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Family Photography: Modern Storytelling

Lesson 23 of 35

Day in the Life Sessions Part 3

Kirsten Lewis

Family Photography: Modern Storytelling

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

23. Day in the Life Sessions Part 3

Lesson Info

Day in the Life Sessions Part 3

I'm going to show you to siri's of likes like smaller stories in the bigger story and how I approach them super funny actually so this is the ballet class and um I know this question then come up how do you get permission to shoot in a ballet class with other kids? I just made an announcement I stood up and I was like, hey guys, I'm doing a day in life session for this family and they would love it if I could get some pictures of their daughter in ballet class how do you feel about that? Uh, you know, if anyone has a problem, let me know in the parents feel like it's fine and I said, like, I'm more than willing to let the man's give you any pictures and I make you know, just let him know and so they're they're fine with it just ask, um in this situation ask it's always usually better to ask for permission than forgiveness in this case because there's other kids involved I just asked her permission s o this is the ballet class and so my job, the thing I loved is she's not really the gir...

ly ist of girls, their daughter and it was evident that even though she was a ballet class that she wasn't really the most primitive proper princess and I love that kind of love the dichotomy of that the juxtaposition rather I also love that landing is the one that takes his daughter to go to the ballet class and get ready I just think it's so sweet that the dad is like putting on the ballet slippers and he watches her um ballet classes was a very interesting experience as little girls in ballet class and I was in ballet class did not remember that were really naughty like any time the teacher would turn their back they will be like throwing scarves at each other like they were playing with scarves or hating each other making faces at each other so was awesome for me to like expect that I saw it happen once and then I was raided make pictures of it again I'm also looking to make just interesting different pictures of valley class but here's like teacher turns around for a second and this is happening there's a scarf in the in the air um little girl's concentrating really hard making um their positions third position as a remember that the action in the reaction so um lenny and then the little brother were there the whole time and watching and I want to make a picture of that but also looking for just patterns like I do with the one hour sessions um that little girl's face cracks me up uh this was the picture I really want to make it's another one of those detail pictures, but it was really storytelling, so I wanted to make a picture that showed that she was really more of a tomboy, but she was like, all dressed up in a ballet outfit, and that was the key to it like that noticing that the hole in her stocking. But how do I make that a picture of the holder stocking an interesting way? So I tried all different sorts of things, so this is when the eighty five you need the eighty five if the thirty five is not going to make this picture, but the eighty five wilkes to the compression, and then once I got my composition, it was a matter of shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, because I wanted her in the air I really love like that flip of this skirt, so I must have made, like, a hundred two hundred frames of this just to make one picture she's the only one not paying attention, which I love, and when I'm in a situation of concentrating on making pictures of her, I'm including the other, the other girls. But my priority is making pictures of her, and I I really just couldn't keep my eyes off her anyways, so that's, the ballet ballet class, this is from another session, uh, entitled this the grocery store if you've ever had your husband or father of your children take him to the grocery, I think this might represent the representational what happens when dads take their kids to the grocery store because it was absolute madness like I couldn't believe what was happening like from the moment we got there it was like a little bit out of control like wrangling cats and the kid's obviously knew that this was behaviour that was acceptable with that um I didn't know that kid's got that they have cookies in the back oh, this is another thing canada is wonderful about photographing in public they're awesome about it the us not so much so be aware of that be very inconspicuous that's when I will ask for forgiveness, not permission, so if they go to the store, I'll on lee bring my thirty five millimeter I'll keep it really close to be and I'll be selective and what I'm taking pictures of and then I put the camera right back down because I'm usually kicked out especially like a target, a wal mart, a cbs they do not for whatever reason really don't like pictures even if it's for personal use in canada there like welcome to canada, you can take pictures wherever you want and like I just blatantly took these photos and there was no issue they didn't care, so that was really awesome um again pretty sure you're not supposed to ride the cart like that but that just doesn't really care at one point they just all leave in he leaves the kids alone in the dairy section to like fend for themselves or like pulling yogurt down um okay, so that's the story of the so dad we're in aisle twelve and dad's like, oh crap, I forgot something in aisle one and he's like I'll be right back and I was like, okay and then the kids decide they're going to get out of the cart she doesn't even have shoes on if you notice and all I'm doing is watching because they don't want a car to flip over this is one of those situations like where do I get involved? I was like, oh no, I'm just going to take pictures but then they heard dad coming so you made sure that they got back in the hat um and I was just like I can't lose happening is that this is actually happening and I'm just shooting and not saying anything and then they then she gets back out of the car door heat like dad took her out and then they leave and don't even realize that she is still like hanging out in the eye all trying to grab the pig spoon and so I caught that remember it it makes more sense if you can see her and then them in the background so it's like the real it really gives you a sense of she's being left alone if you choose to shoot from that perspective um and clearly that is not how kids are supposed to sit in the seat because there's a warning right there that label you're not supposed to sit in a seat but what I love is this picture because his dad said that he always does this he