How Lifestyle Family Photography Creates More Meaningful Images

When we think of family portraits, we often picture the traditional looks: everyone lined up, smiling, and well dressed. Family lifestyle photography, on the other hand, shines a new light on family portraiture. Rather than posing everybody perfectly, lifestyle captures the personality and dynamics of the family. The spontaneity is a great addition to a complete family album. Let's begin by seeing how the two styles differ.

This video is a sneak peek into SLR Lounge Premium Library with a chapter from our new course, Family Photography 101. This is a complete course on capturing memorable and unique family portraits. In this video, I had Shivani with me as we compared family lifestyle photography with traditional portraits.

What Are Traditional Family Portraits?

This is the type of family portrait people request the most. It's the staple family portrait: everybody looking at the camera, lined up, well dressed. You'll notice, however, that they all look similar. This is because we capture traditional portraits following similar posing guidelines, much like Foundation Posing, which we'll discuss in future chapters of Family Photography 101.

Traditional Example #1

Photo courtesy of Line and Roots Photography

This is quite standard — a very nice and lovely image of the entire family. We always begin with the grandparents placed in the center and stack the rest of the family in an "Open Pose," with their chest facing the camera. This is great for fitting large families into an image. Here, I want to note the "feel" or "vibe" of the photo. The family was dressed in matching colors to blend with the beach scene harmoniously. Keep an eye out for this in the next examples.

Traditional Example #2

The sample posing principle applies to photographs with three people. Pick a person to be in the middle and build around them. Once everybody is in position, you can direct them to get more natural and candid looks. In this photo, we dressed the family in red to have them pop against the green background.

Traditional Example #3

Taking it a little further, you can add actions such as walking to draw out different reactions. To get this photo, Shivani had the family walk through this clearing while chatting amongst each other. The family was dressed in colors that matched the location. We've included a full chapter on wardrobe and color in Family Photography 101. 

What Is Lifestyle Family Photography?

As photographers, we love realism and authenticity in our photos. That's the core of lifestyle. Lifestyle allows for more "imperfections." We want to capture the specific mannerisms of each person in the family. In a sense, we don't want "perfection." We want to capture those imperfections because that's what's real and authentic.

Lifestyle Example #1

This is a great photo to start with. In order to calm the child, the family jumped to playing "London Bridge," a game the child loves. As the scene unfolded, all Shivani had to do was click the shutter and capture the scene. The beauty in this photo is how happy the child was at that moment.

Notice the great composition in the photo as well. The family is against the bright portion of the background, and the leading lines guide the viewer's eyes to the family. Lifestyle is great for capturing authentic moments while still incorporating the artistry behind photography.

Lifestyle Example #2:

Photos courtesy of Shivalry Photography

This next example is another great photo that embraces imperfections. The expressions may not be perfect smiles, but the moment itself is perfect. The family was just having fun, and all the photographer had to do at that moment was capture what was happening.

Lifestyle Example #3:

A tip by Shivani: create the scene around what the kids like to do. Find their favorite activities and things that will make them happy. Doing so will create authentic moments and scenes. In this photo, the kids are riding down the hallway, something they always love to do anyway.  The photographer is simply there to capture the moment.

What Defines Lifestyle Family Photography?

I define a lifestyle shoot as what the family does on an everyday basis — photos captured with a bit of added production value. That being said, everybody has their own take on what "lifestyle" is.

Photos courtesy of Vinson Images

Take the above examples by Vinson Images. Jason has a unique approach to capturing families. Rather than staging scenes, Jason documents the family for an entire day, capturing their ordinary daily lives. It's pure documentary. He even goes so far as to ask the family not to clean the home just for the shoot.

Family photography can fall anywhere in the spectrum of traditional to full documentary. Find what suits your tastes and personality and go shoot!


I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek into Family Photography 101. Family lifestyle photography is a fun way to capture authentic and real moments. It also provides great memories for the family to cherish. For the complete course, be sure to visit the SLR Lounge Premium Library, and we'll see you next time!

Pye Jirsa's picture

Pye Jirsa is a director, photographer and educator. Founder and Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography, a boutique Southern California wedding and portrait photography studio, and SLR Lounge, a photography education website, Pye devotes his time to helping photographers develop their shooting and business skills.

Log in or register to post comments
1 Comment