August 10, 2019

What is Lifestyle Family Portraiture?

Random person: What kind of photography do you do?
Me: I’m a lifestyle family photographer.
Random person: *blank stare* huh?

Most of the time, I just say that I take family portraits, and I try to explain that I go for an authentic, unposed style. But technically, the genre is called lifestyle family photography.

So what is it? Lifestyle family portraiture is a hybrid of traditional posed portraits and documentary style photography. With traditional portraits, the family is typically posed, often in a studio setting, and staring straight at the camera and smiling. In contrast, documentary style photography is unposed and seeks to capture the realism of family life, with little direction from the photographer, who basically acts as an observer.

The best light turned out to be in the kitchen, so I posed this family in this little nook, and then gave them space to be together. I also removed some distracting objects from the windowsill. A documentary photographer would have probably left the clutter, but with lifestyle, we can take some creative liberties.

So back to lifestyle family photography. As a hybrid of traditional posed portraits and documentary style, the lifestyle genre captures authentic moments and interactions but usually with the photographer giving direction on things like posing and location, as well as interacting with the family to elicit genuine moments. Maybe a little wardrobe guidance.

For this photo, I asked mom and dad to stand together and for the kids to race in circles around them. Kids love to run, so let them do their thing. I love how this photo captures the parents as “the center of the storm” of life with three kids.

Every photographer has their own spin on lifestyle family portraits. For me, I try to capture a family authentically, but in the most flattering way possible. This means that I find the best light and help pose the family in a way that looks good, but then I take a step back and just let them “be.” With that said, not everyone is comfortable in front of the camera (myself included), so prompts and interaction can help people relax and have fun. I focus on making sure the kids are happy, because when the kids are happy, the parents are happy. For that reason, my sessions are very much “child led” because have you ever tried to tell a 2 year old to do anything? Yeah, it doesn’t work. ?? And they make their own magic if we give them enough space to be themselves.

These kids decided they wanted to sit down rather than stand next to their parents. They’re having fun. Let them be kids. It will show their personalities.

I know that no family acts or looks perfect all the time (contrary to what social media would have us think), but we all have perfect moments. One thing I love about my sessions is that families are forced to slow down for an hour and just be together. No cell phones. No tv. No distractions.

I posed this family on their couch in this lovely light and then just let them be. Mom started playing patty cake with her older son while dad played with the baby. See how natural this looks compared to those “say cheese” portraits we’ve all been trained to do?
I asked big brother to tell his little brother a secret. I don’t know what he said, but they both laughed.

To me, lifestyle photography means helping families create beautiful and authentic portraits by providing a session that is both fun, natural, and child led. I know I’ve succeeded when at the end, the kids are still playing and dad says to me “That wasn’t so bad!” ?



  1. Sara says:

    Great explanation of lifestyle photography and beautiful pictures!

  2. Love it! I also struggle to define lifestyle photography to others, great explanation. And I especially love the image of the two brothers on the wooden steps!

  3. Photos of the brothers are so adorable

  4. Jo says:

    Jennifer Young Photography – such beautiful lifestyle photography. I love the connection this family has!

  5. Emma Larkan says:

    This is such a helpful topic!


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