always helps load the grocery cart at the end of like the end of the shopping trip and I think that he'll remember that like helping his dad load the grocery heart s o that's unimportant picture to make okay, what type of family's request that is the most are they mostly home visits or family visits or vacations? Well, first and foremost the families that are asking for this are really families that appreciate photography I think that's why I have so many family uh families that are photographers themselves they really appreciate this kind of session um they're so about sixty percent of what I do this has changed a little bit in the last couple of months but about sixty percent or home visits and then twenty percent our vacation sessions but there just one day so their day in the life sessions while the family's on vacation and then the other twenty percent are multiple uh day vacation sessions um currently about seventy percent of my clients are photographers again that's changing I just booked three out of the four sessions this past month are not photographers so it's catching on but I get like predominantly its photographers that reach out to me and then either their friends or old clients last times that will happen like if they don't shoot day in the life sessions the photographers you'll refer me to their clients ah the rest of my clients like I said our referrals our family is looking for one hour portrait sessions so that's my one our portrait pdf for magazine I actually show day in the life pricing first before the portrait pricing because I want to introduce him to that first and I want them to want that before they even look at the family pricing so the time that they're like so entrenched and absorbed and material and wanting this for their families they'll forget about the one hour sessions altogether um and that's what I'm saying this is a key teo provide the day life session first information first before you give him the portrait session pricing because we talked about this most people just don't know about him they don't know that they're available so the more information you can give them the more excited they'll be teo hire you uh how do you manage the flow and energy of the shoot when it becomes stale or boring my first answer is kids are never boring, there's always something happening. However, I just did a newborn shoot well, not new born she's, like six months old is just her parents, so I was a little bit worried that that would be boring to shoot s so when she would go down for a nap, I'd actually just put the camera down and hang out with the parents, but there was still, like, a lot going on. I was really surprised, like there's still a lot of interaction happening between the parents and the kid, and then I did suggest maybe you want to invite you extended family over for a little bit, and so there'd be more, you know, more activity and more interaction between the daughter and her grand parents, and so they did that they liked that I suggested that, but if it gets really boring or, like it's, a kind of just mundane activity, I'll look for the things similar to that I look for with the one hour sessions, you know, I'm looking for pattern behavior. Um, I really love subject mirroring when they're doing the same thing, so I'll I'll really look for that, and I'll wait for that moment, I'm pretty persistent about trying to make those pictures and, like I said, before, repetitive behavior leads to multiple opportunities to get the shot so if you miss it the first time, you can at least predict it and then keep trying until you make the picture and sometimes I'll just find a really interesting composition and I'll be patient and then hope that something happens in it like when he really wanted the eggs and that low machine like call machine or never also I just shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot a lot uh ten thousand frames and the day is a lot of pictures I'm working really hard to make pictures I'm also looking for playing with simple shapes to make interesting and strong graphic elements. Yes, quick question on the ten thousand shots we did some basic editing and calling yesterday how long does that? How long will it traditionally take you to dio single day shoot to get to edit? Probably two days? Okay, I taught it takes me about two days to call or edit through the session I can't do it all in one fell swoop calling makes me sleepy no, no, it doesn't for anybody else, so I have to kind of take breaks because I don't want to start letting crap in to the edit, so if I get really tired, I'm not really paying attention will be like, ok, ok, so and I kind of need to be alert and how I do that is just take little breaks so you usually do about five hours the first day in five hours and second day and I can usually edit through everything and get a good tight at it that I like and then I'll start processing and tony um I really try hard I think about this I want to show how hard it is to be a parent um especially and what it feels like to be a parent especially towards the end of the day this poor mom like her boys were very active she's amazing I love her boys but they're active like it's a lot of energy and two of them don't even take naps so at the end of the day she had just she was a glass did and so I wanted to make pictures of that to show to remind her that her job is tiring. Um so when I go into these sessions, I'm thinking about that I want to make pictures to show what it feels like to be a mom question do you ask questions about the kid's person eyes and try and get photos that best embody what has said or do you like these shots to show what you see? I do ask questions but not a lot ahead of time not specifically about personalities and I don't need to know all that I'll ask basic information in question here but I ask a lot of questions during the day, and like I said, I'm trying to get clues on to what is important, what they would want me to photograph I'm just very observant throughout the day you'll see if you start doing the life sessions or if you already do them, you're seeing a lot of what the family doesn't even see like I'm I'm watching in a different way and watching for very small things to happen. I'm listening to what they have to say I pay intention what the parents tell me they were on vacation and they put her in the closet to sleep, but what they said to me earlier in the day was she really doesn't like taking naps, so I knew when they were like, I'm gonna put her down, take a nap I knew to follow because they were probably be some sort of reaction once he went to close the door, so I was already anticipating that this was probably going to happen okay, remember that pets are important members of the family to, uh this is tyler, who will be here in two weeks, and they