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Documentary Photography: Creating a Life in Storytelling

Lesson 3 of 13

Making Time for Creativity

Amanda Lucidon

Documentary Photography: Creating a Life in Storytelling

Amanda Lucidon

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Lesson Info

3. Making Time for Creativity
Creativity doesn't just happen on a whim. In this lesson, Amanda discusses the importance of making time for creativity and keeping space for personal projects even as you start to pick up paying work. Carve out space for personal, creative projects and your professional work will benefit too.


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:13:29
2 Learning to Leap Duration:11:46
3 Making Time for Creativity Duration:08:44
4 Creating Your Own Path Duration:24:18
5 Budgeting Duration:10:10
7 Multiplatform Storytelling Duration:13:41
8 Thinking Creatively Duration:09:53
9 Embracing Emotion Duration:14:29
10 Building Community Duration:08:27
11 Defining Your Pillars Duration:06:56
12 Writing the Next Chapter Duration:05:18
13 Q&A Duration:20:49

Lesson Info

Making Time for Creativity

So making time for creativity. In this lesson, I'm going to talk about the importance of making time and scheduling time for the work that you love to do. So after more than a year of freelancing, I was starting to feel drained. I was grateful that work was getting steadier. But, in between shooting and post-production and meeting with potential clients, and, negotiating contracts, and all the gamut, I wasn't finding very much time to work on the work that I loved, my personal projects. So I reached out to a, to a colleague and a mentor to ask for his advice. How do you balance this? Doing the work that pays your bills and doing the work that you love? And this, this question really resonated with him, because he had exp- So I reached out to Keith Jenkins, who is one of my mentors and he works at the NPR, um, and he said that he struggled with the same, same question decades earlier when he was a freelancer. So he reached out to his mentor with the same question, who was Berenice Abbot...

, the pioneering documentary photographer, and she shared with him that she took off from her catalog work on Wednesdays to make sure that she had time to do her New York City skyline work. So, Keith made a commitment to himself. "Wednesdays," he proclaimed, "are my project days." Put it on the calendar and he honored it. And so, I did the same thing. Wednesdays. Keeping with tradition. I took Keith via Berenice's advice, and made time for my personal projects. And, um, I wanted to continue my skills with audio story telling and multimedia. So I found a story that was really visually and audibly interesting and this was a dance performance group called Step Africa. They combine the fraternity-style stepping with traditional African dances. They brought in- (laughs) Love it, right? His smile is so perfect. They brought the dance into schools and community centers to, you know, teach teamwork, discipline, and cross-cultural understanding. And so this photo and audio slideshow that I created began winning awards. And because at this time there weren't many photographers who were exploring multimedia, so this allowed me an opening to let my work stand out. And so, that really made a difference in a competitive city like Washington D.C. to start to get my name out there. In 2010, when same sex marriage was about to be legalized in D.C., I also wanted to cover this important historic moment. At the time, there were only nine states that same sex marriage was legal. So I heard on the radio that there would be a large mass wedding where several couples would be married simultaneously. So I asked for permission to attend, and I made friends with the minister who then ended up sharing with me other events that would happen after this day. So I had a great contact and so this story could continue. Because at first I thought I would just document this for a year and then sort of pitch it on the one year anniversary. But I met Amy and Alex there that day, and you'll hear more about them later. Because this would start the beginning of the most important work of my career to this time. So I hope sharing these examples with you gives you comfort that creating balance, for doing the work that you love, is not a new issue, right? But please know that I'm giving you generations of creative advice that you need to make time on your schedule to do the work that you love. And why not, for the sake of tradition, make it Wednesdays? And later on in my career, I'd learn from Mrs. Obama, who shared publicly that she, in her personal life, she would schedule the time on her calendar for her family events first and then build her schedule around that. And so, as a mother of a young child, it was really empowering for me to be able to hear that, like, you need to schedule time for that too. So, while it might seem counterintuitive to make time for the things that you love, whether it's your yoga or morning meditation or things that bring you joy, while it might seem counterintuitive, it actually makes you a better photographer. It actually makes you a better photographer. So, can we make a commitment to ourselves? Can you schedule a few hours a week? Or a full day to work on personal projects? And what will you do with that time? Are you going to shoot new work? Are you going to research? Are you going to find other art forms that inspire you? Are you going to meet with mentors? What, what are you going to do in that time? And are there important moments that you've been missing? Personally? Like I said is that the gym class you've been trying to get to or you'd just like to take an afternoon walk 'cause it just settles everything down but you can't really break away from it because you've been too busy? Like, can you schedule that in? It will make you a better person. It will make you a better photographer. So, does anyone want to share how you might use some time? For- yeah. I live with a household of five men. Four sons and my husband, two male cats. And I thought, you know, life's changing, taking a new path, and where my newest source of energy has been incredible stories of women and how still it's under told, Right, absolutely. And so on Wednesdays I now feature a new phenomenal woman each week and it has given me purpose and planning and, like you said, some days you know where you're going, other days that path is not so clear, but trust the journey. So thank you. Absolutely, thank you for sharing. Yeah, go ahead. So I'm not currently doing a few hours a week but I was like a year ago and I set aside Wednesday nights so there is something about Wednesdays! Oh wow! How about that? And I was thinking about I kind of, like, I think I found it helpful mid-week so I wasn't-, I still had some creativity left for myself on Wednesday nights and then it was sort of inspiring to keep going for the next two days at my work, because I do have a creative job full-time and so it can get exhausting. And I thought, I'm tired of doing creative work. I don't want to do that on the side. I just kind of want to hang out with friends or, you know, but it actually really helped my personal life because I felt fulfillment out of it not for a deadline and not for a job. But it was also just something for me. And so I'm encouraged to get back to that because it was so life-giving, even though it was adding on more work technically, it was, like, creatively inspiring. I felt like I could just play, and instead of it be work and have a goal, it could just be what do I feel like exploring today. So anyways, I'm going to get back into it but just kind of encouragement that, like, that has really helped me and I appreciate you reminding me about that. Yeah. And that's amazing that you've chosen Wednesdays too! And yeah, so I think you do have permission to play. Like, you have permission to play and so you don't have to feel like on Wednesday's, or whatever day you choose, or couple hours, that something needs to be created. It just could be that you just want to be around something that inspires you and that you're taking that time for yourself to be inspired. You might not want to pick up a pen or a camera or whatever and that's okay. And so, it's just that practice of doing it. Like, going to the gym. You know, first couple times you're like "oh God, gotta go to the gym." But then it feels good because you get into a routine. So it's the same thing with our creative practices. So thank you for sharing.

