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Website Critique: Amy Thelen

Lesson 36 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

Website Critique: Amy Thelen

Lesson 36 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

36. Website Critique: Amy Thelen


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

Website Critique: Amy Thelen

Alright Amy, you are the same in terms of, give me the lowdown first. So, I have a lot of lifestyle on my website. Okay. You say that apprehensively. Do you like shooting lifestyle? Um, I do but not as much as I like documentary. Okay. What is your goal moving forward with your business? Full documentary. Full. So Amy, you are in a transitional phase as well. Like, I feel like, a lot of people are in transitional phase, right? So that's okay. You're looking at me like I'm going to yell at you, which I'm not going to. (laughing) And also, the thing is like I, I don't judge you for what you like to shoot or what you're good at. I just want to help you in terms of choosing the right photos to get the right clients. Right? Right, okay, yeah. So, I'll ask again, do you like doing portraits or lifestyle as well? I mean, I do enjoy lifestyle. Okay. Here's a suggestion. Have you thought about having two sites, with two totally different businesses, well business names. No...

, I haven't thought about that far. Okay, that is a possibility that people can have if they like doing more stylized portraits and lifestyle work, which can have one feel, right? And then, there's another side of them that they really like to do the raw documentary. My suggestion, because what's going to happen if you like both, and you don't mind doing both, but you have both on your website, you're almost always going to get the lifestyle clients. Almost always. But if you separate them, you'll still get your lifestyle clients and then you can start building another clientele by doing what I said, adding that extra hour or two, and then that's building a good portfolio for this other site. But you could actually have two different businesses. Okay. Not with your accountant. Yes. I mean you can just have the same photography business, but you could actually do it separately. Or you could do like, Amy Thelen, your site, your main site could be and then maybe or something else, you could have in there, does that make sense? Yeah. And that way you wouldn't feel like you're pulled, you would just have two different sides to your photography business. I say the same with wedding photography and family photography. I think they should just be two different sites. And then you can convert your wedding clients in to family clients. But families get, if they're looking for a family photographer, they usually want to see someone that just does families. They get confused if they go to a wedding site, they're less likely to hire you on your wedding site, or if there's wedding photos. So I always say to just separate them. Because we have to think about really how do clients, potential clients make those decisions. And the best I've learned is by examining my behavior when I go online, when I go shopping, when I'm looking at websites, right? I know how I behave and how I respond and so I know that other people are doing that. So, this is your opener. And if I'm not mistaken, it does cycle through, right? Yes. But can you click through it? Yes. Oh, you can. I just don't have the arrows because I don't like other things sitting there on my pictures. Okay. Which maybe isn't a good business move, but it's an aesthetic for me. (laughing) But, where did you, who did you build this with? It's Squarespace. Oh, it's Squarespace. Okay, by the way, I'm a huge fan of Squarespace, except for one thing. Because I made my husband's site with Squarespace, it was so easy, right, and it's really nice and clean, and that's what I love about your site as well, it's just nice and clean. My one issue is it's not WordPress back end. And so, you can do alt text with Squarespace, but it's not like it is with WordPress, that's my only issue with Squarespace, but you can still add it, it's just kind of a more roundabout way of doing it. Yeah, it is not as easy. I'm trying to remember with Squarespace, can you have, are there different options for seeing the arrows? Yeah. So you could have a really really light, faint gray on the outside of the picture. It's on the picture, right? Yeah. You can choose to have it shown on hover I think. Right. Oh, that's true. At least have it shown on hover. Okay. Because people aren't going to know that they can scroll through. So it needs to be at least on the hover. Okay. Yeah. But what I really love about Amy's, is it's just clean. If you want to do docu family stuff, you have to lead by example. So, do you know what I'm saying? Maybe. (laughing) What am I saying? Um, you mean I shouldn't have that picture? What kind of photo should you have? Well, um, yeah. (laughing) I do actually, I did a trade with another local documentary photographer. Oh, good. So, I've already done her session, and we're just, it's coming up soon. Even if they're like, just real life iPhone photos, I just want to see, I don't want to see posed if that's not the work that like-- Right. And, here's the thing, even if it's not. I think even if you're, if you're doing lifestyle or whatever, I think the more real life the pictures are accompanying what you do, like who you are, is gonna make them want to hire you more, right? If it's stiff an posed, it's not that they're not going to want to hire you, but they might be more inclined to hire you if they see these like really fun photos of you hanging out with your family. Does that make sense? Yes, yes it does. I feel like you're apprehensive to even get those photos made. Is that true? No. Oh okay. You just haven't done it yet? I just haven't, because I started out with just traditional, I mean Shannon's my photographer. Okay, oh she is? (laughing) So, and I love her, I