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Photography Education

5 Reasons To Choose Documentary Photography

Throughout our life, we are forever changed by the moments that come and go.
Some that we long to go back to whether that’s because of loved ones that have passed away or simply because it was a beautiful moment. What memories have you wishing you could go back?

In the recent years there has been a rise in lifestyle and documentary photography. Although there is a difference between the two, it seems to suggest that people want a more natural approach to their photos then the traditional posed family photos. About 7 years go, I saw a very candid photo of a kid playing. It was nothing too special but it was beautiful and it stood out from the typical professional photos you see. That changed everything for me and inspired what would become a very expensive passion. Because of that passion I decidid to write down my 5 reasons to choose documentary photography.


I absolutely love capturing those little glimpses of who my kids are. Doesn’t matter if they are mad, happy, or anything in between. It makes this mamas heart swell. Quarks and all there is nothing more amazing than who my family really is and being able to hold onto that memory is an absolute must. 


Reason number two is it pushes me to get in the frame. Some day I will not be here, you will not be here, and your family will want to hold onto every second they had with you wishing they could have another day. (sorry, that got dark really quick ; – ) However, if you can give them little glimpses of those sweet moments with you, you will be giving them something money and belongings can never match.


Documenting everyday moments tend to make you slow down and just be present. There will never be a better time to savor the present than right now. It takes your mind off of the chaos of life and pulls you into the sweetness everyday has to offer. I’d dare to say it can alter how you see your day. For example I can get mad about the mess my kids make, or I can capture something that is a very real part of our life.


Earlier I mention that there was a difference between lifestyle and documentary photography. Lifestyle photography is posing your subject in a way that represents a normal or natural activity for them. Documentary is capturing your subjects as life plays out. I always recommend you hire a photographer for a DITL (Day In The Life) session. This is the easiest way for you to get in the frame and be captured naturally unaware of what photos are being taken. See number two on why this is important. However There is no possible way for you to hire a photographer for every precious moment with or without you. (Vacations, parties, general family get togethers and outings) There is something in everyday to capture if you are looking for it. This is where the documentary vs. lifestyle can make a big difference. Also less stress for you if you are capturing your family. 


Number five is a big one. Documentary photography is traditionally thought of as being the same as photo journalism. I’m sure this was an inspiration for this style of family photography but it has evolved into a pure and ambitious form of photography. You have to be ready and anticipating those treasured moments. A major difference, I have found, between documenting your family and photographing your family is, you can get into a habit of using specific poses and prompts (which can initially be challenging) but this eventually becomes dull, or at least for me it did. I had some great photos but they looked like every other photographers and that just was not what I wanted. I wanted unique and subject specific photos. I wanted to capture who they were and what makes them who they are not a posed version. Posing made me hate photography for a while until one day I caught a photo that spoke to my heart. That was why I got into photography and for me, the main reason to love this style of photography.

There are millions of photographers that produce awe inspiring photos everyday through posing. However, it’s not for me. I hold to the idea that photography is an art. Art is meant to be expressed in a way that serves as a form of expression for the artist and speaks to the viewer. Its deep and personal and is at its best when expressed from our own emotions and experiences. When it comes from the deepest parts of who we are. As artists we should explore what that means to us and as a result we can create something we are excited about.

So if you are a beginner photographer looking for their “niche” or a mom trying to get better photos of their kids, I highly recommend trying a documentary approach. Its such a beautiful way to celebrate who we are as individuals.

Documentary photography (img)

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