What is Documentary Photography?


In the past few weeks I have mentioned that my style of photography falls under the documentary category. Since this is still something that is considered new when it comes to family photography I wanted to take the time to explain what it means.

So, what does documentary style photography mean? Photographs taken in this category are always true to the subjects specific details and often portrayed in a chronological manner. Basically, this means the majority of photos I take are in a meaningful storytelling way without any interventions or directions from me. I aim to photograph everything exactly how it is, capturing honest interactions between people or events. As a rule I tend to keep my editing to a minimum, even more so now after my epiphany last week

To give you an example of what this could look like, I photographed Ameera on her first day of preschool lessons.


To begin I took a photo of what day it started, a tiny detail that probably doesn't mean much to others but to me and her father (and possibly her Pop since it was his birthday) it means so much. Our baby is growing up. 


After breakfast, I found an ABC's video on the computer. She listened to her song, happily singing along before switching her over to look at the letter of the day.


I found an easy curriculum book for her to work through. Super simple, a page a day, letter per week. She was very excited to use her school book.


Ameera spent a few moments coloring her page. She was very careful to pick out her colors and tell me what their names were.


"A" says "aaaaaaaaaaaa!!"


Believe it or not, Ameera was pretty good at using the scissors. I only panicked once when she flung her hand in my direction telling me no, she wasn't done yet.


I had to convince her the glue wasn't chapstick. I kept waiting for her to put it to her mouth but she never did.


The finished product.

So there you have it, a simple example of a documentary style photo session. In this case, the "session" was based on an activity. As long as the activity is something true to you and your family this is a great option for couples or families that feel uncomfortable with just living life during a photo shoot. The main take away is, when it comes to documentary photography, the goal is to photograph your real life, who and where you are in this very moment. 

Until next time,

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Koren Smith Photography is a Documentary Family Photographer based in Bellevue, NE. She specializes in taking natural, unprompted, and unposed photos centered around your family's unique life experiences. From birth to teens, she's focused on documenting your family's real-life moments every step of the way.


Welcome to My Blog

I'm Koren! I'm a wife, mother and documentary style photographer all combined into one person. I am passionate about my family, encouraging others, documenting genuine moments that tell beautiful stories and capturing timeless images along the way. Here is where I share my latest work, peeks into my life and resources on how to take your storytelling photography to the next level.