Photography is an art form that is ever trying to define itself. Categories make people comfortable. We like knowing that everything has its place. And in a "Google" world of keywords and SEO's, it's not exactly surprising to see buzz words pop up.
Recently I've been seeing a lot of photographers labeling shots as "lifestyle photography". To be completely honest, I didn't know what it meant. The fact that I couldn't find a consistent element in the photographs didn't help. When I took to search engines, I ended up seeing a lot of marketing mumbo jumbo, but no clear definition of what, exactly, the term lifestyle photography meant.
After taking a couple of ibuprofen, as far as I can tell, the aim of lifestyle photography is to capture the subject in their natural environment...but in an artistic way. This is where things get sketchy. One person may take a highly staged photograph of a child in their room. Yet another might feature a guy in a hoodie checking his iPhone. Who's right? And what in the world does it mean if you choose to hire a lifestyle photographer?
Here's another example.
You could say that lifestyle photography is a little like reality TV. It is meant to be beautiful and seem spontaneous, However, if you hire a lifestyle photographer, be prepared for them to set the stage and then try to document a more relaxed and natural interaction with you and your environment.
A perfect example of this is a newborn "lifestyle" session I recently saw posted. The photographs were beautiful and relaxed, but just like reality TV, they weren't "real". I've never met a mother of a newborn who wanders around her house perfectly dressed to match her furniture, with perfect hair and make up gazing lovingly at her child. In real life, that mom hasn't showered in three days, has her hair in a ponytail and wearing her husband's t-shirt and sweats and is gazing lovingly at her baby through bloodshot eyes.
So think of lifestyle photography as art that makes an attempt to portray real life, but prettier.