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Family Photography: Modern Storytelling

Lesson 21 of 35

Day in the Life Sessions Part 1

Kirsten Lewis

Family Photography: Modern Storytelling

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

21. Day in the Life Sessions Part 1

Lesson Info

Day in the Life Sessions Part 1

We're gonna be talking about, I think, what a lot of people viewers out there and I know my ladies and here I have been waiting, teo, hear about are my dating life sessions way kind of tease you made you wait a little, okay? I've been doing these sessions for about four years now I've done a total of fifty one, you think? And it just booked for more last week, and the exciting thing is of those four on ly one's, a photographer, the other three or non photographers, but we'll get into about how many percentage wise our photographers versus non photographers. I'm going to start out this segment with a video that I made for, uh, two talks that I did with an icon on their stage in w p p ay this past w p p I it's going to give you kind of like a little behind the scenes of, uh, my approach to them so let's see how that goes to be fair, okay, you call me a very weak moment was holding our new child and you said I wanna have someone come up with a photograph it's all day. I'm like all that so...

unds amazing. And then when you get closer to the time after your mother's been here for two weeks, and we've just had a child by herself for one day, and you said two people are gonna come in our house all day and take photographs of us, yeah, I was quite a bit it's, quite to the point of angry, actually really, like when my clients one if not both, are a little bit apprehensive. Oh are nervous about shoot and their little to no expectations about how it's gonna go with me, spending the whole day with them? Um, it it's not so much a challenge as it's exciting for me, tio integrate myself in their family, and you can see them relax over the first two hours. Uh, and once I gain their trust and they really let their guard down that's, what makes my job most rewarding? It was like we were saying after you left, like, that was a million times, but you're pretty, you're just on your private, and I guess more formal around friends and, you know, especially people don't think with anything for the first thirty minutes to an hour it's, kind of you know what I do, get off the couch and acknowledge that there's a person in the house or just, you know, and then you took a little lot again change, but then you do forget you're here, but you're doing it in a good way or if you're here like you just kind of right in step with us, so you're not like, not like I was doing, you know, hurt you. I'm not worried. You always warmed my clients. I had a time that it's not the prettiest process, sometimes watching me shoot. First of all, I arrived at the house with nothing fancy toe, where I always remembered where things that are comfortable that I don't mind getting dirty or what or anything else of the above. Also stuff that's really easy for you to move in thursday. No doing my hair wearing makeup, and I usually shoot daylight sessions with my glasses on because after shooting for twelve or thirteen hours straight, sometimes my eyes dry out, so I usually shoot with my glasses and I can put ourselves in positions, uh, in around furniture above below that might make me look a little bit crazy, but I always assure them that in the end it because I'm making the best pictures possible for that they really did interact with us as much as you're shooting they feel natural may feel nationals people forget that when you're doing something either for your work here, whatever it is you have to be you know, involved with conversation and talk to people get to where we're number one we're comfortable with you being outside with our kids always step in sound you know we're not okay that you step back get your fund with thanks and that way I think my favorite part of a day and life sessions why I've really fallen in love with documenting families is because I cannot plan for the shoot in any way I have to be constantly online on my feet my brain is always working a daughter for it really is a story each family that I get to spend entire day with really get to show these families how much they love on how much they are loved and how much uh goes into a full day I get to see things that the parents might not necessarily get to see because especially if they have more than one child they their attention might be on one activity or one of their children and I get to photograph what's happening behind and then I get to show I also love showing especially my mom's how hard they work and I think sometimes they forget how much work being a mom is and also how appreciated they are? Uh, sometimes I don't think they realize how appreciated they are, and so I get to show him that through their pictures as a photographer. It's uh, really, uh, it's a really wonderful experience for me to get to see how a family interact with one another, how they handle conflict um, how they show each of their children how they love them and I get to be there and document that and give that to them so they can look back on that and remember that one time in that year that represented exactly what they're feeling was like, waste price, smooth, kind, a lot of things that I don't get to see because I'm doing with newborn or with two year old or, you know, like max's friend despite quite far ahead, I have to choose you to be with when your photograph to everybody, you know, it's something find this guy quote from amanda claire photography's who says holy crap, I'm about to be a sobbing mess. Yeah, people intend to be a little bit teary during that sorry we're going to talk about why I find day in life sessions important we talked about this a minute ago our session go there's me with a troll harrigan um I feel like that day in the life sessions are away for a family to revisit what their life was like, then moment in time, then they can go back to that they can almost transport theirselves back to that moment in time I think that dane life sessions preserve history so my mom was always the photographer and so how many pictures really with her in it, but with the data life session when the whole family is in it, you're actually preserving the entire a time when that family was together and it's part of history you're making history for them we're saving that history that's going to be looked at years and years and years, probably decades later. Um for me like when we talked about finding your own voice the photos give the subject and opportunity to see the development in their personality. So that's me with my cousin in the bathtub in that smirk on my face I still make that look and I think it's really awesome that, like, I can look back on these pictures of when I was a little baby like a cot that's me like that, I can totally see that and then maybe one day when I have kids and I know people do this, I might see that same look in my daughter son's face and that's gonna be really fun to look at right compare pictures like when I showed you earlier that colleen had the photo of her and her mom when they were a little on the on the dresser while she was nursing like maybe I you know, I'll have that and the photos will be a means for generations to relate to one another like I talked about with my grandmother in her photos that I look back on that now I can see oh my god, look at my gramma more more when she was eighteen years old and she was smoking like hot, then why do you have all these pictures with all your suitors? But like for me? And you can look at those and there's a way for us to connect because I didn't live, then obviously it only when she was that young, but by the picture by the pictures she can still live at that age in some way. So what I did is I just asked a lot of people toe asked me questions about dating life sessions because I'm not exactly sure what people want to know or like what information you want to learn about me and how I approach him. So this whole talk is just questions and answers and hopefully by showing you pictures and answering these and lancer your questions as well, or maybe bring up new ones that I haven't heard before so the first question that I got wass and this is the big question how do you convince your clients that they want the pj stuff and not the more formal structured pictures? I want to emphasize this over and over again show what you want to shoot it's so important if you want to find clients who want this, you can't show them a bunch of babies and basket pictures like that's they're not going to know that you even do this, so you have to show on li what you want to shoot and by the way, just stop me any time there's a question um I'm totally fine with that you want to build your portfolio? So I think earlier someone asked about what do we do it for a brand new photographer? We want to get into the business and we want to just start out with dane life sessions I think that's fine, I think that's awesome start slow my mentoring students when I take them even on a four hour shoot when we're mentoring in the field, they are exhausted if they are not used to it it's not like a wedding, I'm telling you is different from a wedding even if you're used to shooting six, eight, ten hours at a wedding it is different for one you're up and down a whole lot more, but your brain is constantly making decisions, so for me and more mentally exhausted than anything else, but you need to build your portfolio. So jim had asked me of lunch. He was like a curse. I'm just curious how many did you do before you started charging? I think that was a really good question. So I think I shot six, five or six before I decided I was ready to, like, actually ask for money and the reason being is I needed that portfolio, so I did six full day sessions for free, and I was pretty ballsy about it, too. Like I photographed tyler's family who was my like, my hero use my teacher he's changed everything about how I shoot now, but I was I had the cornice to be like, I'm gonna photograph your family even though he was my teacher. But he did, and I think that pressure actually helped me shoot even better because I was like, really on my game also, they're awesome parents more awesome. The parents are more involved. They are with their kids like it just it's, almost easy, like the story's almost right themselves. Um, I've photographed danny angry lars family for free came efforts, family for free a couple of friends back in richmond, I just I was eager about it, and I I think that the only way that you can do is if you like or really like you're hungry to like start adding this to your your services and start like making this a part of your business um so you have built a portfolio so that you have images to show you have full galleries or, um abbreviated galleries that people can see that you you know what you're doing um I always share real moments that make the viewer feel something because if I'm showing these and they react to them, they're going to remember them right? If you don't have any sort of connection with your pictures that you're looking at and there's not nothing, it resonates in the brain then you're not that they're gonna look elsewhere or they're not they're going to be looking at other people and they're not ever going to remember the pictures you made um this isn't really nerdy what's that show america's got talent and uh uh howard stern he always says like when when he's giving critique he says, I'm just not going to remember that that makes a huge difference and he's right? I think about the accent or on my god I'm admitting that I watched the show but it's true there's like certain acts that are on the show if you watch american idol or are along with chair spin with voice or whatever there's just acts that you remember, right? There's people that you meet in your life, you meet people all the time. But then there's like this one that, like, makes an impression and you remember them being memorable is everything. So by making pictures that make the viewer feel something, you're actually making memorable images by showing those does that make sense? Okay, yes. Ready for question. So from six, five studios in dan life sessions, do you asked a family, do you? Sorry, do the families asked for family? Portrait's also? And do you let the family give recommendations on what they want captured? Um, no to the portrait, unless the vacation session, if it is a vacation session and I'm with the family for three days or more. It's usually a lot of times there's extended family on vacation with them, and I will allow them a half hour for formal family photos because I realize in that situation that they probably aren't all together the whole lot. And so I don't have a problem making a couple of formal family photos day in the life sessions. Do not get that option. It's this completely documentary. What was the other question? Um uh, no, they that's the family give recommendations on what they want captured, sure. Yes, they can definitely recommend I actually asked them, what do you want to dio like? And I'm going to talk about what I suggest that they do in a little bit. So just hold on tight, okay? Just to read on your other sessions, the is it the one hour that you do? You do both right? The two hour the shorter yes, the shorter sessions, they it's more of a portrait session so they get the fifteen minutes in the beginning and then the forty five minutes of regular playtime. Yeah, so funny. We're both mirror each other, send a slide show. Um, it makes a world of difference to send a slide show because there is a certain amount of connection with music with images that I don't know people like they really attached themselves watching my promo video with the music and hearing the families talk about it. I always send that. Now I send that and regular slide shows because I also want them to hear that because dad's air hesitant. A lot way more than moms. Dads are always a little bit on the fence about about this. And so I show them that so that they can see that that dad was like him. Aldo like she's not coming in the house after we just had a kid we have two other kids running around but he said like after an hour it was like you were part of the family, so I want hesitant dads to hear that and realize that it's really kind of pretty easy, painless thing that's going to be very rewarding in the end, but I always send a slide show as you guys saw, I usually sent two of my most recent slide shows really make an impact slides were in those slide shows so it's usually the artisan edit on dso it's around one hundred fifty pictures okay, yeah roughly about the same that I deliver for a wedding I shoot roughly ten thousand pictures a day when I'm doing dane life sessions of those I narrow it down the first edit yes ten thousand ok, thank you folks been asking if they're all like one thousand s about ten thousand frames for the day I'm shooting for about fourteen hours off those I narrowed down to about eight hundred to a thousand for the extended gallery and then from that I'm only picking one hundred fifty for the slide show of that I'm only showing about maximum twenty pictures on my blogged and facebook so it's a very small percentage that's a lot of h I t m shooting right? It is uh person yes how much so out of those pictures that you are giving the family is there are you shooting a lot of like here's the same scene but you're making a different face or like are you giving them a lot of options to choose from as far as what they want to print, you know it was in one scene yes, they'll get a few yeah so as you saw and dane life's or even more so I'm stubborn and I will sit in the situation for a good five or ten minutes with day in the life I got like fourteen, fifteen hours to shoot, so why not? So I'm pretty late I'm pretty persistent and getting the shot I want off that I might shoot like two hundred frames of just one scene and then they might get two or three to choose from but they have to be good like they always get good pictures but the best one goes in the artisan at it. But yes, I always think about the mom's mom might know like her train so much right there, so we'll give her one more that's almost close um with the enquiries I explain just how important I believe the photos are and like I said before, I really think that you have to believe in these in order to get your clients to believe that they are important as well in one way I do that is by reminding them of how fleeting this time in their children's life is. It is amazing just I used to teach kindergarten and to see like when they first come to kindergarten and their babies and they were wet their pants all the time and they don't know like most of them don't know how to read, some of them don't even know they're there letters of the alphabet, and by the time they leave and getting ready to go to first grade, they're reading the writing they're doing math like simple math problems, they're socializing better there's a huge difference in that nine months that I would have those kids from the kindergarten the first day to the last day, so change happens really fast if you keep pushing it off, putting it off old, doing extra, we have the money, we'll do it, we'll do it next year, you're gonna lose out on that time and that's. Why? I also say I really encourage working with me every year or every other year because everything changes like the dynamic dynamic of how the siblings interact with or another there's gonna be more siblings or maybe there's a me a pet, you know, a new pattern, his pet there's, another pet um change jobs, you're less stressed maybe you and the hubby er enjoying each other more so like you're more affectionate the next year it changes so much that it's really important okay here's another question how do you talk to your clients about letting them, uh about gaining full access and again it parallel to what I said in business you have to be yourself because you're not going to be anything other than yourself during the shoot so if you just you are who you are you want like with the wedding they're going to follow them with their pictures but they also want to fall in love with you too, so trust that and be confident in that and just be yourself um and then they will let you into their lives because everyone's going to be relaxed uh also as faras getting access for the whole day you want to show in addition to a slide show I want them to see a whole gallery the reason being is I want them to see actually how much they're going to get, how many images air really going to have and how consistent I am from the beginning of the day to the end of the day and what it looks like so have absolute full coverage I want them to feel good about that in the investment that they're making they're like well, you don't need to stay to bed time um I tried explaining them that like a lot of the times my favorite part of the day is towards the end of the day I think I get some of the best moments so that's why I choose to stay until they all go to bed also when you're under chute like one way to just get the trust and access and be there the whole day is you gotta smile a lot enjoy what you're doing have fun with the kids also asked a lot of questions and listen to the answers because like I said yesterday or no maybe it was this morning on the video with the newborns I'm asking questions to get to know my clients but I'm also asking questions to get clues on what's important to them howto expect or anticipate some of the behaviour that they're going to do decisions they're going to make um so I'm asking questions for multiple reasons photographically in personally as well um explained that you want to become a part of their family for the day simple is that I don't want to be a photographer I just want to be a member of the family yes I think that's a good time for the question we talked about earlier which was I asked you how do you stay invisible yes this is why I tell my students the more present you are the more invisible you become that silly waken answer that that's good the more connection you make the more involved you are you don't become invisible but your camera does and they just kind of don't even realise that you're there shooting anymore it's less is no longer a photo shoot and she is a day hanging out with kirsten and that really is how it how it becomes towards the end of the day I really encourage them that as well me being myself all they have to do is be themselves that's it I don't want them to be anything else and I really share that in my my emails oh that reminds me I'm not trying to play anything but that I'm gonna be uploading a business set a business pdf ce and I'll have my question ears in there as well as my response emails in my inquiry email templates I suggest that if you are interested in if you purchase them don't copy them like make it for you but like it gives you kind of like a guideline the questionnaire you khun copy whatever I don't care but you want your inquiry response to increase to like be person lies for you but you can use as a guy laid for how much information I give um the other thing is you have to make sure that you have no expectations you have to go into the shoot okay you can have one expectation there's going to be a meltdown like at one point during the day a kid is going to melt down other than that you can't have any expectations um is this is a really special picture and might not be a special picture to you it's not a special picture to jim or jenna in the back but it's a really important picture to them and it was really important that I made this picture without have any expectations it's the very first time their daughter stood without any help, I knew she was