How I define "lifestyle photography" versus portrait-style photograhy, by Kate Olsen

We all know a portrait when we see one: the family is lined up cleverly, kids in their places in front of the parents, everyone's doing their best to smile and keep their eyes open. The photographer is guiding the family to the right a bit or left, or fixing a loose strand of hair that's escaped, a backing of a necklace that needs to be wound back around the neck. The light is just right or the photographer is doing their best to make it just right. Then everyone holds! and the shot is taken. 

And those shots are lovely. They capture a series of moments when people come together to have their photos taken, their love documented, looking their best, getting their kids to look their best--even if it's a challenge at times. In my personal experience, portraits are usually taken outside of the home, somewhere pretty or interesting that matches the personality or interests of the people being photographed. 

What is lifestyle photography then? I'll share with you my definition of lifestyle photography because just like any art and vision, definitions can change depending on who you're talking to. This definition is not the whole definition or the correct definition, but it's my definition. 

Lifestyle photo sessions have an organic feeling to them. They're usually shot in someone's home where families spend most of their time. Sometimes people like to capture the beauty in the seeming routine of life: making pancakes in the morning in pajamas, putting kids to bed at night and reading books with the family, making and eating a big spaghetti dinner, or just hanging out with the family in the living room being goofy and playing joyfully. And sometimes, instead, they're shot during an event outside the home that was not staged for the sole purpose of having photos taken: a day at the pool; going out for ice cream; visiting a farm and riding horses; going to a pumpkin patch; going Christmas tree shopping. Many times, outfits are not coordinated; people wear what's comfortable and what they'd wear normally for exactly what they're doing. My lifestyle sessions are partially guided when needed and partially documentary. When a family books a lifestyle shoot with me, I help with a little info about what to expect ahead of time so that we can make magic happen naturally. I also at times get in on the fun during a shoot by offering some guidance or ideas to get people to take action they way they naturally would as if I wasn't there, and as the fun escalates, I step back and capture the moments as the emerge. 

To me, both lifestyle and portrait-style photography are beautiful, joyful and special. Portraits usually are still and sharp with well-chosen lighting. Lifestyle photos can have movement, blur, are not always perfect, but they always have heart. They tell a story and sometimes leave others asking for more details. I seem to be a person who can't decide what I love more (in many areas of my life), as a result, my portrait sessions have many candid moments captured and my lifestyle sessions also have posed shots. For me personally, I would do a family session twice a year--one portrait-style and one lifestyle, then switch the order of the type of shoot for the next time. Investing in capturing special moments of your life with those you love by a professional is never something you'll regret. So, I hope this helped define lifestyle photography a little bit, or my version of it. Feel free to contact me with any additional or lingering questions. (Oh! And friends, don't forget to PRINT your photos. Do it. Fill your spaces with memories of all the love and joy in your life.) K thanks bye!

Conti Family // Chicago, IL // Family Portraits

The cutest family asked me to capture some portraits of them at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago with their 6 month old baby, Ellie. Mike and Maia got married at Cafe Brauer, so of course we had to revisit the place where their story began! I know this city is special to them in many ways, and it was a pleasure to get some shots of them with the tiny and sweet addition to their lives. I loved every minute.

Personal Photos // Santa Monica, CA // Family Time

I like sharing some personal photos that I take now and again on this site because I just love candid photography so much. I don't photograph my kids every single day because they keep me running around like crazy, but I try to shoot often, and on rare opportunities I get to travel and see family (half my family lives in LA) and friends I haven't see in years, I always have my camera with me. From a young age, taking photos/capturing memories, and particularly small details and scenes of places I love so much--like the loveliness and coziness of my Aunt's home and her family's Buddhist altar, things near and dear to my heart, for example--has always been the best gift I could give myself no matter where I go. My best friend and I went to Santa Monica to relax and have some time to ourselves, where no one is calling us "mom," no one needs a diaper change--thankfully--since it was all adults (although I could change anyone's diaper, no matter what age at this point, if I had to), and we got to SIT DOWN and enjoy leisurely meals that were prepared for us!! No cooking, meal planning, laundry doing, no mind spinning with questions of what has to be done next amidst the play. It was just play. Just chill. Just do whatever we wanted. And then on top of it, it was getting spoiled by people I love because my aunt loves a rescue. She even rescued an adorable new dog (not pictured), June, while we were out there to befriend her other rescued pup, Walter, who I'm in love with. But anyway, we felt rescued for a glorious five days. We felt cared for and restored, and that's so important when you're a mom, a stay-at-home-mom, a working mom... taking care of kids is rewarding, and yes, it goes by fast, but when you're doing it and your kids are young, it's hard. Everyone needs some me-time. And me-time isn't going to Costco, Walmart and Trader Joe's on a Sunday to get all your groceries. I'm stopping now, but needless to say at this point, this was a big trip for me. My seventh time to LA, one of the most golden I've had, even though each time is incredible. I think it was a huge trip for my bestie as well. Shannon celebrated her 35th birthday in the sun and ocean air. That's always an amazing thing. We loved every minute. 

6am Yoga // Portrait Session // Park Ridge, IL

Somehow I had the amazing fortune to meet this wonderful, big-hearted Yogi here in my local town of Des Plaines. And when she reached out to me to do an earthy, love-soaked yoga session, I was overjoyed to be a part of this next chapter in her life as she begins her journey as a yoga teacher. Susie is truly a lovely person that walks the walk when it comes to being a yoga instructor. She's kind, patient, real, open-minded, strong, knowledgable and embracing...and those are just the traits I know of at this point. I feel like we captured her spirit in this shoot. (Plus, I was super excited she was up for an EARLY morning to get some gentle light in pretty Park Ridge, IL.) 


Merk Family Adoption // Family Photos // Chicago, IL

I was contacted recently by a family who needed photos ASAP for their adoption portfolio which just went from inactive status to active, and I am so happy I got to be a small stop on this wonderful journey for them. They are just the cutest little family of three, looking to adopt for the second time. Their son Rowan and I became instant BFFs as he guided me around Garfield Park Conservatory, helping me with my shots. :) If a greenhouse is good for the soul; a conservatory like this one is pretty much the be-all and end-all of seasonal sanctuaries. There was so much oxygen flowing through this place I got dizzy (with pure joy). Everyone needs to visit this beautiful haven. And donate, so we can keep it as lovely as it is now. I wish this family all the luck with finding their new baby!!