My senior photo studio’s secretary was not insistent, but someone in disbelief.
“You do don’t want ANY photos in the studio? None? All outside?”
“No, just outside.” I replied.
“All right…” was the response, and with that, we booked a couple of hours out in the mid-september woods. I will be honest: I didn’t put too much thought into my senior photos, but I did know that I didn’t want the same photos as everyone else. I wanted my own look, in my own place, with the pop of the fall leaves. That was it. If I HAD to have these taken, I wanted them this way.
It has been almost twenty years since that experience, and I find myself still embodying that thought as a lifestyle photographer. I am not a studio photographer, nor do I hope to be. But I do hope to shed a little light on the difference to help anyone in search of photography services make the best decision for their images.
Studio photography is what a lot of us still think of when we think of a photo session: The white wall or backdrop with the giant bright lights, maybe a chair or some other item upon which to sit, things like that. I am guessing for a lot of us, this term conjures images of the department store portrait studios, where we could do our shopping and get a quick picture taken, too (KMart was our studio of choice). Even though these studios are fewer than before, this is still a great option for photography! Studios still exist to create that space inside that is designed to provide the perfect scenario for your images–perfect light, perfect backgrounds, perfect props. Studio photographers can then focus on posing and propping because the major variables for a photographer–light and background–are set. If you are looking for the highly styled baby photos with the cute little beds and blankets or family photos that focus on emotion more than setting, you may wish to find a studio photographer. The studio photographer has the goal of providing consistent, clear, classic images that focus on the people, not the environment.
Lifestyle photography, which no doubt evolved out of the evolution of DSLR cameras and their new ability to handle differences in lighting, takes a different focus than studio photography. The point of lifestyle photography is to remove people from a photographic setting and instead capture them in the middle of real life. The focus is often not to just take a pretty picture, but rather document that time in lives of those being photographed in the space in which they live their lives. This may include their homes, their vacations, their hotel/hospital rooms…any place where the subject(s) are existing. Think of lifestyle photography as having a personal photojournalist or paparazzo; the objective of the lifestyle photographer is to capture moments as they are, as you live them. Lifestyle photography freezes the moment, capturing you in your element, with your emotions.
OK, so now that they are defined, what are the pros and cons?
What one is best? One is by no means better than another; it is all about the experience you desire. If you are seeking structured, posed, planned, and consistent photographs, you may want a studio photographer. If you are seeking comfortable, unpredictable, raw, authentic images, you may desire a lifestyle photographer. There are pros and cons to both, and it is all about what you value most for your photography dollars.