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Family Photography: Modern Storytelling

Lesson 22 of 35

Day in the Life Sessions Part 2

Kirsten Lewis

Family Photography: Modern Storytelling

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

22. Day in the Life Sessions Part 2

Lesson Info

Day in the Life Sessions Part 2

If you don't do the entire day but instead to a window of time, do you try and hit the activity while there's a lot of activities going on, you plan an activity or does that take away from the organic nous of the shoot itself? Um, I do say that the best days are just normal days when there's really not a lot of activity going on outside of their regular normal schedule, because if you have kids, you know that the more you take them away from structure, the more away from their element, theme or meltdowns, you're going to experience which I don't mind shooting but it's going to happen, the more normal the day is the closer to the routine, the more honest, the moments homework that little guy was really having a rough time with adding, um, actually hears it here's where I break the fourth wall. Basically, I, um I taught them this trick, so he was just he was struggling was crying, and I was a first grade teacher. So I was like, how about we try this? And he was it was helping him a lot b...

y having the circles and then doing one number number, and then he could move it over. At the end, he was just done. Kids don't like that. Um oh for activities, because I think this question might come up if you're going to only do a few hours. When do you want to be there? I say later in the afternoon because they're going to start to get tired, they'll get a little cranky, but they'll also really be themselves there's a lot more activity in moments to photograph of it's towards the end of the day. So I say either towards the end of the day or the beginning of the day rather than just the middle was also more regular routine activities happening if you do the morning or the evening. Um but I hear it all the time when we got my family so boring, like you're not gonna have any fun, but honestly, honest god, real life is funny, people don't realize it like I can make pictures all day long of justin being in the house, which happens a lot because just real life is funny as far as making it cost effective. The number one thing you have to remember is that you have to love documenting families because I haven't found yet. That I make the same amount of money for wedding is I do a day in the life yet it's a lot more work and energy for me but because I love it so much and I'm committed to it I believe that eventually I'm going to get there um I am targeting celebrity clients at this point I don't care that this celebrities is of celebrity friends and I'm not I don't get star struck what I do care about is their desire for absolute privacy and because of that and I respect that privacy but they always ask for what's called an n d a non disclosure agreement and nd a cz can range from four times your regular rate to ten it just was having a conversation with someone who works with celebrities a lot I guess I'm going to try at six for now I'm going to multiply my price by six um because greg and I are going to start trying to get pregnant pretty soon after the wedding I don't want to be away all the time right now I'm travelling probably two hundred seventy days a year seriously I'm not even kidding it's a lot of time away I'm lucky that greg gets to come would be often but he doesn't shoot day life's with me so then he has to stay in the hotel if we're together all the time that I'm gone but if I photograph celebrities then I only need to be away from home maybe ten times a year and if I put in a couple of, uh vacation sessions, then I will be one hundred percent set um, so I'm working that out, but if you really love doing dane life sessions and is also filling you artistically, you can get paid, you're still doing it paid then more than most of your friends do for their jobs, but it's not gonna match probably a wedding pricing depending on where you at in your market, you can get there. It's I think it's slow because this is still new this's a still, this is still a new type of family shoot, so you're still got a very particular group of families out there. They're gonna be looking for this or want this that being said there's plenty of families that spend five thousand dollars a year just on studio portrait's I'm not even kidding, but those studio portrait photographers are really good at it in person sales, so they're not getting that upfront there getting that on the back end for me, I'm I'm asking to be paid for my service for my expertise, for my talent, what I think it's worth and so that's the difference so it's harder to convince clients to make that big investment upfront once already attached the photos, then the lake they'll sell the dog like they like it they really liked him, but the upfront costs is harder to get and I acknowledge this like I like I said, I'm still working out the business, but I'm making a living doing this I am I greg and I have only shot two weddings this year, but I've shot thirteen daily sessions fourteen and my teaching so it's good it's getting there some folks in the in the chat rooms including rebecca little kristo where you sleep because it always a guest room you bring their powers now sleeping bag yeah, usually they'll have a guest room but I have been known to sleep on many a couch on and I'm fine with that when we went with us when we go laugh about that a minute um I was, um I was with the family when they were on a case, so sometimes they do vacations and just hired me for one day and they were in a tiny little condo and we were like, really squeeze and it was me on the couch so I was there there would have been no sleeping in whether I wanted to or not like very close quarters, but I'm cool with that uh you really have to fall in love with your family's toe document them in an honest way genuinely from here like you have to put yourself into it like it takes effort aside from your photographic effort in your artistic effort it just takes effort in general emotionally um to make great pictures they're