love you Shannon. And she does a really good job. Yeah, and so we do, I mean I use her every year to get my pictures taken, but I decided, and this was a decision I made in the last six months, is that if I want to documentary photography, then I actually need to be able to do-- Yes Like, I need to do it for myself. And that's good advice for all of you, I had said it earlier. You really have to experience being photographed if you're going to provide that for others. I don't care if you have kids or don't, you know get together with your girlfriends, or your guys friends for the guys out there, or your family, family reunion. Just have that experience so that you understand what it feels like to be on the other side of the camera. It might also help you with fears you have, that like prevent you from getting close, right? Or feeling like you're afraid you're going to interfere with a moment that's happening. If you experience that, a lot of those fears are just going to fade away. I think there is one too many paragraphs in here. I don't think anyone's going to make it to the end. Yeah, I don't think they will either. Well especially looking at it now. (laughing) I'm like, that is a lot of text. And I like reading, so. Yeah, and I think it should be short and sweet and fun interesting things, this is more like a biography. Yeah, I would agree. Right? So don't be afraid to like, share just some fun stuff. I've changed my about me a lot, so. This is the longest I've kept it with that. Yeah, I think it's time. Time to switch it up again. I've always thought it might be fun too to have someone else write it for you, right. And like, and be like, um, Amy's best friend. (laughing) That knows her best, right. Or Kirsten's mom, right, like have someone else maybe write it for you if you feel weird about writing about yourself. So yours is the same situation. You have a lot of information about the shoot itself, not as wordy but still this information. So I'm going to reiterate again, I think a video is better than a lot of words describing what the session is, what happens during the session. Now here's the other thing, you did something that I've seen other people do, that you have a family gallery and a children's gallery. Who else does that? (laughing) I'm so glad I'm just not going to be singled out here. This is what it looked like to me. (laughing) If I could have gotten behind the chair I would have done that too. (laughing) It's okay. But it confuses me to have family and children, like, kids are part of the family. (laughing) I think what you mean is maybe more children's portraiture. Yes, because that is what I was doing at the time. So why not call it environmental portraits, and then, real life moments. Okay. Right, something like that. And remember I keep encouraging you, make these environment portraits. They're important. And it was a big error I made in the first class is not reiterating that, and not teaching that. Good environmental portraits are really important. They're important in photo journalism, they're important in documentary work, in photo essays, long term projects, environmental portraits are important, and they're powerful, so you should make them for your clients. And additionally, they're good for business. So, yeah. I think that's a better way to do it. I see it all the time and I'm like, family, children, pretty sure that's the same, but that's okay. And then I realize a lot of times people do that because they have children, it's the child portraiture, and then like the families. I'm guessing what that's like, what people do to set it up. Here's our family portfolio. I really like this picture, a lot by the way. Thanks, me too. And children's portfolio. Which is kind of like an inside, environmental portrait, right? So, here's children portfolio. Like, this is environmental portrait. It's really nice. It's pretty. So just put it in environmental portraits. And that way your clients know that you make environmental portraits. I love this next one, Amy. (crowd murmuring) Oh, that's my daughter. That's why we all like it, because you photograph your daughter the way that you see her, right? Yeah. Well, get ready, because we're going to have another ooo. (laughing) And this one's really nice. (crowd murmuring) Have you tried this in black and white? No, I haven't. I think you should try that in black and white. I've really, it was, well you can tell, pretty harsh sun, so I messed with that picture more than I should have, but. Yeah, I think black and white. Okay. This next one is okay, but it doesn't have the feel, right, of the other two. And so it's, or other three, and so it's weighing it down. Okay. So, I would just take it out. Okay. These three, at least these two, I would put in your opener. That one, you just don't need it. It's set up, right? Oh, totally. (crowd laughing) 100%. (sighing) You don't need this. Okay. Tell me what's important about playing a ukulele to the viewer, in this photo. It's probably not important to anybody, but to me, I think. Right, is it your daughter? No, this is like my good friends daughter, who, you know, I've known her since birth, so. Okay, what is interesting or important about her playing the ukulele? It's just that she got a new ukulele, but nobody knows that besides me, so I guess. Does she play? Yeah. Well? Or is she learning? She's learning. Okay, I'm trying to get it what is interesting visually about when someone plays a stringed instrument. Do you know? You want to phone a friend, there's a few of them in the audience. (audience laughing) Yes, yes I would. Um, especially with little kids, if you haven't tried to play the guitar, it's hard for me, even though I have much bigger hands, I cannot for the life of me bar a chord, it will prevent me from ever playing. And my father's a musician, and like his thing was, he always wanted me to play with him. But, I can only play so much, because I can't bar a chord. But, especially when you're