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Build Community and Find a Mentor

Lesson 39 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

Build Community and Find a Mentor

Lesson 39 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

39. Build Community and Find a Mentor


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


What Makes a Picture Successful?


Technical Tips: ISO


Technical Tips: Aperture


Technical Tips: Shutter Speed


Technical Tips: Focus


Using Light to Tell a Story


Using Composition to Tell a Story


Lesson Info

Build Community and Find a Mentor

I'm just gonna try and clear up any loose ends from any of the classes that I taught that I felt needed to be fixed. Someone from one of my last classes was really offended that I said that I feel like photojournalism and documentary photography is the hardest genre of all photography genres. And I didn't mean to offend anyone. But there's a reason why I feel like it is. And what we do is easy, right? We're not in war. We're not photographing famine, right? So documentary-feeling photography's definitely not the hardest, but I think documentary photography in general, like real-life photography, when you're not controlling the environment, is really hard. We're having to make hundreds of decisions in a minute. Like literally hundreds of decisions at a time. Where if we're controlling the situation, then we can slow down, right? And we can control our environment. But when we don't have that option, we're having to make quick, snap decisions that are changing, they're constantly changin...

g. We're dealing with changing conditions requiring to be quick and malleable. We're also required to really look inward in order to grow as artists and photographers. And that's hard. The easy way is to not ever deal with anything. The easy way is to always make jokes. The easy way is to allows make funny photos. The hard way is to identify your obstacles and challenges and accept them and then come up with a solution to solve them. And that requires a lot of inward... Work. Ultimately, the only control we have is over ourselves and how we react and respond to things in front of us. It's not just in photography. It's something that I am learning about life. I cannot control anything else. I am petrified that something is going to happen to my daughter. But really, the only control I have is over when she's with me and the decisions I'm making. Outside of that, I just have to accept that this is life. So I find it freeing actually when I'm in the shoot, because I have control over all my decisions and I don't have to worry about anything else. We also have to learn to reflect ourselves through our pictures. And you don't have to do that in every genre, but if you wanna stand out, you have to do it in this one. Ultimately, all of your work should be a reflection of yourself. So, after everything from day one, I want you also to remember that rules are meant to be broken. Think about Picasso, think about Dali. Once you feel like you've established a very good foundation and understanding of technically what is required to make pictures, you then need to push yourself and be willing to make pictures that are going to fail. And you want to take risks so that in the end, you might make one really great photo. I also want you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. I talk a lot about this in the second class, about emotionally pushing yourself. But I think in terms of photographic growth, it's also important. Everyone that sent in a photo, that's pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. You literally had... I don't mean to freak you out, but probably at least 30,000 people see your photos within the last few days (laughs). But that's good, right? That's scary and it's outside of your comfort zone, but it's gonna help you grow because we, our feedback of each other's photos, is what helps us become a better photographer. We always wanna be a better photographer than the one we were from the last shoot, right? And the only way that you can do that is if you can learn from each mistake that you make. So I think you should join groups with like-minded people. Facebook is a great place for that. I'm working on a documentary family forum. The one thing I don't like about Facebook in terms of education or feedback of photos or when you're bouncing ideas off of each other is do you guys find it hard to search back? And so the same threads keep coming up and it's the same questions and answers. So I'm working on a forum, it's almost done, so that you can-- It's like a catalog and so you can go back to conversations people had and find them really easy and there'll be videos and stuff. But in the meantime, in addition, do you guys know about this Documentary Family Photographers? For those that don't, they started this group, a wonderful collective of photographers in Europe started it. And it's short for the DFP. This is the website, and if you join, then you can join their community on Facebook and like-minded people and they're always critiquing work and then you can be added to different groups from there, satellite groups. The other thing is to find a mentor. I personally am not taking on any more one-on-one, year-long mentoring one-on-one right now. It's a little too much for me. But I have some other options available, so this is my educational site. If you go to the site, you'll see the mentoring section right there. When you go to "Year-long", you're gonna see that is was discontinued for now. It's taking a break for now. It's been put on hold. But I did offer a one-year group mentoring program. I did not expect it to sell out in two hours. All 50 spots sold out in two hours. My poor assistant. (laughs) I didn't expect that. But what we do have, we have 100 spaces for silent participation. The program is built like a university class. It's not like these classes. It's about photography in general and becoming a much better photographer by learning about different genres and different applications. I'm gonna be interviewing photographers from each genre, there's gonna be lots of Q&A and everyone's gonna be working on a personal project. What that means is you cannot submit for critique for the live class, but you'll have your own Facebook group and you can still do the assignments and then work together and give each other feedback. And it's a nice way to keep participating and Jess and Molly and I will pop into the silent group. It just won't be active like the active group is. I've been asked now like five times since I got here about workshops. I teach workshops with Jenna. We are currently decided not to plan any more. It's too much for us to plan them when we don't live there. And we don't even live in the same place with each other. So your options are that you can get together with a group of photographers if you wanna bring us to you and you organize it and we'll just come and do it. And you can go to that site and you can contact us through there if you wanna do it. I do suggest two photographer mentors that are awesome if you want a year-long program. And that is Tyler Wirken who has taught here at Creative Live. He was my first mentor and I love him and he is amazing and he photographs weddings and families and births. And he's a beautiful photographer and an incredible teacher. So I would suggest getting in touch with him. And the other one is my really good friend Gulnara, a World Press Photo winner. I spoke about her in the first class about when she photographed the World Trade Center. Pushing yourself outside your comfort zone means getting your work seen. It has launched for those that don't know, the Documentary Family Awards. This has been six years in the making. We had our first set of submissions and we got over 6,500 submissions. They have been judged and Jenna and I will be doing the live judging. We'll be announcing it via Instagram and our Facebook. After this class, you can sign up for our news letter to get all the information about when the next round is gonna happen, cause we got about 150 emails from people that had missed the deadline, begging to be let in and we're actually really strict about our deadlines. That's good for you guys, cause it holds you accountable, right? But we're really excited about this because the final judging will always be done live and it'll in an educational format so you're getting something out of submitting. It isn't just, "These are the winners and these are why." And we're looking at some really good judges from the photography industry. Editors and photojournalists and we're really excited, so...

