What Type of Portrait Photo Style Do I Like?

When you’re booking a photo session, there are a lot of different portrait photography styles to consider. Candid, posed, lifestyle, themed? The number of different choices can be overwhelming!

Let’s discuss each of the four photography styles I mentioned above (Candid, Posed, Lifestyle, and Themed), to help you get a feel for which ones are your favorites, and which you don’t prefer. When booking a session, it’s important for you to be able to verbalize your preferences to your photographer before the shoot even begins – that way you and the photographer are on the same page and working to capture the style and feel you want!


Candid photography, by definition, means that the subject is unaware that the photo is being taken. However, you’re booking a session! You know the photographer is there, because you ASKED them to be there! Candid photography at a session is when it LOOKS like the subject is unaware the photo is being taken. The subject (that’s you!) isn’t looking at the camera, but is instead relaxed and natural in the environment.


Posed photography, for the purposes of this article, is when it is obvious the subject knows the photo is being taken. There may or may not be eye contact with the camera. The photographer may coach you or ask you to try different variations (hold hands, put the baby in your lap, kiss, etc). They will probably ask you to hold certain poses for a few seconds in order to get a few different shots of each pose.


Imagine a photographer followed you around, taking pictures of you doing ordinary things in your ordinary space. That’s the basic idea behind lifestyle photography. It’s photography based on real-life happenings, telling your everyday story in a moving and engaging way.

An example is a newly engaged couple that likes to cook. The photo session might take place in their kitchen, as they cook a romantic meal together. A closeup of their hands holding the same stirring pot (showing off that beautiful ring!), a sweet photo of her sitting on the counter and he is leaning in to kiss her, him holding a spoon up for her to taste their meal, followed by a series of photos of them playfully playing with the dish soap bubbles as they clean up.

Another example is a family going on a picnic. The photo session might include shots of the family choosing their picnic spot, closeups of the food spread, everyone laughing at dad’s funny joke as they share sandwiches and watermelon, and conclude with a friendly game of soccer or tag.

A good lifestyle photographer will capture many different angles of one event, and present them as a story, which unfolds with each new picture. For the most part, these photos are candid, to keep the emotions real, but the photographer may ask for certain posed shots to complement the candid ones and enhance the story being told.


A themed photo session is designed to evoke certain feelings based on location, wardrobe, and prop choice. Themed shoots are typically not based on real-life events, but instead pull different elements together for cute, whimsical photos.

An example of this is a 50’s travel themed session. The photo session might include a little girl in a pull skirt and pearls, sitting on a vintage suitcase on a train platform, detail shots of the suitcase, the clock, and the train pulling into the station, and finally a shot of the girl stepping onto the train before it departs.

Another example is a backyard bubble bath session. Shots from this session would include a baby or toddler playing in a metal tub full of soapy bath water, complete with rubber ducks, bath toys, and all the bubbles a baby could ask for.

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