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Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home

Lesson 26 of 37

Critique: Isolating the Moment

Kirsten Lewis

Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

26. Critique: Isolating the Moment

Lesson Info

Critique: Isolating the Moment

This would be a good example of not being squared up, where I would want you to start squared up to this. Yes meaning squared up to either him or the bathtub, so you either want to be like right in front of him, to the side of the bathtub squared up like shooting just his face squared up or you want to be squared up to the bathtub as you can see it here, does that make sense. I like to think of everything as a box almost, right. So any side of the box, you can go from below, above or to the side but you don't want to be at the corners of the box. If you can avoid it, if you can. Yes. There are times when you can't. Unless you need it. With my bath time with those kids, all four of them it was so tight and mom, the toilet was right next to it. So I couldn't square up and get all four so I had to then square up on two subjects at a time. Not squared up on the tub but squared up on two people on the same focal plane, right. So for this squaring up is gonna give you an advant...

age to make a more eye pleasing photo. The eye is going to react better to being squared up and you have to be patient. Here's the other trick, if you want to try and make the photos so that we don't have baby bits showing. Squaring up to the tub and getting a little bit lower the top of the tub will just cut the kids' usually right here, the baby bits. So cute. (laughing) You're working with light pretty well and what I like is that you're pushing your ISO. 'Cause people are really afraid to push their ISO and even a lot of creative life classes when it comes to portraiture their gonna tell you don't push the ISO, you want is as low as possible so the least amount of grain, right. But with photo journalism we don't care about that. So in your camera, the camera's now are insane. So you own a Mark III, so 10,000 is fine what you have a little bit of grain you turned to black and white. It's gorgeous it looks like Ilford film. And it's pretty. Yeah, yeah, so the light is nice on him or her. We just felt that there wasn't enough of a moment and with one kid in the tub it's really hard. So it has to be very exaggerated, their moments to make sense. I'm curious if she's in the tub by herself right now like she is, so what's one thing that we can do, a place that you can go to exaggerate visually that she's alone in the tub and that there's nobody else in the bathroom? Shooting from the hallway like voyeur style. Yes, yes because then we're showing all of the space around and we're isolating the child and you're visually seeing that there's nobody else around and then you wait for her to do something a little bit more exaggerated, yes? Yes. You know babies are really cute, right. And so they do a lot of little minute cute things that we enjoy to watch especially if you're a kid person. But in photographs we really need it to be that times 10 in order to translate to the viewer. And one of the things that we always talk about is like momma's gonna love all these photos, right. Mom's love their kids, I could say that now because I love every picture of my daughter. (laughing) Even when she's looking at the camera, which I used to hate. By the way Jenna just had a kid 10 weeks ago which is ridiculous. And now I'm crazy obsessed with her but anyway so I understand that they really like the photos so your mom's gonna love it, great she's happy. But that's not enough right, we wanna go past just like oh mom recognizes the baby, we want everybody to recognize what the baby is experiencing 'cause that's why she hired you. 'Cause she or mom can take the little photos that we need right, but we're here to tell a bigger story. And so it needs to be exaggerated. So I wanna know exactly what you're trying to say with this feeling and then you were saying about being isolated, I just want to reinforce that in any given situation if I get a feeling from a baby or a kid and it's hard to exaggerate or you're not sure if it's translating. I like to think what am I trying to say and so that's a very conscious decision while I'm shooting is how do I want someone to feel when they look at this. And is where I'm standing the best place to translate that feeling. It is an advanced concept but my group mentoring people are doing great, it's that idea of where you stand really influences the story you're telling. What you include or decide not to include, how far away are you, all of those elements are key to making good storytelling photos. And it takes time and practice and a lot of studying good photos that have good choices. That's why I always say look to photo journalism especially with photo journalism back in the day and still to this day where you're making that one photo. You just can only have one photo make it on the front of the newspaper that represents an entire event. They have to work really hard thinking about how can I make this photo translate everything happening in one event into one picture, right. So we're trying to do that in the field with kids. The wonderful thing is they repeat their behavior over and over again, so you have lots of opportunity a lot of the time to keep trying. And it's a fun challenge I think, the idea of just getting one. Yeah. I mean from any given family session I just want one really. One really good one. Obviously you wanna take more but your insides want one really good one, you know. Did you wanna show an example? Yeah and can I just talk about this as well? Oh the bottle. Yeah sometimes there's mess and chaos and that's fine but you're going almost minimal here so let's go all the minimal. Let's cut that out, not only because it's like product placement but it's also like a. It's an eye sore. Yeah an eye sore, that's what I want to say. It's a highlight. Well the line of the tub leads your eye right to it. You're right, yeah. Yeah and so the other thing about being squared up to her, you say? [Blonde Audience Member] Yeah. Everyone calls my baby a boy, that's fine. [Blonde Audience Member] That's okay, she's used to it, it's all good. They all look the same and with trying to translate emotion is that it's almost like more of a shy approach. I'm gonna be like a broken record this whole time saying squared up the entire critique but if you're squared up we're addressing the subject head on and I find that we just take an emotional. If there's an emotional closeness in photo and the viewer that way when we just address something and being squared up allows you to do that. Jenna one of the retreats I loved this example you said about like when you go talk to somebody, right. Yeah. I'm not gonna be like, hi Jess, how's it going? (laughing) Right it feels awkward, right. This is how we stress the squaring up. When we talk to Jess we talk to her here, right not from the side, so it's a good way to think about it that way when you're shooting to be direct and I can still talk to Jess further back here but I'm still in front of her not to the side of her. And that's like the awkwardness, we want it to feel natural when the viewer is looking at it, they don't want to feel awkward either. We pick up on the subtle things right, when someone's talking to you out of the corner of their eye, you're like trying to catch them a little bit. You know, in person you definitely feel and so in a photo it's the same, it's very much the same. Yeah. Yeah. Do you wanna show your? Yeah 'cause a lot of my examples are showing we should probably throw some of yours in. This one. Yeah but you had liked this one so much. Here's an example of a head on, kind of a similar situation, 'cause sometimes a kid alone in a bath can be hard 'cause there are not other kids to throw things with them. And you really need like a little extraordinary in the ordinary, so for this like I don't know how many kids eat popsicles in their bath but that's what makes this more interesting and then there's one other detail that just adds to it is the squared up band aid that's like on his chin. So by squaring up and getting close she's clearly stating that to her that's the most interesting or important thing in the picture, right. That's her point of view, that's what she's deciding to tell but because she did it deliberately and directly it's easy for you to read that. Does that make sense, I say that a lot make sense. But I don't know how else to ask you 'cause I want you to say if it isn't clear or you're not quite getting it, I want you to say no I'm confused. So it's just my way of checking in and making sure that it translates. So that's a good point actually just for the students here, you could tell us what you were intending if it doesn't come across to us too. Yeah. Can we talk about what. Yeah. We're focused on this one picture but that's actually a good thing. This is what we have a lot of time for. Yeah, yeah tell us about how she's feeling or like what you're trying to say with it. Well it was a moment of like soap getting in her eye and she was annoyed by it, so I probably should have kept shooting to see if she would like start crying, meltdown, whatever to show more. Like a very purposely annoyed face? Yeah exactly. 'Cause almost I wasn't sure if she was sad, sure kind of thing. [Blonde Audience Member] Right yeah. We kind of want her, the make-up lady will kill me but we want her to kind of like, urgh! We need that facial expression too, I think and yeah like Jenna said we're just kind of in limbo we don't quite know how she feels. Well your point about exaggerating the moment makes a lot of sense. It's kind of like stage make-up, right. Yeah. You need a lot of it for pictures, apparently I don't know, I don't care about those kinds of stuff but you know same thing it's an emotion that needs to be just 10 times in order for us to read it on film.

Class Description

Families are in constant motion. The relationships between parents, among siblings, and across generations are complex, fluid, and intense. Capturing the nuanced interplay of emotions in a family is no mean feat, and traditionally, photographers have chosen to summarize these relationships in pre-scripted, highly posed images.

Kirsten Lewis has developed a new way of photographing family dynamics. Bringing photojournalistic principles into this practice, she follows the family as they live their lives to create unique, powerful imagery. 

In this class, you’ll learn:

  • How to capture a full day in a family’s life, including conflicts and resolutions
  • Adapting your camera to changing lighting and settings as you follow the family
  • How to narrow down day in the life images for final delivery  
For the first time, Kirsten is allowing cameras to follow her throughout an entire day’s shoot with a family. Learn her process as she finds meaningful moments in a day full of activities such as morning routines, mealtimes, and the small moments of bickering and joy that make up the life of a family. Leave this class with the confidence to walk into any family situation with strong ideas, and create compelling memories for your clients.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



Kirsten is an incredible teacher. When deciding whether to purchase this class, you should first take a look at her first CL class--Modern Storytelling. It's the best way to dive into this material and is a good starting point. If you're interested in this genre, buy BOTH classes. Both are so packed with helpful information about the family photojournalism genre. The first class was a solid, well rounded introduction to family photojournalism, and this class is more in-depth, specific, direct, intense, full of composition technique, and really just takes it to a new level. She doesn't waste time in this class repeating all of what she taught the first time. Kirsten is very candid and personable which I find really helps us viewers learn from her authentically and enjoy the class. I feel like I know her from watching so much of her class and I know that helped me to connect with the class and understand the material better. I feel like I finally have the tools to really tackle this genre and a better idea of what I'll face. I HIGHLY recommend this class--BUT only if you have an interest in this type of photography. THIS ISN'T A CLASS ABOUT MAKING PRETTY PICTURES, IT'S A CLASS ABOUT CAPTURING REAL MOMENTS IN A BEAUTIFUL WAY AND STORYTELLING THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY.

Image by Marcy

I'm adding my review in hopes of giving some perspective to the few negative comments. I've been a fan since Kirsten's first course, and have been hankering for more ever since. I wish the viewers who decided to jump ship before watching the whole course had reconsidered, and hung in there. Here's why. Kirsten describes this class as more of an "advanced" class. To my way of thinking, it's an excellent adjunct to the first. I took notice of a good bit of the questions in the chat room on CL while the class was live. It was clear to me that there seemed to be plenty of viewers who had not watched the first based on their questions. To get the most benefit, you really need both courses. There is overlapping content, of course. But there is specific and pointed information that was really only generalized in the first course. Invaluable is the segments that were taped live at a family's home, where Kirsten shot a DiTL. That filming was shown and dissected in this new course. VERY informative. To put it succinctly, yes, there is some repetitive info, but necessary to bring it all together, and yes, new content. YES, the front end is a bit heavy on the personal. If I remember correctly, that viewer choose NOT to stick with the program, which is fine. BUT, had they stuck with it, that person might have had a change of heart. You see, I think you have to take all the information in it's entirety. Because, the openness, the vulnerability, the honestly to me is *endearing*, for one thing. But also, she definitely USES that personal information in the context of her teaching. Listening to her personal experiences (KLB's) gives US an opportunity to look deep within OURSELVES and CONFRONT our own past. OUR PAST is what shapes our future, good, bad or indifferent. We can allow our past to propel us to success, or sink us in despair. Either way, our past helps form our POV which is very important for our photography (as well as how we approach or avoid life in general, and affects us in business too...) I appreciate her honesty. I appreciate how she shares her struggles, both past and present. Both personally and professionally. For me, the whole package is more important that the individual "pieces". Who knows about that viewer.... maybe this genre is just not their thing. Maybe that person wants or needs to shield themselves from their own personal issues. IDK. Also, it's just a fact of life that *not everyone will LIKE .... ___ (you, me, her, etc). Whooo knows. That's their right, their choice. And it's true that this genre is not for everyone. But if you love it, then get the course. If you missed the first one, then get them both. You'll be happy you did, and you'll have saved yourself time and frustration trying to figure this out on your own.

Meredith Zinner Photography

She is outstanding. I love her candor, honestly, openness and extraordinary eye for talent. I love how true she is to herself and how fiercely yet seamlessly she works to show the truth and people's real stories. I love how she is a real person and shares true stories about herself that keeps her human. I'm so tired of this culture being so damn 'precious' about a baby's bottom fer crimmeny's sake... she's extraordinary, refreshing and unlike anything else youve shown. She's got an incredible eye, sense of humour, talent and so much to share with her very thankful audience. Thank you so very much! Thank you Kirsten!