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Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home

Lesson 37 of 37

RAW Image Culling & Critique

Kirsten Lewis

Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

37. RAW Image Culling & Critique

Lesson Info

RAW Image Culling & Critique

We have Jen, the lovely Jen here again. And she's given me 86 photos raw as in they're not processed or anything from a session that she did with the family in a backyard. And I'm going to go through them. I'm not going to critique every photo but what I'm going to do is show you how... Jen, I'm going to show you how I narrow it down so we can find your best photos in here, okay. So the other thing I keep in mind and I'm not picking the extended gallery here, I'm picking the best what I would do for like the artists and edit here what I'm looking for. Jen, are these in order of, like did you narrow these down? No, these are what I shot. Okay, totally out-- Yeah, yeah. So now that we've been talking, what do you think I'm going to say first about these series of just a sequence right now? Let's look at your contact sheet as a whole. What am I looking for? I think I need to stay at a spot longer. Yes, yes. And hopefully now that we've, you've been in the class that you will d...

o that. Because I think that this was a really good situation you totally gave up on it. Like I don't know how long the girls were in the air that were like on the swings, but look at this really clean blue right here and this amazing stuff that's happening with her hair. And so what I would have done is maybe because you're using a 25 millimeter. Is this 24-70? Oh no, this is mirrorless, so 25-50. Okay, okay. Do you shoot it all with mirrorless? No, just this session. But for me this is the area I would be concentrating on right here and doing like a more graphic image of these fun lines and her swinging in and out of it with her hair flying. But you can't crop it like to that, you would just have had to work that. But you gave up really quickly, you're like, "We'll try this. No, let's try this." And this isn't working because we don't want the feet on the edges, we want them. And to me what's the most interesting thing about the feet right now when we look at them? The position. Who said dirty? Yeah. For me, I see dirty feet. So if we're going to shoot the feet, let's try and make them in focus. Do you guys know the trick about like when you have people swinging in and out of a scene or running in and out? Okay. If it's repetitive, you can't keep going focus, focus, focus, focus, focus, focus, focus, that's ridiculous. So what you do is focus where you want to make the photo like where they're going to swing in you want the photo, focus on that and then let them swing out. And then as they come in to where you focus for, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot. And then they're going to swing out and then they're going to swing back in and you shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot. Does that make sense? Say if kids are running back and forth or running in and out. Or you see this beautiful patch of light and you know the kids are going to run into the light, just go ahead and focus in the light and get ready. So that when they run into it then you just press the shutter down as you're running through it and then you'll get them in focus and you won't have to track them. Same with swings. You don't have to track them, you just focus where you want to shoot and then you wait for them to keep swinging in and out of it. So for me, if I was shooting just the feet, I would make sure that like set it up because they keep going back and forth so that compositionally I have all the feet in there and I would set my focus for the feet. And then I would shoot every time they come into the frame like into the focal point that I have. Kind of like this. Okay, so these are water balloons and they're really hard to shoot by the way. So you have to like be deliberate and just pick one, like one person with the water balloon that you want to try and follow versus all of them. Is someone trying to spray them with a hose? Yeah. Over there. So what we need is-- The hose. The hose, because I like this what's happening here. I'll tag it for now but I don't think I'm gonna keep it. I love this too but I'm not sure. Is he chucking something at her? I think so. Yeah. Oh yeah, the water balloon right there. That stinks that it's a white, it could have been any other color, let's see. I do like this layer but we can't quite tell, I didn't even see that right away, let's see. This is a perfect example for me of why you use an or an 80-200, 70-200. Because this is a fairly big backyard with a lot of stuff in the background. So by using the long lens we're compressing it, we're cleaning up the background. But also kids are running around everywhere and I'm old. Like I cannot run and chase them, it's not possible. Apparently Tristan, Jenna's husband is amazing and can run after kids all day long. I can't do it. Can you do it? Neither can I, no. Especially if you've already had kids, you just don't want to run after any children. So that's the other advantage of having long lenses, you can track the kids without having to move a whole lot. Because when you have this lens is kind of like it's difficult. So this is a really good moment right here. Compositionally, what are we struggling with? Feet. Feet. We have this space here. This I kind of want to see. That's where you can see like just this and it's fine. Although kind of like that it's a girl shooting him with a gun. It was a good day. Yeah. You're not trusting yourself to let the picture come and come to be. I want you to talk to me about why here? Why you chose to stay here? I have no idea. So I'm glad that you said that because I have no idea either. But what I want you to get to the point with your shooting is that you can answer why with every photo. Even if it's a shitty... Oh my God, I just did it. Oh my God, thank God we're not live. Even if it's a really bad photo, I want you to still be able to tell me why you made that picture, right? And so I don't ever want you to be like, "Well I don't know why I made it." Well then that means it's not going to ever develop into a picture if you have no idea why, what your purpose was, what your reasoning was behind it. Because