Skip to main content

Professional Fears

Lesson 35 from: Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home

Kirsten Lewis

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

35. Professional Fears

Next Lesson: Taking Risks

Lesson Info

Professional Fears

Let's talk about professional fears. Did anyone write this down or feel this way about not charging what you're worth, or ever felt that way in the past? Okay. So, I'm gonna try and make things make more sense. Sucky jobs. Which, when I give this talk, there's a different word that I use for sucky. (laughs) I was once an onion slicer. I'm not even kidding. I worked for these two women that had a restaurant, and they hated me. And so, the last four months, all they made me do was sit in the kitchen and slice onions. And my eyes would get so swollen, I couldn't see. So yeah, that effing sucked. Really bad. And then I was a library book shelver. That also sucked real bad. I once a boom mic holder for the LPGA. (audience member laughs) The Ladies' Professional Golf Association, if you don't know what that means. (audience member laughs) That was just super weird. So, I ask you guys, I'm sure everyone out there has had a sucky job. Like, whether it was in high school or currently, you might...

have like, your main job is a sucky job, like, if you're not doing this full time or maybe in your 20s. But my question is, because I thought about this myself, did you feel guilty getting paid for your sucky job? Did you feel guilty about taking a paycheck? Okay, no. I hope not. Did you ever feel like you were over, I never felt like I was overpaid for slicing onions. (audience laughs) You know, I really needed that eight dollars an hour, like, at the time in high school, that was decent money. But I want to remind you of a couple of things. Not everyone can do what you're doing. Photography-wise. Okay, it's a skill. And the hours you put into a session is about four times the shooting hours. So, what you get, like, so, especially for wedding photographers, I've learned this, like, so my rates start at $6,500, right? That's a decent amount of money. But we usually shoot for ten to 12 hours at a wedding, right, and then we have, and this goes for a day in the life too, but then we have all the hours before and after the wedding, with emailing and one on one consults, a lot of people do engagement sessions, like, all of that. And then it's all the post-processing and the blogging and maybe you're making albums, all of that, so actually when you add up all the hours, you're only making like, $20 an hour, for a specialized skill. So, remember that when you feel guilty about charging what you're charging. And also, remember that photography is a luxury item. And people can make a choice. I am not a purse-holder. I hate purses, for a long time I used a men's wallet and I just put it in my back pocket. Then I had a lot of trouble dating men, so I stopped doing that. But that's not my thing. Or paying for shoes isn't my thing. Especially women, they have like, one luxury thing. For Greg and I it's travel. Like, that's our luxury item, we spend money on travel and good food. I have no problem going to a dinner and spending $150 on a meal for the two of us if it's really, really good. I work hard for my money. You choose what luxury items you want in life. And if you add them up, and you think about how much you're charging your clients, it's about the same. Even like, getting your hair done every six weeks, for women that get it cut and colored. Anybody in here get it cut and colored? Okay, it's like, what, $150, $120? For you, more. Let's say $150 every six weeks. Add all that up. That's about the cost of a day in the life session. So, it's just a matter of your priorities. Okay. Does anybody have this fear in the field? Physically getting too close to your clients? Yes for Felicia. (laughs) I hear this. I'm just afraid I'm going to invade their privacy. Or I'm afraid I'm going to damage my equipment. Like, in the pool, I always go in the pool with my 35 millimeter. I don't go in the deep end and like, try and you know, tread water with a camera over my head, but I'll go in the shallow end where I'm up to here, no problem. I just wrap the camera around my wrist and it's not gonna go anywhere. And what I do is I just tell the kids, don't splash directly at me. I don't want them to do this. 'Cause that's where I'm gonna damage my camera. But the splash, the relative splashing is not gonna hurt my camera at all. I'm afraid I'm gonna make them feel uncomfortable. And this is crap. You're afraid you're gonna make you feel uncomfortable. Or you're afraid that they might feel uncomfortable, then that's gonna make you feel uncomfortable. So you're projecting actually how you are gonna feel. I promise you you're not gonna make them feel uncomfortable. If you do, they'll move. But most of them don't care. If you don't get close, you don't get photos like this where it feels like you're there. If you don't get in the water, then you can't make photos that make the viewer feel like they're in the pool with the family. Some people are afraid to photograph during prayer, especially in weddings, they won't shoot during prayer. I'm there to shoot, so. Apparently building stuff next door. Another one is nursing. So, they're afraid to get close when someone is nursing. I get really close when they're nursing. I don't move in like, alright, hold on, let me get it in here. But I'm quiet about it and I match the scene and I talk to them while they're nursing and then I'll come up maybe here and softly move, and I'm not beating the shutter down, I'm just shooting one at a time. 'Cause I also don't wanna interfere with their nursing time. I don't wanna distract the kid, either, 'cause I want them to continue nursing. If you don't get close, you don't get things like this. And sometimes you need to get close. We just talked about this, to clean up the background. It was yours, Tova. If you get this close, and you shoot them at two eight, then you'll get rid of that clutter in the background. Getting close makes the viewer feel like they were there. This is an example of I was working with a student and this was her safe place. This is most people's safe places. This is where they like to shoot. But guess what, this is shooting at the scene. And what I made her do is get down low and close and shoot into the scene. And there's a huge difference. Now we feel like we're there. And all it took was moving your body to get close. What did it also do? It cleaned up the background. Photojournalists have no problem getting close. David Alan Harvey. I guarantee you this was just at a bar in Rio and he had his camera and he does not care. And this is how he makes the photos that he does. Janet spoke about Eli Reed. Eli