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Class Introduction

Lesson 1 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

1. Class Introduction


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

Class Introduction

(audience clapping) Hi ladies, I'm really, really excited to be here, it's my third time, even though I've been here two other times, as I told you guys, I'm still super nervous. And really humbled that I am constantly trusted to come back and teach, and it wouldn't be without all of the amazing students and participants and photographers out there that have embraced this style, so I really appreciate it from all of you guys. There might be new people that haven't seen my other two classes so I'm gonna just give a quick introduction, not too long, about who I am. This is not the best quality photo, but this is from the set from the last time I was here on Creative Live, and I was just about, I think when we filmed that I was about five months pregnant here, and I photographed four kids for a full day and actually their dad works here at Creative Live. So like I said, I specialize in documentary family photography, As Kenneth said, I predominantly shoot day-in-life sessions, so I spen...

d anywhere between, it used to be 24-72 hours, with the family, now that I have a little girl, I'm not sleeping over right now, so that's a little change with my shoots, so I'm usually spending around 15 hours with my families. The focus of every picture that I make is that I'm trying to elicit an emotional response, I'm trying to make pictures that are really honest about what childhood is like, what being a parent is like. I'm trying to make pictures that emphasize things that are really important to the family, in this case it would be prayer before every dinner and as you can see even the little baby is learning that she will pray before every meal. I'm always looking for, catching kids in the act of doing things when their parents aren't around. And I'm also trying to make pictures that show the relationship between parents and their children. (audience giggling) Probably my favorite thing to photograph, would be when I can make a photo that shows what kids are doing while their parents are in the room and they have no idea. The behavior behind them. So I was here, I've been here in, am I right, 2014 was my first class, and I taught modern story telling, it was basically an introduction to documentary family photography, where I went over in-home birth sessions, and one-hour sessions with the family where you can do portraits as well as life-in-moments. Then I returned in 2016 and I focused more so on personal growth and development as a photographer. And how I find that there's a connection psychologically between your experiences, childhood through adulthood and how that affects your challenges and obstacles within photography, it also attributes to what you're interested in making pictures of. So it really was two different classes, and I realized that there was a bulk of information that was missing from the first class and the second class and so that's why I decided to come back for my third class, to fill in all those gaps. I'm also a speaker, I've been lucky enough to speak around the world, and it's been so much fun to meet photographers literally all over the globe, that are embracing this and really making this something that is accessible to anybody, any family, and last year I became a mother. I'm gonna talk a little bit about that about how that's really changed everything, from business to how I photograph to what I see, but it was really like seven weeks after I gave birth I went back to working, this was a photo made at the Real Life conference in Canada, I was teaching for four hours straight, and Byrdie was only about five months old and nursing exclusively and Greg kinda snuck in and she was crying and said I don't know what to do, and so I said, just give her to me and I continued my talk while nursing her. The other thing that's really important to note is that I, myself, not only make pictures, I believe in having these pictures made for me. And I encourage all of you, if you have not been photographed, it does not matter if you have kids, or don't have kids, you should have that experience of having your life photographed in a documentary way to better understand how you can serve your clients better. Right? So this is a really fun photo, this is from our wedding, this is by, I don't know if it was Jenna or Tristan these are our wedding photographers, I don't know which one photographed it but surrounded by all the people I love the most, every single one of us has a really funny or interesting reaction to what we're looking at, if you can't make it out, there's this program that will merge your face with someone else's and so that's what was Greg and my's baby was gonna look like. (audience laughter) Just really frightening, Thankfully she doesn't look like that. I also chose to have my birth photographed, it was, I think, single-handedly the best decision I made, of my, the whole birth experience was having this photograph because to be able to really see the power that it took to give birth to her, this is my favorite photo, I think from that, and so that's my mom right there, and Greg, Greg is topless do you guys notice that? (audience laughter) Greg is topless because I tried to birth my daughter in the cull and it exploded when I was birthing her so. He had to just remove his clothing, and this is my girlfriend Catherine Crouger and I just love that, it's the very moment that she came out, it's the very moment that I saw her, but I'm surrounded by all the people that made that happen. And that was, I was really tired after, and then we had a photographer come and Jenna and Tristan came back and photographed