Management speak and buzz words drive me absolutely crazy. My husband asked me to 'ideate' something the other day. Ideate. I mean...? It's a wonder we're still together.
But occasionally there are words that become 'buzzy' because they describe something succinctly. There isn't another word that quite captures the same idea. And then I might reluctantly adopt it!
'Lifestyle' is one of those words. I haven't found another way of describing my style of photography quite as neatly. But, for the uninitiated, what on earth does it mean?!
'Lifestyle' photography is somewhere between traditional portraiture and reportage style photography. Essentially, it's trying to capture photos that are as natural as possible, that describe personalities and that show relationships. My aim when photographing a family is not to provide a carefully posed, static family record but to show real family life, at its beautiful, messy, wonderful best!
The photos that I take can't, of course, be entirely natural, because unless you are a Kardashian and have cameras following you every day, being tailed by a photographer is not your normal day-to-day reality! So, I might ask my clients to sit in a particular place that has the best light, or do an activity that looks good aesthetically. But then I'll let them do it their way. When I asked these sisters (above) what they like doing in the garden, they said they like pulling up the weeds in the vegetable patch. I asked them both to go to one side of the veggies and then I let them chat away, prompting them with some questions here and there. The resulting photo is a beautiful record of their relationship - funny, a bit cheeky and full of 'in' jokes!
Or, these two black and white ones of a group of siblings. Would they normally sit in a row like this together in a lovely, light-filled spot? Probably not. So, there's a element of posing. But once they're there, it's over to them to play in the way that they would anyway, or laugh at fart jokes as usual!
There are a few rules I've written for myself over the many years I've been doing this job. Here's your chance to take a peek into the Rosie Wedderburn Photography handbook, under section 3.4b) 'The Golden Rules of Lifestyle Photography'*
DO find the most light-filled spot and gently direct people into it.
DON'T tell people to stand awkwardly and look at the camera.
DO give them something to do or talk about while they are having their photo taken. Some of my favourite photos are of people drinking a cup of tea!
DON'T give them props. They don't want photos of themselves with something that isn't theirs and they wouldn't normally have in their home.
DO ask questions that prompt discussion between family members, especially if the discussion is silly!
DON'T ever ask anyone to 'say cheese' or 'SMIIIILE!'
DO encourage play and be ready to suggest a variety of games and activities.
DON'T be too directive. If you ask a child endlessly to stand this way or look that way, you'll end up with an awkward, self-conscious photo.
DO show genuine interest in the people you're photographing. Ask them what they like doing. If it's dancing, put some music on! If it's reading, get a book!
DON'T be afraid to make a fool of yourself. If it will make someone laugh, do it!
DO move around. You are following the client's lead, so if a child starts playing with something, move around them until you get a great angle and good light.
DON'T disturb a child who is having fun in order to move them. Capture them as they are and you'll get the best photos of their real personality.
And, finally, DO ALWAYS enjoy what you're doing! Remember that if you're having a good time, your client is going to as well!
In conclusion, 'lifestyle' photography is definitely an annoying buzz word. But it fills a gap in my vocabulary, helps me to define what I do and reminds me why I do it. And why is that...? Because I blimmin' love it!
*There's no handbook. But if there was, I'd definitely have fancy titles and sub-sections.