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Storytelling through Lifestyle Portraiture

Author: Libby - Printique by Adorama

As parents and photographers, we have a responsibility to be historians for children. If it’s our own kids, we must make the effort to print images of our children. As photographers, we can go the extra step and document children as they see life, unfiltered and unabashedly amazing! We sit down with photographer Katie Evans from the Key to Pictures about her work as a lifestyle photographer.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Even though I own and run my own business I still consider myself a “stay at home mom”. It’s almost kind of an after thought when I meet people for the first time. “…Oh, and yeah, I have a business too!” I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s an absolute dream to be a wife and mom first and foremost AND get to share/teach my passion on top of that.
I graduated from college in Recreation Therapy…but after working in the field for several years I didn’t find much love for it. So I took a chance and worked as an assistant for a wedding photographer for about 3 months, who ended up teaching me the basics of SLR photography. I began with a film camera and eventually got a digital camera when our second child was born.
Through thousands (and I mean THOUSANDS) of crappy photos I taught myself an easy, simple, and effective way to take awesome photos. I practiced on my own kids and my friends’ kids, which eventually led to a full-blown photography business. I was and will forever be a natural light, lifestyle photographer. It fits my personality, which is one of simplicity and genuine-ness. (if that’s even a word!)
Taking photos gave way to teaching others how to take photos. In 2011 I saw a real need for a photography book teaching women the simple, fast and easy way to take pictures. So many of my friends, acquaintances, and family members now owned these “big” dslr cameras but had no idea how to use them to their full potential. It was killing me to see them use their super expensive camera as a point and shoot.
I’m so happy to say that my book has been the reason that thousands of people have been able to finally take the kind of pictures that they have only dreamed about. I have many women who have gone from knowing nothing about photography to now owning their own photography business. Every time I see their stunning work I get emotional knowing I had something to do with that.
It’s been my true pleasure to help and connect with so many people, see their potential and watch them achieve it.
I’ve since written another book and I have an online Photography Academy called, Key to Pictures where I teach through short, concise, and easy to follow videos.
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2. Define what lifestyle photography means to you.
Lifestyle photography is pretty much like being a fly on the wall.It means capturing the moment so you can treasure those feelings in the years to come. It’s means telling the story of your life as it really was. It means capturing not just what the scene and the subject “looked like” but capturing the emotion.
To me photography isn’t about the perfect location or the perfect clothing choice or the perfect pose. It’s more about the feeling you get when you look at the photo. Does it make you feel good? Does it make you feel nostalgic? Does it make you have an even deeper love for the person in it?
Lifestyle photography to me means connecting, loving, and living.
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3. How did you get into it?
I’ve always been a creative type of a person. I was in art classes all throughout school and generally just love to sit down and create. I’ve always seen scenes or frames in my minds eye when I would look at a beautiful location or see connections between people. I was a good artist but not good enough to create the images that I wanted with pencil or paint so photography became my medium for creating what I could see in my mind.
When I was first starting out I would get so frustrated that I couldn’t quite create what I could see in my mind. But as I learned more and more and practiced more and more it was exhilarating to be able to finally produce the kind of art that felt natural and right. And the fun part is I’ve never stopped improving. I still take photos that make me think, “Wow. I did that.” Not that I feel like I’m never satisfied but there’s always room for improvement.
4. How do you photograph children in this type of photography.. in other words, letting the children be free but at the same time getting them in the best light or composition.
I’m constantly looking for gorgeous lighting. In any situation I’m in, I’m always looking for the best possible light scenario. (Which is a whole other lesson!) Once I find the sweet spot in regards to light I try to position myself to use it. I try not to disrupt the kids too much. I’m the one who will move around to capture the shot. I let them just be. If they are in a terrible lighting condition I will subtly adjust what I can. For example, if I catch my kids curled up on their bed reading together (if it’s during the day) I will quietly open the blinds, turn off any overhead lighting and go from there. I might on occasion have them do something like move closer to a window but most of the time I don’t’ interrupt them, I take care of what I can on my own and let them continue being cute.
But that’s not to say that I never interact with them in order to create a better photo. If my daughter is running around the living room in a pair of my high heels and a diaper I’ll start off by trying to get a good shot as the situation is. But if I’m just not able to capture it I’ll excitedly ask her to hold still for just a second so I can get a good shot of her. And then I direct her to stand where the lighting is optimal.
I try not to get too uptight or militant when capturing special moments. I find as moms we want so badly for something to “turn out” that we tend to push love and “being in the moment” aside. We find ourselves kicking into crazy mode shouting out orders, which quickly demolishes any good mood that was once present. When I stay calm and allow myself to go with the flow, I’m able to capture that perfect shot, just as I intended it.
It’s also so important to be crazy familiar with your camera and the settings so that you can make adjustments quickly and efficiently in the heat of the moment. There’s nothing more frustrating than to miss the perfect shot because you were fumbling with your camera.
5. What is your go to lens with these types of sessions?
Having a lens that allows you to have a very wide open aperture (i.e. f/2.0) is key for me. First of all, it’s a necessity when you’re shooting in any type of a low light situation. And second, I feel like a wide aperture helps to tell the story. What I mean by that is having a shallow depth of field (lots of blur in the background or foreground) can help you walk your “reader” (aka person who is looking at your photo) through the story by focusing their eye on what’s important. Whatever is in focus is considered the most important part of the photo. So having ability to move the focus point around instead of having the entire frame in focus is key to story telling.
I also really love a shallow depth of field because it can blur out stuff  in the background that may be too distracting from your subject. For example, my kids are being adorable while they decorate sugar cookies in our kitchen. As I grab the camera I look at what’s in the background…the table with our mess from lunch still strewn across it. It would be totally distracting to see the mess in the background but no worries because I can use an aperture that will totally blur it all out thus focusing the viewer on the cute kiddos not the disaster behind them. Problem solved.
With that said, I love my Nikon 50mm f/1.8, Nikon 85mm f/1.8, AND my Sigma 30mm f/1.4. Both Nikons are good for portrait type photos and the Sigma is good when I want to use the surrounding scenery to also tell the story.
6. Any advice to those starting out?
My first piece of advice is to just get out there take pictures. The more pictures you take the more likely you are to improve. Henri Cartier-Bensson said, “Your first 10,000 photos are your worst.” Never get discouraged that you don’t start out perfect. The key is to START.
And my second piece of advice to is never compare yourself to anyone. YOU are special unique and perfect just as you are. Your art is your art. When we make comparisons to others we are most likely never fair to ourselves. If you’re just starting out it’s totally not fair to compare your work to someone who’s been taking pictures for 10 years. It’s tempting but don’t do it. You’re on your own journey not on anyone else’s.
Thank you Katie for your insight and inspiration. If you would like to be more informed you can check out Katie’s website called the Key to Pictures Academy HERE or check out her Facebook Page HERE.
By the way, Katie has been kind enough to share her ebook on ‘The Key to Natural Posing – Kids’ with our members. Click on the picture below to receive your free copy.
If you found this helpful, Katie offers a number of educational resources for photographers. Exclusively for Printique members, you can now get 40% off any of her educational items in her store. Simply use code: Printique at check out. This is good through July 28th. You can visit her store HERE.