The Art of Lifestyle Family Photography

with elena s. blair

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November 6, 2017
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December 26, 2017
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Study Along seats available!

Lifestyle photography has gained a lot of popularity in the industry, specifically family lifestyle photography. Family lifestyle photography is full of life and connection, going far beyond stiff and unnatural poses and instead focusing on the unique relationship within each individual family. Lifestyle photography takes a lot of direction and control and you will leave this class ready to direct any lifestyle session. You will learn to create lifestyle photographs that have depth and meaning for both you and the subjects you are photographing. You will gain a solid session flow, skills on guiding and directing all subjects that may be present in a family grouping including specifics on the parents as a couple and newborn family sessions. You will also get tips on running a successful lifestyle family photography business, however even a photographer who is not in business would benefit from this course. (Are you an alum of Elena’s old course, Going Beyond the Pose? If so please contact us before signing up to find out more about overlap between the old course and the new course.)

“This class was chock-full of wonderful information, suggestions, and great feedback by the instructor! ”



4 weeks


daily shooting encouraged


4 hours of work per week


Students need a good understanding of exposure.



Elena Blair is a Seattle photographer and NICU/Labor and Delivery nurse. With a Canon 5d mark II and a few choice lenses in hand, Elena began working with film about ten years ago and then dipped her toes in the digital pool in 2010. Often described as fine art documentary, her photography is natural, organic, and emotive which is an extension of her family and their lifestyle. Elena, her husband, and two children (baby number 3 is on the way) are an active family that enjoys biking, hiking, and skiing. Elena’s portfolio is available here.


200-level (Intermediate)

Course Syllabus

Welcome & Preassignment
Week One

Reading: We will define what lifestyle photography is and how it differs from traditional and documentary photography. Specifics of vision and shooting with intention. Important considerations within lifestyle photography including composition, light, environment and location, and most importantly, connection.
Assignment: UKeeping all of the lifestyle considerations in mind, create a lifestyle portrait using a human subject. Tell me what your vision was, what preparations you made, and why you chose the subject you chose. Tell me why you included or excluded any elements in the frame. Tell me how you connected to the subject(s) and why.

Week Two

Reading: A solid family session flow. Creating diversity in galleries. Specifics on newborn lifestyle sessions. This week we will go into specific guiding and directing for babies, children, siblings, and newborns (not posed, lifestyle). You will learn specific “poses,” guiding techniques, and skills to create deep and emotive lifestyle images for this age group.
Assignment: Submit a baby, newborn, child, or children together (sibling) lifestyle image. Tell me why you chose this subject(s), how you chose the location, and what guiding you did to execute this image.

Week Three

Reading: Guiding and directing mother and child, father and child, parents as a couple, parents alone, and the whole family. You will learn specific “poses,” guiding techniques, and skills to create deep and emotive lifestyle images for all the groupings and subjects listed above.
Assignment: Submit a lifestyle image of a mother and child, father and child, a couple, a whole family or an adult alone.

Week Four

Reading: You will do some soul searching in this week, extracting what it is that you want to capture when photographing a human. Staying true to yourself as an artist and how to attract dream clients who appreciate your art. Specifics of preparing families for their sessions, including wardrobe preparations, preparing the children and specifics on preparing dad. Business of lifestyle family photography including email templates, online presence and marketing, gallery delivery, and business models and products that suit this specific genre of photography. Difficult situations such as an uninterested dad, unruly children, fussy newborns and kids, and suboptimal locations.
Assignment: Submit an entire family session gallery.

Full Participation students engage in an interactive online classroom experience that includes instructor-led group discussions and detailed, personalized guidance for the duration of the workshop. Full participation students receive instructor and TA critiques of the posted assignment each week and have lifetime access to a Workshop Alumni forum for continued peer discussion after the course concludes.

Study Along students will have access to all materials and will be able to view all content and conversation in the main workshop forum and receive access to their own private subforum for peer study groups and image shares. Study along students will not be able to ask the instructor questions or request instructor feedback on their assignments.


  • This class is such a great value to cost ratio. She gives such a large amount of information including PDF’s, videos and feedback. Elena is a great teacher and very generous with the amount of time and information that she pours into this course. I was a study along and got a lot out of the feedback she gave to others. I will be going back again and again to refer to the information she shared in this course to keep if fresh. Every time I go back through it, I learn something new.

  • Amanda Bradt says:

    GREAT course! Well worth the money. So much information. Elena doesn’t hold anything back…even showing you her own client galleries. I learned so much and it gave me the incentive I needed to make the leap into starting my own lifestyle photography business. Thank you Elena!!

  • This workshop has been exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t know how to run a lifestyle family session and Elena gave me all kind of tips, workflow, etc. to do it. She has shared with us all of her knowledge, galleries, videos and it has been a huge growth for me. It was also great to have the opportunity to have daily critique by an alumni helper to all pictures we wanted to post. Elena encourages us the whole workshop and shows us what our strong points are and where we have to improve. I know exactly what I have to improve to take my pictures to the next level.
    If you are interested in lifestyle family pictures, go for it, do not doubt it!! You won’t regret it!!

  • Erin says:

    Get ready for some serious soul searching! This is an eye-opening class and really pushed my limits; resulting in images that exude so much more emotion and connection. Elena and her team give honest raw feedback on the weekly assignments and I’m a better photographer for that. I also found that her alumni helpers were so on their game and really took the time from their busy schedules to really critique the daily images. I would highly recommend taking the class FP, and when you have four weeks to really dedicate yourself to the class; its truly worth the time!

  • Alex says:

    Take this class!!!!! This will change your approach to photography- making it so much easier, as it will just flow naturally!!! Elena will answer every question in depth ( it is a good thing to be FP for this workshop). You will gain so much profund knowledge and you will come out this workshop having a good feeling about what you are actually doing and where you are going in your photography. I learned so much, as I know now what I have to strengthen in my photography!!!! Thank you Elena, you are teaching with your whole heart and are such an open person, and this it what makes this workshop a wonderful and deep experience!

  • It’s taken me a while to post my review about this class. Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because life got busy. The reason it got busy was because of this class. The knowledge, inspiration and soul that Elena infused into every single component of this workshop, helped me to grow immensely both as an artist and in terms of confidence. So much so that as soon as the workshop finished, I decided to grab my passion with both hands and started to set up my photography business. This workshop is definitely the best workshop I have taken. It has had such a positive influence on me in so many ways that I am immensely grateful to Elena for. I can honestly see such a marked and positive difference in the images I was capturing before this workshop, compared with the images I am capturing now, which are full of emotion and connection, rather than stiff awkward smiling at the camera poses! Each time I have a shoot I can feel myself growing and improving thanks to the huge wealth of knowledge and detailed critiques that Elena gives. Elena was a completely open book and so generous with sharing her materials, personal galleries, workflows, tips, videos and more. Seriously, if you are at all on the fence about taking this workshop, I urge you to seize the opportunity and really immerse yourself in it. If you can do it full participation I absolutely recommend it for the ability to be able to ask away to your heart’s desire and to receive amazing feedback from Elena, the teacher assistants and alumni helpers. Being FP absolutely gave me the motivation and drive to completely immerse and push myself. I’m so glad that I did, and I know you won’t be dissapointed either. It really is an inspiring workshop.

  • Amy Wright says:

    This class has transformed my photography. My boring, posed, stiff photos are now full of connection, feeling, and beauty. This was my first time taking a class as FP and boy was it worth every single penny. Elena has a way of encouraging, empowering, and helping you realize just how much magic you can capture in the beauty of families. She gave wonderful feedback, was an open book in answering any questions we had about anything, and truly cares about her students.

  • Lindsay Maddox says:

    So THIS is what I was missing! Y’all, this was my first full participation class, and I will ALWAYS do FP from now on. Elena was incredibly helpful and beyond generous with the information she shares in the workshop. My photos were lacking emotion and connection, and while I could picture it in my head, I just couldn’t make it translate when shooting. Elena is so passionate about emotion and connection and it all comes through so beautifully in everything she shares here. She has such a knack for lighting a fire in you that you didn’t realize was there. I came to this workshop just wanting to be able to capture more emotion in photos I take of my family, but I’m walking away wanting to change the world with meaningful, real, raw, beautiful art. Forever thankful and grateful for people, like Elena, who want to share their talents and gifts with the world.

  • Sita Kelly says:

    I loved this class. Elena is not only an incredible artist but also a wonderful teacher. This course was so helpful that I often refer to the materials for inspiration before a session (even though Elena helps you to find inspiration from within!). It was invaluable to be able to watch the videos of Elena shooting and editing different sessions. Same with the critiques on assignments. And she genuinely wants you to succeed as an artist and business owner! Even after the course Elena continues her education and motivation with Facebook live posts and the course alumni Facebook group. I highly recommend this class. Thanks so much, Elena!

  • Amanda Bruns says:

    Have you ever taken a class or workshop that was so you it was like a breath of fresh air? That is what The Art of Lifestyle was for me. I had many “aha!” moments, more than I can include in this review! Elena is the most incredible instructor. She is the most encouraging, inspiring and REAL instructor I have ever had the
    privelege of learning from. I was super nervous and unsure to take this class because I felt way out of my leauge surrounded by such amazing and talented artists. But Elena helped me to realize that I was one of them!! She literally gave me wings to shoot from my heart and what I was feeling, not just what I saw. My confidence grew with each assignment and now I feel like a different person behind the lens. The best version of me. This was a turning point for me and a game changer for my photography journey. I learned so much in this class – from technicals, to business, even editing. But most of all, I learned who I was as an artist, and to really embrace that and run with it! Take this class as FP if you can, you will be so glad you did!!