close, but I had no expectations about giving that picture, but I listened I knew that they were talking about it throughout the day leading up to the day um or going through the day and so we went to music class and I photographed her music class and they're dancing around and all of a sudden she naturally on her own went to clap her hands and her mom was like, and I don't even see your face I knew what was happening and I was able to get the shot, so for them this is a once in a lifetime. I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to get this picture, but I didn't have any pressure on myself to do it. I just was very aware of the situation by asking questions by being observant by being a good listener picking up on clues kind of like context clues when we read same thing like klute just clues telling me if this happens I better make this picture and it did and so when it happened I knew exactly what I had gotten so here's another question when do you start and finish the day? Are you there when they wake up and when they go to bed and the answer is yes, I give them twenty four hour coverage meaning twenty four hours with me ninety five nine five percent of the time I'm sleeping over so I go there at night around dinner time um usually I'm flying in so they just pick me up and take me to the house and I have dinner with them and gets in the kids they usually want to show me their rooms ask a lot of questions about you know about them about school just to get them toe really feel comfortable with me that way in the morning when it's six a m and they're waking up and I'm in their face with a camera it's not like yeah it's oh, I curse soon like they know it was really did I already tell us? I don't think until this story here I was shooting up in canada and it's actually mentor students of mine so we did our mentoring session because they all get a one on one so we did a mentoring session and then the day in the life and then we're all going to a photo conference can a photo conference after and we're rushing around and the baby sitter was already there and they were eating and we're getting ready to leave and I walked him in the baby sitter kind looked at me and the five or four year old was just like oh don't worry that's my friend kirsten only because I had spent that one day with him we're we're friends that's my friend kirsten so um yeah I do twenty four hours of coverage uh being I really want to be there and make good pictures when they wake up and when they go to bed yes but you're not shooting that night that you get there you're not you know when I first started doing these I would shoot at night and then like I would do afternoon tonight and then morning toe afternoon but I have stopped doing that made a for a lot of reasons I was just kind of like figuring out how things worked like which would work better but it's not really good it's not good continuity too late due to different days so I just do from beginning to end the one day um that being said honestly just because this is how I do it does not me this is how you have to do it and also guys that are interested in doing day in the life sessions it is going to be harder for them to get the access to sleepover, I hate saying that it's like kind of not fair but it's just how it is that it's going to be a lot easier for female to sleep over in the home than it is for a man I don't think it's impossible I just think it's going to be tougher? I think if you know the family if you're friends with them it's fine, but for a lot of my guys students, I just say you probably just want to stay in the hotel if you're out of town or just due in town, go to dinner kind of hang out with them, go back to your house, then be there in the morning, tyler he does a normal day sessions I think is what he calls them and I think he just does four hours for five hours and he makes great pictures and foreign five hours, just a matter of the type of story you want to tell. I'm like really super eager to tell the whole story. So that's why I want to do the toy for hours that being said, it might change when I have a baby. If I you know, if I'm lucky to have a baby, it might change, I don't know we'll see when it happens, but for right now it's always twenty four hours of coverage um I'm telling you, the longer you spend with the family, the more trusted access should in the game, I would never be able to make this picture in one hour. It would be very difficult toe like just be with a family for now, and then they're fine with stripping down and me being in there while once going potty ones going in the stall. Um, so the longer you're there, the more really intimate pictures you're gonna be able to make. My goal is that they love me so much that they're super sad when I leave and it happens a lot. Are you coming back? They are you ever coming back? Are you going away forever? Um, this was a dizzy world shoot, you know, they say disney world is ahead, happiest place on earth, it is actually the most miserable place on earth. I mean, you've got parents that are drinking, they don't care about being good parents anymore, they're screaming at their kids or kids or crime because they the indiana jones thing was too long or too loud and cotton candy is gross all of a sudden and like everyone's wet and then there's temper tantrums and it is horrible I loved being there shooting, but like, it is not fun like you just see disgruntled parents like everywhere, everywhere you look

