What type of photography should you be looking for?
There are 3 main types of portrait photography; Documentary, Lifestyle and Posed. I would describe my own personal style as mainly lifestyle photography, but weddings certainly have an element of all 3 and family sessions have elements of both lifestyle and posed. But, I might as well be speaking a foreign language if you don't understand what those different styles mean in the first place! Some of them you can get the gist of just from the name, but some might be a bit trickier to get your head around.
Allow me to explain in a bit more detail what these styles mean, and give some examples of each...
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. 'Candid' style photographs would also be included in this category - photos of people enjoying themselves when they don't know they are being photographed.
Here are a couple of examples of Documentary style photographs:
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:
Lifestyle photos are my favourite style 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.
A photo can switch from being posed to being lifestyle very easily, simply by having the people start to interact with each other - a shared joke, fussing with the brides dress, or even a fake laugh can look wonderfully natural in-camera.
In lifestyle photographs, everyone is 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: