Let me first start by saying that one isn't better than the other, one isn't more beautiful, or more difficult, or more appealing. I think they both have qualities that will appeal to people for differing reasons.
Personally, through my growth and progression as a photographer, documentary photography has become my safe place. It's where I find the most beauty, the most challenge to my creative spirit. I started out doing traditional portraits, families, weddings, etc. But when I started shooting births, a part of my soul was ignited and an insatiable need to capture the REAL took flight. There is no posing, or choreographing a woman in labor. The birth space is such a sacred place, I dare not disturb a laboring mother by directing a moment. And I think for the most part it's obvious to the common viewer that birth is monumental. The photos are soul stirring. They are profound.
What I wish the common viewer could see, is that each day of our mundane lives is monumental. Soul stirring. Profound. I wanted to take the same passion that is captured the moment a family is born, the moment a first breath is taken... and reflect that passion as you navigate life with that same baby, who is now a toddler, a child, a preteen, or a parent themselves.
So let me dig deeper and tell you the difference between documentary and lifestyle.
I'll walk you through a typical documentary session. Prior to arriving we have discussed what part of your day you want captured. Usually it revolves around a predetermined event: Baking cookies, bathtime/bedtime stories, camping in the backyard, grocery shopping, etc. It can be something that you literally do everyday, or a special day like the first day of school. I show up, we chat over a cup of tea, hang out, break the ice, show me around, and then you start your day. I'm a fly on the wall. I do not direct, intervene, or pose. I do not tell you what to do, or where to stand. And why is that SO important in a documentary session?! Because the whole point of these shoots is to capture your day as it TRULY is. Not some fabricated, and polished version. What good does that do you when you look back on these 20-30 years from now to remember how these days really looked, if it isn't captured authentically. Yes your house is messy, will I move the stray Lego brick from the floor before we start shooting? Most definitely not. That stray Lego tells a very important part of your story. Will I photoshop the crayon streak off of the wall in the kitchen? Nope, that sweet artwork may be priceless one day. Don't be afraid of the blemishes, of the imperfections of your house, of your life... there is so much history, and story behind those tiny details. Savor them, EMBRACE them, for one day, in a blink, they're gone.