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Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home

Lesson 18 of 37

Getting and Maintaining Clients

Kirsten Lewis

Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

18. Getting and Maintaining Clients

Lesson Info

Getting and Maintaining Clients

So we're going to talk about business. Like I said, I've left business open. We have a full hour to talk about it. But I find that with business, the best thing to do is to ask you guys questions a lot about what you want to know about the business end of it. And I will share what I do, but remind you that my business model is not really applicable to most people, because the majority of my clients are out of the state or out of the country. I don't work within my market. I'm gonna try and do that with a baby coming, but for right now, I travel over 200 days a year for all of my shooting. So my business model isn't gonna apply, basically, if you're working in one set market. However, I've been working with students for over three years, helping them build their market. So it really is an individual thing, and so there's three people here in the audience, and we're gonna quickly take a look at their business and their websites. And I think that's gonna be the best way to help apply what...

I talk to them about to your business back home. But there is one question that I get more than anything else right now, for the past three years, and this is "How do I convince clients "that they want this kind of work?" (laughs) Anybody know an answer? (class talking inaudibly) Well, you can't convince them to do anything. If, for example with me, like, I want to have a natural childbirth. I'm also open to the idea that I might possibly be in so much pain, I strip all my clothes off, run into the nurses station, scream, "Give me the drugs." And if that happens, my husband knows to find the anesthesiologist. But no matter what people have said to me, it's not gonna change my mind that I want to at least try to have a natural childbirth. And I feel like it's the same thing with this kind of work. If you have people that are looking for traditional, or clients that you've been working with that only like traditional, there's nothing you're gonna be able to say to them to really change their mind or convince them that they want this kind of work. Part of the problem is that it's new. It's still not... it's not readily available, not all photographers are offering it in every market. And so the experience that people need to have with this type of work, seeing it, in order to make them want it. And you want them to come to you. You don't want to be trying to convince people, "This is really what you want," and then you end up shooting, and then they're disappointed. And then that's a no-win situation for anybody. There are a few things that I stress, and one is you have to have a strong portfolio for this type of work. How many people in here are just doing documentary? One, two, three, four, five. The rest, is it a mix of... Or are you interested in documentary and you're doing a little bit more lifestyle, or traditional? Okay. Do not stop shooting that altogether and just be like, "I'm going all feet in, I'm changing everything right away." If you have to survive on your money, or your income, you have to make that transition slowly, so that you don't panic by going from making a decent living to nothing. And it's not because the clients aren't out there. But it takes a while to build up a portfolio, it takes a while to build up a reputation in your market, for people to know that you're doing this and you're offering this. So what I say is, you need to make that transition kind of slowly, and that requires you shooting for free. And I know you all hate that idea. But I'm going to change that concept to you, about the shooting for free. You can either pay a lot of money to go to university, and learn about it, or you can learn in the field. I'm gonna talk a little bit about that more. So shooting for free is you getting a free education, and a free portfolio. I shot, so I wanted to do just full day-in-the-life sessions. I do the shorter sessions and I like them, but for my day-in-the-life sessions, I shot almost, I think 20, for free. Full days, 12 to 14 hours, in the home, for friends and family, just so I could practice and have a good portfolio. Because your consumer, your client, your potential client, are not dum-dums. If they see the same family over and over again in all your pictures, like three, maybe just three different families, they're gonna know that you have not very much experience with this. The other thing is that you're limiting yourself to the amount of variety you're offering in your portfolio. So you have to shoot them for free. And do it when you have time off. And you don't have to do a full day. I've said this a million times. You can do one hour, you can do three hours, four hours, whatever you're comfortable with, whatever your schedule allows, whatever time you have that you can take away from your family. But you need to put that practice in. It's really, really important. Because you can watch my class, you can watch a ton of other photojournalism classes, family classes, family photography, but it's not gonna apply to you until you start really trying it in the field. And everything that I do isn't gonna work for you. So you need to figure out for yourself, what are my takeaways from what you've learned from me, what you've learned from photo books, what you learn from other teachers, and then make that applicable to you and your business and your point of view, and what works best. The other thing that I did, was I sought out a lot of critique. Why? Because in the beginning, I think I talked about this but we might have been off camera, is, I talked about how you get very personally attached to your photos. Especially if you're working really hard to make a picture. And you know the time it took to make a picture. And then you pick the one that's the best, out of your attempt, but actually it's not very good at all. And so, or, the flip side is you were in the moment, so you know what was happening in the scene, and so it makes sense to you, so you don't understand why it's not resonating with other viewers, because you're like, "Well of course that's a kid, I don't know, "climbing up a staircase because he's in trouble." Well the rest of the people, unless you clearly make a great, strong, storytelling photo that says that, it's not gonna resonate with viewer. So in the beginning, it's really important to seek out critique so that you're getting feedback from somebody that is completely detached from your shoot altogether. So they can help you and guide you to identify what are your strongest photos, what is the audience gonna feel connected to. I say this all the time. It's really important that you make pictures, and show pictures, that elicit an emotional response from the viewer. If the viewer doesn't have some sort of response from the picture, it's failed, in my opinion. There has to be something. The average consumer, it's not just people looking for photographers. In general, on a website, they spend, like, eight seconds on a website before they decide if they're gonna continue looking at it or move on. And so it's really important that you have super strong photos on that first page, that are gonna invite your potential clients into your world, into your portfolio, where they want to look at more. If you don't do that, if you don't get their attention within the first eight seconds, you're done. They're gonna move on. They're not gonna be impressed. So that's again why it's important that you have a really strong portfolio. Here's a little tip that I wasn't going to share, but I'm going to. I don't care. (class laughs) It's fine. I'm just gonna give it all away for free. (laughs) I want you to think about this. When people are searching for a family photographer. I'm not talking about referrals, but online. When they're searching for family photographer, what are they gonna search for? Are they gonna search documentary family photographer? No. Even if they think that's what they want, they don't know that term. So a lot of us right now, I've learned not to do this, but in the beginning all my SEO was how to find best documentary family photographer. Family photojournalist. Guess what, I got zero traffic from that. Why? 'Cause nobody's searching that. So what you have to do is you have to market yourself as simply a family photographer. A portrait photographer. A real-life photographer. Market yourself as a lifestyle photographer. I don't care. Use those words that are being searched on a regular basis in your market. Those are the words that you need to use to drive traffic to your site. You need them to get on your site to see your pictures, to want to hire you. This is what happened to me in the Outer Banks. And I talk about this in the first class. I go all into how I worked there for eight years. There's over 60 photographers in a 100-mile island. That is a lot of photographers. But it's one of the most vacationed locations in the US. And they all want the white and khaki beach portraits. And I decided I didn't want to shoot those. And it took me about three years. But I just showed what I wanted to shoot, which was documentary style family portrait sessions on the beach. All moments. I didn't show any group family stuff. And what happened is because I was driving traffic that just said "beach portrait photographer," "beach family photographer," I was getting everyone looking at my site. And after they went through 10 sites that all looked the same, and then they came to mine, they're like, "Holy crap, "this is totally different, really great photos," that they were resonating, it was resonating. And so they wanted to hire me. So if you guys remember, I went from 10 clients my first season, a season is four months. I went from 10 clients to 90 clients a year. In four months. I had to turn people away. And it was because I stuck to what I believed was good, I only showed what I wanted to show, and I was marketing to the large pool, to draw them in and see my work.

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!