Lifestyle photography still requires posing and direction from the photographer, but I like to describe it as a bit more relaxed. Often times, with lifestyle family photography you’ll see images of the family looking at and interacting with one another. I think of lifestyle photography as more playful and natural than traditional photography. The subjects are connected with one another versus connecting with the camera.
Documentary photography is a style that I describe as the photographer taking a fly-on-the-wall approach. There is no direction or guidance from the photographer and events are unfolding as if no one was watching. This is how I describe 99% of the photographs I take of my own children. I document them. I don’t pose or guide them at all. I simply follow them around with my camera, capturing those 100% natural, candid moments.
Now you hopefully have a better idea of what each of these terms means. All three of these styles are beautiful and unique, and there is a place for each one. Many photographers incorporate a mix of these styles in their sessions, so be sure to ask your photographer questions about his/her style before booking your session. For example, I photograph my own children in documentary style photography, but all of my client sessions are a mix of traditional and lifestyle. Look at the photographer’s portfolio and find what style or styles speak to you the most.