learning, there's still the stretch. The ukulele is better for kids, right? But there's still tension in the hands, making the strings down? And so I'm just this out for all of you, think about, she's playing the ukulele. It's new. Am I going to be able to show that? No. But maybe you are. Part of it is you don't know about playing a stringed instrument, but if it's new, it's harder to play. Just like new point shoes hurt more than broken in point shoes. You'll learn this the more situations you come in to. But, her hands, it's going to be harder for her to press them down because the strings are tighter. So, when she's playing the ukulele, think about what's visually interesting about playing the ukulele, yes? Yes. Okay. I want to have a talk about this photo. Okay. Because is there a kid behind that jar thing? Yes. What is he doing? He's peeking around the corner. Okay. I can't see him. Can you guys see his eye peeking around the corner? Okay, so to me it doesn't work because we need a quick read and we're not seeing what you saw. Yeah, it's not enough. Even if he was just a little bit over and the light caught, like the catch light caught his eye, and then it would pop, it would work. But this one's not working. Okay. I really like the next one, because it's graphic, fun, right? And I like that you're close. So this one stays in. Yeah, that's my daughter again. You're good at this, Amy. Oh, thanks. You're good at it. I mean, people tell me that. No, no. (crowd laughing) And now I'm flushed. I need you to say 'I am good at this'. Okay. I am good at this. Yes. (audience applause) You're good at this. You're holding on to the other stuff because you're questioning not being good at this. I didn't know this was going to be a therapy session. (everyone laughing) Everyone needs to hear this. Like, you're good at this. You're really good at this. Thank you. And so, you need to celebrate that and not hide behind the stuff everyone else makes. Unless you want to make it. Sure, gotcha. But I don't feel like you actually do. I don't really, no. I didn't think so. (laughing) You're good at it, I like this one too. The real moments are great, anyone can make these. I know. It's true. Well this is from my workshop that I did, and it just allowed me to expand my portfolio, to actually have some pictures. I actually have a ton of documentary pictures, I just haven't updated my website. Yeah, it's okay. Yeah, so right now is filled mostly with lifestyle. Which I still, I appreciate these pictures, but yeah. Where my heart is is definitely documentary. And here's the thing, I can always tell when I'm looking at people's work, what they like making and what they don't. I can see it. I can feel people putting themselves into it, versus not. And that's why there's some really, really stunning portrait photographers and newborn photographers that do the traditional, when I'm like, they do that really well. Because I can tell they really like it a lot. Luis Garvan, I talk about him every class to everybody, he is just one of my all time favorite photographers and he's a portrait photographer. And he, his work is brilliant. And it's not anything like we do. So, I can tell what you really like making, because you're really good at it. And, you need to photograph other peoples kids the way that you photograph your own. This one's great, like, this one's great. If you want to keep making, doing these sessions, or maybe do that docu-portrait sessions, I would keep this one in. I would just turn it to black and white, it'll be a different photo in black and white than it will be in color. Okay. Okay? (laughing) She is super bummed. Yeah, it was at the end of a really long hike. Is that your daughter again? No. Yeah, she's great. You don't need this one. Where did you need to be? Not facing the light, I would say over to. Well let's, sometimes we need to verbally describe what's happening. And I learned this from Jenna, I don't claim anything, I'm really not that brilliant, I'm just really good at regurgitating what people say to me. Let's describe what's happening in the photo. Okay, so I really liked the moment-- No, no, no, no. I just want you, not technically, I just literally want you do tell me what's happening in the photo. Mom is looking at baby and dog is sniffing baby's head. What's the most interesting thing about what you just said. The dog is sniffing the baby's head. So what should we probably emphasize? That. (laughing) Okay. So what's the best way to emphasize the dog is sniffing the baby's head. Get a lot closer and shoot down on it. Yes. You can shoot down on it, you can get low to the baby's point of view and shoot at it, okay? Sometimes you have to look at it and just literally describe it, and then it will be like, oh yeah, that's the most interesting thing. So what's happening here? Belly button. I know it's not the best one. I have a series of these, and now that I'm looking at it, I can think of another one that's better where he's actually touching his belly button, and then there would have maybe-- And I don't know that environment is necessary for belly button. Like, if the most interesting thing is he's like, tapping on his belly button, this would be another one where I would just get close, and like, I would be waiting for the indentation, a little bit of push into the skin where you can see the recess and that would make a stronger photo. Yeah, I woulda had to run up the stairs, this is definitely one of those crop photos, but yeah, okay. Do you feel good? I do, especially after I just cried on live TV. (audience laughing) Everybody who knows me knows that's how I am, so it's okay. No, I want you to feel good. Okay, I do. You have just some adjustments to do on the site, but add more of these great photos, because you have good photos, alright? Okay, thank you. Everybody, love on Amy. (audience applauding)

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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