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Family Photography: Modern Storytelling

Lesson 29 of 35

Segment 29 - Student Critques

Kirsten Lewis

Family Photography: Modern Storytelling

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

29. Segment 29 - Student Critques

Lesson Info

Segment 29 - Student Critques

We'll just let you know that anybody that I am going to be critiquing, I'm not giving you any sort of criticism to make you feel bad when I'm actually doing is trying to help you so you could become a better photographer the next time you go to make a picture picture similar to the situation that you've provided me with, um when I actually was originally a fine art student and I went, I was really lucky I got to go teo, uh, special school that had an art department, um and so I could just focus on the arts from basically software year two senior year and believe it or not, I was not a photography student, my parents were photographers, and I had that mindset like, you know, I'm not doing what my parents were doing, um, that being said, I'm going a little off topic, but that's fine, um, that being said, we always had a dark room in her house, so I learned to process images really early and not because it really cared about it, although it was very magical for anybody that ever worked in...

the darkroom and super magical to, like, see the picture like, come through the developer it is even to this day like some like woo look at it's coming, it's coming, um but for me it was more of a time that I got to spend with my folks with my mom my step dad and it was private time because my sister never it was interested in it uh that being said I didn't show any interest in actually being a photographer but from a young age I started to excel in drawing and painting and so I'm used to I was usedto art critiques and they're very tough and a lot of it has to do with less technical stuff and a lot more just your vision it can be very painful when you get critiqued on your vision um so I try really hard to remember that when I'm critiquing a photograph that I'm not critiquing your vision I'm not critiquing you as a photographer I'm simply talking about a picture so the best advice I can give you guys and everybody else out there is if you go into a critique if you ask to have your your work looked at remember that to try as much as you can to not take it personally and good critique er's won't make it personal and that's why I really try and do with all my students I think there's any my students in the chat room they'll confirm that I'm actually very kind yet be I'm stern um and that I have a very good balance when I do that I have either of you been critiqued before. Oh, you're first timers and you're going to do it in front of all these people out there is very brave thing to dio I remember the first time I got my photographs critiqued it was by ben chrisman, who is my really good friend, and he made me cry, but it wasn't his fault. It was because I was too emotionally attached, and once this is the thing that made me feel better, so I cried when you critiqued my stuff in front of a bunch of people, and I was really embarrassed and but then he turned around, he said, kirsten, I'm on lee being hard on you because you're that good, and I can't wait to see what's gonna come out of you in the future, and that changed my whole perspective. So then when I did foundation workshop and I had to have all of my rock critiqued, as I do with my mentoring sessions, I learned to not take it personally. I learned to just listen and agree and learned to actually point out my errors before my teacher's dead. And then suddenly when I got home, then I didn't like anything I'd shot because I had realized I learned so much, not only from listening to my teachers critique my work even more so watch other people in my class in my group get critiqued and be like oh yeah that's right now I see that my picture so now when I'm going through my work my editing process um there's no emotional attachment remember I said I mourn the death for about thirty seconds seem like no it is not good and I wanted to be there and there's times when I like just really wanted to work but it just didn't make the picture and it's it doesn't say it has no reflection on me being a photographer I'm only being a good editor and by selecting only my best then I'm from presenting only my best to everybody else and that also it was along with I think when newer photographers and if you missed uh the yesterday session um what I said was you have to take a lot of bad photos and the more bad photos you take the more you have a chance of having a really good one but nobody shoots perfect every time they release the shutter and you shouldn't be making perfect pictures what you should be doing is constant making errors and then correcting those errors until you make a really good one so when I look through these pictures you're going to hear that a lot of the time I'm going to point out the things that need to be fixed so that you can next time the situation comes around you I can maybe think about that and then nail it the next time does that make sense to you ladies? Okay, you have nothing to worry about right now because you're not up until the next time and if you're in the chat room, please and you see your picture up here please let jim know so that I know that I'm actually talking to you, so this was submitted by dez