Documentary, Posed or Lifestyle Photography?

I would say that there are 3 main types of portrait photography; Documentary, Lifestyle and
Posed.  I would describe my style as mainly lifestyle photography, but weddings certainly have an element of all 3 and family sessions have elements of both lifestyle and posed.

Allow me to explain in a bit more detail what these styles mean, and give some examples of

Documentary photography is when the photographer is simply there to document what is happening at any given moment.  I tend to use this style of photography mainly during wedding ceremonies.  If you are 'documenting' something with photographs, it is completely unposed and you are just capturing each moment as it happens.  In a wedding ceremony, you the photographer can't go up to the bride and groom and say 'look at me and smile'.  That would be a complete invasion of the beautiful moments that the couple shares during this time.  During the ceremony, the couple aren't looking at the photographer, or worrying about how they look or thinking about anything to do with photographs.  They are just 'in the moment' and that is what documentary style photography captures.  Here are a couple of examples of Documentary style photographs:

Lucy and David Valerio Wedding 29th June 2019 131jpg

Lucy and David Valerio Wedding 29th June 2019 153jpg

Sarah and Richard Wedding 301216  68jpg

Posed photographs are the complete opposite of Documentary photographs.  Posed photos are exactly what they sound like.  Each person in the photo is carefully arranged and everyone is smiling beautifully at the camera.  During a wedding, the family formals are usually when posed photos are most often used.  During family sessions, I like to try to get a few posed photos first, while everyone has plenty of energy and before the kids start to get fidgety.  These are generally the photos that get sent to Grandparents and end up on the fridge.  Here are a few examples of posed photos:


Hansen Just Family 119jpg

Sarah and Richard Wedding 301216  121jpg

Family photos Green Court June 2019 66jpg

Lucy and David Valerio Wedding 29th June 2019 183jpg

Lifestyle photos are my favourite type of photography, and I like to think that they fall somewhere in between Documentary and Posed.  Lifestyle photos have very deliberate poses that are designed to look like they are candid.  They usually involve the subjects of the photos looking at each other, rather than at the camera, and have a very natural feel to them.

You can see how the above photo of the groom and groomsmen goes from posed (above) to
lifestyle (below), simply by having the men interact with each other.

Lucy and David Valerio Wedding 29th June 2019 186jpg

They are all positioned in a very deliberate way, yet it looks like I simply stumbled across them
enjoying each others company and took some photos without them knowing.

I love this type of photography.  It lets personalities shine through and brings life to the photos.  There are no stiff smiles, or bored looking children.  Sometimes there is eye contact with the camera, but the eye contact shows depth and emotion.  These photos show love and life, and they are the two most important things I aim to show in all of my photographs, be them wedding or family photos.  Here are some more examples of Lifestyle photos:

Puke Petero Family Nov 2019 94jpg

Pigeon Family Photoshoot 31jpg


Lucy and David Valerio Wedding 29th June 2019 177jpg


I hope that has helped you to understand the differences between different styles of portrait
photography.  If you are not currently achieving the results you want from your photos, maybe try switching it up a bit and trying a different style to see if you like it.  Good luck and have fun taking photos!