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Challenging Subjects: Photographing Teenagers

Lesson 23 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

Challenging Subjects: Photographing Teenagers

Lesson 23 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

23. Challenging Subjects: Photographing Teenagers


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


What Makes a Picture Successful?


Technical Tips: ISO


Technical Tips: Aperture


Technical Tips: Shutter Speed


Technical Tips: Focus


Using Light to Tell a Story


Using Composition to Tell a Story


Lesson Info

Challenging Subjects: Photographing Teenagers

The other ... Trouble spot in terms of sessions that I find people have, is when it comes to photographing teenagers. They don't know how to approach them, they're not quite sure how they're going to be engaging, so I'm gonna give you some tips. You really need to take the time to connect with teenagers, it's essential if you're going to get them to open up, because they're in this weird place between adolescence and adulthood, so they're very self conscious, and so they're hesitant to be themselves in front of anyone, because they don't want to be judged. There's this transition that happens with kids, where they go into adolescence, then this happens with teenagers, where they're afraid that everyone is going to make fun of them, or like I said, judge them, so in order to photograph them, naturally, like the real them, you have to take time to connect. So, it means putting down the camera, having good conversations with them, not speaking down to them, they're not kids in terms of co...

nversation. In conversation, I find that you have to speak up to them. Speak to them even at an older age than they are. Once you feel like you've gotten that access, then they'll let you in. That's what I said, don't speak down to them. And remember that teenagers still have childlike behavior, and if they feel safe around you and your camera, they will exhibit that. One suggestion I have, if you know that you have teenagers coming up for a shoot, this is the one time that I make a suggestion to the parents to organize at least two activities that the family is all going to do together, because otherwise in this day and age, you're going to end up with a lot of photos of screen time. And screen time isn't interesting to photograph, so it is the one exception to the rule, where I suggest that they plan at least two activities that the family can do as a whole. I'm just going to share with you a couple of photos from a session that I did with Davina Fere who's another documentary family photographer, and she had four teens. Her oldest was getting ready to go away to college, and I just pulled forty from her session, that kind of speak to what I was just saying. That is, there's still, the childlike behavior, even with the 18 year olds, like I love that Davina was still going in and waking the kids, right? There's still very much kid inside of them. This is typical teens, do not want to get out of bed. You know, they're primping themselves now in the mirror. I messed up this shot, because I did cut off the bottom part of his leg. But, by the end, they felt comfortable with me enough, where I went shopping with them, because they took the car and went and got groceries and they let me come with them without their parents. It was totally like this the entire time they were in the store, they were like throwing things, tossing things at each other, pretending they were ninjas. You can see the childlike behavior, as well as the adult behavior at the same time. He's doing his hair again in the back there. They still fight like kids, right? Still eat cereal like a child. Again, there's less connection through the teen years I think, because the kids are trying to figure themselves out, a lot of times, they just hate their parents. I will say Davina has the most amazing family, and they're so affectionate and loving to one another, it was really inspiring for me to see and to photograph. So I made a lot of photos of them being really kind to one another. They're Mormon and I just love photographing Mormon families because in general, that tends to be the norm, that they are bigger families and they're really loving, like really loving, and they love spending time with each other. So, I lucked out a bit with this session, but I still had them plan some activities. But faith is very important to them and on Sundays, rather then generally going to a church, or I think it was Saturday, they would go to the park and read their scripture, so I felt it was important to make good photos of that. The fact that they do it on a swing, right? I loved that part of them. Davina's a photographer, so she's iPhoning this photo. You know, kids being kids, their relationship to each other, like I said they did a ... They're still weird, I don't know why she was reading on the exercise bike, but she did that for quite a while. Not quite sure how that happened, I stepped in on that. I was like, "Oh, your bathing suit's in the toilet." And also the relationship between the parents. I feel like sometimes I have a little bit more opportunity to shoot that. I did go in a kayak with my cameras, but what I did was I rode with someone else, so I wasn't paddling. That's with a long, so I had both my long and my wide in the boat. She was so mad. She could not get in her boat, she had to swim it all the way back to shore. Again, environmental portraits, just interesting environmental portraits. All of them in the water together. Trying to show their playfulness. They also love their dog. I haven't mentioned anything about that, but if families have pets, more than likely, they're really important to them, and it's part of their family, so I try really hard to make great photos of them with their pets. (laughs) Being a diva. And also trying to make pictures of what the kids are interested in, and what they do. Because she might not always play the violin, but what I loved is that the family loved listening to her play the violin, so I wanted to make a photo of that, that they gather around and listen to her play. Environmental portraits. So, dad and the son went off golfing together, which I thought was really nice, so I just made some really nice photos of them doing a sport that they do together. They still have attitudes, as lovely and beautiful as they are, they still have moods. This was a friends pool, the friends dog. (audience laughs) I can not stress enough how I felt so lucky to be invited to photograph them. But Davina is still a mom, right? You're always a mom, so she might not know that her mom does this every night before her mom goes to bed, so it was important to me that I make this picture for her daughter. There was a lot of laughing in that house. These two passed out. Davina reads to them every night and I guess a lot of times one or many of them just fall asleep. So I just, I love this, this was ... I thought this was really special because Anna was leaving in like a week to go to university. Now he's on mission. I think this is second year in doing his mission, but I just really loved the way that Davina is looking at him. You can also make really good photos with teenagers, it's just a different type of shoot. And this one more than any other type of shoot requires you to be vulnerable and put yourselves out there and engage in a lot of conversation with them so that they feel super comfortable with you.

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Ratings and Reviews


I own Kirsten's 3 classes. And they are ALL amazing, inspiring and refreshing. She is not only a super talented photographer but an amazing teacher and person as well. I have learned so much from each one of her classes. I have never met a photographer so willing to share and see their students succeed. I highly recommend people not only to buy this class, but all 3! I would not be the photographer I am today if it wasn’t for her. After following her advise for the last 3 years I am finally engaging with the audience I want and I feel true to myself in the way I shoot. This makes a huge difference in my everyday. I am am truly grateful to this photo wizard lady. ps: warning, make sure you are on birth control. These classes might make you want to have children, just to get amazing images like the ones she takes LOL (joking) #not

Carrie Littauer

This workshop was by far the best photography workshop I have ever been a part of. Kirsten's work, her humor, her authenticity, her expertise and perspective will forever change the way I work with families and go about documentary photography. I am so motivated and inspired to dig deeper into my role as a photographer, and as a person, to make a real difference in the lives of those that I photograph and with my art. I'm thrilled to have been in the LIVE studio and am so grateful for Creative Live for giving phenomenal artists like Kirsten this exposure and opportunity to teach other creatives like myself! Thank you.

Johanne Lila

In the very minutes Kirsten Lewis' first class (first of three) for cL aired, I realized I needed in on this awesomeness. I became a 1 Year Mentorship student with her right away, and now I have been so incredibly fortunate to be in the studio audience for the live taping of her final class (or the third of the three, who knows what the future might hold!). For me as a 'Kirsten Lewis alumni' taking this class was perfect. I was reminded of things I knew, but had forgotten. I learned a ton of new stuff. But most of all, I remembered why we do this work in the first place: The love that is right there in the reality of life. How much this work matters to real families out there. And how much it matters to keep getting better at this, to give our families better work. I will be forever greatful that I chose the best mentor, Kirsten is such a gift to all of us. And if you're still in doubt: This class is AMAZING! If you're new, if you've at it for a while, if you're alumni: Gold is HERE!

Student Work