Day in the Life Photography vs. Family Portraits: What’s the Difference?

June 2, 2022

day in the life photography image of two sons sitting on a couch with their mother smiling and playin on tablets

If you have a family, you’ve more than likely had portraits done or plan to get them done soon. Pictures of the family allow you and your loved ones to look back on cherished memories for years to come. While family portraits are extremely popular, however, you may be a better fit for day in the life photography!

Luckily, taking photos day-in-the-life style is one of the signature packages that I offer. So, throughout this post, I’ll be breaking down the primary difference between these two types of photography styles to really showcase the difference between the two and why day in the life photography may be a better option for you.

Keep reading to learn all about the difference between these two photography styles!

Why should I photography my family?

parents and child hugging each other and smiling in a field

Let’s start with one of the most basic core questions – why should you photography your family in the first place?

Life’s memories are often best preserved through photography, a universal way of holding fond moments of the past. These photos can be enjoyed by anyone, but your children especially will absolutely love that you’ve taken the time to photograph moments when they were small, especially as they get older.

Plus, life goes by so fast. Truthfully, your children will be teenagers and then young adults before you know it. Sure, snapping photos on your iPhone can do, but being able to stay in your element while having a professional photographer take photos for you can make your job even easier. 

Especially with a documentary family session, or day in the life photography, you can literally go through life as normal while I snap photos of all of the small yet beautiful moments of your life that may often go unnoticed.

These photos can then be turned into albums or can even be framed and showcased throughout your home. They can also be given as gifts to other loved ones, like grandparents, or even your kids when they get older.

Photography is more than a momenty investment…it is an investment into you and your family. These photos will become your legacy. Plus, you’ll get a new friend (me!) out of it!

What are family portraits?

We have all heard of the dreaded “family portraits” …. unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past century. Whether you’ve done them yourself with your own family or were forced to dress in the same clothes as your family members and smile for the camera as a kid, family portraits are one of the most classic photography styles.

Essentially, family portraits are just group photos of a family. These can be taken indoors or outdoors but are often posed. Usually, family members will come up with a theme for these photos, and they also can wear very similar clothes for the portraits.

Like with any other regular portrait session, the family will normally only have booked the photographer for a certain amount of time during family portraits. This means that only so many poses can be done, making it hard to get the perfect shot.

Because these sessions are normally constrained to a tight schedule, some of the photos can often feel a bit forced. This means that kids may have trouble staying focused or will just decide not to smile for the camera! However, I do try to make these family portrait sessions more about movement and connection with your family so you may find this session different from any other family portrait session you have done before. 

Even though family portraits are a popular form of photography, it’s not for everyone. That’s why I offer day in the life sessions too, which I’ll go over in more detail in the next session!

What is day in the life photography?

Think of a day in the life photography or documentary family session as having a photographer friend with you for the entire day. It will be the first photo session that the whole family will be excited about. You can pretty much go about life as normal with your family, and I’ll be there to capture the little moments that make life magical.

Of course, that’s not to say that I won’t also help with poses or activities throughout the day too to help get some beautiful photographs. For instance, I’ve recommended reading books and even cooking before to help get some fun family images in the past.

These sessions include a lot, too, like:

  • Documentary style coverage of your family
  • Custom slideshow
  • Digital images via online gallery + printing rights
  • Print credit to be used towards your product of choice (albums are my favorite)
  • Friends and family discount for all future sessions
  • A new friend for life!

Nobody’s life is too boring for these sessions, which are quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to spend a day. 

You may be wondering… what’s actually so great about these sessions? During these days, I actually photograph your family exactly as you are, in your own space, including those small moments that may otherwise go unnoticed. That includes the hairdo your toddler wakes up with in the morning, your child’s smile when creating a beautiful piece of art, and even the hike your family takes at their favorite park.

Those moments matter, and I’m here to help you capture them by preserving them exactly as they were when they happened. They’ll then become heirlooms that can be passed down to your children when they’re older.

To learn more about these sessions, click here.

Which is better for you?

This completely depends on what you’re looking for! I offer both family portraits and day in the life photography so that you can choose whichever one your budget allows and the one you’d prefer to have.

Documentary family sessions are perfect for families who want to showcase all of the little moments of their day completely unposed and raw. This is a larger investment but allows families to remember those memories of day-to-day life for years to come. Also, because of the storytelling nature, these make great photo albums! 

Portrait and slice of life sessions are a smaller investment and are better for those who feel that a documentary family session may be too daunting. It’s still a great way to preserve memories and these images are great for putting on your walls or gifting to family members.

Day in the Life Photography Examples

Are you curious about what a documentary family session is like? Take a peek at some of my recent photographs of this service below, as well as some fun ideas if you’re not sure what to do during your day in the life session.

Have Fun with Movement

One of the most fun things to photograph is the movement of any kind. Whether you’re the type of family that loves to go on a hike or you just want to go out back and jump on the trampoline together, do it! This can create such pure moments and memories that are perfect for capturing with a lens.

Eat Meals Together

This one may sound silly or even straightforward, but even the simplest things like eating meals together photograph beautifully. Even though this is a moment that you probably often glaze over every day, you may wish you had a photograph of it in the future.

Whether it’s breakfast or lunch, I’d love to photograph that for you. You could even extend the fun and maybe all cook a meal together, or even a sweet treat. Toddlers in particular absolutely love doing this fun activity!

Do Household Chores

mother sitting on a bed brushing her daughters hair

Yes, I really mean that! If chores are a common occurrence in your house, I’m more than happy to photograph them. Even the most mundane tasks can bring memories in the future. This includes setting the table, raking the leaves, or even clearing out the dishwasher.

Play Dress Up

two young boys in superhero costumes with another child in pajamas

Okay, this one may make more sense if you have younger children, but it’s still tons of fun. That cowboy hat that’s been sitting in the back of the closet? Throw it on and put on a show! Your kids will absolutely love that you’re taking part in the fun.

Explore Your City (or Town)

mom hugging son from behind and smiling

Have some errands to run? Just want to grab lunch or a snack out downtown? I’ll come with you and photograph it! This can be even more fun if you grab a city bike or your own bikes and ride them downtown. I’ll capture what I can along the way!

For an even more fun time, if you do go out to grab a snack or a bite to eat, sit right outside the restaurant or food hall to enjoy your meal. You never know what beauty might be able to be captured during that time.

Check out some other great photos from day in the life shoots!

Want more ideas? Download our five fun and easy activities to do for your documentary session here!

Now you know all about the difference between family portrait sessions and day in the life photography/documentary family sessions. If you want to book a session of your own, click here to learn more! I’d love to connect with your beautiful family and capture your life’s memories at their rawest and most real.

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