and, um, first of all, I think that black and white was the right choice to make in this picture a ce faras the processing afterwards I really like what makes this photo interesting? I'll probably have to stand up for a lot of this kind of why I wore my cowboy boots. Um what I really like is that just one eye is showing the other thing I like is this hand is not quite touching the truck if it wass touching the truck, I might not like the picture as much there's something about the in between moments I've talk to you guys about that before that really make a difference for mia's faras in a moment you're like actually catching the moment and sometimes when there's if that hand was laying on and be like, oh, you missed it like you kind of missed it, what does the good decision that does made was to get low enough in position himself that there was just the one eye because I think if there were two eyes it wouldn't be a cz interesting to be perfectly honest and if he had been looking at the camera I wouldn't have liked it as much but he really is concentrating on this right here on a typical standpoint as faras composition it is good that the frame is filled and there is this going on in the background but it's not too distracting I do think that this is photographed too hot do you agree? Like maybe they could bring it down a little bit so up your shutter speed I think your aperture is right on like I don't think the amateur needs to be adjusted I just think that you need to shoot it because this is really blown out and dez has a tremendous amount of room there toe up the shutter speed on dh not lose any of this and you can always go back and dodge a little bit if it's necessary do you guys see that? Okay, good. Would that have been like what you felt about the picture too? Okay, so this is from a sir and I'm guessing this might be from a wedding that would be my guess um so first of all, what I like is that there is definitely this moment going on when I think is that maybe there would have been ah better way to clean up this image, meaning this is a little bit distracting, distracting this tube. It looks like there's this clear space over here. So what I might suggest for next time when you're photographing the tire swing member, we looked at my tire swing and how long and how much I worked the scene in order to find that clean space is I think the biggest problem would be just the composition to just move your body, so try it here. But then remember to watch your back ground. A lot of times we forget, like, when we're so focused on the activity of the action that's happening in front that we forget once you see that happening, you need to look at your background and make sure that you clean that up a little bit. So I think maybe I would move my body to the left a little bit and get lower, and so we have a much cleaner space that way we're on ly focused on this action going on. Also, we want to be careful about where this has been cut, probably you could get lower and a little bit further back so that we could actually I think in this situation we want to show all of the children in the frame like that, all of their body parts, that's, my instinct you do have this really nice light, it looks like it's a direct light, so by moving over a little bit, then we're going to get that three quarter light, which gives it a lot more dimension, but you've got the moment here, which is great, we just need to clean up the composition a little bit was this shelley's and, um, I actually really like the tone in this picture, like the color tone I don't know is this is quite yet a moment I think we have the beginnings of a moment, but I don't know if it's quite there, so what I would suggest is actually, shelly, it looks like maybe you shot this with a fifty millimeter or eighty five, it looks like a fifty year ineighty five um maybe just back up ah hair and give him a little bit of breathing space to then let the moment happened in there because it's so tight you might be missing something. I'm also curious. I wonder if I actually want to see the face that this hand belongs to cause I'm curious, I'm guessing you might be mom looking at the hand, I think it's easier read with just a hand if it wass like an old grandma because in the hand is ring, please, that gives you more information who it is but this as it is I don't know if it's quite there for a moment so I would say just back up a little you can still use your long lens but maybe back up a little and then just be patient and wait like I said I'm gonna say is over and over again ah lot of just getting the moment is being patient and waiting and willing you khun yes expression no ay dio I agree that a little more context but I think it's really sweet and really connected his I do too but it doesn't make me feel something per se like I think it's sweet I think shelly is probably a really good photographer because it's like she has a clean background this is a little distracting here if you move a little bit to the to the left it will get rid of that the body will get rid of that um so I think that she has it in her because I know that technically she's a good shooter that she could probably even be more persistent about getting the moment like getting a better moment I think there's a better moment in the situation that she can get in this one that's here does that make sense? Okay it is a sweet moment but I think she could make a better picture I really like this picture this is kim um gorgeous light beautiful light used it perfectly nothing is blood. This is blown out a tiny but it's ok, like, I'm actually not minding that at all. Ah, very similar, very relatable scene, especially if you have kids. What I love is that they're snoozing together and I think it's a brother and sister, which sometimes brothers and sisters don't want us news together, but I love that, so that probably says something about the relationship of the kids. Um, kim, what I hope you did is get this picture first and this might be a fifty I can tell there's a thirty five or fifty, but I would definitely grab my fifty once you have this frame I want toe also see it might not work, but I'm always I'm wondering if maybe it would the picture be stronger if you're standing on the bed with the thirty five and shooting straight down so that both kids room focus and you fill the frame with them now if if this is a mom photographing her kids she's probably like hail no, I'm not waking them up, but I would be inclined to maybe hop up on the bed and shoot down so that they're both in focus this one still a good frame, I'm just suggesting to make it better I might go above and see what kind of shot I can get um that being said, you might not have as nice of a light because I don't think you're gonna have that three quarter light I think you might have more direct light see how this light is hitting this way but I just I still want to see that perspective but good job I think this is from a wedding is well, I would guess because oh, this is good leaving the context clues in the photo this's the makings of a storytelling photo so we have the dress back here sack on I don't know if that's a sec home second um so I love this that she's got the bobby pin we see this a lot when we shoot weddings like holding the bobby pin waiting um I think it's framed well, yeah, I think that's framed perfectly I want to know what she's got in her hand it looks like a pen maybe so shoot this and then do not leave this scene because in my mind this is the naughty kid ideology in my head I'm gonna wait and see if she does something with this pen. Maybe she writes all over her back which in my mind I'm like please write on that woman's back but she might start drawing on her face she might start drawing on her arm we don't know she might not do anything at all but again if you want to push this photo just sit and wait and make a lot of pictures of this scene and you don't have to blast him either like this is not a situation where it's like but another bum bum ba bum it's probably quiet in there but you can be selective yet shoot through the moment and just wait just wait see if she does something else because she's staring at her with that pen I'm guessing she might want to write honor yes but it too is the different expressions yeah faces yeah you know she's got this quiet smile and she's intense and she's looking a little concern to the lady who's getting her hair done and then she's got the mischievous look on her face I think I think it's good getting all the different expressions in that too I've heard a lot of people say I don't know if I agree or disagree I guess I try um a lot of times any time you can cut out the face of the the person doing the hair unless a relative or a friend you don't necessarily need them but in this situation I think it's fine they leave them in I do have a tendency to like not draw emphasis on the hair person by having just their hands in the frame or yes this is a family and that's what I'm guessing yeah all right good job cycle okay, this is jin since eugenia. Um, lovely moment. Jen and I were just talking about how we're both drawn to tenderness would dads and their kids and photographing that for me. I don't know about jenna, but for me, my dad was never affectionate. He just wasn't he's like the mensa you ask him, you just notice that there's a rainbow in he's like, let me tell you how you how that rambo is made and it's gonna take forty minutes and you're five, but you're gonna listen to me anyways, I love my dad, but like, he wasn't really like the loving, affectionate guy he's the guy that, like, was probably building something they use building a computer in the back room, you know? So any time I see this, I love this this moment, I think that you've chosen the right aperture, I think that you've chosen the right um, a focal point. I think that you have also chosen the right lens to push this because I don't think it's necessary that he be camera where, um, shoot through this moment because you'll probably catch a frame where he looks away or he kind of turns to his dad and that's, just a matter of being more persistent. With the when this is happening, you might miss it but you might not and I don't know because I can't see everything we've shot before and after this frame, but I have these situations all the time and I keep shooting to hope that like there's just a second or he like looks away eso it really feels like it's a moment that's happened where I'm really not intruding in any way where I'm not, uh interfering with the integrity of the moment it was a lovely moment this is from car men I love little kids um I'm gonna address that the toning in this photo um what do you ladies feel about this part losing detail in that hair there, I think, but more than that it's I think it's too bright because you're I like when I look at it, my eye is fighting toe look at this, innit? This because it's it's the tolls, the total part of it is high so I would burn this down. Not so it's black. I would just burn this part of the frame down. Um and this is a this is an awesome moment your family's gonna love it if you want to push it because I don't think this is portfolio where they like I don't I think you're probably a better shooter than this carmen so you I don't know if this is what you put on your portfolio but how you push it to make a portfolio picture from this is that you keep shooting again and what you're hoping for is instead of him just looking at her maybe they're making faces at each other and so maybe he sticks out his tongue or he like makes a surprise face or a mad face we're gonna wait and see if he makes it's just something toe push the picture just hair um I mean I think I make pictures like this all the time and I deliver them I just don't necessarily put them on my website or my blogged does that make sense okay because again we want to make pictures that no other picture no other photographer is going to make and I think a lot of photographers make this so to just push it just wait and see if he makes something a little bit more drastic in his face this is from terry and terri your exposure is great and um I think that even your choice and lenses fine my issues I don't know what's happening in this picture like I don't have enough information teo understand what's like what what I should be understanding about it so you might want to back up like I don't know if they're in a car or if they're on a plane I don't know I need more information because if it's just simply a portrait this is very distracting here this so if we're going to use this we need to use this with purpose and with meaning so that it helps tell the story so it's not only framing her but it's also giving us information as faras the picture I make these pictures a lot with kids in the car when I'm in the car and I'm sitting in front and I turned around and I photograph them but I I actually I actually use my aperture at like five six torso so that you can there's definition as to what it is so it's being used for perspective and not for I don't know like I just this is distracting I have no idea what's happening but as faras your exposure is great it's just a matter pushing it more toothy to think more about what am I telling what do I want the viewer to understand why I want the viewer to feel looking at this picture look I love this this is erica erica this is an awesome frame um I think that it has just enough information I mean you could go closer but I almost don't want this cut off your focal point is right on um I hope that you shot a lot of this she had a lot of option just because for me when this is happening this is one of those holy cow happening moments and so I'm shooting a lot to get a lot of variety and what he's going to do this face? Um we almost wanted to, like, make a funny face in it I still love this frame on dh you used exactly the right lens. I think this is a this is a fifty I think maybe since eighty five trying to look at the book and decide maybe an eighty five on lee thing I would do is wait a little bit longer to see if there is even a better face. I'm always like looking to see if I can make it better and when you see this happening this is probably happening more than once. Always I said this before I tell it's to my students all the time kids will repeat their behaviour, they will they will do things over and over again so that gives you a lot of opportunity if you miss the photo to make it teo to go back and make it. And in this situation I guarantee you my guess is that he did this for longer than a second. He probably did this anywhere between five seconds two thirty seconds who knows? But that gives you a lot of opportunity when that's happening to perfect your composition, so in that case I would think you would have had time to at least just notice um the head and then just fix it so it's perfect does that make sense to you ladies sometimes not I'm always when I'm critiquing them giving hypothetical I'm not there so I have no idea yes I'm wondering too it looks like there's a little bit of a darker space behind him right behind him so I wonder if she shifted to the right just a bit it might have to find this face a little bit more if it was dark in the background right you went to the right yeah yeah I know that would have affected the reflection too much I think it would have I think what would have happened is and you would have only had like this much of it so you have to like, make a decision I think and so she probably made the right decision but I'm glad that you saw that because if if that had been the case and she could have moved to the right a little bit so that this was behind you would have seen the rim light on his face good eye, jen. See good I great job erica so there's this chandra chandra is this your friend? But um this is sandra I love a pumpkin time. This is a good suggestion if you live anywhere where there's apple picking apple picking makes for a great fall activity to make great like one our family sessions especially their documentary style I love it I love the fall colors that time of year I love when my kids were reaching for apples when they're filling your face of the apples then there's apple spit going everywhere like it's just awesome and then usually there's pumpkins also