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Lesson 1 from: Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

1. Introduction

Lesson Info


I'm really excited to be here again. How many of you guys saw my first class? Did you all see it? OK. I might reference some stuff from the first class, but if anything you didn't see, or you don't remember, just raise a hand. The other thing is, I wanted to be really comfortable, that's why I have you guys in couches rather than chairs. Anytime you wanna ask me a question, please just raise your hand, OK? And I'm gonna start out, today, for the next two days, talking about the evolution of family photojournalism, 'cause a lot of people aren't even aware, or in the family photography industry, aren't even aware of photojournalism. And how, for me, this is how it's really influenced all the work I'm making. So, we're gonna talk about that for the first part of the day. I'm gonna give you guys a little bit of background. So, I'm based in Denver, Colorado now, but I don't do any work there, at all. All my work is out of the state or out of the country. Actually, Kelly in the audience, I j...

ust photographed her family not too long ago. But, I've shot families now in Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, England... Italy, South America, and then, all over the U.S. But I actually started out as a fine artist. And I've talked about it, but I've never shared my work. It's not great. But, I was lucky, I went to Magnet High School. I started with art much before that, but I went to a Magnet Hight School, where I could really focus on getting a portfolio ready for University, and I ended up not going to University for fine art. But I really developed my own... I guess you would say style, through my pen work, my line work, my drawing work. And, as I built the foundation, I really wanted to start doing more abstract work, and I'm really bad at it. Like, I probably made like 100 abstract pieces, and there's only two that I like, out of, like, my whole life. (laughter) And I realized-- Did anybody else do fine art? Aside from... OK. What is your background with fine art? I studied in high school, same thing. Painting, drawing? Yep, both. More figure stuff? And I started a little bit of that, and then also did abstract. Yeah. Yeah. And then, how about in the back? Yeah, my college degree was in fine arts, and I just did this mash of everything, painting, drawing, ceramics and then photography. So, I did a lot of ceramics, too. I don't have any photos of my ceramics. My question for you is, did you do a lot of abstract? Or was it more, like, fundamental? I always wanted to do the figure, like even on my ceramics, I would then paint the figure onto my vases. Right. Did you both find abstract hard? Or no? I just never... Never appealed to me to try it, really. OK. It's really freaking hard. (laughs) For me, because my brain doesn't work that way. I'm much better with things in front of me, and, like, then putting my own perspective on it, than coming up with something in my head. And it was so hard. And I started to actually use my photos as a basis for trying to come up with something abstract, like shooting something out of focus and then working from there. And what I realized is, when I started out with weddings and family photography, I don't have the brain, like, Tuman, I don't know if you-- In the wedding business, like Tuman or even Anna Kuperberg or Erin Chrisman. I don't have that brain with portraits, where you can come up with these crazy ideas for portraits, it's just, I'm terrible at it. So, rather than fighting against it, with my photography, I realized it's the same as fine art, I just, I don't have that capacity. I'm very artistic, but I'm not really innovative. And, so, that's why photojournalism made sense to me, early on, because it was life happening in front of me, and then all I have to do is... Put myself into it, right? I have to let you all know, I was an amazing photographer from the very beginning. (laughter) I mean, really, I was. (laughter) He looks like he's taken a lot of drugs. (laughter) And this is weeks after birth. Look at that on-camera flash. But it's right towards whatever-- I think that's just medical gauze. (laughter) Very good. How about this? Those are just towels, probably from Target, for $1.99. I didn't even have the sense to make the background soft. I'm probably shooting at like F-8. But then I put like that Gaussian blur all over it to make it really soft. I started doing birth photography way before it was ever a thing. Friends of mine were just like "Hey, wanna come photograph my birth?" and I had never heard of it before. It was 10 years ago. And I was like "Sure, I might pass out or puke, but yeah, I'll come." And I had no idea-- OK, so these are the photos I made at the birth. Because, really, Hill-Rom needed some product placement, right? For the beds they make, like, that was very important to the family, that I have that. It had nothing to do with her, like, why would I even ma-- I delivered this photo. And was proud of it, apparently. This is good. (laughter) It looks like I photographed this from like a helicopter over her, (laughter) and she looks like she's part devil. (laughter) This is not good, at all. This is how I started, right? This is.. (laughter) Very arty, right? This is just arty. They actually are all magnetically being held to the ground by, like, magnets, so that they don't all fall over. Perfect for a frame. How about this? Do we even know what this is? (laughter) It might be a hand. Maybe. Let's turn it around. No... (laughter) Oh, it's a butt. Maybe it's a baby butt. And my favorite would have to be, we were looking at this yesterday, (laughs) absolute favorite. I can't even... How about this? (laugher) Everyone wants a photo of-- (laughing) their body-less feet! Look at this family, it has no bodies attached! There's no body there! There's no body. (laughter) Oh, God, this is so bad! Why would I give that to anybody? Whoever I took this photo of, I don't even remember, I'm so sorry! (laughs) Well, at least we can't see their bodies, right? (laughter) It's just awful. OK. So, as bad as a photographer I was, looking back, at all these horrific photos that are very humbling, I realize, going through, that even when I knew nothing, the instinct for some sort of moment was there. Even though it was really bad, and poorly executed, I had these photos and I was drawn to humor right away. So, this is where I thought it was really funny, his look. Not like he was on acid, but just that made a funny look as a newborn. And, you know, again, 10 years ago, I still was drawn to making moment photography. Even though I was a terrible photographer, there was something there. And I was shooting through what nobody else was shooting through, that I knew of, at the time. And most of this stuff is film. Check out this sepia, this is lovely. But again, seeing moments there.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


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!

Student Work