Lifestyle Photography

I am going to do a little series deconstructing some of the styles and terms out there in photography to help you identify what you like best and to help you better choose the right photographer and communicate what you are looking for with him/her. 

Lifestyle Photography

This is a newer term in photography and is getting pretty trendy but most people still have no idea what it means, even if they think it sounds cool. Wikipedia defines it as:

 "a kind of photography which mainly aims to capture portrait/people in situations, real-life events or milestones in an artistic manner and the art of the everyday. The primary goal is to tell stories about people's life or to inspire people in different times. Thus, it covers multidisciplinary types of photography together. A lifestyle photographer is not only a portrait or people photographer and loves/enjoys photography as art in everyday life but is believed to be talented in photography that can also do well in other many disciplines of photography at a time such as landscape, street photography, fashion, wedding and even wildlife with one's unique vision to inspire people's life."

The key terms here are real-life yet artistic. It's not just documentary style. The purpose is storytelling and inspiration. And I just love the phrase "the art of the everyday." Lifestyle is one of the key words I use to describe my work. Photography by it's Greek and Latin roots, means literally "drawing with light" but in recent years, I have discovered that it is as good of a writer as it is an illustrator. 

Here is an example of a lifestyle photography session that is very near and dear to my heart. You may want to have a box of tissues on hand...

The Everyday Beauty of Clayton's Life

This is Clayton Anderson.


He is a very special little boy whose story will tragically be far too short, at least his story here in this world. When he was around nine months old, he was diagnosed with a very rare genetic condition called Neimann Pick Type A. By very rare, I mean both of his parents had to be carriers and there are only about 1,200 cases of Types A and B worldwide, most of which are Type B. 

Clayton is special.

Neimann Pick Type A is a terminal disease.

Family picture in their home

Clayton is the son of Jon and Amy, two of my best friends from college. We were all devastated by the diagnosis in the spring. Yet Jon and Amy have risen above the sorrow.

I have never seen two people handle such a hard life circumstances with more grace.

I visited them for the weekend to get to meet their sweet little boy. I also went with the purpose of capturing some of the everyday moments for them in pictures. So here is a little glimpse into the simple beauty that is Clayton's life.

Mom snuggling baby

Clayton's favorite way to be held is in this sweet baby koala hold against his mama's chest. They fit together like puzzle pieces.

Mom and baby on porch swing

Because of his disease, Clayton doesn't have the strength or mobility of a sixteenth-month-old. So he spends most of his days playing on a blanket on the floor.


He is never alone.

Nose to nose with daddy

And never bored.

Family giggling together on the floor

Humor has incredible life-giving power. Jon endeared himself to me with his humor from almost the first day of our freshman year at Johns Hopkins University. And he found the perfect partner to share in his sense of humor in Amy.

Family with glasses on

Only Jon's glasses are real! There are a whole bunch of other cute ones in the Harry Potter style but I'm saving those because they might just pop up on a Christmas card.

Even if Mom and Dad can't be right there, there is always someone keeping an protective eye on Clayton.


One of the tenderest parts of Clayton's days is his bed time routine. It starts with a tickle-giggle fest with daddy followed by a bath and more playing.

Bath time
Before bed giggles

As he winds down, Clayton gets to snuggle with his mama and drink his bottle.

Bedtime bottle with mom

One night, Amy and I were chatting as she fed him before bed. She asked if I thought she would forget this. I emphatically said no. Your baby permanently imprints himself on your heart from the moment you first see and hold him. You chest never forgets the soft press of that little head. Your arms ache with longing to hold that little form just once again. My children are still with me and still pretty young by all measures, but I can still almost feel them as babies in my arms.

After his bottle, Jon and Amy hold Clayton and rock him and sing "We Love You Clayton" (an adaptation of "We Love You Conrad" from the 1960s movie Bye Bye Birdie).

Family cuddling before bed

Spending the weekend with Clayton and Jon and Amy made me reflect on the sanctity of human life. Although Clayton's days will be short, they will be rich. Although he won't meet many milestones, he has and will continue to deeply touch many hearts. And he will never know a moment when he was not entirely loved.

That is life. No matter the number of days.


Technical Notes: Because I was flying to OK and 7 months pregnant, I left behind my beloved Pentax 645N film camera and just stuck with digital photography. Had I shot film, I would have used Delta 3200 Black and White film for almost all of these pictures. We were indoors most of the time as Clayton doesn't like the heat and the bright sun seems to bother his eyes. I shoot almost entirely with natural light (another term I'll deconstruct in a future blogpost) so the 3200 speed film comes in handy when you don't want to limit yourself just to perfect lighting situations. Many thanks to Kirk Mastin and his Ilford Black and White Delta 3200 preset for Lightroom that allowed me to recreate the texture and emotion of grainy black and white film!