Family photography is an art form that captures precious memories of the people we hold dear. With the advent of digital cameras and smartphones, taking photos of our loved ones has never been easier. However, when it comes to professional family photography, two styles have emerged: lifestyle family photography and traditional family photography. While both styles capture important moments in a family’s life, they differ in their approach, aesthetic, and final result. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two styles of family photography, their advantages, and which one might be best for your family.

Video: Family Lifestyle Photography vs Traditional Photography

This week, I’m going to show you a sneak peek into the SLR Lounge Premium Library. This is a chapter from our new course, Family Photography 101. This course is a complete guide to capturing unique and memorable family portraits. In this video/article, Shivani and I will be comparing family lifestyle photography with traditional family portraits.

When we think of family portraits, we automatically picture traditional family poses: Everybody lined up, happy and smiling. Family lifestyle photography shines a different light on family portraiture. Rather than having everybody perfectly posed, lifestyle captures the personality of the family. The spontaneity can be a great addition to a complete family portrait album. Although they call for different family poses, both styles can (and should) be used in a single session. First, let’s discuss how the two styles differ.

Traditional Family Photography

This is the most requested type of family portrait. Everybody is looking at the camera, smiling, and the outfits all look good, etc. Pretty pictures in a pretty location. The first thing you’ll notice in these examples is how they all look quite similar. Everybody is on the same focal plane and lined up starting from the center of the photo. We follow a posing guideline much like Foundation Posing that we’ll discuss in later chapters of Family Photography 101. This is the staple photograph that every family wants and is usually where we begin when we photograph the families.

Related Reading: What Are Foundation Poses?

Traditional Example #1

family lifestyle photography beach traditional

We placed the grandparents in the center and placed the rest of the family in an “Open Pose.” This is perfect for large families like this. I want to point out the “feel” or “vibe” of the image. The family dressed in matching colors to blend with the beach scene harmoniously. Keep an eye out for this in the next examples.

Traditional Example #2

family lifestyle photography family of three traditional

The previous posing principle applies to portraits with three people. Pick a center person and build around them. Once your family is in position, you can then direct them into more natural and candid expressions. Note the color contrast this time. The red outfits pop out against the green background.

Traditional Example #3

family lifestyle photography action traditional

You can then add in actions to draw out different reactions such as walking, or even tickling. To capture this photo, Shivani had the family walk through this clearing. This family was also dressed in colors that matched the location. We’ve included a full chapter on wardrobe and color in Family Photography 101. From here, we begin to blend into lifestyle family photography.

Lifestyle Family Photography

As photographers, we want to capture realism and authenticity. That’s the core of lifestyle portraits. Shivani points out that lifestyle allows more “imperfections.” We want to capture the specific mannerisms and nuances of the family. In a sense, “perfection” throws off the idea of lifestyle. We want to leave room for imperfections because that’s what’s real and authentic.

Lifestyle Example #1:

family lifestyle photography candid moment

This photo is a great example of realism in lifestyle. The family loves to play “London Bridge” and jumped into it in order to calm the child. All Shivani had to do was capture the scene as it unfolded in front of her. The beauty in the scene comes from how happy the child was in that moment. As Shivani states, “This is their family story.”

The family was placed in front of the bright background. In addition, the leading lines guide the viewer to the family. Lifestyle photography is a great because you can still incorporate the artistic components of photography while capturing authentic moments.

Lifestyle Example #2:

family lifestyle photography natural

This photo is another great example of embracing the imperfections. Even though the expressions may not be perfect smiles, the moment itself is what makes the photo perfect. Allow the family to be spontaneous. Then, all the photographer has to do is capture what’s happening in front of them.

Lifestyle Example #3:

family lifestyle photography fun activities

Check out these images in this incredible home of a real moment between the kids. A tip Shivani provides is to create the scene around what the kids like to do. Find their favorite activities and things that will generally make them happy. Doing so will create authentic reactions and moments.

What Defines Lifestyle Family Photography?

family lifestyle photography cooking

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 family photography. Simply put, he follows the family around for 12 hours, documenting their daily lives. What happens in that day is completely up to the family. His approach is pure documentary and realism. Jason even goes so far as to asking the parents not to clean the home.

From fully traditional to documentary, family lifestyle photography can fall anywhere in that spectrum. The style depends on what best suits your tastes, and importantly, your personality.


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!