Lessons from the Scene: Two types of photos: Posed Portrait and Lifestyle Photo/Photojournalism


by Stanley Leary

 Figure 1
Posed Portraits
These are the staples of photography for most families. They are a great way to capture in time everyone looking their best.
We are so trained in our society about making these photos that often many of us are thinking this is what is a good photograph is all about—everyone looking at the camera and smiling.
These family photos are often associated with family reunions. Approximately 46 percent of families organize an annual reunion, according to genealogy.com. The most common time of year to hold a reunion is during the summer, as most people do not have as many engagements. However, holidays are another time many get together to reconnect.
A family reunion provides a means for younger family members to learn about their heritage. In such a case, your elders will lead the reunion with stories about the start of the family tree. Depending on your own unique heritage, you may hear personal stories about war, struggle and immigration.
For the most part these photos are experienced within the family. You may have them on the walls or in albums, but usually there is someone from the family there to explain who is who and how they are connected.
Without someone there to explain these connections and the stories the photos by themselves do very little to communicate on their own to those who do not have a connection to the people in the photo. Most likely seeing a family photo of someone you do not know will most likely trigger memories about your family photos and family.
Figure 2
Lifestyle Photo/Photojournalism
While the photo of the same family playing ping-pong may not have everyone smiling and close to the camera, the photo tells us more about the family than the posed photo does alone.
You can tell from this photo they enjoy the beach.  We could have stopped everyone and had them look at the camera and had a formal photo on the beach, but this communicates how much fun they are having together.
Figure 3
This is one more family photo in a home setting. This is taken during a family vacation. However, the photo does little to communicate vacation and more informal posed portrait.
Figure 4
This second photo is what I like to do with people to get them relaxed—just hang out. Here you can see the family just enjoying time in each other's presence.
Most likely you do not know the families above. Which photos to you communicate something about the families other than what they look like?
When you use photos for work to help communicate—choose lifestyle or photojournalism over a posed portrait.
Lifestyle vs Photojournalism
The difference between Lifestyle and Photojournalism is if one is setup and one just happens naturally. When you need to restage a situation because you cannot capture it as it happens then you are definitely doing a lifestyle photo shoot and not photojournalism.
Many news outlets will not use photos of situations that companies setup for the press. They will choose not to run the photo because they know this is setup. However, the news media will run images where they naturally find things.  This has to do with ethics and the purpose of their publications.
It is perfectly fine for the photographer and/or stylist to remove a Pepsi can in a photo that will run in the Coke annual report for example. However if it were to run in a newspaper, that would be unethical and jeopardize their reputation as journalists.