best saint louis family photographer

5 Reasons You Want A Lifestyle Photo Session by Michael Henson

We've talked about how some of the best documentary style photographers define their craft. Now, let's take a few moments to discuss how it's different for you. 



I've been there. On both sides of the equation. Having to stand a certain way, hold your hands a certain way, and behave in a way that isn't natural for you or your family. You're nervous that the photographer is judging you based on the way the kids act, or on how you are dressed, etc.  No fun!

Lifestyle photo sessions are so much more relaxed it will blow your mind! You don't have to worry about what your hands are doing, what I'm thinking about your kids running around and having just get to enjoy the family time!


You can have your session right in your home, in your backyard, or basically wherever you want! If you'd like to have your session at a local ice cream shop, at a park, or anywhere else that holds meaning for you and your family. I mean, how amazing and stress-free is that!?!



Why? Because they aren't forced to do something that they wouldn't already want to do anyway! They get to be themselves, play around, have fun with you, and explore! It's a blast! You know what else that means? It means that their authentic personality and expressions are captured in our session rather than that forced, "get-that-camera-out-of-my-face" look that photographers and parents with cameras know all too well.


No posing, no "say cheese" moments...Real, authentic, fun expressions, activities, and interactions. You get to relax and enjoy the moment with no stress about whether or not everyone is looking at the camera or has a goofy look on their face. It's natural and, as a result, looks completely natural. 



I've alluded to this a couple of times already. You get actual expressions. You actually have real life personality showing in the photos, and it's effortless! It's crazy how when you allow people to do what they enjoy, their expressions lighten, their eyes sparkle, their smiles are contagious, and that enjoyment and happiness translate into beautiful images that somehow manage to communicate their joy. It's so much fun!


I mean, you get to have fun, come out with incredible memories and beautiful images that capture those memories. What more can you ask for? Don't let THESE excuses steal those memories!

10 Excuses That Maliciously Rob You of Your Memories by Michael Henson


Here's the thing, we all know that photographs are important. In this technologically driven society we live in we're surrounded by them EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

We also understand the power of documentary photography. From war news to travel journalism, photographic images move us, inspire us, and document events in a way that we wouldn't otherwise be able to experience. Another prime example is wedding photography. A documentary approach reveals the underlying story of the relationship, and captures the day in a unique, beautiful way that would otherwise be experienced in the moment and then forgotten forever.

Everyone I speak to about this "lifestyle-centric" approach to photography loves it. They love the idea, they understand the value, and yet, they hesitate to take part of it. They are convinced it's perfect for someone else, but that it's not suited for them. Does this describe you? Don't let these 10 excuses rob you of future memories!


1. My house too small/dark/messy/etc.

Let's be honest, when it comes right down to it, who's isn't!?! I only know of a couple people in real life that live in a house that looks like something out of a movie. Most everyone is in a house that's smaller, imperfectly kept, and more "normal" than they'd like. So is mine! I get it, but I must remind you of something. It's not important! When I come to your home or meet you somewhere that's important to you, I'm not there to photograph the house. I'm there to photograph you and your family. 

If that doesn't convince you, let's get out of the house! We can hit up a park, stroll around a lake, or just hang out at a playground for a while. It's a documentary/lifestyle session. It's about where you are in your life's journey right now. That's what I want you to remember years from now. The way the sun would light your favorite chair in the mornings, the spot your children loved to play tag, how precious those moments with your baby were even though you were too distracted at the time to completely engage in them. Those photos will bring life to your senses and those memories and will become more and more valuable as time goes by. THAT is what's important.


2. You're right, Michael, I’m totally going to do it! Just not now. Next year, or maybe during the fall after ______.

Awesome! I'm glad I've convinced you so easily! Here's another thought, remember last year when you thought about how quickly the year had gone by? What about the fact that there are less than 90 days left in 2017? Look at your children. Do you remember them growing that quickly or did you just "wake up" to a five-foot-tall teenager? Time flies. Moments pass, couples grow old together and children become adults. Freckles fade, and I promise there will come a day when you look back at the smudged fingerprints and Crayola colored artwork in all the wrong places and you will wish you could go back.

What about all of those firsts? For couples, the first time your partner touched your hand and your heart skipped a couple of beats, the first kiss, the feeling of fireworks exploding overhead and their arms around you on that hot summer night with patriotic songs booming from loudspeakers. Parents think back to those first tentative steps, words, smiles, and milestones...

Do you realize that there will be "last ones" as well? The last piggyback ride, last time she asks you to carry her through the mall, to hold her in the restaurant so she can slip off to sleep, the last time she dive bombs you with knees of fury as you relax on the couch. You might not realize it at the moment, but those "last ones" happen. They might even happen today! One thing in life is certain, later will be different from now.


3. Oh, I take photos on my phone, I'm good!

Yeah? Me too! All the time. And with technology constantly improving, some of them even look pretty nice! Occasionally, a photo will make it to my computer via email or social media, but the "mundane" ones don't. You know the ones I'm talking about! The ones that are so special that no one else gets it. The inside moments, the looks, the inside jokes, the normality of my life as it is right now. Guess what, I have three phones FULL of these incredible moments at home right now. One of which is locked because my daughter changed the code and forgot it. It holds very dear memories that I will likely never get to enjoy again.

Social media? What happens in three, five, ten, twenty-five years when Facebook is the new MySpace? Our kids and grandkids won't be able to see the images that we are hoarding in the treasure chests of technology we carry with us. However, a quality print from a professional can last a hundred years! An album can last that long or longer if properly cared for!

