Since my relocation to the Northwest, I have managed to put myself into a photographic rut. How did I manage this, you ask? I decided to focus on fashion photography and move out of New York right when I began my photography business.
If this were an alternative universe and I had an MBA, I’m sure I would have not gone through with such a decision. Well, too bad alternate-universe self. I didn’t move to Washington for business. I moved here to be with my boyfriend after three years of bi-coastal love. Enough was enough, photography business or none.
This small realization leads to me to the fact that there is a minimal need (in contrast to my hometown of New York City) for fashion photography. This little nook of the country screams “lifestyle photography!” By this I mean: family portraits, boudoir, pets, senior photos, weddings, nature and landscape photography, etc.
Which brings me to a confirmation of another realization I had … A few months ago I did family portraits for an absolutely amazing family. The mother wanted me to capture her son and his dad, to remember him as a little boy. I was completely for this idea, but it was one of the toughest jobs I had ever done.
This is when I became scared of family portraits (I still am). It’s not that I don’t like them, but I am used to have a lot of control in my photos – I am used to directing models, not people like my neighbors.
My third and final realization is directly related to the title of this blog post: lifestyle photography is hard.
If you’re a lifestyle photographer reading this, I’m sure you are laughing, perhaps chuckling at me. Yes you, underdog of the photography world. Even you, mother with a camera to capture your children (the ones that do it well, of course). You, my friends, have no easy path to walk before you.
No control, to very minimal. Unless of course you’re posing your shots. For the most part though, lifestyle photography isn’t about reproducing a moment, it’s about capturing it. Whereas fashion photography/editorial is about reproducing a moment, or creating a brand new one to showcase the subject(s). This is not fact, of course, just my opinion. I did not write the rule book on this, I am just speaking from experience.
And even as a fashion/editorial photographer, I have found candid photographs work better than posing 75% of the time. The models can shift through a couple poses, and I will give them feedback. From there, we will focus on several poses and I will guide them, utilizing the control I need to capture the right shot.
In my experience with lifestyle photography, I am in the background, quiet as a ninja trying to capture and not disrupt a moment. Which makes me feel and sound like a stalker.
Nothing makes me feel more out of control, because in those moments I want to tear up the room and pose people accordingly. But how can I pose people “accordingly” and fine tune all the details when I’m documenting children being tutored? Aside from not trying to break their concentration with my lens in their face, the kids have been with the tutors since 1pm and want nothing more to go home. How can I tell those anxious kids, “Hey, can you just tilt your head to the left a bit?”
Yet, photojournalists do it all the time. They capture a live moment, by stalking it like a prey and waiting for the right moment to strike. All while setting up composition and planning out lighting. Dear photojournalists out there, you are my lifestyle photography heroes. (Even though you’re not lifestyle photographers, in a commercial sense anyway.)
I think I’m going to go spend some time living with lions in the African plains so I can learn more about stalking and when to strike at the right moment. Or maybe I’ll just watch my friend’s cat to learn. Hmm …