What’s a lifestyle session?

When I was 22 years old I was backpacking through South America with my brother. After several months camping in Patagonia, we ran out of money and decided to ask around for temporary work in the small town of Puerto Natales, at the foot of the mountains. We lived temporarily above a gear shop where we helped mend and sort expedition gear and I worked a few blocks down the street at a local café during the days. My Spanish was terrible but the café owner hired me to waitress for 10 days in exchange for a few dollars a day and some food. It was one of the most stressful jobs I’ve ever had. People would laugh at me when they realized I couldn’t speak Spanish very well, then they would turn to their friends and say, “Look! She doesn’t understand anything we’re saying!” I could understand most of it, I just couldn’t respond. Tour buses would stop at the café and unload 20-30 Chileans who were on their way to the National Parks. And the café owner would sit in the back in his office, leaving me alone at the front to wait on everyone, fumbling around looking helpless. On my walk back to the gear shop, I would cry.

One day while walking home, I was in a particularly happy mood. That day at the café, I had shed the ridiculousness of my situation and somehow managed to laugh through the madness. While I was passing by the cracked window of an abandoned shop, I caught my reflection and stopped to stare. I didn’t recognize who I saw there. My hair was blonde from the sun and my skin was rough and tan. My jeans didn’t fit well and my jacket looked worn after months of travel. I was astonished at what I looked like. It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen my reflection lately, it was that I had failed to let go of the image I was holding in my head, of what I looked like, who I was, and what role I played in the world. This was a very important moment of my life because it was a turning point – a lesson in how to experience the world without picturing myself in it. Because you see, it wasn’t about me at all. I was a tiny piece in the bigger picture of everything – the tourists, the café owner, the town…it was all an experience that I was squandering by holding preconceived ideas of who I was in my mind. With this new revelation came a new way to perceive the world, and when I look back at my photographs from this part of my trip, they are the best ones I made all because I removed myself from the story. You’re probably wondering what the hell this has to do with lifestyle photography…I’m getting there.

Consider  this excerpt from my favorite Annie Dillard book, “You adapt yourself, Paul Klee said, to the contents of the paintbox. Adapting yourself to the contents of the paintbox, he said, is more important than nature and its study. The painter, in other words, does not fit the paints to the world. He most certainly does not fit the world to himself. He fits himself to the paint. The self is the servant who bears the paintbox and its inherited contents. Klee called this insight, quite rightly, ‘an altogether revolutionary new discovery’.”

You see, I’m fitting myself to the paint. And the more I fit myself to the paint, the more true and beautiful the outcome. It’s not about fitting the world to ourselves, and it certainly isn’t about creating something that isn’t your truth.  It’s not about matching clothing or having beautiful backgrounds or making sure everyone is smiling. That’s not what real life is…it’s so much better than that. It’s about a story. Your story. It’s about celebrating who you are and how far you’ve come and togetherness with the people you love.

My purpose as an artist is to present you with a mirror. It’s a mirror by way of photographs. One that you can peer into and love yourself through. You might want to tell me something along the lines of, “I’m not photogenic.” But the fact is, my friends, it’s not about that at all. It’s a precious time that we get to spend together, you and me. A time where you are the focus of my whole world. A time that I get to say, “I see you, you are worth being documented, and you have all of my attention.” And when we spend that time together, all preconceived notions of what we might create go out the window, because we are alive, together, in the now. And that, my friends, is the beauty of lifestyle photography. For more info on lifestyle sessions, check out the FAQ’s at the bottom of this page.

The images in this post are from a recent in-home lifestyle session, celebrating the arrival of baby Winnie Magnolia. What a perfect name for this little human. I loved spending time in this family’s presence, watching them interact together and getting to document a little snippet of their lives.



How long does a lifestyle session last?     We have up to two hours together, so nothing is ever rushed.

Will you pose us?   No. If I see something that catches my eye, I might guide you to an area or put you in a certain location, but I’ll never tell you to hold your head a certain way or anything like that. That would completely defeat the purpose of what I’m trying to accomplish, which is to document you as you are naturally. I will always be there to guide you but will never orchestrate.

What should we wear?     I don’t care. Really. Wear something that makes you feel wonderful and that you love. This isn’t about your clothing. Also, please don’t make your kids wear something they hate or will fuss with. Trust me, it’s not worth it. 

If you read through all of this and have more questions about lifestyle sessions, don’t hesitate to drop me a line at hello@tatianadavila.com. I’m always happy to answer all of your questions…after all, that’s how you know if we’re a good fit, and trust me, it MATTERS.

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *