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Lifestyle v.s Fine Art: What's the difference?

I am asked...a lot... "What do you do?" My response is usually met with a mix of intrigue and confusion: "I am a professional Lifestyle and Fine Art Portrait Photographer."

So... in honor of "Wisdom Wednesday" (is that REALLY even a thing!?") I thought I might take a moment to explain what the difference is as it relates to a photographic style.


"Portrait" means the image is going to feature a living being (can be human or animal) and more precisely; their face. In a portrait, the main subject's eyes and face are the primary focus and if the body is shown at all, it is shot most commonly including 2/3 or 1/2 of the body or head & shoulders only (the quintessential "headshot").


A "Lifestyle" Portrait is primarily shot in such a way that represents the person/animal in a candid, unposed (or lightly and more naturally posed) manner. Their face is still the main focus of the image, but it may also include some environmental focal points as well. Think: "A person or animal in their natural habitat" as if the viewer was just walking down the street and encountered the subject unexpectedly...naturally. It is a more "documentary" style.


A "Fine Art" Portrait goes beyond mere documentation and can employ a great many editing styles or techniques. The subject's eyes are usually the main focus... and the entire face is often quite detailed. The photographer can exercise their artistic nature more fully in a Fine Art image and because this is so, there is an infinite way to present a subject according to the photographer's vision. These portraits are often heavily stylized, the subjects receive much more guidance as to posing and the editing can become very involved down to the finest detail.



"Lifestyle" Portraiture is lightly stylized and lightly edited.

The photograph above represents a lightly posed, lightly edited "Lifestyle" Portrait of a family.

Here is another example of a Lifestyle Portrait:


Although this one is in B&W, the pose is natural and the details of the face are front and center of attention.


This next one represents a "Fine Art" Portrait. The editing techniques are definitely more involved and the details in the face, more pronounced.



Fine Art Portrait: The eyes are the main focus and the editing techniques create a background that showcases the face.

Here is another example of a Fine Art Portrait:



Another example of a Fine Art Portrait

Above all, these definitions are open to interpretation. Style matters as much as skill.

When choosing a photographer to present you or your family in print art, research their editing and portrait style. Make sure you are on the same page when discussing your vision.

Anyone with a camera can take a snapshot of a person or a person's face...but the professional portrait photographer builds and/or creates the image taking into consideration, the details of the face and the way the background supports or detracts from the subject's eyes.


The professional builds their entire business around a specific editing and portrait subject style. They are emotionally AND financially invested in your pleasure and satisfaction with their work.


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