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Lesson 14 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

14. Q&A

Next Lesson: Working a Scene


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


So, I'm quite mindful about expression. And especially now, with Instagram and perfect societies. How do you encourage or what advice can you give for photographers who are wanting to move beyond the perfect faces and perfect families? And include the less flattering facial expressions, less flattering looks between family members? I think the easy, honest answer is you just have to start delivering them, right? And if you have contracts that include model releases, then that gives you permission to share those photos. And I think you can go slowly, if you're worried at first, what the reception might be. But if you slowing start sharing and showing those, you might see that they're well received. And then, you'll feel better or more confident in delivering and showing more of them. Does that make sense? I think, Ang, you just gotta do it. Make the really happy photos. But then, the ones that aren't so happy. That's actually never been a concern of mine. Which maybe is concerning. (a...

udience laughs) I've never had an issue with it. Kelly Kohler, who's a great photographer and friend of mine, I've photographed their family, I'm in love with them. I'm doing a personal project with their family now. I have this photo at the end of the night. (chuckles) The kids were just like out of control, crying. And you know, she's like, "Oh." And her husband is also pretty worn out. And I posted it on Facebook or whatever. And her comment was, "Well, this is the most flattering "photo I've ever seen of myself." (audience laughs) And I wrote her and I was like, "Do you want me to take it down?" She goes, "No, I love it!" She goes, "It's exactly how I felt in that moment." So, I've been given permission like that. Not like, "I give you permission." But with those kinds of responses, that's been enough for me to know that I've been making the right decisions, as far as, showing photos that all parents can relate to. I think less parents relate to the happy, smiley, everything's perfect. And almost, maybe it just makes them feel bad. Like, right? To be able to see it. "Oh, other parents go through this?" Like, "Oh, thank God, it's not just me," right? Other parents roll their eyes at their kids? (audience chuckles) Other parents, their kids spill Cheerios all over the floor and they just photograph it, rather than clean it up? Oh, I'm not the only one, right? So, I think that it's just a matter of trying it. Stepping in, you know, slowly. And then, you'll see, it feels pretty good. When you do a family session, a day in life. You go to someone's house and it's a new environment for you. Will you do some tests before the session? Like, you find out there's a room. The number of the setting for different rooms. That maybe the white balance. Maybe you would like to set. And the composition, maybe there's some interesting point for you. And if yes, when do you usually do? Before the day you have the session? Or earlier of the day you have the session? I just shoot. I've never been one to scout. Even when I shot weddings, I never scouted out locations. I just go with the flow of whatever I've got. So, I just go in. Usually, when I walk into the house, my camera's on, it's ready to go at 6400 2.8, 1/500 of a second. That's my beginner. And then, I just make adjustments as I go to each room. That's usually what I do. So, yeah, I don't scout. I just go with the flow. [Dark Haired Woman] How about the white balance? You said you use a cape. Is it different, maybe in different rooms? Yeah, well, as I'm in each room shooting, I'll adjust it. So, like, when I walk into the house and I'm ready to go. My white balance is usually at 5,500 to start. That's about where I start. And then, I'll adjust according to that. But yeah, I just go into the room and shoot what it is. I don't try and pre-scout ahead of time. And I think it helps because I think, having that skill or like, even being able to estimate what it's gonna be, really helps you in terms of when they go out and about. Or they're in a store. You know, their scene is always changing. That you don't feel overwhelmed because you haven't been there already. So, I think, yeah. Just taking in the environment as it comes. And making the adjustments. For me, that's what I do. [Dark Haired Woman] Thank you. You're welcome. I have a question about you saying, getting closer, creating the emotion. Yes? Do you find it often distracts getting so close? 'Cause you shoot with a 35, you said. And so, to get that close, do you find it often distracts that emotion? Like, how do you get around that? Like, still creating that emotion with getting that close to them? Well, because your fear is that it's going to distract them, yes? Yeah. That's your fear. But no, it doesn't distract them at all. I get close all the time, right in their face. Sometimes I go just a hair below eye level. So that I'm not directly in their line of sight. One advantage is shooting with the X-T2. The shutter is rather quiet. And I can actually go silent, completely silent, if I need. That has helped in really emotional situations. But no. Here's the thing, I'm not afraid to get close. So, as a result, for me being confident in getting close, it does not interfere with what they're doing at all. They feel comfortable and confident 'cause I'm putting that energy out. Most people that have that. They're like, "Are they gonna be like distract-- They feel like you're gonna be in their personal space or is it going to interfere with the moment? A lot of times, it's more of a reflection of the photographer, worried that that's gonna happen, than it actually happening. So, do you tend to not get too close? Yeah, I feel like I'm gonna intrude on their space. Or they'll just realize that the camera's there and freeze and stop that emotion. And I don't want to ruin it. Have you tried it? No. (Kirsten and audience laughs) I don't shoot at 35 usually. I usually like limit to 50 because I'm so scared. So, you and I will have to have a chat about fear. Yeah (laughs) and back button focus. Don't do that fearful. But that is, that's fear. That's fear holding you back from making the photos you wanna make. If I were you or if I was your teacher right now, your one year, I would be like, "You are to give me your 50 millimeter. "I'm gonna sell it on eBay. "And then, we're gonna buy you a 35 millimeter. "And you're only allowed to shoot "with it for the next year." Because your 50 is your crutch. And until you can get over getting close to people, it will limit you. In terms of, making those really powerful photos. Because the thing is, in order to make your view feel like they are in it, the photographer has to be in it. So, the 24 to 70, would you ever consider doing like-- Do you