  • This course is a WONDERFUL introduction to Lifestyle Family portraiture. Elena is incredibly generous with her time, knowledge and encouragement. The materials are thorough and in depth and Elena has also included these incredible video extras – true value for money. No topic is left unexplored and questions are readily answered.
    If you’re looking for a way to loosen up your sessions and inject them with rich emotional connection then Elena is just the person to teach you how! You’ll come away embracing genuine emotion and connection and loving the life it breathes into your sessions.

  • eva_l says:

    For my second workshop I took The art of lifestyle family photography.
    And I’m so happy I did it!! Thank you so much Elena for sharing your knowledge with us!! You are such an amazing teacher!! I highly recommend to take this course as FP because the feedback we get is so rich!

    I learned so much, from the technical aspect of lifestyle photography, about how to enhance connection but also, and above all about me : what do I love in photography, what do I want to photograph, how do I want to build a business and how I want it to be, how do I have to consider myself, and I’m slowly learning to trust in me.

    The value of this workshop is so huge, I think things clicked during these four weeks, all is getting clear now!!

    If you want to improve your lifestyle’s session so this class is for you, don’t even doubt it!!

  • Kira Oschipok says:

    I just completed this course as a Study Along student and loved it. This course is full of useful information, but I think what it really excels at three things: 1) Its focus on creating images full of connection and emotion 2) An emphasis on how to “guide” your subjects into poses that don’t look posed 3) Suggestions on how to structure photo shoots to create a solid flow/order to ensure you get the images you need. Kudos to Elena – she is incredibly helpful and an open book regarding students’ questions. You can tell she really wants her students to excel and succeed.

  • Sue Grubman says:

    This workshop is fantastic! I was looking for something to get me back into shooting and her work struck me as beautiful and emotive. I wanted to learn her secrets. Elena is a gifted and generous teacher providing well thought out lessons, shooting videos, editing videos, client galleries, etc, etc… She answered all questions asked and provided very helpful critiques each week. I learned from everyone’s critiques as well as daily shooting and shares. (even though I struggled to shoot everyday I learned from what others posted.) It was worth every penny and more to me because it has started me back into shooting and given me the information and tools to provide this kind of meaningful service for others.

  • So you’ve had your camera a couple of years you’ve mastered manual exposure and you can take “nice” photos. But yet you feel like there is something lacking and your left wanting more out of each session……..then T H I S is the class for you. Elena provides a crazy generous amount of material to get your photos to the next level. From PDF files to videos of full photo shoots to editing, she will hold your hand and pull you up the ladder to a place you only dreamed your photos could go. You and your clients will be thrilled with their galleries like never before after you have taken this course. In addition to Elena’s guidance, she also calls upon some of the BEST CM Pro’s in the forum to also critique and challenge you to stretch your creative legs like you may not have had a chance to before.

    I highly recommend the full participation, but you must commit to shooting and sharing daily to get the most from spending the extra on FP. It does require dedication and the daily shares are crucial to learning and growing. By critiquing your class participants work each day you begin to see your work in new and unexpended ways, so you do yourself and your other class participants a disservice if you are not ready to commit to this every day for four weeks. I have certainly reaped the rewards 10 fold for the 45 min to one hour I committed to this workshop daily.

    This was my first CM workshop and it has probably been the most transforming one I have been on yet. I finally feel in control of my photo sessions and that really shows in the final product.

    So go ahead and book this class! You will not be sorry!!!!

  • I got so much out of this coarse, As a study along participant. I took it to gain confidence and method in direction. I got that and more. Elena shared so much of her knowledge, honestly and openly. The videos are so helpful to put it into action. I urge you to take it too!!

  • This is one of the most fantastic workshops I’ve ever taken. I took it as a Study Along student. It absolutely spoke to my heart and what I strive for as a photographer. Through this workshop, I feel like I got permission to follow my vision as an artist, instead of shooting what I think I’m “supposed to”. Along with inspiring me as an artist, I found all of the information to be so practical, useful and tangible. In short… this workshop is awesome.

  • Brittany Gunter says:

    This workshop was one of my favorites that I have taken! I took this course as SA but I have still gained so much confidence and feel so much more comfortable directing and running my sessions! I feel like this class was such a turning point for me and really made me realize that my photos don’t have to be boring and stiff to be appealing to clients. I have had several sessions since this class and each one I love more as I am learning to let go of the idea of perfection and focus on feeling and emotion. Thank you so much for offering this breakout, I would recommend to anyone interested in lifestyle photography!!

