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Keep Shooting: Personal Projects

Lesson 40 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

Keep Shooting: Personal Projects

Lesson 40 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

40. Keep Shooting: Personal Projects

Next Lesson: Who Inspires Me


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

Keep Shooting: Personal Projects

I just wanna talk really quickly about personal projects. I think this is the best way to keep yourself inspired and motivated. I'm gonna share with you a couple that I'm working on. A lot of you that follow me know this, about my mormor, I actually talked about my mormor when I first started photographing her eight years ago, I talked about her four years ago. She's then, her health is declining, and she's pretty much ready to pass, we're waiting. But, over the last eight years I've been photographing her, and then when my daughter was born, I realized that death is a lot like birth. In that it's the reverse. So as my daughter has developed, she's had my grandmother's behavior for a while, there's like a cross, and now my grandmother's behavior is becoming more childlike. And so, it's titled Lifecycle, and I've been photographing them and it'll be diptic as well. So I'm working on that. Obviously it'll be done shortly after she passes. I have a few more images that I'm gonna need to m...

ake for the diptic. My second personal project, and he's so excited I'm talking to you about him. He really is. This is Carson, and I immediately fell in love with him. I'm gonna tell you a little bit about it, his backstory. And the reason I'm telling you this is how you find stories. I don't really actively seek them out, they present themselves to me and then I devour them. I have to tell them. He is a good friend of mine's son, and, they had hired me for a day in a life, but the minute I met Carson I was like, this is the most incredible child ever. He has known that he is gay since he was about three. And what's really, I asked if I could tell this story, I'm gonna say this live, Ben. I literally asked them yesterday, can I tell the story about Disneyland? Or Disney World? And he was like, yeah, only if you refer to me as King Ben, the master of photography. (audience laughter) I hope he's watching right now. When he was like, I believe he was like four or five, they were in Disney World and they passed the Become a Princess for a Day. And at that time he had just wanted to wear a lot of dresses, and Ben didn't know really how he felt about that, and so, he was a little bit, like he pushed against this, and Kelly was always like, uh no, he wants to do this, this is like himself, we need to support this. He just wanted to be a princess, and his dad was like, no, no, no, no, Carson, he was like, please, please, please daddy, please let me be a princess. Just please. And so finally he was like, fine, it's fine. And it takes like a couple hours. They primp them and then put their dresses on, and then do their hair, and give them glitter. And he said, when my son walked out, it was the happiest I've ever seen a human being in my life. And I realized it was his true self, and that, this was my son. And he said it was from that moment on that everything changed for him with his son. So they have given me permission. Carson has given me permission that I will follow him through is life until he asks me to stop. This is a very long term project. It's also kind of an anthropological one. I'm curious, things are different now than they were 20 years ago, and 50 years ago. I'm curious where his life will go. But to have parents that are that loving and supportive, and he's so excited, he's like, yes, she's gonna talk about me. He's in dance, and he's in theater, and he could not be happier, and I just can't wait to watch him blossom, and really, let's be honest, I just know he's gonna be famous, and so I wanna say that I was there from the beginning. But he's a sweet, sweet boy. And the third project I'm working on right now is about a young woman, and young, she's my age. I'm 40, she's 39. And she's a friend of mine. And her mom, both grandmas, like three or four aunts, and several cousins have all passed away from breast cancer. So she got tested for the BRCA gene and she tested positive. So at 29 she decided to have an elective bilateral mastectomy. And I also love that she chose not to get nipples, because she said, this is a big deal, actually, and that's why I made this portrait. Because she's like, I don't wanna worry about ever wearing a bra again. Like she wanted to think very positively about her decision. She took her life into her own hands. Well, this past, two months ago, three months ago, she was coming up on 39, she's not married, she doesn't have a serious relationship, but it is recommended that if you do not have kids and you are BRCA gene positive by the time you are 40, you should have your ovaries removed. So this was a really big decision for her, because she doesn't have kids. But she chose to do it to put her life, and her quality of life, before that. Because she can always have a family with another means. So I'm actually photographing her for as long as she'll let me, because I'm curious how this decision will affect, she says, I feel like, in the future, you'll be photographing a wedding for this story. And I was like, of course I will, and then when you, if you adopt, or if you use a surrogate, or whatever, I will be there to photograph that as well. A really important thing that David taught me, okay so Jenn Ackerman, I talked about her the first class, she's a photojournalist, incredible photojournalist and I saw her speak at Reel Life and we were talking about personal projects, she was, in her presentation, and she said, I think you should pick projects that you're curious about. You can develop passion for them later while you're shooting them, but if you pick projects you're passionate about, it can influence how you shoot them. So pick something that you're passionate about. That you're not passionate about, something that you're curious about. And then David said, pick something that has some sort of personal connection to you. In some way, some personal reason for making these pictures. So, especially with this one, my mom had breast cancer, but she had breast cancer after I was born, even though it was pre-menopausal, so there is this connection, like I'm curious, my friend, that wasn't her story, but almost by photographing her story, I almost can relate to my mom's story in a way. With my project with Carson, I'm curious about it. I'm really curious about it, and what will happen to him. Also seek inspiration outside of documentary feeling photography. I'm really a stickler for this. And you'll see that I'm gonna keep doing it. I'm beginning to merge several approaches to my sessions. My work is changing. This feels more like a photo essay to me. Street photography, I'm really trying to put more street photography into my work. Complicated scenes. Just a really weird photo I made not too long ago. Fine art, environmental portraits. I just made this photo. This was this crazy family that I could spend all day talking about.

Class Materials

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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