I don't know why you would be here either. This just looks like you're... Because of lines? No, I don't even-- It's like you're the creepy neighbor that's like looking through the fence. And it's not even because I was escaping the water. I don't know why, I have no idea. Okay. We're going to work on your whys. Oh, wow. This could have been so good. Especially if you had the long lens and you have this in focus. You know you've got all this beautiful backlighting from the you can see the spraying of the water and then you can be right there with that long lens. What I do like is you recognize what was your best photo from this session on your own and sent it in. I need to look at your time. I'm going to go back. Close your eyes if you get nauseous. What I'm doing is I'm looking at the timestamp. So 86 photos between 3: and 3:35, so almost 20 minutes. Did you do portrait session too before-- No, this is just my neighbors. Oh, just your neighbors. So even in 20 minutes I want to see that number more like three or four or 500 photos, so that you're working harder to make these pictures. So we already looked at your best one but I want to take a look at... I want to talk about toning a little bit while I have the time. While I'm having trouble with the fact that this one doesn't have the hose in it. I like what light we're looking at, so I just want to show you how I would tone this. I wonder if I can reset this. Yes, okay. What you're doing really well here is you've got this gorgeous light right on their faces. And I kind of like all this empty space if we had just had the hose and more obvious the water, this would be a really strong photo. And this would be a situation where them running out of the frame makes sense. Because we have the catalysts, the cause and effect. The cause of why they're running. So I actually think this might be a black and white because of how beautiful the difference is in the blacks to the whites with the light. But what you want to do is actually shoot this much further down. So while we're processing it whether I'd rather you had shot it that way, I'm going to process it the way that I would have wanted you to shoot. And basically for me I shoot what is proper exposure and then down a stop. I usually shoot down, I underexpose. But I want to exaggerate this beautiful light. What it also does is help to clean up the background. So what I always do is adjust for the background first. With my black and white I use a lot of clarity because I've used Ilford film so I really liked that strong black and white, the crisp look of it and then go in and dodge them. And what I do is I paint where the light is. Not on those bright highlights but I'm painting that X on the light I want to bring up. And then remember you guys, I think I taught you this before, the big circles. Because we don't want it to make it look like we've really manipulated it. So we have to do the big circles. The other thing is with your Dodge and Burn tool, I make the size pretty big and then I feather to a hundred and then my flow is low. And that's what I found works best. So if we compare the two photos side by side, they feel very different. I'm not saying that this is an amazing photo because we're missing stuff. But as far as the toning of it, I feel like the one on the right really is timeless with them running. It's almost like their bathing suits are ageless also, so it could have been made, I don't know, in the 20s or now. One thing I noticed while I was toning it but I can notice it here, is you're shooting at 2.2. Is that where you usually shoot? No 2.8 is usually. I just had this conversation with somebody at Inspire, but I have an issue with when you're doing a lot of moment work like this where there's a lot of people running around shooting at 2. because you need some context. And if you have multiple subjects, if you're shooting at 2.2, you're not going to have a lot of people in focus unless you're pretty far away. But when we're encouraging you to get close and you're shooting it 2.2 or anything less than 2.8, you're really running the risk that things aren't gonna be in focus. And that's a risk I don't think you should be taking. I think that you should acknowledge that the reasons why we have apertures and what works for particular scenes. So with them all running around I would say, you know 2.8 at the widest and maybe even 3.5 or 4. I think that it's better to have a little bit more depth of field. Not too much but a little bit more. Especially if you're using your long lens then you can be shooting it like 5. and you're still cleaning up your background but making sure that multiple people are in focus. Does that make sense to everybody? Okay. Now this would work... Let's look at this one. What is hurting us with this picture? Oh, sorry. This little dude, if we... But sometimes we just can't help it. But what I like, what are we seeing here? Triangles. We've got this triangle, we have this triangle. We even have kind of one here and our eyes drawn to it. So what I am going to say is we do not need... I want to cut her finger off. You know what? This is with your mirrorless so... It's 4/3. It's 4/3, that's why I'm having trouble. Do you guys know that? Are you Olympus or-- Olympus. Do you know that you can switch that? Oh, I don't know that. 2 3. It can shoot into 2 3. Okay. Because right now that's why I'm having a little bit of... But let's just bring it in. I want to bring this one in. Why is it toning it like that automatically? Yeah, I don't know. It's weird. Okay. So I can't... Now it won't let me... Okay. We're just going to get rid of that extra stuff on the side. What's bothering me is this blue thing, but I don't think I can get rid of it so. I'm not sure if black and white or colors are going to work better. I think black and white because I think we have enough light on them that black and white is actually going to help with this background here. And that's a question that didn't come up. I'm sure it came up in the chat room is, do you guys struggle when to make it black and white and to make it color? Yes. Yes. So here's my rule. If color is not adding to the story, if color is not being repeated in this story. So it's a repetitive color theory type of more graphic image. If it's not helping separate subjects either from each other or the background, it will probably be better in