March 3, 2023

What is Lifestyle Photography?

If you’ve been in the market lately for a San Diego family, maternity, or newborn photographer, perhaps you’ve seen the term “lifestyle photography” or “lifestyle photographer” pop up.

But what is lifestyle photography? And how is it different from regular photography?

(For the purposes of this post, I’m going to call regular family photography “traditional posed family photography.”)

The TLDR version is this: lifestyle photography is a cross between traditional posed photography and documentary photography.

Lifestyle photography poses people, but does it in such a way that it looks completely unposed (if it’s done correctly).

I’ve included photo examples of traditional posed photography vs. lifestyle photography further down, but in the meantime, let’s dig a little deeper…

Admitting these are generalizations, here are a few differences between traditional posed photography vs. lifestyle photography:

1. Lifestyle photography values authenticity over perfection.

This is because the goals of lifestyle photography are different than the goals of traditional posed photography.

The goal of traditional posed photography is to create a technically ideal photograph, utilizing proper posing techniques, with all subjects looking at the camera (again, these are generalizations).

By contrast, the goal of lifestyle photography is to capture the essence of a family – the authentic emotions and interactions that are unique to them.

That means that many times a lifestyle photograph is not technically perfect – limbs or heads may be out of the frame (“chopped off”), proper posing technique is disregarded, etc. But since the photograph captures the essence of the family – it captures the emotions and interactions unique to them – then to the subjects (and the photographer), it is a perfect photo.

2) Lifestyle photography discourages subjects from looking at the camera.

Wherein with traditional posed photography, subjects are instructed to look at the camera, with lifestyle, they are instructed to not look at the camera.

The reason for this ties in with both what lifestyle photography is (a cross between documentary and posed photography), as well as its goal (to capture a family as they naturally are).

A family as they naturally are is not looking at a camera. Rather, they are looking at one another, interacting with one another.

The skilled lifestyle photographer (*clears throat*) simply arranges them in ways that encourages those natural interactions, and then captures it (with perfect styling, location, and lighting, of course).

3) In lifestyle photography, emotion is king.

This is what first drew me, and what draws many of my clients, to lifestyle photography.

The experience of looking at a family photograph and being moved by it, feeling the photograph… that’s lifestyle photography.

And that’s possible only when true, deep, real emotions are coming through.

Lifestyle photography is, or should be, meaningful. Because it tells the story of a family, a story unique to them.

Unlike traditional posed photography, technical perfection is secondary.


Traditional Posed Photography Vs. Lifestyle Photography, Illustrated



Which style do you prefer? Which draws you in?

There is no right answer here – it is entirely a matter of taste, and what your goals for your family photographs are.


If what you’ve read here resonates with you, and you love the warm, connected, and emotive beauty of lifestyle photographs, see my session and pricing details here, and contact me here to discuss booking a San Diego lifestyle family photography session of your own.

I can’t wait to capture your family, in all its authentic, meaningful, & imperfect glory. ❤️



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