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Ratings and Reviews


I own Kirsten's 3 classes. And they are ALL amazing, inspiring and refreshing. She is not only a super talented photographer but an amazing teacher and person as well. I have learned so much from each one of her classes. I have never met a photographer so willing to share and see their students succeed. I highly recommend people not only to buy this class, but all 3! I would not be the photographer I am today if it wasn’t for her. After following her advise for the last 3 years I am finally engaging with the audience I want and I feel true to myself in the way I shoot. This makes a huge difference in my everyday. I am am truly grateful to this photo wizard lady. ps: warning, make sure you are on birth control. These classes might make you want to have children, just to get amazing images like the ones she takes LOL (joking) #not

Carrie Littauer

This workshop was by far the best photography workshop I have ever been a part of. Kirsten's work, her humor, her authenticity, her expertise and perspective will forever change the way I work with families and go about documentary photography. I am so motivated and inspired to dig deeper into my role as a photographer, and as a person, to make a real difference in the lives of those that I photograph and with my art. I'm thrilled to have been in the LIVE studio and am so grateful for Creative Live for giving phenomenal artists like Kirsten this exposure and opportunity to teach other creatives like myself! Thank you.

Johanne Lila

In the very minutes Kirsten Lewis' first class (first of three) for cL aired, I realized I needed in on this awesomeness. I became a 1 Year Mentorship student with her right away, and now I have been so incredibly fortunate to be in the studio audience for the live taping of her final class (or the third of the three, who knows what the future might hold!). For me as a 'Kirsten Lewis alumni' taking this class was perfect. I was reminded of things I knew, but had forgotten. I learned a ton of new stuff. But most of all, I remembered why we do this work in the first place: The love that is right there in the reality of life. How much this work matters to real families out there. And how much it matters to keep getting better at this, to give our families better work. I will be forever greatful that I chose the best mentor, Kirsten is such a gift to all of us. And if you're still in doubt: This class is AMAZING! If you're new, if you've at it for a while, if you're alumni: Gold is HERE!

Student Work