Skip to main content


Lesson 17 from: Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home

Kirsten Lewis

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

17. Q&A

Lesson Info


I want to open it up to questions. Let's do-- I think they said I can go to like five after four, right? Can I do that? So that's 15 minutes of questions, because I know they've been building up, and this is a lot of content, and hopefully some of it was answered while I was talking through, but I know there's a lot of others Do you wanna start first? Yeah let's start from from the folks at home, and then get your mic if you have one, grab that and get ready. Alright. So can we touch back again on something that you said earlier, which was about being present and this is from Rhonda Bertha: "How is being present more photo journalistic? "I like the idea of being present, "but I try to be a fly on the wall, "because I want the kids doing what kids do, "not because they're showing off for me." So I think that's still kind of the big hurdle of what this means. Well my question is to you-- What was her name? Rhonda. Rhonda, watching the footage, at any point did you feel like the g...

irls throughout the whole day were showing off for me? Or were they doing their normal thing? I'm asking you as an audience? (audience mumbling) Normal thing. Right? They're not showing off for me. I say the more present you are, that the more comfortable they are being themselves. And if it's a fly on the wall, there is a barrier between you and your subjects where they're more likely in my opinion to show off for you because they want your response. You're already in their space. You are influencing the situation already because in a normal situation your body is not going to be there. So it's less comfortable and less natural for you to just be hovering in the space and them have no relationship with you, versus if you are engaging with them and they feel comfortable with you, then they are going to be their normal selves. They're going to be more likely to ignore your camera, and do the naughty things, the routine things, the fighting, the meltdowns, because they feel 100% comfortable with you. Your camera when you're a fly on the wall is something abstract to them. It's something foreign. They don't feel comfortable with it, because they don't know you at all. So by breaking that barrier, in my opinion, that's how you get the better access. And a perfect example of that is, "take me out of this and go back to Darcy "and her story of Julie." If she had been a fly on the wall and never developed a relationship with Julie, she would never have been there the day that Julie took her last breath. So photojournalists we say, and this is not me either, like long-- Especially long-term project photojournalists, they say that they're only shooting-- Like 50% of their job is shooting. The other 50% is getting to know their subjects and developing a relationship with them, and watching, and being patient, and interacting and engaging. So that's that idea of, "I know it seems scary and you're "afraid that you're gonna interfere, "but I feel like you're more-- "You're interfering more if you're just "being this stranger in the room with a camera "where anybody is going to feel less comfortable "than if somebody's willing to take "the time to talk to you." Does that make sense? Yeah it really does, and I appreciate your revisiting that-- Yeah. Because I think that's part of the heart of what it is that you're doing. Yeah. And I think by watch-- People don't get it until they see me actually doing it. Yeah. I think my students are like, "Whoa you really talk a lot." Theresa? Not them showing off for you, but when Winnie kept wanting extra attention from you-- Right. With the camera, Yes. That happened to me in one of my first shoots. The kid was just showing off for me, and I asked you that and you're like, "Put the camera down and move away, "because then they know that behavior isn't being rewarded." Correct. And then. So maybe that was along the line of what Rhonda's asking as well. Correct. Yeah that's-- I'm glad you brought that up. So yes, if in the beginning the kids are posing for you, smiling for you, or it seems like they're doing behaviors for you, and then they're laughing, they're like, (mocking devious child) Then I put the camera down and I just talk to them, because like Theresa reminded me, I always say that it's like Pavlov's dogs. It really is. Or like clicker training a dog. Every time they do something good and you click it, they know that they're doing good behavior. Right? And then they're rewarded for that. Well the Shutter is like the clicker for dogs. They kind of want to be photographed, so especially in the beginning where it's very obvious that you're present. So if they're doing something you don't want them to do, put the camera down and talk to them and smile at them. When they go back to their normal behavior, then start shooting, because they're gonna hear that shutter and then they know that they're behavior's being rewarded, and you don't ever have to talk about it. Like you're just training them very quickly. It happens at weddings too. If anybody shoots weddings and you have to do cocktail hour, you're like, "God dammit I hate cocktail hour." Because you gotta go into these circles with all these strangers that you don't know and they're all like, and if you just smile back at them and they're like, "Oh that's not what you-- "You want that that like natural stuff right?" And I'm like, "Uh huh!" And then they go back to doing their normal behavior and then I start shooting. I'm rewarding them for that. It's the same idea. Does that help? Yes. Okay. Definitely thank you. And continuing on the sort of, "what is photojournalism?" Theme, and what it is that you do versus what other people might be able to do if that's their-- What they're drawn to, I understand