going to kill me I've got to switch the slide out um sorry guys if you're watching public this's I'm going talk about vacation sessions I just went to a small gathering of photographers and everyone contributes since I was talking about dana like sessions and these are my good friends leaving for vacation and they're in our back seat and they both fell asleep and so I stuck this slide in the in the talk which is pretty funny sorry so yeah we're going t fuck about vacation sessions there a little bit different approach them photographically a time a different than I do day life sessions because it's a different situation a lot times there's extended family there so I'm working really hard to make pictures of what it feels like to be on vacation and that's going to require you to be involved personally with every activity going on um this is but it's not about the activities please remember this I said this before yesterday it's not about the activities about the moments that happen during the activities and the only way to capture that is to be doing the activities with family so if you're going on vacation with them disney world disneyland you better be in there watching captain nemo it's in disney world and um I just remember to nobody knows in there like shooting like they just thought I was sitting and I'm sitting in front of them purposely and there's a guy sitting next to me and I keep shooting it's really dark and I don't think about my shutter and um I just hear the guy next to go what that effie is that he was really mad on that was me shooting and so I knew I was like, boom disturbing a little bit so once I got the image, I just kind of quiet it down on the pictures because he had no idea that I was taking pictures. Yes, so how long are your like do you go on vacation with them in the whole time? Like if they're at the beach for a week, they hire you bring you along or is it a couple days? I think I have it in here it's usually one day I offer the what's so they like hire me for a day in the life session, but it's wall they're at vacation and then I'll go there or it's a minimum of three days coverage if they want the vacation pricing because it's a little bit different, they get kind of a discount if they're gonna have me for multiple days and actually with vacation sessions I include files it's a totally different pricing set up um but you must experience the activities with your family so if they're in the water and there in the pool there the beach there in the ocean you better be in there with him and be in there and get close with a thirty five until you make pictures like this where they feel like they're like right like the bureau feels like they're in the water with them but that's because I wass in the water with him I showed this fisher before but you know, get wet, get dirty get this shot this I was so crazy that's the girl that stood for the first time she's been doing that underwater baby swimming since she was teeny tiny and it's so crazy they just like throw him in and then they swim and so I didn't have an underwater camera, although I believe nikon has come out with a dslr that is waterproof now it's interchangeable lenses that I think I'm going to get, but I just used my phone, I have ah life proof case and so when I got in, I got hit with the thirty five, but when I was done shooting with the thirty five, I just asked mom who wasn't in the pool hey, can you switch with mural quick? I don't mind doing that I mean I have no one else to switch with and I just gave up my thirty five years can you give me my phone and I just put the phone underneath, but I make in the water with them, and this is a situation where you want to ask we do anything water, relieve it if I'm leaving to go do a shoot all, make sure hazel anything want related, so I have my bathing suit with me because I'll definitely go in. Um, I mean, I'll go in with my clothes if I have to, but I'd rather just have suit, um, remember, when you're doing when you're shooting dane life sessions when you're shooting moments all the time, especially families, um, on vacation, don't forget that it's not just the activities, but it's all these in between moments that usually make for the best pictures usually okay, how do you get the kids to act like you aren't there? And is it harder to get the kids to act normal and or is it the adults? I could see the adults trying to pose or seemed perfect for the camera? Kind of the same answer that I have about the one day sessions is I always trying game the trust of the kid's first, he apparently is very afraid of forks, um, because eventually the parents will follow the example of the our kids eventually it is going to go back to being parents like if the kids are acting like themselves and eventually the kids are going to be the parents are just goingto go back into the net the natural and normal routine of parenting on dh then because once kids you got that trust from kids, they have no issues or problems being themselves um and that's what I love so much that I mean there's no sense of self and I tend to gravitate towards the naughty I like it I'm not afraid to document it you should not be afraid to get clothes they've invited you into their home and being naughty and having temper tantrums is all part of it it's just it isthe um many times I'm left alone with the kids um that's how much trust I get where they're just like oh hey, uh I'm gonna go make dinner do you mind if I just like leave you with the kids in the bathtub? And I don't mind that at all uh I also dont be held one hundred per cent responsible for anything that happens and that will tend to happen um but yeah, a lot of times I left alone with the kids and that's when I really get some like, naughty like, naughty moments um it's really fun uh my theory, my rule of thumb is as long as they aren't going to get terribly hurt, I will keep shooting there's this fine line between am I the responsible adult or my photojournalist? Which am I? And basically I make the decision then and there are they are they going to kill themselves? Are we gonna have to go to the vet and they hurt the dog in any way? If the answer is no, then I'll just like kind of let them do their thing