Class Description


  • Identify what stories you’re drawn to photograph
  • Trust your instincts when documenting real-world scenarios
  • Overcome fear and doubt to step out of your comfort zone as an artist
  • Approach subjects creatively when capturing a story
  • Understand how to pursue a career in documentary photography
  • See all sides of a situation through empathy to improve your photos


Documentary photography captures real-life stories as they unfold, highlights social change, and, often, simply captures everyday life. In this class, former Official White House Photographer Amanda Lucidon inspires and guides a beginning audience into a career as a documentarian. Through a mix of sharing her own journey and providing insightful questions and actionable steps, Amanda helps budding photographers refine their goals and focus their efforts.

Utilizing her untraditional path and experiences, Amanda will discuss how to improve your photography through creative storytelling and how to grow professionally. Rather than sharing basics like exposure settings and post-processing how-tos, Amanda leads photographers on a path of self-discovery through photography tips on creativity, challenges, and launching a career in documentary photography.

As one of only a few female White House Photographers in history, Amanda talks through how creativity, resilience, and community helped her land a role documenting the American President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama from 2013-2017. Through her journey and a series of actionable steps and questions, you'll learn to turn your own creative passions into a career focused on the issues close to your heart.


  • Photojournalists
  • Documentary photographers
  • Documentary filmmakers
  • Beginner and Intermediate photographers


Amanda Lucidon is an award-winning documentarian, filmmaker, teaching artist, public speaker, and author. Lucidon served as a United States Official White House Photographer responsible for documenting First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017, as one of only a few females in history to hold such a position.

Lucidon is the New York Times best-selling author of Chasing Light and Reach Higher. In 2018, the John F. Kennedy Center appointed Lucidon as a Turnaround Artist, highlighting the importance of the arts in underserved schools. Currently, Lucidon is working with her husband Alan Spearman and a team of artists on implementing a pilot program that introduces arts and mindfulness practices to at-risk youth in Memphis, Tennessee. Amanda’s work has been honored by Pictures of the Year International, National Press Photographers Association Best of Photojournalism, and the White House News Photographers Association, among others.



I feel the class was a great honor to witness through Amanda’s eyes, as the journey of one of the most beautiful First Ladies of our time and to be able to capture the most personal moments of stillness. the class was so inspiring and I think it will be future lifetimes to come before we realize how important the Obamas were To our growth as a nation and evolution of humanity! thank you Amanda for your vision to capture the moments of stillness and sharing with us I loved this class In Gratitude ROBIN

a Creativelive Student

Amanda is an inspiration. Her hard work, dedication to her craft and in all the ways she pays it forward. This class will help you get beyond your creative blocks, see and create your own opportunities. All the while being reminded to BE KIND to yourself. With stunning images and fabulous stories, you'll learn from this class each time you watch it!


Thanks Amanda and CreativeLive. Great class. I'm studying photography and just finding my feet as a documentary photographer at 58yo. It's a wonderful thing to be able to record those moments. I may never be a White House tog, but thank you for the inspiration. ☺