This week we chatted with on of my favorite lifestyle photographers of all time – Kirsten Lewis – and covered everything from eggs and hobbies to travel and business tips. Plus a smattering of some of her favorite images (that we love too!) that really illustrate why she’s one of my faves.
What area do you serve?
I am based in Denver, Colorado – however, I shoot worldwide, as most of my work requires travel.
Tell us three random things about yourself.
- I once worked as a mic boom girl for the LPGA tour in Florida.
- I have super weird middle fingers, a condition called brachydactyly. Megan Fox has this on her thumbs.
- My nickname is Kirkie, given to me at age 16 by my little cousin because he couldn’t say Kirsten. Many of my clients and friends’ children call me Kirkie as well as all of my friends and family back home.
How do you like your eggs?
I prefer the over medium OR scrambled with cheese, that being said I am not the biggest fan or breakfast nor breakfast for dinner, so I don’t eat them a whole lot.
What are some of your hobbies (besides photography)?
I love to play tennis and am an avid salsa dancer. My favorite thing in the world to do is cook by myself. I just learned how to make pasta and I’m pretty good at it!
Where’s the coolest place you’ve gotten to go because of photography that you may not have gotten to go otherwise?
Definitely Cuba, because the ONLY way I was able to have the opportunity to go as an American was because I went as a photographer on a special artist’s Visa. It was my life long dream to go and I loved every minute of it. I was so incredibly inspired by the culture, the food, the music and dance.
What got you interested in photography in the first place?
My parents are photographers. I remember being as little as 7 years old and spending hours in the darkroom with them watching the photos magically appear under the surface of smelly water.
What made you choose lifestyle photography as your focus?
It definitely just evolved over time. I have a degree in Child Psychology, was a kindergarten teacher and was photographing a LOT of families on vacation at the beach in the Outer Banks. I’ve been almost exclusively drawn to moment-driven photography so as my work steered more and more in that direction my family work started to stand out more amongst the rest of the photographers on the island. This was an important niche market for me, one that proved not only financially fulfilling, but also personally fulfilling.
Do you have a particular image that you’ve taken that sticks out to you as your favorite? If so, why?
Yes. I think my favorite picture I have made to date is NOT from a contracted session, vacation to an exotic location or personal project. It is actually one frame that I made at my nephew’s little league game of an elderly man watching the kids play ball. It’s probably one of the most powerful storytelling images I have made to date. I knew the moment I released my shutter that it was a very special moment.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to learn about running your own business?
I suck at it. Seriously. I am not a good boss, am not extremely organized and I tend to over extend myself in every direction, which can be terribly exhausting and stressful.
What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Easy. The Goonies.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.
What keeps you inspired?
Honestly, all of the families I get to work with. Every time I shoot, I feel like I get better as a photographer. Why? Because my families are 100% themselves with me, they trust me so the moments I get to witness and document keep the fire inside constantly lit!
What’s the hardest session you ever had to do, and why?
Definitely the very first session I shot for the Sophie Project. Sophie was 3 and extremely ill, her brain tumor had become unmanageable and she was incredibly uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally. She did not want me there photographing but I knew it was so important to her family so I had to work exceptionally hard balancing the two.
Photoshop or Lightroom (for basic editing)?
Photo Mechanic for Editing through my sessions, Lightroom for basic photo processing, and Photoshop for all of my detailed edits that go into the slideshow/website/blog/Facebook.
What’s one thing you never leave the house without?
My phone. But not to talk to people, but so I can take pictures no matter where I am.
If you could impart one piece of advice to someone looking to get into lifestyle photography, what would it be?
You MUST have complete knowledge and control of your equipment before you can focus on moments. It’s imperative that your technical ability becomes effortless and innate, so that you can leave all of the space in your brain to think about your composition and anticipation of moments.
What gear do you typically bring with you to a session (including types of lenses)?
I’m the most simple shooter in the industry.
Nikon D3, Nikon D3s, 35mm, 85mm and an 80-200mm.
What’s your favorite (photography-related) accessory?
Pixel Pocket Rocket from Think Tank. Holds all of my memory cards in a super organized way.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you at a wedding/session/during a shoot/etc.
During a Day in the Life session there was a water moccasin in the kids’ bedroom and I photographed the dads trying to capture and release it. The neighbor came over and chopped its head off with a garden hoe. That was pretty crazy!
What’s the best thing you’ve done for your business?
Take 2 years to learn who I was personally, like that person, and then allow myself to come through my work. It has changed my shooting forever.
To see more of her work, check out her website here.
Article by Beth Teutschmann.