because I'm alone with them a lot smoke, honestly balancing that decision to be and by the shooter or my baby sitter, and I'm definitely not the baby sitter, but I am the responsible person that is become a part of their lives for the day, so when I need to step in, it will. There was no need to step in with this, the he had just started learning the walk, so he was, like, seriously falling every three minutes. And when I've done beach sessions in the past and there's been multiple kids or like large families and like one little one, like dark towards the ocean, if mom or dad are nowhere to be found, I definitely stopped shooting and I grabbed them right away, but in this situation I was shooting I watched him come into my frame and I was like oh bite it bite it bite it I know you're gonna bite it eat some sand and because I knew that mom was right here so I knew that she was going to go like to his rescue and I was so lucky because now this is a situation where I shot a lot of frames so I know it's happening it's gonna happen and then as soon as I see him start to fall it's like I'm shooting as much as I possibly can because one millimeter of a second or millisecond whatever that word is we'll change it from being not a picture to a picture and for me it's not just that he's falling because there was a really good light here is like weird light but as he fell his feet caught that light and like that makes all the difference if his feet didn't have that late and probably wouldn't I have been a picture you really I really needed that light on his feet and that's by shooting a lot and remember that often times the parents are involved in shenanigans it's always funny when like dad gets in trouble for mom for like riling the kids up making them all rowdy cracks me up this is danny agra lars uh session him in his son again remember I talked about this a little bit yesterday about details I don't just take details to take details I make sure that whatever detailed pictures I do make that they are with purpose that they have some sort of relationship with the rest of the environment or with the subjects I'm making sure that I'm doing it with intent to have meaning so in this situation and I noticed that they had the ultrasound from um you know, when he was before he was born and they were playing on the bed and I first made clear crisp pictures of them playing the bed but then I wanted to make something different and that's how I made that pictures so I got basically the safe shot first and I just started wandering uh here's something there's another really good piece of advice that I always give my students especially kids if you miss something that a kid has done nine times out of ten he's going to do it again kids have very predictable repeatable behavior they do the same thing over and over again and that's like that is really one of the best piece of advice I can give you do not give up and do not put your camera down if you miss them something they will probably do it again so just wait and if they don't do it in that exact moment they might do it ten minutes later so just keep it in the back of your mind don't give up on it altogether in that situation he kept throwing him over and over and over again and I knew that would probably have time to make that picture um or sometimes shenanigans is happening right in front of the parents face and they're like not even paying attention or realizing it like when she was wearing his shoes and I'll be like snickering like laughing really hard like behind the camera and trying not to in any way get their attention because I don't want it uh I don't want to interfere with the integrity of the moment that's not my job I don't want to interfere with it um temper tensions are plentiful I honestly do not be afraid of them whatsoever uh some people are they're afraid to take pictures of kids crying or getting in trouble I do not care about that um that's my job that's why I'm there so I make pictures and that's life like that's what life is all about? Remember I was doing a beach portrait session once and this kid was just having off fit like the fit of fitz he was like grabbing san and yeah like kept and then was rolling around in the sand and all his dad's that was pleased with the god love of god please tell me you're getting all that I was like oh yeah I am he's like because that is going to be completely wonderful pieces of information and blackmail that I can have later in life for him. Yes. Uh, question from jessica. Do you ever have issues in the beginning with the family's doing activities with big smiles on their faces, like they're trying to act like the perfect family and you get them to stop with one hour sessions more likely with day in the life sessions, pretty much after an hour of being with them, all of that goes away. I honest to god like there there comes a point you can almost feel the breath out where then they just normally themselves, so no, just I don't really have that issue with dane life sessions with the one hour sessions there are times when that happens. Uh, one thing I I d'oh uh, is I try and train my subjects not to look at me not to be aware of my camera and the way that I do that is if I'm shooting and they address me with their eyes or they start cheese, which kids will d'oh or, um, if the parents were like, acting like it's, the perfect family and all put the camera down and I won't shoot, I actually do that wedding sue during cocktail hour when they're like, and I just like, um or I'll pretend like I'm not paying attention I'm looking at something else when they go back to their whatever they're doing that I'll shoot with kids it's really easy, they learned right away kids are such fast learners don't reward them for that behavior that's what you're doing when they do that and you photograph them, you're rewarding them. You're telling them all keep doing that if you refused to shoot them when they do that, they will learn. Oh, well, every time I look, you're not gonna take a picture s o that could happened really quickly, so you just kind of, like, train them, retrain them, actually, because most people are taught when a camera is put in their face that they're supposed to smile, so you