What's a portrait & lifestyle photographer? And why did I choose that direction?

I get asked time and time again what I photograph. Or I also get the “how much do you charge for X service?” when I don’t even photograph whatever X service is. I have come to realize that unless you are very specific, the general public who don’t know much about photography believes you photograph everything.

This is not to say this is their fault. It’s not common knowledge. Unless someone specifically states that they don’t photograph that, they won’t know. So I thought I would talk a little bit about what my style of photography is and why I chose that direction.

I am a lifestyle and portrait photographer. What in the world is that you may ask?

Lifestyle photography simply means documenting as it is. It’s very similar to photojournalism, where there isn’t much, if any, posing. The only light is what is available and currently there. I am a fly on the wall essentially. I am just there to document what I see and I do very little editing besides simple corrective edits.

Portrait photography is more of your traditional, posed photography. It’s what you would imagine as a photo session. I tell you to sit there, look this way, now close your eyes, now open them, now look straight at me, slightly tilt your head that way, you get the point. I am explaining what to do every single photo.

I typically merge these two styles to create a photo session that is a good hybrid. I love the posing, but I am not opposed to the in-between moments that create a natural photograph. I love those moments because it captures someone’s personality and real life. I love when I can pose someone and then the person laughs or shows their real emotions. That is what a hybrid of the two is.

I chose this direction of photography because like the two styles, I was trained in both. In high school, I was taught the basics of photography and that is where I fell in love with your traditional photography. I had a friend who was always my go-to model and she ROCKED it. It taught me to create in a new way. However, in college, I studied photojournalism. This is a very different style as it allows for only corrective editing, not creative. It also teaches you to just watch and observe instead of interjecting what you think would be a great addition to the photograph.

I love each of these types for so many different reasons. I didn’t want to be one or the other type of photographer. I wanted to have the best of both worlds. So I decided I wouldn’t have to choose and did both of them.

You may be saying, “Okay. So then you photography everything?” To answer that simply, no. Like all photographers, there are things that I am more comfortable shooting than others. For example, I have never photographed a wedding and until I have second shot for another photographer, I don’t believe I will be comfortable doing so. Do I think I would like to try? Yes, but I don’t want to offer a service I can’t be completely confident in. It’s the same with newborns. I envy photographers who can photograph newborns. It is hard. Both of these two things require a lot of dedication to their craft. Not saying I don’t have dedication, but this requires a skill set I just do not have yet.

So to answer the rest of that question, I do photograph a handful of subjects. This would include families, couples, professionals, individuals, high school seniors to name a few.

I want to go ahead and squash the myth that photographers will take anything they can get to make a buck. I can’t tell you how many times I have turned down a photography job just because I don’t specialize in that. I don’t want to take your money if I know that I won’t be able to deliver what I would consider my best. That is just not good business, nor do I believe that is right just as a human being. I want you to walk away happy with your decision, not questioning it. You wouldn’t go to a cardiologist for your broken foot. So why would you hire a photographer who only does weddings to do your newborn photos? The answer, you wouldn’t.

As I wrap this up, I just want you to see that all photographers are different and have a different niche. Some of us are extraordinary in photographing weddings while others are splendid at lifestyle. So make sure you do your research before wanting to hire anyone for your special event, whether that be portraits, a family session, your professional headshots, a wedding, or even newborn photos. Each photographer is unique, so play to their strengths to get the best session you could ask for.

Behind the scenes of my session days

There is nothing like a session day. My adrenaline is running. I am fully energized. It’s go time. I could tell you all about it, but I would much rather show you. So, take a peek into the behind the scenes life of my photography business during a session.

Check out some behind the scenes during Lauren & Bailey’s session.

Mommy & Me for Abbey & Max

I am so excited to share with you this session. So truth be told, I have not photographed a two year old I have not met before. I was a little nervous going into it. I had to pull out my training from my daycare teacher days when I used to care for up to ten 2 year olds at a time. Talk about learning to think on your feet. I had to come up with a way I knew would entertain a two year old while also getting photos and hoping that I could easily keep him happy.

I work with Abbey at a medical office full time and so I knew I would be super comfortable photographing her. The stories she would tell about her son (and her perfect impersonations) pumped me up so much to do this session with Max.

We went to the amphitheater right outside the Bryan House on Indiana University’s campus. I figured it would be a perfect backdrop as well as playground for Max. It was a win-win.

He instantly melted my heart. He was very interested in all of the surroundings, which made it very easy to get photographs. Abbey did mention they take a lot of photos of him, so he was not phased by me following him around with my big camera.

Max loved to climb around and was very interested in the non-existent fishes that were in the creek. He was very satisfied with the bubbles I brought for him to play with as well.

Abbey was a total natural as she knew how to interact with him and make amazing photo opportunities. I felt like I never needed to cue her to do anything. It made it so easy to put more focus on following the never stopping Max around.

I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful Mommy & Me session. Thank you both so much for your time and trusting me with this special moment.

Without further ado, here are some sneak peeks of their session.

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Step by step, how I got this shot

I love having the chance to show off some of my creative photographs. When I am, I always get asked how I “got that shot.” Today, I wanted to take a more creative photo and explain to you step by step how I got this shot. If you want to see how I made the shot the way it looks now, besides the idea planning and direction (so in Lightroom), watch the video to see the rest!

  1. I knew I wanted to use these string lights I had and I wanted something to do with bokeh lighting (large out of focus circles where the lights are). So I tried it with my cousin, Sam. I knew in order to make the lights pop, it needed to be REALLY dark around us. So it was Christmas Eve and it got dark pretty quickly in the day and it was a new moon that night meaning it would be DARK. So we went into my backyard at my parents house to use for the backdrop.

  2. I positioned the lights to wrap around her so I could get a specific focal point. So in order to do this, I made her stick out one of her arms so when I kept focus on her face, the lights on the arm closest to me would end up being blurry (intentionally).

  3. The way I laid the lights made her face light up as well. I put some in her hair next to her ear as well as wrapped more around her other arm. The arm that wasn’t close to me I had her move it to be close enough to her face to give her more light but far enough to not be in the frame.

  4. Since we were in the dark, I had to keep the camera VERY still in order to keep her face (mainly the eyes) in focus. Once I took a few shots in the same place, I did move to multiple angles, but this one I liked the most and was most in focus.

  5. So once I had my composed in camera photo, I went through the editing process. If you would like to see how this process goes, feel free to watch the video below.

So, overall, what I do when composing a photograph is noticing the lighting around me, location, time of day, what is going to be in and out of the frame, focal points, and angles to name a few. Since I have been doing this all my life, I can pick these points out very quickly during a session. It took many years of practice and I still am constantly finding new things to look out for with each and every photo. Now you can see how I go from a vision in my head to what you see in the end.

Paige & Nathan's Maternity Session

There is no secret that I am absolutely obsessed with this session. It’s because it’s of my sister and her man. I love that I was able to take their maternity session for them and my future nephew. I was really excited to take them around my stomping grounds for this session. Paige will be due at the very beginning of January (and I am really hoping it’s a New Year baby). Please enjoy these photos as much as I had putting them together.

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