"Photography is the art of observation. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them." -Elliott Erwitt
Some may believe if you are a photographer, you do just that, you photograph things or people and that’s that. The truth is that there are many kinds of photography. Before I started my business, I spent a lot of time practicing on everything I could find during my nature walks. Well, that or anything I was challenged to photograph on Instagram, that, however, is a long story for some other time. For today, I want to share my approach to posed portraits, lifestyle and photojournalism and how each is applied to my work as I create family portraits.
A posed portrait is when an entire setting, the environment, pose, and composition is intentionally designed by the photographer. I do this best when my clients give me almost complete creative control. For me, inspiration often comes from nature in beautiful locations. For instance, last year (around September) I was incredibly inspired by the cotton fields in Smithfield. As fate would have it, I wasn’t able to get a client into the fields before they were cut. This year the cotton fields didn’t hold the same beauty as last year, and because I strive for authentic photographs I didn’t want to create something that just wasn’t there, so I’ll hold that vision until it all falls together (with my kind of tenacity, I know it will). By the way, if you happen to be a client reading this and want to get in on this vision, just let me know!
Ok – back to poses – Posing for portraits can require a lot of practice, skill, and planning (on behalf of your photographer, of course). Being able to look at someone or a group of people and knowing how to pose them in the most flattering way and also show connections is important. This can make the world of difference in your portraits. At times portraiture can almost feel a little too controlled, for those of us who are a bit more free spirited they may even feel too perfect, but I believe there is a place in the world for perfectly staged photos. What I love about them is just that – who wouldn’t want to have a moment in time when everything was in fact “perfect” even if it were for just a fraction of a second.
Wikipedia defines lifestyle photography as “a kind of photography which mainly aims to capture portraits/people in situations, real-life events or milestones in an artistic manner and the art of the every day. The primary goal is to tell a story about people’s lives or to inspire people in different times. Thus, it encompasses a multidisciplinary approach. A lifestyle photographer is not only a portrait or a people photographer and loves/enjoys photography as art in everyday life but is believed to be talented in multiple forms of photography. Lifestyle photographers can also do well in other disciplines of photography such as landscape, street photography, fashion, wedding and even wildlife with one’s unique vision to inspire people’s life.”
Lifestyle photography is my personal favorite. It’s the in-between moment when it’s just about perfect – but very genuine in its occurrence. Lifestyle photos require active participation on varying levels on my part. Sometimes I’ll move something distracting, move people closer to the light I want, or ask someone to do something specific to hopefully evoke a response I’m looking for.
When I’m creating lifestyle photography for a family portrait, I place people in a well-lit location and have them participate in an activity together. Then I step back and capture the interactions that occur naturally between family members. Lifestyle photo sessions can include all kinds of fun- from tossing leaves, roosters landing on your head (yes this actually happened), to all out tickle fests. These photos have an organic feel to them and capture authentic human connections and beauty.
While I find photojournalism the most challenging, I also find it to be the most rewarding. I find myself desperately trying to “control” most circumstances and environments I want to capture. Photojournalism requires me having to let go a bit- to let go of wanting to create the moment with intention. It also requires preparedness for a spontaneous moment, which is not an easy task. When I am able to capture a well done photojournalistic moment, I become insanely in love with that image forever.
I’ve enjoyed my freelance work with The Daily Press for this very reason. It’s almost a forced circumstance, where I must continually anticipate what will happen next. I can find it exhausting and time-consuming but it’s an art I love to be immersed in.
Mostly out of necessity (as my family will usually turn and run when I bring out my camera) I approach my own family photos in a photojournalist way. I just take out my camera and without saying a word start snapping. In the end, though, these photographs are the ones I will hold the closest to my heart forever.
Interested in reading more on my thoughts about time and photography? You can read more about that here. I bring all of my experiences to each and every session. With my love of each of type of photography, it’s easy to see why I could do my job endlessly without ever tiring. It’s also why my work spills over into my personal life. When I have the opportunity to spend over an hour with my clients, I’m able to create both posed and lifestyle images. Being able to share the memories and seeing myself in the memory of each photo I create with my clients is part of my reason I love what I do.
What is your favorite style of photography? What is your attraction to each kind? Leave a comment below.
As you can see many of my favorite photojournalism images are black and white and I hope you’ll come back another time to learn about my favorite black and white images, and why I find black and white photos to be so compelling. If you are a lover of black and white imagery you won’t want to miss that one. (If you’re not a lover of black and white photographs you might be a fan after seeing it!)