that wanting to keep journalistic integrity, but why not just ask to turn the light on? This was from Brian, who when you were worried about them going to the dark rug, like what is it again that you don't want to interfere? This is my choice to be a purely-- Like pure photojournalism in the home. The other thing is if I get used to turning on lights, that's only gonna lead to opening doors, and then that's gonna lead to moving stuff in the house, and then that's gonna lead to directing them, and that's gonna fall into really bad habits, and then for me I'm making my job harder actually, because now I'm not only focused on the moments I'm trying to shoot, I'm not focused on all the things I'm trying to control. I'm on top of trying to make all these decisions where I'm controlling my camera and my perspective. What I tell my students is: "You can do whatever it is you want, "but if you wanna call yourself a family photojournalist, "you should not be turning on lights, "because that is-- "That's damaging that word 'photojournalist'". If you wanna say like, "I photograph in a documentary way", that's fine. But I think especially if you're using that term, "photojournalist", you better not be going against everything that the code of ethics are for photojournalism, because that's taking away all the hard work and the challenges that we that wanna shoot everything purely do. Does that make sense? In weddings, I don't call myself a wedding photojournalist, because I will change the light. That's about the most extent that I go, but it's their one and only day and they want it to be perfect, so whatever I'll like, change lights or whatever. But when it comes to being a family photojournalist, that's what I-- My heart is at that. The other thing is, I like the challenge. Why not challenge yourself to work within the parameters that you've been given, rather than controlling everything? Just go ahead and do it. I know it's easier to turn on the light, and at the end of the day it actually would make my life easier, but how about not turning it on and find another way to problem solve right? For me? I don't know, it's just me. I also want to be recognized as a photojournalist within a family's home and by that I cannot touch anything. So. And we talked earlier to day about what you define as the different categories and that if you don't wanna be direct like you are, that you can be a lifestyle photographer, you can be the different documentary types. So. And you can still use all things I'm teaching and be a little bit more directive with what you're doing in the field. It's whatever you feel comfortable with. Like my heart is really in this for this, so this is how I teach. But my students will tell you, when you're working with me you're not allowed to touch anything. What you do after you're done working with me is fine. Like you have to do what's best for you. But for me I am very committed to this type of photography. Thank you. You're welcome. Okay so last question for today. Yes. We've got a lot more for tomorrow as well, so you have great energy and you are driven to get the photo. How do you sustain and push on for what looks like a very long day? I would think that you are perhaps as mentally tired as you are physically, this appears to be very very strenuous. So what are some things that you do to keep your energy up? I eat. (laughter) I drink lots of water and I take breaks. If it's boring and they're watching TV, I'm gonna hang out. When I was preg-- I've stopped doing "day in the life" sessions, because I'm just too pregnant to do it. Really it's more like getting up and getting down, but one of the last ones that I did, I took a nap when the kids took a nap, and I was okay with that because I needed the energy you know making a human inside me, so I needed the energy so I took it. The other thing is I stress, you do not have to do a full day. This is me. This is I'm committed to doing a full day. But you can totally make good moments in one hour, and I showed that in my first class. Like I-- It's harder to make those good moments in an hour session. I say two or three hours is better. Tyler Workin who you've had on, he does normal day sessions and he just does four hours. And you can get great moments in four hours. You don't have to do the full day. I'm neurotic and psychotic, and I'm so addicted to the whole story that I feel like I'm failing myself if I don't have from the day-- Moment they wake up until they go to bed. That's me though. That's my choice. You don't have to do the full day. It is exhausting, and I think it is way more emotionally mentally exhausting than it is physically. 100% so. It's-- You're making so many decisions at the same time all day long. It is draining, but if you continue to do it and you persevere, that's how you make good photos. But it is really hard. And tomorrow I'm gonna talk about really how hard this genre is, and with my students I just-- I don't expect them to get to a certain level, I just want to see them get to their starting level and a little bit better. That's all I'm asking for, because it's a long process to be good at this. And I only think-- So I've been shooting like this for eight years, "Day In The Life" Sessions for like four or five, and I just think of "good". That's it. I don't think I'm great, I don't think I'm anywhere near mastering anything, but I'm at the point where I can say I'm good at it. But I have so much to learn, so I can only imagine-- The advantage to all of you is I'm-- No one was here telling me this. I had to figure all this out on my own, this family photo journalism stuff. Now you guys are like 50 steps in front of me where I just can give you all this information to start with and then go. And I've got students that are out shooting me, like that blow me away. So it's just hard and it takes a lot of dedication.

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