always think his dog's name is maggie the he works in the studio all day with his wife, so they actually take their dog to his parents office, and then the dog hangs out there all day but what tyler told me while we were driving over there is she always seems to know what time it is, and she sits by the door waiting for tyler to come to pick her up. So as soon as we part, I ran like a student's car stopped, I ran out in position myself, knowing that this was the picture I wanted to make because it was gonna be important, and I position myself to see the car in the seen tyler in the reflection, and then she just happened to look up at the door handle, knowing that she was waiting for tyler to open the door, and when I'm trying to make one picture with the whole family in it, I mean, the whole family and it's hard it's not easy, but it is important to me that everyone, me and the family in the picture in some way because pets don't let last as long as adults, they don't. If they're lucky they get, like maybe fifteen, fourteen or fifteen years bigger dogs seven to ten. Yes, have your photograph, a couple and just their pets. I think that I have dane life session coming up with a couple that I actually photographed their wedding and they want to do a day in the life with them. And their dog which is going to be a challenge but I think I can still make great pictures. Well, I in that situation I am going to suggest they do a bunch of activities that they like to dio yes this this is something that I want want teo including my works I do pat photography and especially end of life yes sessions because I feel like that's a really important thing teo document and I should, uh, photograph a lot cats and kindly right? Yes that's my thing cats that awesome. Yeah, a lot of pet photographer shoot dogs. Yeah, um but, uh it's going to be interesting, teo to see if I can put together something you know big with cat esus the dog you know, because I mean, I am I know how long it takes sometimes to get the shots that I do get and you have to be even more patient to get cats and dogs. Yes, I can only imagine I floated out to sea families with cats and I still try and like, make sure that the caps are a part of the pictures for sure but it's not easy dogs I mean, cats won't really do that they won't know like that um or they cats will not let you do that usually, but they're part of family so I try and make interesting pictures with them in it okay, what is the one constant thing that you see with every family shoot, regardless of age, size, et cetera? And this is the easiest question that I can answer parents have the hardest yet most rewarding jobs in the entire their world is not easy, and I feel fortunate that I get to show them that because sometimes they really don't realize not just how much they love but how much they're loved, because kids are not easy, and they don't always say I love you a lot of times they do, but not always. And so I think that it's even more important, that I make those pictures so that when they see them, there were reminded of how much they're loved and appreciated, and that is literally the best part of my day. At the end of the day, it is best part. My job is that I get to give this gift to the moms, which will then turn into being the best gift I can give the kids when they're adults, and they can also even appreciate their moms more to see how much they love them and how much they worked. I love this quote says the soul is healed by being with children, and for me, I feel like I'm such a better person, I'm such a more loving and warm person, observant and curious because I choose to be surrounded by kids a lot um my family's and I might not have had the nuclear family or the family that maybe as a kid I really wanted but what I can d'oh is be surrounded by other types of families to not only remind me to be appreciative of the ones that I had but to be also thinking the back of my mind what kind of family do I want to have what kind of parent do I want to be? And I'm very lucky that these parents show me what kind of parent I want to be learning a lot they give me actually more than I give them I think in the end there's a really funny picture this is tyler's kids and the guy's blue guy and uh we were going it was over halloween and we're going to go to like the scary house and the he did not want to go to the scary house at all and they always carry around blue guy but they have to have three of them in case one blue guy you know, bite a bullet you know? You always have to have an extra backup blue guy and it was like there like person you've gotta have a blue guy too and I was like okay, but I didn't know where to put him because I was shooting so I put him in my the zipper of my jacket and I turned around in the two of them were like zipping up blue guy in their jacket to be like me I just thought it was really sweet and cute um questions yes, I was wondering if you had a photograph blended families and dealt with permissions from other um spouse x I have just recently um done that quite a bit actually I just photographed two single moms and then um mom who just want to have photos with their kids so in those situations, I have to respect the dad's wishes, especially if they're not in the photos so there's been more of a request for particular image is not being put on the internet um and I'm okay with that? Uh, I respect that because I don't I don't want there to be conflict between mom and dad like that doesn't need that isn't necessary, so I am I am kind of respectful, it hasn't really been an issue it's just been like dad doesn't feel coming and usually dad's having issues sometimes with little girls, it is interesting they don't want their chest shown even if they're like five or six on the internet but that's their choice and I can respect that I'm not gonna ask for a name gay for that I'm just respectful of that that's the only issues I've had so far um, I have a couple more blended families coming up, so we'll see how that goes. I have also photographed, oh, so what I said was, I just photographed a couple of signal bombs, and that was a different type of shoot, but I loved it like, so I've done nuclear family, the blended family, the single moms, yes, it's, really interesting. Um, every family is different, but there's a unique thread that ties them all together. I love that I love seeing that both things, how there are, like and how they're different. Any questions. Andrea wagner would like to know what type of insurance you keep. Uh, I'm a member of p p a. So I have a very good insurance policy through them. Uh, I think it's one hundred thousand liability. You have to look into it. I think people is worth it to join it because there's a lot of good coverage.

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.