Reed has no problem getting close. These are strangers. Look at how close Bruce Gilden gets to this half naked lady. Like, I love this guy with a wedgie. No problem getting close. Clayton Patterson is a newer street photographer in New York and I love his portraits that he's doing. But he doesn't know these people. And he's like, just getting up close to them. And we're talking about your own clients. I've judged Fearless Wedding Photography awards a couple of times, and I noticed with two rounds ago, all the ones that I picked were people getting relatively close. I'll let that one sink in for a minute. (audience laughs) This was my favorite photo of that series that I judged. Derrick is just an incredible shooter. I just love him. But if he didn't get that close to the grandpa, he wouldn't have seen the naughty gesture he was making. Erin Chrisman at a wedding is in the pool. She's in the pool at the wedding. But it makes the difference with the photos. Now you can really feel like what it felt like for them to be in the pool, the couple at the end of their reception. She had to be in there. So, I want you to remember that your clients have invited you into their homes, we're not talking about street photography, about strangers. We're not talking about even making you get into the pool with all your clothes on at the end of a wedding. I'm just asking you to like, get physically close without water, in somebody's home. This is Bruce Davidson and quickly, the story behind this is he was doing a whole series on New York subways and at the same time the cops were having a hard time with people pickpocketing, stealing women's purses and getting off, running out of the train, and so, the cops approached Bruce and said, "Can we use you as bait?" And he was like, okay. So, what they did is have him wear his equipment out. Like, out. And to bait people to try and steal his equipment. And so, that's what happened. This guy tried to steal Bruce's camera and that's an undercover cop. And he is so close to him with a gun, like, a loaded gun pulled out. He has no idea what this guy's gonna do at all. So, if he can do that, you can get close to the baby that's crying. (audience laughs) Michel du Cille, do you know about him? Okay, he just passed away last year. Incredible photojournalist. And during the ebola crisis, he shot. And his publication begged him to come home, said we're not giving you any more money, you need to stop shooting, it's not safe. And he didn't leave, because he thought it was so important to cover the story. He had the potential to die of ebola, he ended up dying of a heart attack, it had nothing to do with ebola, but he didn't give up because he was so dedicated to this story. So, if he can get close to people with a deadly disease, you can get close to the kids while they're brushing their teeth. So, what I say, there's a lot of things to worry about when photographing a family. Stepping in poop that isn't yours or the dog's. Taking one step too far and plummeting blank over tea kettle down the stairs, which I have fallen backwards before, not on stairs, but on a playground there was like, this huge tire and I wasn't paying attention, and I flipped all the way over. It was really graceful and I freaked out my family. But that stuff maybe you can worry about, but not getting close. It should never be that getting too close. How many people have felt like this or feel like this right now? 'Cause I felt like this for a long time. Up until about three years ago, I still felt kinda like a fraud. Well, I think I used this analogy last time. Learning to be a good driver is like learning to drive stick. Right? The car, like, when you shift gears. If you don't know how technically to get your car out of gear and keep switching it, you have no brain space to actually make good decisions while you're driving, 'cause you're so focused on making sure that the car goes from first to second to third, right? So, you're blowing through red lights, you're running over old people, like, you just don't have the brain space until that's automatic. And once it's automatic and you're not thinking about shifting gears anymore, then you can focus on being a good driver. So, that's the same thing with your camera. Your camera is your vehicle and you have to be able to make decisions without thinking about it, in terms of your shutter speed, your ISO, your aperture, like, you have to be able to do those things without thinking so you have enough brain space left to make good decisions about light, composition, and moment. Neither is easy and both require a lot of practice. And that's why I keep emphasizing, you have to shoot, you have to shoot, you have to shoot. If you have kids at home, you should be photographing them every day, if you can. At least make one good picture. Because then you can get your camera to operate on autopilot. It's only then that you can start working on mastering light. Or handling composition, framing, context, storytelling. And though all your friends like your pictures, getting a critique from a more experienced photographer will help you see pictures from an unbiased eye. It's really important. One of the other reasons, and this was something for me that I had to deal with is I don't have a diploma. I know that Felicia and I have talked about this before, she's like, this crazy smart scientist, geologist lady, right? (laughs) And like me, like, I was an academic. Sometimes I got into trouble. One time I got in trouble for smoking on campus when I was in high school. (laughs) Why'd I just say that? (laughs) I don't smoke now. It was in high school. But for the most part, I cared about like, my grades, like, and I got really good grades. And I went to a university for seven years, I graduated with 220 credits, but only in undergrad and then a bunch of like, add-ons, but no master's. And so, when I got into photography, for a long time I felt like I was a fraud because I didn't go to school for photography. I like, didn't have that piece of paper that declared that I was a photographer and I knew what I was doing. And I find that for a lot of people, they feel, especially if you're at normal academics, like, you have a hard time because there's nobody that has held you accountable for all this work you've put into it that finally says, you, my dear, are a photographer. Right? I feel like that's why a lot of people come to me for one year, because it's an accountability thing, like, I'm helping you through the process for a whole year. And at the end, I'm like, fly little bird, fly, you're ready to go on your own. But you don't have to have a diploma for this. You just have to have the confidence and the perseverance to keep working and working and working.

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