black and white. If you notice with the session that I delivered to Jake and his family, there were a lot in color. And the reason being is I was working in that house that had really difficult light to work with. So that light by keeping it color was helping separate my subjects a lot because it was cluttered. There were times where I tried to switch to the black and white because it was a really good moment, but everything got lost basically and it got muddy. So think about that. Is the color actually adding to the story or is it taking away distracting from the moment? In this situation I'm kind of on the fence because the light is really nice. And sometimes when I'm on the fence I'll just try it in both. But what I think right now color is hurting us because the legs are bright here coming out of her head. Versus if we just take it down to black and white, I might be able to make that less obvious, let's see. What I'm doing is I'm adjusting the background first then I'm dodging back in what's important. Just like a painter I'm painting on the light that's already there but not the highlights, I don't want to increase the highlights. Sometimes I have to work this a little. Now I've got to do big circles because I don't want to make it look like I've adjusted it. Now we don't care as much about that boy. And a little bit more. I think it's going to look better in black and white than in color. Do you have a care to level it? Well, in this case, yes. So she just ask me if I care to level it because the wall is not... Yes, horizons I'm crazy about. However, in this situation what do I want, what is more important? This wall that's really in the back that I don't really care about it being that straight or losing your fingertips? Because I'm going to have to lose her fingertips if I straighten it. Yes, usually... See, that's how much I have to get rid of and I really hate losing her fingers. So I think... Does that. I think it's better just keep it as is. And I really think it's actually better in black and white. In color we really see this happening out of her head. However, what can we do to fix that in camera if we didn't want the legs coming out of her head? Move to the side? Yeah or even get like a little bit lower and then to the left hair and we just use bodies to cover bodies, I do it all the time. This is like really spontaneous though, like a lots of movement so it's harder to look at your backgrounds and I acknowledge that. But if we're thinking about in the future and maybe they aren't running around as crazy then you can use her body to block the back body. So Jen, this is what I feel from looking at this session. Is that you're totally seeing the moments and you're just not working through it. Like you're not trying hard enough because I feel like you're... It almost feels like you're unsure of what you should be shooting and so you're very distracted. And so what I want you to do is what... This is trouble for a lot of people is just look at the scene when things are getting really crazy. You remember how I said when things are really chaotic, I just slow down, just slow way down and focus on one picture at a time. I want you to look at this and be like, "Okay, overall this backyard "what do I find the most interesting?" And we could be in the backyard together and shoot totally different things, and that's what I love. But I want you to go in the backyard and be like, okay, the Super Soakers, the girls with the Super Soakers I think are the most interesting. So I'm just going to focus for the next 10 minutes on making a good photo of the girls shooting everyone with the Super Soakers. And I'm not going to worry about the kids on the swing. I'm not going to worry about the boys that are beating each other up, I'm just going to worry right now because there's so much chaos, I'm just going to deliberately choose this scene to shoot first and then work through that. Remember with donkey pull? It's like the kid breaks his leg, you busted over to the monkey bars. But otherwise just go out give yourself permission to not get everything and it's okay to not get everything. So when you're doing that and it's chaotic in the house, do you ever have a parent say to you, "Oh, look over here." Are you seeing this? And what do you do when they do that? Kathy was doing that to me on the live shoot. If it's really good and I'm missing it, I'll be like, "Oh, okay." and I'll go over there. Because like I don't have eyes in the back of my head. So it's kind of like the donkey pull. If somebody shows me the donkey pull and it's really good, sure, I'll take their advice and go. I don't want to do it too often because then the parents are gonna be directing me the whole time. But in general if I don't think it's good, this is what happens to me on one-hour sessions, especially if I'm with like extended family or anybody that shoots weddings that bridesmaid that does it. I always say, "Oh good, thanks for letting me know. "I'm shooting something really awesome right now "and I'll try and get to that in a bit." And that's just how I handle it. Sometimes it's really good. Like the kid that's about to kill himself because he's climbing up the bookcase and the mom's like, "I think you should shoot that." That doesn't happen very often, it really doesn't, not with Day In The Life Sessions because they're too busy in their life. It happens more with one-hour sessions, it happens more, it definitely happens in weddings for me all the time. Dang bridesmaids who likes to tell me every shot that I need to get. And that's how I handle it with any of those situations. "Awesome, thank you for letting me know. "I'm working on something really important here. "I'll get to it if I can get to it, I'll get to it, okay?" And what Jen struggled with in this session is going to be very common for you guys as well when you have this many people running around. And it's just a matter of telling yourself and giving yourself permission to slow down and then you don't have to get everything just get one thing at a time. Because the problem is you're just going to get a bunch of mediocre or un-moments if you try and shoot everything. Or you can get like four or five really awesome moments by just focusing on one thing at a time.

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.



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!