think that if I use the zoom-- You can tape it. You're not allowed to use the zoom (laughs). (audience laughs) If you were my student, I wouldn't let you. Because a zoom, again, is just your fear. You'll end up just zooming all the time, right? If it's there, yeah. I might even make you use a 28 (laughs). (audience laughs) Hi, I was hoping you could speak a little to photographing kids and adults who are very introverted. Right now, I just primarily photograph my family. I'm very introverted, my husband's very introverted. My first born is. And I find that I make a lot of photos of him that I have moment and not action. I can read the moment, 'cause I know what it's like. He's very pensive and there's not a lot going on. But it feels like a quiet moment. And whether those work to people who don't know him. Yeah, so, I get that a lot. I also, interestingly enough, have quite a few clients with kids, in some way, having some difficulty in social situations. And I do really well with it. I've said this before. I don't know if I give off-- Like, people give off scents. And I am able to get trust really quickly with kids and animals. Like, with kids and animals, where the parents are like, "That cat has not come out since like 1975. (audience laughs) "I don't know why it's sitting on your lap right now?" Right, like, "We thought we buried "that cat like 10 years ago," right? (audience chuckles) Or kids, where they're like, "You're really gonna have a hard time. "They're really nervous around strangers." Somehow, I'm able to conquer that very quickly. I feel like I'm an introverted extrovert. But I'm more extroverted. I said this in the first class, I think introverted people make better photographers, in terms of observation. Because they're better at like being quiet and observing the world around them and taking it in first before you know, opening their mouths (chuckles), like me. Do you have trouble communicating with your son? No, not communicating. I worry that, I guess, my photos don't read to people who are looking at them from the outside who don't know. Like, if I was gonna put it on my portfolio. Right, well, you don't need loud moments to be good moments. That should be something (hums). Like, loud moments do not always equal the best moments. Quiet moments are just as beautiful, right? So don't feel bad. And some photographers are naturally draw to quiet moments. And you should embrace that. That's your aesthetic, that's your point of view. Really beautiful, quiet moments. Because those moments are just as important as loud moments. I'm having to learn how to include more quiet moments. How to see quieter moments. Because I'm naturally drawn to louder moments. In terms of kids, it's good advice for everyone out there. Especially little ones that are shier or more introverted. You have to make them feel safe in your space. In that you genuinely care about them. So, that means coming down to their level. That means having a conversation with them, even if it's a half hour of your shoot. With your camera in your hand. And you can slowly shoot and then put it down. But when you ask them questions, you have to listen to their answers and then create a dialogue with them. One of the things I always do with kids, in the beginning if they're really shy, is I mention something about what they're wearing. "What? "Your shoes light up? "Oh, my God!" And they'll be like be behind their mom and they'll be like. (audience laughs) And I'll say, "I wish they made shoes "that lit up for me but my feet are so big, "I can't find any cool shoes." You have to speak to them with excitement and with genuine interest. And I find that works really quickly. Having a conversation with them, not worrying about my camera in the beginning. It's like a light switch. As soon as they feel like I really care about them, like I'm noticing them. Which what we talked about earlier with psych. It wins them over. And so, for you, you're natural go to isn't to be as social as I might. You still have a good relationship, communicating with your own son, right? And so, maybe approach other kids with the same type of conversations you have with your own son, to win them over as well. Does that make sense? [Woman In White Shirt] Yeah, that helps, thank you. But conversation is key, in the beginning, to help. Just a follow up on that, do you have in your contract, anything about like, "There may be moments "where I put my camera down and dialogue." 'Cause I feel like some times, you know, especially first time clients, can be kind of judgey. Are you sure they're judgey or is your fear? [Woman In Black Shirt] It might be me. Especially at weddings. But I know that's not really what we're talking about. It's all of your fear, I hear this a lot. "I can't put my camera down." Yeah, you can. Because it's still working. They're really not judging you, they don't care. They trust you. They hired you because they trust you. Because they really like your photos, right? Or at least we hope that's what it is. They love having the dialogue and the conversation. Because it makes them feel more connected to you. For the dads, especially. Let's all be honest here. L-B-H, as my husband likes to say. I don't care if the man is or 60. I don't care if they have no kids or 25 kids. I don't care if they make a lot of money or a little bit of money. Men hate photo shoots. (audience chuckles) They hate them. So, the advantage to what we do is-- 'Cause the mom is always like, "We're just gonna do this shoot." And the dad's like, "Jesus Christ. (audience laughs) "Kids running around everywhere. "I gotta wear this flippin' shirt I don't even like "that my wife picked out for me." Like, they hate it. Every man I've met, grooms. Or grooms-to-be, parents, my friends, my husband. They freaking hate it. Do you know when I hired a wedding photographer, my husband even refused to look at the photographer. He didn't even know who we had hired. He was like, "Just fine, fine, just do the photos. "I don't care." They hate it. And that's our advantage. Is all the dads that I've shot, I turn them around. Because they love being able to just have a dialogue and a conversation. They love that they can have a beer at nine in the morning and I'm not gonna judge them. (audience laughs) I might even have one with them. (audience laughs) The dads are our selling point, in terms of this type of photography. Because they don't have to do the word that I'd like to use right now. They don't have to do anything. They can just be themselves. And I can't tell you how many dads have been like, "That was the easiest thing I've ever done. "Like, I can't believe that was a photo shoot." And then, they really love the photos. Because they see them. They can acknowledge that they're being good dads, right? They like that. So, did that help? Yeah.

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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