and uh like hot cider is just it's a really good time of your chute so chandra, we have fall coming up in like a month which really makes me nervous is that means my wedding is like three months away and I haven't done a whole lot for it but um when I love that the choice to get above with all the pumpkins is awesome we need to look and see where the light is and it looks like she might be backlit because the light is hitting here this way so what we want to do is this another situation where you want to be patient she also I think grab a pumpkin chandra next time see if you can back up a little and then shoot through this and I mean make a lot of pictures because she's a teeny tiny person so and she's like in this hole so she's not going to move around ah whole lot really fast that's going to give you opportunity to make a lot of pictures of this scene and just wait and see what she does you have you have the perspective, right? I say just back up a little I kind of want her to trip ideally backwards but the potential of that happening is very high because of her little feet right here that she might trip I know I'm evil, but if she won't get really hurt remember this we talked about but in my mind this is what I'm thinking when I'm shooting I'm really thinking about this I'm I'm sharing with you like what my inner voice is, what my inner thoughts are while on behind the camera does that make sense to you ladies about what I said, chandra, hopefully that helped and yes, christian just wanna let you know that if you go back a couple to the little boy with the car yes so she says yea that was mine I did take a lot of that little boy good and couldn't decide which one to you so so maybe she goes back after the advice I gave her the only thing that would really mean the perfect perfecting the composition well can see if you have any of those where you're not slicing the hair if you don't it's fine like it doesn't bother me that much but then see if there's a funny your face I mean this one is great, but if you want to make it better just go back and see ok, this is hector. Okay, so hector, he has the better perspective, I think fromthe one um it might have been a lens choice also the one where the things were in the front, I'm pretty sure was a car or a plane that we're looking at. So hector, you've got the light you've exposed properly, I think you have the right lens choice as well. I love these little guys were here. What we want is for them to not be looking at the camera, we want them to be shoving their face with the ice cream and they will obviously they'll do it because they're eating ice cream and they already have ice cream. Mustache is so this is just a matter of training them. That's what you want to do? Remember what I said yesterday, so if they look atyou and low keys, then you're going to put the camera down and be like how's your ice cream only got looks so good is chocolate your favorite like you could talk to them that's totally fine, but as they go back like as they relax and then realise you're talking them is your friend there friend they will start eating again and then you pick up the camera and then you make that shot also people that are in cars when they're photographing kids you shoot this way and then look for another way to tell the story maybe dad is also eating ice cream in the front seat I have no idea but if he is make this shot and then maybe like you probably just straddle the like the consul but I'm doing this stuff all the time so then go in front so that part of dad and ice cream is in the frame and then maybe the girls are all so easy in the ice cream and then I'll think about it maybe I should look in my review in the reverie mirror or in my what is that the visor mirror and see if I could make an interesting picture that way I'm always thinking I'm going to do that safe shot and then they're going to keep eating ice cream for a while like this is not like a thirty second activity this is like at least a ten minute activity so then just wait they might start like taunting each other with the ice cream there's all sorts of things that can happen with this scene is that you guys understand that ok yes this was taken by cold hearted heck from earlier thank you coldhearted and this was ah roared after a nine hour hike nice so we want to see how much they're enjoying the ice cream so you bet everything down again it's just a matter of patients okay, I'm going to share with you. I have yes. No, no, no. Go, go, go! Oh, I was just thinking so I have two boys blends five, one seven and my little list when he is always very cooperative and smiles on command and that sort of thing, although it very easy. And so I'm just really in my other my eldest refuses to look at the camera and just doesn't give a rip. And so I'm really recognizing that it's the younger one that I have to retrain rather than my elder, which that I was always getting frustrated with him, right? And then do that he needs to get better, but for the style photography, for sure he's got to figure it out, and I the youngest one, is the one that I need. Is that anything like the ones I've worked on? So much to look at the camera now you're like, you know everything. I just thought you were going to just reverse that. Yeah, put it in, put it in reverse. Yeah, you're just gonna have to retrain him. It doesn't take long and really doesn't.

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.