just have to kind of, like, retrain their brain. It doesn't take long at all but that's another good trick to give you, um, our job is to just photograph life as it is and this picture I think a lot of parents can relate to the temper tantrum in the disney world in the middle of the desert world parking lot. Umm I can't remember why she was really upset, but she was having none of it, I think we she wouldn't get up for like ten minutes and the parents were so whupped their just like we'll just let her sit there until she says get up or she gets hit by a car one of the other um joking, but yeah, we let her sit there for quite a while. Um so our job really is all it is is it photograph their life as it is now what they want it to look like and that kind of re addresses justice question is were there to photograph everything from the good two sometimes the bad um to even sometimes the ugly um like times or some chaos going on when there's a lot of chaos you want to back up as much as you can to include all of it at the same time? Yeah, it was crazy sometimes there's like weird pictures that I make because sometimes kids are weird um and at the same time as you guys have seen a lot of my pictures now I like to find the quiet moments as well. I really love this picture she wanted go outside and play so badly and it would not stop raining the entire time she was so bummed and again exposing for the highlights on her face um to get that reflection because you need the dark behind her to get the reflection will um so as much as I like the chaos I like the quiet I really like some of the peaceful moments that parents have their kids it happens quite a bit uh but you just had to be looking for it you have to notice it sometimes there is just exhausted moments um uh and at the same time there could be like when parents are being funny and kids don't think that's funny like stealing her hat um but at the end of the day when I'm trying to photograph is love and all of that is love but what I want my family's to feel from it is love if I can do that then I've done my job I'm successful here's a question what percentage of the time do you spend interacting and observing what times you put the camera down so ninety about ninety percent of time the camera is in my hands all the time even if I'm interacting with the kids um I have the camera that being said about ten percent of the time it's not in my hands but it's right next to me so vacation shoot three days if they want me to read to them for ten minutes it's totally fine I dio but my camera if you can't see it's right in that corner it's right here I always have the thirty five with me just in case something happens it is not just in dane life sesh shins and do this like I'm really like involved in making the picture no matter where I am and if it requires laying in bird poop in the middle of cuba then I will make the picture equally. So uh photos from when I was in africa and I was working with the kids like I will either an act with them are actually just like put it down these kids in the orphanage they had never felt white people here before and it's so soft to them that they were just it was like, I mean immediately hands like in the hair and pulling out my elastics and then braiding it and they oh, what do you do with your hair is so cute and so I think I let him do that for like a half hour and I just talked to him and then so beth shot while I was getting my hair did I have that same problem everywhere I know e so when you mentioned just a minute ago that you like you're never too far away from your thirty five you mean that the thirty five lens that's on the camera are you mostly when you're inside someone's home? Is it mostly the thirty five like ninety percent of the time? I would say I probably shoot with thirty five, seventy five to eighty percent of time in general are inside the home in general because well, there's activities we talked about that yesterday I'll use that eighty, two hundred eighty five but also its I have to remind myself sometimes that its good to change it up with visual variety and one of the best ways to do that is with a different lens so I will just say it myself okay, I'm going or I'm getting bored with a scene I'd be like okay, I'm gonna use the eighty five like I'm gonna go use my eighty five or I'm going to try the two hundred inside it only used eighty five as my long outside I'll use the two hundred said helpful at all okay, good um but for me, like, I'm just like, really involved with my subjects one shooting think this is a here's a question how do you balance one that kind of asked this before? How do you balance their expectations of what they want their lives look like versus what their lives actually looked like? And how do you answer the question? What do you wear? Obviously my question is just where whenever you want, um just wear what you would normally wear during the day um this is the picture that's up there because nothing is better than real life, so I can't like I can't uh say that enough it's just nothing is better than real life my favorite part of day in the life sessions is because there's absolutely no expectations like going into it, like kind of blind, like I wonder what's gonna happen today. Um, you just really have to be prepared for anything. So this is we're on a farm in florida looking at cows, and then all of a sudden the farmer is like that cow is being born right now. And that was really interesting to explain to an eight year old four year old and a two year old what's coming out of the cows. But, um, but it was also pretty fascinating. Um, it was pretty amazing. And the dog, if you see the dog like he's, ready to herd already on dh, then the farmer just went out there to make sure everything was okay. Uh, but it's just kind of like, I feel so grateful to witness that. I think that was a first. For me, it was pretty awesome.

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.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Family Portraits Quick Tips

Sponsor Discount Codes

Gear Guide

Family Session - HD

Newborn Session - HD

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



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.