Sarah Black, Family Photographer

Singing about everything that is right in front of you.

children, family, maternity, filmsarah blackComment

What actually is lifestyle photography anyway?

I live in Melbourne, where the weather vacillates entirely unpredictably between antarctic and sweltering, interspersed with many days that are either all-day-grey or bring the sorts of northerly wind that will take your trampoline for a trip over the back fence. And I probably must also mention the quite-a-lot-of-rain thing.

Earlier in my career I thought that 'what clients wanted' for their family photography session was to loll about in a field during golden hour (those lovely hours before sunset when the sun sits lower in the sky and takes on a 'golden' hue), loving on each other while not thinking at all about snacks or how cold/hot/windy it is. Perhaps they did (and in fact, some still really do, proving one of the things I love most about humans, which is that we are all different), but I found that my inability to control small factors, like weather, that contribute so much to general comfort, meant that photosessions sometimes felt more like hard work than I thought they should. Really poor weather leads to re-shoots, which are inconvenient for everyone involved. Many of my clients have young children, meaning that during the popular warmer months little ones have to stay awake beyond their bedtime (and sometimes mum and dads!) to wait for the nicest light. If we are a long way from home this can lead to a grumpy drive home, Even on shoots when weather is perfect, I have had clients experiencing extreme reactions to say, spring grass hayfever. And while the images themselves can be worth it (depending on what it is you want to see)  I began to think that the experience itself left something to be desired, particularly for clients who don't have a fixed idea of what they would like their family photographs to look like.

Which brings me to: In-Home 'lifestyle' photography.

The In-home part is easy: I come to you, whenever you like. You are happy (maybe you just made a coffee. Or a cake. Fyi I love cake). The kids are happy (we can photograph at any time of the day and actively AVOID witching hour if we want to). You are not stressing over anyone eating in a special dress because if it gets dirty we can go get another one from the cupboard (you haven't had to drag a giant Ikea bag full of clothing changes/drink bottles/snacks/more snacks/nappy change paraphernalia/Binky the comfort blanket) through a field. Everyone is comfortable because this is your home and you are always comfortable here. You don't have to drive anywhere by a certain time, or drag tired little bodies home afterwards.

The Lifestyle part means this: you all hang out like you might on any Saturday, playing, cuddling, laughing, and drinking the coffee if you didn't already have one. Hopefully you are at your most relaxed and zen. You do what makes you comfortable, what feels real to you, and I just float around, engaging and directing you if I need to. I may move you into the light that I know will make for beautiful images, or tilt your head a little to the left, and I might suggest some fun games or activities. I will almost certainly hang back and watch you interact for the first few minutes to get a feel for your family, so that I capture you as truly as possible. 

And then the Beautiful part: OK I am totally sneaking this one in, but it's the standout. It's you, and yours. Let me worry about not including the dog bowl, or the pile of laundry that's been there since Tuesday. You can bet I will make sure that each frame holds only what is important, and beautiful. That's my job, that's what I'm good at. In-home lifestyle photography is not about making it into this month's Inside Out Mag. It's about the people who live here, in this place you call home, your smiles, the songs that you sing, the way you hold hands. It's the way you all pile into the bed on Sunday morning, it's about jumping on the couch though it's not allowed. It's the light that falls into your lives each day, from sunrise to dusk.

And if it's a terrible grey old Melbourne day, but the sun suddenly shows up unexpectedly and gloriously in the mid-afternoon, then you can also bet I will drag everyone outside and get you in it. I really hope you will be talking for years about how unexpectedly fun your photo session was.

There are lots of things about living in the city in 2016 that are already hard work. The traffic, the mortgage, the school run. Let's not make capturing memories be one of them.