what is documentary-style photography?

I’ve been reading up on documentary-style photography over the last couple of weeks.

What is documentary-style photography exactly?

Here’s (part of) the Wikipedia definition:

Documentary photography usually refers to a popular form of photography used to chronicle events or environments both significant and relevant to history and historical events and everyday life…

The detail that sets a documentary-style photography session apart from other sessions is that the photos are created with no photographer interaction.

From my perspective as a family photographer, documentary-style photos are the candid photos.  The ones where you’ve managed to capture a connection… a moment… a smile.  Photos that pack an emotional punch – not for everyone, but especially for those who are in them.

How is it different to a lifestyle shoot?

Lifestyle photos are photos that have been orchestrated to create a candid moment, where the photographer will direct the client to set up an unposed (in the traditional portrait sense) image – think mum cradling baby as they sit in a rocking chair and she reads a book.

Why am I doing my homework?

documentary-style photography is my dream vision for my business

Hence, me reading up.

Personally, the photos that bring a smile to my face are the photos that trigger strong memories or evoke a feeling deep inside; images that show my everyday life; my family interacting together; the stories and personalities of the ones I love…   And I know that I’m not alone in this, so it makes sense to me that a documentary-style session is going to be as equally powerful for a client – capturing images where they recognise their daily life;  the real moments, memories and stories.

We’re near the end of our Autumn school holidays, and Warren and Murdoc have been throwing the Vortex around.  They have this running tally-thing happening – catches equal points, drops equal lost points.  I’ve given up keeping of score of who’s winning because it’s been ever-changing, but it was in a moment when they both came in and collapsed on the couch out of breath, that I realised this was a documentary-style moment in our house.


this throw took a lot of effort

playing with the boy

oops, missed

waiting and catching his breath

“But I can capture these moments with my phone.  Why should I pay you to come take these photos for me?”

It’s a valid question (and a whole other discussion for another blog post!).

Know that prior to each session I will take the time to get to know you, develop a relationship with you and gain your trust.  I’ll ask you questions, like “What is your perfect day like?”. I’m going to get to the core of what is important to you and your family.  Yes, we will still plan your session, but as a photographer, I won’t be directing any movement.  I will simply be there, camera in hand, ready to photograph whatever unfolds in your moment.

Together, we will create a photography experience that allows you to return to your moments, as I document your reality in that instant, using light and time to reproduce a moment, as it is perceived by me.

And probably, most importantly of all, YOU will be in these photos.  Because be honest, how often are you in your photos?

Be a part of those authentic, imperfect and honest moments – moments that will spark conversations and help you to remember what otherwise might be forgotten, for years to come.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

Have you considered booking a photography session recently?
What, if anything, has held you back?
And would you consider a documentary-style photo session?

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One Response to what is documentary-style photography?

  1. Jane April 29, 2016 at 9:25 PM #

    Really great photos Tasha! So alive! xx

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