A question I get asked a lot when someone wants to book with me is, what is the difference between lifestyle portraits and a documentary session? So here's the answer. There are 3 key distinctions that I think separate the two even though there are lots of differences.
The first key difference is control. In lifestyle portrait sessions the photographer controls the lighting, environment and subject. In documentary sessions the photographer has control over their camera and that is it. I am at the will of whatever my environment throws at me. I just have to problem solve with my camera settings and find great composition within whatever is happening.
The second key difference is purpose. For me, I feel the purpose of lifestyle portraits is to capture the subject in their natural environment, an environment that means something to them personally, but help them pose and look their best. Where as documentary sessions are raw and as is, the way real life is. The purpose of documentary sessions is to capture your life exactly as it happens, to represent your life like how you remember it.
The last key difference is perception. How do you want to see yourself? How do you want to remember your life 10 years form now? Again, for me, the true moments are in photographs that display your reality. Lifestyle portraits can do this if done right. A great example of this is Annie Leibovitz. But I think documentary photography truly captures this. I don't mind seeing the no so perfect photos because those are representative of the memories I have. I have lots of photos of my son upset or mad. Those are the photos that have the stories behind them.
Don't get me wrong any photo of your family together will be amazing! I just wanted you to understand what the different styles entail. I would love to hear your thoughts. Are you scared to do a documentary session? What would hold you back from doing one?