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Why lifestyle photography might be perfect for you

Updated: Jan 16, 2020

A family enjoying time at the beach in Dunedin during a lifestyle family photography session

Do you love family photographs that have a natural, carefree feel, yet they still have that wow factor to stop you in your tracks?

Perhaps you are looking for something more than a traditional family portrait?

Maybe you don’t just want pictures with everybody lined up neatly and smiling nicely at the camera.

You want photographs that let individual personalities shine.

If you like pictures that tell a story about a family and invoke some sort of emotion in you – then lifestyle photography might be just right for you.

But what, exactly, is lifestyle photography?

Natural family life during a Dunedin family photoshoot

Sometimes you just have to make sure you're in the right place at the right time while you let family life happen around you.

I see it as a style that lies somewhere between documentary photography on one side and classical portraiture on the other, taking the best bits of both and morphing them together.

A pure documentary photographer has a ‘fly on the wall’ approach, capturing life as it unfolds without interfering. While a photographer who specialises in classic portraiture likes to have full control of everything from lighting and clothes to props and posing, and will direct the subject exactly how they should sit or stand.

I love to take the best of both worlds and use my skills and knowledge of each style to create unique family pictures.

Family photograph at Aramoana Beach, Dunedin

When a family is interacting with each other rather than the camera it can make for beautiful, natural, authentic portraits.

Do you worry you will be awkward in front of the camera?

This is a common fear. Many people worry that they are going to be awkward and stiff in front of the camera.

They fear that being told to “just be yourself” isn’t really going to happen in front of a stranger for their family. This is where combining the two styles really helps.

When shooting a classic portrait tiny tweaks in the way someone sits or stands, where they place their hand and even the angle of their head can make a big difference.

I find that when I give people direction it actually helps them to relax.

During a family shoot this process is a lot more informal. I’m not going to fuss and finesse the exact tilt of your head, but I am going to make sure I’ve showed you how to stand or sit in a flattering way and that we’ve taken care of those bits we love to hate, such as double chins.

Mother and baby read a book together during a Dunedin family photoshoot

The ordinary, every day activities might be what you miss the most in ten years.

A little direction helps you to simply enjoy the moment

I’ve discovered that people like it when I tell them what to do as it means they don’t have to worry if they are doing the right thing. They can leave all that stuff to me and just focus on their connection and enjoy the moment with their children.

I’m always looking for the best (read most flattering) light and then I will give my family something to do in that light. It’s often as simple as reading a book or playing some tickle games.

One of my favourite tricks is to set up scenarios that naturally happen in your family. This is why I really like to meet you and your partner before the shoot so I can ask questions such as ‘what do you like to do together as a family?’

Mum and son play a card game at a Dunedin cafe during a family photoshoot

Get everybody involved in an activity or a game and they tend to forget the camera is there making for some great captures.

Does your family like to walk the dog together or do you spend half your weekend playing board games? Is dad a rough-and-tumble dad or does he like to help the kids to build things? I don’t want to be asking dad to throw his precious two-year-old up into the air if that’s not something he’s comfortable doing.

As we get into the swing of things, I love it when a family gradually relaxes into my presence and life starts to unfold naturally around me – the kids get hungry, they start playing with their toys, wander off to find a puddle or it’s time for a nappy change.

These are the small details that make family life what it is.

Small details such as gumboots, flowery dresses and muddy puddles during a Dunedin lifestyle family photo session

Sometimes it's the small details that attract the eye.

You might think what we're shooting feels a little staged, especially at the beginning, but it won’t look that way in your pictures because it could totally happen in real life.

I see my role as to jump-start the action and then capture it as it unfolds.

A cuddle, that we’ve shifted into some lovely soft window light, might turn into a game of peek-a-boo. Or some playfighting on the bed, where we’ve shifted all the unsightly phone cables and a pile of papers, might end with a huge family pile-up of laughing faces.

This is the sort of stuff that lights my fire and fills me with passion.

As a former journalist and writer I love telling stories and now I’ve found a way to tell stories with pictures. The traditional “look this way and all say cheese” just isn’t going to cut if for me!

Documentary style family photography that shows a child being thrown on the bed in play

There's no faces in this picture but it tells you all you need to know about fatherhood, the joy of flying through the air when you're 4-years-old and the home you grew up in with the view out to the farm paddocks.

Create and capture your own family memories

At the end of your family photoshoot experience, when you take home your favourite printed pictures and hang them on the wall, or create a special place to keep your family album, I don’t want you to think ‘oh look, there we all are’.

I want you to say ‘remember that day’, ‘remember that moment’, and in ten years time – “remember how Leo loved to be thrown onto the bed, we couldn’t do that with him now”!


How to get dad on board for a family shoot

Sometimes dads can be reluctant participants in family photoshoots and may even resist the idea of having a shoot altogether.

Here's five great reasons and ways to warm him up to the idea and even make sure he enjoys the experience.


Dunedin photographer Edith Leigh

Who is Edith Leigh?

I am a contemporary lifestyle photographer who specialises in natural, authentic family photography to create eye-catching, heart-felt Fine Art and albums for your home.

Based in Dunedin, New Zealand, my style is fun and energetic with a touch of the classical thrown in. I love to capture real life, simple moments and portraits that tell a story.

You can find out more about me here.



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