  • This is absolutely my all time favorite course! Friends who had no idea I was taking it asked me what happened in the last month because my photography took on a new level. Elena Blair happened, that is what I have to say! I feel I have finally been given permission, let go and let the artist come out. You will LOVE this course! I was on the fence if to take it FP, and I did, you learn so much from the critiques and the daily shares. This course is a must! Don’t miss it!

  • Liza Hippler says:

    So, I was a “study along” and therefore not allowed to make eye contact with Elena (haha!) (the full participation was full), but I really feel a need to express my thanks. I have been shooting on and off for about 20 years and it’s only been recently that I’ve gone full force as a business (such a DUH, WHY AM I NOT DOING THIS moment), and I have realized through her workshop that my heart has ALWAYS been with lifestyle, but I have never really known what it meant to go down that path – to have the permission to do so (what? NOT do a smile photo?!).

    Even when I shot headshots in Los Angeles, I would always give the actors scenarios to get the emotion that I wanted, something that would connect them to my camera as if it was a scene partner, another person.

    And as I’ve been shooting families loosely for the past two years and more seriously the past 10 months, I have said things like, “just play” when I didn’t quite know how to direct. My heart explodes every time I see a great connection/lifestyle shot. It’s like Elena said, people FEEL, they don’t SEE.

    Because of her workshop, I feel my vision is focused and that’s so exciting. I have always felt that I’ve had a portfolio of good images, but no voice, no consistency, wondering IF I even HAD clear vision, when/if it would ever come to me. Every page of her pdfs had me going YES, YES, THIS.

    I have redone my website completely during this course and I have four unbelievably amazing families lined up specifically for my first official “lifestyle only” shoots to populate my portfolio in the next couple of weeks.

    Week 3 of her course I was at the beach with my family and captured more connection and more photos that I love than I have on any family trip before. (I cheated and added a couple to my portfolio for now!)

    She truly validated everything that’s been in my heart for so long. She unknowingly took it and said, “Yes, what you are feeling is right and wonderful and here’s how to take it to the next level.”

  • Going Beyond the Pose with Elena S Blair is a class that I had my eye on for a while. You see, I had known something was missing in my work for a while and I was in the midst of a huge slump. Huge, huge. This class was exactly what I needed. I had been feeling a huge separation in my personal work and my family work. The thing separating the two was none other than ME. Elena helped me to find myself in my own work. She pushed me to explore, to push boundaries, to let go of my fears, and to just get out there. My confidence working with families is ten times better than I ever imagined it would be these days. I feel like I’m finally the boss at my sessions! There was so much information from PDFs to videos, to bonus materials, that there is something for everyone, at various levels on their journeys. I l even earned helpful little tips that have streamlined my workflow. This class was just… all the things. The best part? People notice. They notice that something is different. I’m all up in people’s business now at sessions, moving faces, showing them how to sit or stand, etc. And I feel confident doing it. My business has taken a turn for the better because I am shooting how I want to shoot, showing what I want to show, and I have Elena to thank for encouraging me and helping me to see that I had it in me.

  • Kristin says:

    Going Beyond the Pose was such a learning experience! I have trouble slowing myself down to pose families and this workshop taught me how to not only get those “posey” poses a lot of families want, but most importantly the “unposed” posed images that they end up loving! I felt more confident working with them and actually started having fun doing it rather than feeling awkward. I find myself referring back to the lessons all the time.

  • I was drawn to the class because I felt that “posing” was my biggest struggle in a photo session. Before taking this class I was very uncomfortable with posing and session work flow. I am very much a fake it till you make it type of person but inside I was stressed and a nervous wreck. This class gave me the freedom to move beyond the traditional poses that I thought my clients expected. I have completely changed the way I shoot and even revamped my portfolio and my website. Gone are the stiff shots with families looking at the camera and loads of props. I now aim for all of the emotion and connection that families bring to a session. My sessions are so much more laid back and fun. I love the images that I am capturing and my clients have been purchasing more images because they love them as well. I refer back to the material before my sessions if I need inspiration or tips. Elena is by far one of my favorite instructors. She went above and beyond each week to answer our questions and bring supporting material into the class. Even though this is a “shooting” class I learned so much on processing, finding my voice and running a photography business. No question was off limits and she gracious answered all of our questions with amazing detail and in a very timely manner. I was on the fence about signing up for this course study along vs. full participation. I am so glad that I did full participation!

  • Amy says:

    I can’t recommend this class enough. I frequently refer to the materials before shoots. The PDFs are full of useful information that will help take your portraits to the next level. Not only is this class informative, it is FUN! Take it, you won’t regret it!

  • This workshop was amazing! For years I had used my “big girl camera” to take snapshots of my kids. Elena’s class forced me to think about the story I wanted to tell through my photography. She shared a wealth of information and fantastic feedback, through her critiques, regarding connecting with your subjects and achieving emotion.

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