Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients

“Lifestyle photography” is on trend, but what does it really mean? Here are the 4 ingredients you NEED to make fearless family photos with a lifestyle vibe. (Photographs by: KALEEN ENKE)


Some call it “lifestyle photography,” but in the commercial world, that’s often reserved for images styled to appear unposed. Others call it “family photojournalism,” though a true journalist would balk at the idea. Journalism, in its purest form, would never aim to showcase a family at their best; only at their most honest (and often most memorable.)

Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients: Lifestyle Photography - Walking the Dog Involves Picking Up Poo
Photo by KALEEN ENKE

Photographer Kaleen Enke describes her work as “documentary family photography,” and that feels fitting. Kaleen’s fly-on-the-wall approach is evident in the raw, authentic moments she captures, and the obvious lack of perfection in each frame. (Though I take issue with most people’s idea of perfection.)

If Kaleen’s unadulterated style of storytelling makes your heart beat faster, let Kaleen tell you a little bit about how it’s done…

Fearless Family Photos

If you’re aching to evolve your lifestyle photography from posed and perfect to bold and real, you need to stock your photography toolbox with the right tools – and I’m not talking equipment.

Tap into the ingredients that enhance the humanity in your family photos.

"There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment." - Robert Frank


#1: Preparedness

You can’t photograph it if you aren’t prepared. This is as simple as having your camera at the ready with fresh film or a formatted flash card, and as intricate as being emotionally aware of what’s happening around you.

Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients: Lifestyle Photography - Dad Helping Daughter Build Dollhouse
Photo by KALEEN ENKE

Get To Know the Best Gear for Lifestyle Photography

Every photographer has their own approach to equipment, but most documentarians agree: you need to be prepared for a few common scenarios.

  • Low light. Fast lenses and sensitive film or camera sensors are critical when working in low-light conditions. Since adding your own light impacts the authenticity of the moment, you’ll want to resort to using a flash as little as possible.

Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients: Lifestyle Photography - Little Girl In Footie Pajamas Sleeps In the Sun
Photo by KALEEN ENKE

  • Small spaces. Intimate family photos almost always draw you into your client’s most personal space: their home. And unless your client’s name begins with a K and ends with ardashian, they likely live in an average-side house with average decor and average clutter. Wide lenses will give you the latitude you need to photograph the scene even in close quarters.

Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients: Lifestyle Photography - Little Girl Doing Laundry
Photo by KALEEN ENKE

  • Everyday messes. Even orderly homes will look lived-in – because they are. Fast lenses (lenses with a wide aperture / small f/stop number) allow you to focus specifically on the elements that matter, and minimize other elements with a beautiful bokeh-blur.

Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients: Lifestyle Photography - Family Dog Begging for Baby's Breakfast
Photo by KALEEN ENKE


#2: Patience

Day-long lifestyle photography sessions are commonplace when you’re shooting with a documentary eye. If you’re accustomed to a fast-paced, pose-and-proceed approach, you may be tempted to make something HAPPEN.

But patience is rewarding. Embrace your inner wallflower, and your clients will let down their guard and reveal their story.

Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients: Lifestyle Photography - Breakfast Time with the Sisters
Photos by KALEEN ENKE

Zen Out and Be Present

Don’t zone out; zen out, and be fully present while you’re photographing – or waiting for something to photograph. Anticipate the moment; don’t create it. The ordinary is extraordinary.

Explore the beauty that lives in the serenity of nap time, the chaos of meal time, and the irregularity of the day.

The Ordinary Is Extraordinary - ShootProof


#3: Layers

If you love story-full family photos, you already know: meaningful photographs say something. Layers of texture, light, and action not only help fill the frame; they also enrich your lifestyle photography with the life part of your work’s namesake.

Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients: Lifestyle Photography - Three Sisters Prepare A Pretend Meal
Photos by KALEEN ENKE

Use layers to:

  • establish a sense of place. Where are you? What does it feel like to be there? Is it dark or bright? Small or large? Neat or messy? Warm or cold?

Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients: Lifestyle Photography - Daddy/Daughter Yardwork Day
Photo by KALEEN ENKE

  • communicate action and/or emotion. In every story, there is a decisive moment in which the peak action or emotion is expressed. If you’re ready, you can photograph it. If you anticipate it, you can show what inspired it, and what else was happening when the penultimate occurred.

Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients: Lifestyle Photography - Dad Leafblowing the Yard While Daughters Play In the Pickup Truck
Photo by KALEEN ENKE

  • isolate what matters most in the frame. Sometimes the moment is there but you are here. Sometimes the story is more powerful told at a distance. To direct your viewer’s gaze where you want it, vignette your subject with other objects or elements.

Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients: Lifestyle Photography - Dad Napping While Baby Plays
Photo by KALEEN ENKE


#4: Light

The most important technical element of any photograph is, of course, light. But when you’re trying to work with ambient light only, that “beautiful light” we envision for family photos is often elusive.

The right gear can be an invaluable partner in maximizing your available light. But an altered expectation can also be beneficial.

Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients: Lifestyle Photography - Getting Ready for Bed with Dad
Photo by KALEEN ENKE

Let go of your own assumptions that the only “good” family photos are images with the sweet light of the golden hour. While light is a powerful storytelling tool, it is a tool, and as such, you get to use it as you see fit to support your storytelling goals.

Whether you’re blessed with beams of sunlight filtered through a gauzy curtain, or craftily working with the odd shadows and highlights cast by an overhead light fixture, remember: the light is a character in your story, too. Respect it’s place in the framework of your photograph, and don’t try to force it into something it is not.

Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients: Lifestyle Photography - Kid In Footie Pajamas Playing In A Giant Cardboard Box
Photo by KALEEN ENKE


Focus On What Matters Most

The ingredients we pour into our images flavor them, like spices in tea. But the leaves are what matter most. Without them, there would be no tea; only senselessly seasoned hot water.

As you craft your next family photos, look for the leaves. Like pages in a book, your images will tell true stories of love and laughter and life in all its messy wonder, heirlooms of the everyday.

Fearless Family Photos All Have These 4 Ingredients: Lifestyle Photography - Bedtime
Photo by KALEEN ENKE


Written by: ANNE SIMONE | Video by: CASSIA REYNOLDS | Featured photographer: KALEEN ENKE


ShootProof makes online galleries, contracts, & invoices for pro photographers. Sell, share, print, download, & MORE. #FocusOnWhatMattersMost

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