Class Description

Learn how to capture genuine, emotional images of families. In Family Photography: Modern Storytelling, Kirsten Lewis will teach you how to take meaningful documentary-style family photographs.

Kirsten Lewis takes a unique approach to family photography, leaving posing techniques and studio light at the door to capture real moments, as they are lived. In this class Kirsten will share her techniques for creating the relationships and environments that help her subjects feel at ease and open-up in an authentic way while she shoots. You’ll revisit the art of storytelling through still images and how to bring storytelling into your work with families. Kirsten will teach you the steps to developing client relationships that allow you to honestly document a family, from birth onward, while nurturing your business. You’ll learn new ways to approach composition and editing so your final product is both beautiful and true to reality.

If you want to deepen your relationships with the subjects you shoot and deliver photographs that are joyful and authentic, join Kirsten for this in-depth class on documentary-style family photography.



I cannot recommend Kirsten's course highly enough. I've tuned in to a couple of CreativeLive courses on photographing families and children, and they were both very "studio"-centric. A lot of posing, a lot of gear, etc. I don't have a studio and a lot of gear, I don't desire to, I'm uninspired by the outcomes, and I tuned out pretty quickly. I love capturing people, especially kids and families, in their moments. I love a great candid. I love "documentary photography" (as I learned to call it from this course). And loving and creating photos that tell a story or capture a genuine moment is exactly what this course taught us to do, and did a fantastic job of doing. A few things I loved about Kirsten from the get go: she is not pretentious, but intelligent and genuine; she as a person and her photography are inspiring; she knows how to teach - technical without being 'technical', knows how to explain her process, draws on her mistakes so we can all learn from them (and our own - and this is a HUGE element of teaching most people lack!), all the while packing in an enormous amount of information that could improve anyone's photography. is very accessible in her explanations and her language; she is honest: a good teacher will be critical because again, if she's not (and if we're not open to it) how will we ever learn? Although I felt sometimes her language was a bit harsh or her assessments "right or wrong" where more nuanced language could be merited - my one critique. really seemed to be teaching first and foremost to have people learn and be excellent photographers, and to enjoy the gifts photography can offer (personally and productively), which made it so much more appealing to be "in the room". Best of all, I had an awakening that I am allowed to be myself in my photography. As much as I love candids, I get caught up in the expectation to take posed pics, for those I'm taking the photos for more than for myself. No more. It makes me impatient and disappointed with the outcomes. I'm going to cultivate what I love. I also finished each day inspired to take and process photos - visiting my nieces, bringing my camera everywhere. During the class I kept going into lightroom to look at my pics while she was teaching, to compare my past photos to what she was teaching. It was such a wonderful learning experience. Thank you Kirsten for being true to yourself, going out on a limb in your approach, and sharing all of this with us!

Kathleen Petersen

I started out in photojournalism, but it was a long time ago. Back in the 70s, I would play with the little ones, in their backyards, or at their breakfast tables, to get lots of beautiful, real images. Then, over the years, with the need to earn income, and then later, the need to compete, I got side tracked. I still did photojournalistic images of my kids, and eventually, their kids, but clients were wanting specific things. I called it the line-them-up-and-shoot-them style of family photography. The creative soul within was always longing for the more natural, more real images, and I have always been able to sneak them in to any session. But my business was mostly about everything else. I shot some weddings early on, to pay my dues and my rent. But discovered that I much preferred being a second shooter and capturing the candid moments and the details. As I am now a grandmother, I have been making changes gradually in my business to get back to my roots. Taking this class has been life-changing for me. I was making these tiny little baby steps, as if I was afraid that I would fall out of favor with my current and future clients. The competition is huge here in socal, so how could I dare step away from the white shirts and khakis? I dare. I am about to completely revamp my business model to return to where I started from. I plan to march to the beat of my own drummer. It really does make one happy to follow one's passions and to be true to one's self. I don't even care if I lose any clients. I want to provide for people something that is so essential. Real images that will nail down the memories forever as they interact and love each other. This is so important. At first, I wasn't sure if I would like Kirsten. But by the end of the three days, I loved her as if she were my best friend from forever ago. I love her for her personality, the things she taught us, and her great example. Best class I have ever taken at Creative Live, and that is saying something! Thank you!

Jo Benoy

The great thing about photography is that it can be all things to all people: a hobby, an art form, a profession. As long as I can remember, cameras and pictures have been important to me - for different reasons in different seasons. I have never been particularly interested in formal photos, and I thought my preference for "catching moments" in a style three or four notches above a snapshot made me seem like some sort of slackard. Enter Kirsten Lewis. In three days, she explained, modeled and taught the sort of shooting that I've loved for as long as I can remember. She mirrors my philosophy that good photographs aren't necessarily pretty, and that if a picture is compelling or evocative, it's a good one. Lewis is not only a gifted photographer but a clear and cogent teacher, which is always a welcome combination, and as strong as her tangible skills are her confidence and dedication to her own style and voice. I've watched and bought several CreativeLive courses, but I have enjoyed none more than this one: ever since watching it, my brain has been spinning and my shutter finger has been itchy. I loved, loved, loved this workshop.