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Using Light to Tell a Story

Lesson 7 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

Using Light to Tell a Story

Lesson 7 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

7. Using Light to Tell a Story


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

Using Light to Tell a Story

We're gonna talk about spot metering real quick, and shooting in manual. And metering for highlights. Okay. I choose a spot meter, that means my little box, when I put it over the light, it's gonna get me the reading and then I adjust my settings accordingly. I don't want an overall reading of my environment. I only want it where I put that little box. So I spot meter. These are questions I get all the time. I spot meter. I meter for highlights. Most of the time, I'm putting that little spot meter on really nice or bright light, and I'm metering for that, meaning I'm exposing for the highlights, the bright light. What does that do? It brings the shadows down. It creates depth. This one is, really need to see it on the other monitor, but it can create separation between subjects, and it can help to clean up the scene. So that is how I'm metering for my light. I'm also using light and metering for highlights, like I said, to create depth and separation. So I meter for him for the light o...

n him, that's coming from this room, so it makes the bathroom dark. It separates him from the bathroom. So I do it inside as well as outside. I'm metering for this highlight so that this goes darker, so there's separation between my foreground and my background. Same with this. I'm metering for the highlight, which makes an interesting effect of depth. In the original file, his face actually goes dark, so you just see his little hands playing with the worms, and then his hat. I'm also using light to create mood. I'm choosing how much I'm going to expose for, depending on what environment I'm in, and how I want my viewer to read the environment. This is a subway. It is dark. I don't want to make it bright and airy. I want it to feel kind of dark. And so, and kind of muddy, because that's what it feels like in the subway, so I meter accordingly. I bring my exposure down a little bit. When kids are behaving like this, I want it bright and airy, so if I don't have a whole lot of highlights, I'm going to expose a little bit brighter, and I'm gonna tone with a little bit more contrast. This is one of my newer photos that I really am proud of because this is taking my work to a more universal fine art place, and I call it Pet Balloon because it feels like his balloon is going on a walk with him. But, I toned this, and you'll see tomorrow, I'm gonna show you the print, it's dark and moody, because that's what I feel like, like that's what I felt like when I was watching it happen and I felt like it was kinda like, I don't know, mysterious? Like the kid and his pet balloon. And so I chose to meter to make the viewer feel like I felt when I was there. And the other thing I want to talk about is just seeing light in difficult situations where you might not notice it right away. Because I see light all the time, wherever I am, from noticing all the different highlights on her hat, and so I meter according to that, the little highlights, and it brings the water down, to these small slight highlights that were glistening on his skin, and so I just metered for that, which created more dimension on his body. Noticing the teeniest tiniest highlight when they started to go down the hill, and so I metered for that knowing that as he ran, just the tips of his hair were going to be illuminated. These are all very... What's the right word? Deliberate decisions that I'm making. I'm noticing these things ahead of time and making adjustments, a lot of times waiting for my subjects to go into that light. And even inside, I'm noticing my darks and my lights, from my light sources that I'm seeing from the windows and metering from that, metering for that. And this is just about what I said about choosing one light and working with that first. There was a lot of light going on. Do you see the shad-- there's like shadow, and they were playing in the front yard and then there's bright light, and then there's spotted light. My suggestion to you is pick one light and work with it. My suggestion is always the highlights. And you wait for your subjects to come in and out of the light, rather than, "oh, they're in the shadow, "now I've gotta change." and you know, meter for the shadow. "Oh, now I gotta go back to the bright light." Because what's gonna happen is you're gonna end up missing all the photos. You're always going to miss photos, always. There's always gonna be a photo that you're gonna miss. So rather than worry about missing all the photos, accept and embrace the fact you're gonna miss photos, and focus on the ones that are important to you. So for me, I metered just for that light, and when they would come in and out of the light, I would shoot. And when they were not in the light, I'd hang out and talk. And when they would come in and out of the light, I would shoot again. I'm choosing just one light to work with. Again, I'm choosing just to use this little highlight to work with, and there was a shadow when she swung this way so I didn't shoot when she swung out of the light. I only shoot when she swings into the light. Yes? Does it understand? Metering just for these highlights. She she was eating this worm and turning around back and forth, which meant sometimes her face was in the light, sometimes she was creating a shadow on herself and I couldn't make the photo. So I had to wait and be patient, because I can't tell her what to do in these sessions, or I don't, so I just have to be patient and wait for her to turn back, do what I want her to do in the light, yes? Noticing light before your subjects enter it. This is in Paris. I was at a vacation session I just did with this family, and they were going-- I saw the archway before they ever walked into it, I saw the archway, I saw the beautiful light, and I said, "This is gonna make a really good photo." "If I'm lucky enough that they all separate, "and I can make a silhouette." so I prepared, and metered just for that light, and waited for them, knowing consciously the photo I wanted to make before I could even make it, yes? So when you're metering for the light, I use single focus as well, Yes. So that's the only little square I see. Are they the same squares, because I'll put the focus square which I assume is-- It's the same square. My meter. Okay, good. Yes, yeah. (laughs) Thank you. Yeah, it's the same square as your focus square. Yes. I could never ask Google that question properly, so I never got my answer. Did anyone else have that? Yeah, it's the same little square, so yeah. We're gonna go really quickly through this.

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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