the first three days when we were home with Byrdie, which is another thing I suggest, and I'm showing all these to you because as a documentary family photographer it doesn't mean that you just have to photograph a day, just a regular day in someone's life, I believe that birth photography, or these first three days home also applicable and these are all services that you can offer to your clients, it's gonna open up the market for you. Little Byrdie, she's only two days old there. That's my family, and there she is. I get asked a lot, how I feel, or how my clients feel when I'm photographing things that might be uncomfortable, reprimanding their kids, when their kids get hurt, if there is a disagreement or a fight, and I realized that I have experienced it myself, I got a really, really high fever and kidney infection right after Byrdie was born and I was super scared, and I never asked my photographer to come to the doctor's office with me, and that's my mom, taking care of me, and so I know from personal experience, I just went about my life, I trusted my photographers and I'm reminded of that when I look at these pictures. It's just little Byrdie. So that's enough about me, you won't really hear much more about me, except for weird stories that I'll interject throughout the next two days. We're gonna talk about what makes a picture successful. We're gonna talk about, how do we make a successful photo. I'm really going to break down, how I approach making a photo and what are the key elements that we need to be reminded of, that we need to be aware of, in terms of making the photos and then reviewing them. We're gonna talk about capturing emotion, which I have I feel like I haven't fully addressed in the last two classes, so we're gonna talk about that. We're gonna talk about approaching the scene, I'm doing this a lot this year with teaching, when we walk into a room what are we looking at, what are we looking for, we need to make notes, mental notes, visual notes, before we just go shoot. 15 mistakes that all new photographers make, so I'm asked about two different scenarios the most, photographing one baby or like one young child, do any of you feel like you are challenged by that? I see yeses, a lot of times, I get my students that say, I'm bored, I don't know what to do, there's not a lot happening, so I actually did photograph one young child with two parents, for two hours for Creative Live, so you're gonna get to see the behind the scenes of that later today, and I'm gonna talk about all the ways that we can be looking for interesting things, that we might not see when we have siblings. This is the other one, do you guys, do you find this challenging? Shooting teenagers, so I'm going to talk about that too and give you some tips. Toning images, we're gonna do this tomorrow, and if anyone has seen me before, I fully admit, I am not a master of toning photos, I think my first Creative Live class I had people writing me left and right about what type of lightroom I was using, I wasn't up to date, why am I de-saturating, I don't know, I have no idea, like I'm not good at it, so I've invited like the best of the best in terms of toning from the Image Salon, his name is Daniel Kudish and he's the owner and his company tones my photos now, so he's gonna come on and talk to you guys about it, and give you a lot better information than I can. And I think this is what everyone wants to learn, How do you make money, good money photographing documentary sessions, as well as day-in-life sessions. Again, I've admitted I'm not the best with business, in terms of it being applicable to the average photographer, because the majority of you work within your market, right, like you work where you live? I don't ever work where I live, I did 22 day-in-life sessions this year in 12 different countries. So my business approach is just not something that's gonna help you, so Marie Massey, if you guys are unfamiliar with her, she's basically the documentary family photography guru and she's gonna give you a lot of tips and then I'll give you some, but the bulk of it will come from her. And we're also gonna do some website critiques. There's a few of you, that were really kind of brave to offer up your websites to basically everyone to learn from, and I'm so appreciative of that, so we will be looking at your websites, I will be looking at them and I'm gonna give you some tips on how to make adjustments so that you can get a better return in terms of inquiries and bookings. And then I'm gonna give you my final thoughts. This is by far the most content I've taught on Creative Live, so you all have notebooks, I strongly suggest that everyone home be taking notes, or by the class, I'm only saying that because it's so much information, I'm a little bit worried, so just write down, and if I think something's really important I'm gonna say write it down, okay and I learned that from Jenna, who I work with and we started doing that in our workshops where if we feel something's really important we're just gonna say write it down. Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. That is, really sums up me, because I'm a hands-on learner, so the way that I teach is to be to create as much of a hands-on learning experience as I can without actually doing so. But the most important thing is if you guys have questions, please feel free to like give me a little raise of the hand and I'll come to you and ask, I'm also devoting quite a bit of time at the end of every segment for questions, but no question is stupid, and if you have that question, probably someone else has that same question somewhere, so please feel free to ask, okay?

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Fearless and Framed Marketing Bundle

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