Another thing, how exciting is it to view an image on your phone? It's not, let's be honest. It's cool for a few moments or for an initial viewing, but after that, it's quickly time to move on. Do you want to know what's exciting? A huge print displayed over a fireplace or in the common room, an album displayed on the coffee table, or a set of canvases covering that one big wall above the couch! Every single time you pass them you have the opportunity to experience those moments again. It's a breath of fresh air and a reminder that, no matter what, you have your family and the memories that you've created together.

4. But, we're boring! We don't do anything exciting! 

Your family is completely unique. The most significance, the definition of our "story" is found in the routines we establish and the "monotony" of our daily lives. There's magic there and beauty that will bring a tear to your eye ten to fifteen years from now. The "boringness" of life - getting ready for bed, playing ball in the park, playing with the dog, enjoying a quiet moment of silence, or visiting your favorite hangout - these things will be invaluable memories that you will cherish down the road. 

In addition, as an outsider, I can see things you don't even think about. The confidence your son has as you hold his hand while he's walking along the top of that fence, the sparkle in your spouse's eyes as they share a cup of coffee and a laugh with you, that look you give your daughter as you bake cookies together, those moments spent putting school lunch together before hitting the ground running for the day. I assure you, there are countless incredible and meaningful photos in your life! 


5. I don’t really need pictures...

Your brain is an incredibly complex system, but it's not infallible. We all recognize that memories fade with time, even those that are very valuable. As the years peel back the pages of the calendar, time peels back layer after layer from our memories. Sometimes, we even lose memories entirely or only retain the emotions of an event while forgetting the details.

Day in the Life and Lifestyle photo sessions act like a time capsule. They allow you to capture real moments. Nothing posed or encouraged or manipulated. They almost transport you back to that moment in time as you view it on your wall or flip through a photo album. They preserve history and heritage, not just for you, but for your children, your grandchildren, and your grandchildren's children!

6. I don’t have time!

Herein lies the beauty of a lifestyle session - It can be as much or as little as you'd like it to be! You can plan a day where you engage in some of your favorite activities around town. Or, you can do your thing at home. You don't have to put on a show, wear uncomfortable clothes, fuss with your hair or travel to the most photographed place in St. Louis! You can wear what you want, do what you normally do, and just live your life. I'll take care of the rest! 


7. Letting a photographer into our life feels just..weird and uncomfortable.

I'd be a liar if I told you that you won't notice me or that "I'll be a fly on the wall." First of all, I'm not a small guy. Secondly, I'll be engaged with you. Being part of the goings on will help me be more invisible than my trying to stand to the side. After a short time, you'll not even notice the camera anymore and I will seem more like a friend hanging out for the day. In addition, we can even get to know each other before. It's all a part of the process and makes it much more natural for youngsters when I show up with my camera because I'm not a new face.

8. I hate getting my pictures taken!

Same here! You are in the majority with your sentiments.

However, if you're honest, that feeling likely comes from those awkward posed photos where you aren't sure what to do with your hands, have to hold your head at a weird angle and are just praying that the kids and the dog are looking at the camera at the same time! You've probably seen far too many fake smiles from yourself and your family and you are OVER. IT!

These types of sessions are completely different. There isn't a single "say cheese!!!" moment, and if you're staring at me or my camera I'll more likely stare back at you than snap a photo. The love of your family, the connections and moments you share will take center stage, and you won't even miss all those awkward moments!


9 and 10. I can’t afford a session like this and, while I love the style and agree with the idea, I still don't think it's for me...

This is "the big one." None of us ever feel we have enough money. There's always another bill, another meal, more essentials, and the never convenient repair that comes along. So, we all do the same thing - we spend money on what we value. Whether that's the latest piece of technology or that cruise we've always dream about, that nice dinner or our morning Starbucks, the list is endless. A perfect analogy that helps prove my point is that of the "starving musician." They live on a steady diet of Ramen noodles, have about four outfits, can never afford to go anywhere, and drive a car that looks like its better days were long gone years ago. But if you look at their musical gear, you'll find expensive guitars, amps, effects pedals, and accessories. Why? Because they value their music more than their comfort, their image, or their diet.

We all do the same thing. It's all about choosing what's important and what we're going to spend money on. How do we determine what's important? What would you save from a house fire? What cannot be replaced? Insurance covers the majority of items in our homes, but there's no replacing a memory or that box of old photographs. Those are invaluable.

They are priceless because they show the times your children won't remember, the times that you forget, and they tell the stories of our lives to future generations.

Ultimately, you get to make the decision. Are you convinced?

A trip to the ice cream shop... | Lifestyle Photography by Michael Henson

It's funny, this photographic journey seems as though it's come full circle. When I was first starting out, awkwardness was not uncommon. It felt weird to tell complete strangers what to do, where to stand, when to smile, and what to do with their hands. Now, years later, I've embarked upon a new photographic approach and, to a certain extent, that awkward feeling is back!

The difference is that now I'm working hard to not tell everyone what to do! I've become very comfortable with coaching my clients and working with them to create the beautifully posed, traditional looks that we all know and love. In my lifestyle/documentary sessions, that coaching doesn't happen nearly as much, if at all. Instead, I might direct them to a particular setting or draw their attention to something in the environment, and then allow them to interact as they naturally would.

Why this approach?

I've experimented with (and will be implementing) this approach because the images that I get are breathtaking. Instead of photo sessions all looking the same, parents worrying about children's expressions or unruly energy, or couples feeling awkward and uncomfortable in front of the camera, my clients are realizing that photo sessions can be FUN! Children can look natural and the expressions and activities that make them so unique can be captured. Couples are able to recognize the twinkle in their partner's eyes, see authentic expressions, and realize that they should have been documenting their life together all along!

One of my recent experiments was at a local ice cream shop and absolutely ROCKED!

Check it out and let me know what you think!