Oakland/San Francisco Family Photographer- What's a Lifestyle/Storytelling Session?

I talk a lot about storytelling sessions and lifestyle photography. People often ask me how that type of photography session differs from your average family photo shoot. As I preparing to speak with a potential client recently, I jotted down a few notes on a napkin to answer this exact question. The more I wrote, the more I realized that I need to share this information on my blog.  I wanted people to understand why I approach my work as a documentarian above all else. The ancient are of storytelling is in my blood, and I try to keep the tradition alive through the process of making pictures.  Click here for examples of storytelling sessions, and click here for sessions that are more lifestyle.  

You might be wondering, "But does this have to do with me? How is this relevant to my life? What would a storytelling session look like for me and my family?"  Read on and I'll tell you. 


Telling Your Story

Your family has a unique story that is all your own.  You have a rhythm, a dance, a language of love that belongs to no other family.  It is that bond that I seek to capture as your photographer.  It’s the deep laugh that only your children can elicit- the sweet, subtle look of adoration in the eye of your partner as he looks your way-the games you play together- the teasing, touching, tickling, hugging, and kissing-it’s the everyday rituals, dance parties, and quiet walks. My photography offers a reflection of what makes your family special. Some call this lifestyle photography.  Others call it storytelling photography. The distinctions are subtle, and the name doesn’t really matter.  The important to know is that this isn’t “your mama’s photography session”. While we will always get a couple nice portraits to hang on the wall or use for holidays cards, my goal is that the bulk of any session you have with me will be spent playing, laughing, touching and simply interacting.   This is true whether it’s a family, newborn, maternity or couples session.

So, what I offer to you as your photographer is an opportunity to memorialize the true and unique beauty of your family.  I want to photograph real emotion, not posed “say cheese” portraits that do little to tell your story.  When you look at the images in 5 or 10 years they should spark a memory and evoke nostalgia.  Through photography I want to remind of a time when your child insisted on wearing his Superman pajamas school EVERYDAY (my life right now), or how tiny and chubby your little girl’s hand was as she clinched her lovie (remember that thing?), or the tantrums (yes, we will laugh about those one day), or how well rested you and partner looked before your first child was born, or how round your belly was at 32 weeks of pregnancy, or their favorite toy, or their special snuggle you used to do every night at bedtime.  As a mother of two young children, I know how meaningful these moments and experiences are.  I also know how fleeting they are.

The Nitty Gritty

You might be thinking, “So, how does this work in real time?”  Here are the building blocks of a typical session (family, maternity/couples, newborn):

1.     We schedule the session for a date and time that works well for all involved.

2.     Sessions are almost exclusively done in a family’s home. If you choose a location that is not your home, I strive for the location to have some meaning and/or familiarity to your family.  The setting in which the photos are taken are a key part of the story.  It should allow for your family to be candid, not posed - to be engaged in an activity together. For this reason, it is sometimes preferable for these sessions to be done in-home. NOTE: All newborns sessions are done in-home.

3.     After we have a location, we brainstorm together about a few activities your family can do during the session.  The activities are meant to elicit connection, true smiles, closeness.  It’s best if these are things your family general like to do together, but incorporating new activities also works. Examples of activities for families with young children can include reading books together, tickling, blowing bubbles, jumping on the bed, bath time, cooking together, playing chase, going for a stroll, cuddling in bed as a family, having a tea party, gardening…the ideas are endless.  Ideas for newborn sessions can include nursing or bottle feeding the baby, laying together in the bed, giving the baby a bath, talking to and playing with the baby, introducing the baby to his/her room or the garden outside or the family pet.  Couples and maternity sessions can be built around activities that the couple loves to do together such as having a cup of coffee at a local café, laying in bed together, taking a stroll along the beach, etc, etc.  The couple, maternity and newborn sessions tend to require more direction from me than the family sessions, but I also allow for as many candid, spontaneous moments as possible. 

4.  And that’s it! The rest will unfold naturally.

So there you have it. I am more than happy to answer any and all questions about lifestyle/storytelling sessions. And i'd really love to provide your family with images that will encapsulate your story (or at least one of your stories.

For examples of storytelling sessions I've done for clients, as well as for my own family click here.

Drop me a line to book your family documentary session and learn more about my pricing options. There's a package for everyone!  

You can reach me at rhea@halonaphotography.com.