When it comes to photography education there are many avenues out there for you to use.  There are blogs filled with tutorials, photography forums, colleges, online workshops for photographers, and in-person photography workshops among others.  It can be difficult to decide which is best for you.  Today, we thought we’d offer up a little insight on CMU’s Shooting 201: Lifestyle Photography with Kids with instructor Ashley Spaulding via a mini interview.  Ashley is here to answer our questions and I know she’d be more than happy to answer any you may have too!

Hi Ashley! Shooting 201: Lifestyle Photography with Kids is a new workshop to the CMU line-up this year. Would you share with us what the focus of this photography class is?

I’m so excited about this class and about the focus of it, as lifestyle work is my absolute first love when it comes to photography! We focus on capturing everyday types of moments with kids and applying principles of storytelling to elevate those everyday moments from simple snapshots to true lifestyle photos. The class gives participants the tools they need to understand how to work with composition, light, technical elements, and the environment around them in order to create images that tell stories.

For those who may be interested in this class but are not yet comfortable shooting in manual, would this class be a good fit?

While shooting in Manual mode is not a prerequisite for the class, many of the participants who have already gone through the four weeks have found that having a solid understanding of Manual mode is definitely helpful. Whether you shoot in Manual or not, it is essential that participants understand the basics of exposure and the technical aspects of photography.

What should one have a solid understanding of prior to taking this workshop?

In addition to having a solid grasp on the exposure triangle and technical aspects of photography, participants should also have a general understanding of post-processing techniques and post-processing terminology. The teaching assistants (Leah Cook, Amy Lucy Lockheart, and Lacey Meyers) and I often touch on post-processing in the weekly feedback we offer on assignments and that feedback is most beneficial to those participants who understand post-processing techniques and terminology.  Many past participants have also mentioned that it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of light prior to taking the lifestyle class. We do briefly discuss light as it applies to lifestyle work in one of the lessons, and several past participants have mentioned that they were happy to have taken Lisa Harrison’s awesome Lighting 101: Intro to Natural Light photography workshop before we reached that lesson.

Share with us what one of the most common questions, and its answer, asked about this class that people should know prior to signing up?

Several people who look at CMU‘s Shooting 201 offerings have asked whether they should take the lifestyle class first or Lynne Rigby’s Shooting 201 workshop first, and Lynne and I both agree that participants generally benefit most from starting with her class and then moving onto mine.  The concepts Lynne teaches in her amazing 201 class can be put to use in my lifestyle one, so students can really use the lifestyle class to build on the ‘creative shooting’ foundation that Lynne provides her students. She even touches very briefly on lifestyle work in one of her lessons which is a perfect introduction and transition into my class. Most of the people who have taken both classes agree that they benefited (or would have benefited) from taking Lynne’s class and then taking mine.

Is this class strictly for those with children or would it be applicable to those who photograph families and children in their business but are wanting to explore a more lifestyle approach?

While I don’t specifically address families in any of the lessons, much of what I cover could be applied to working with them so I absolutely think it would be a good fit for those who work with families and want to start exploring lifestyle work. Since I’m a hobbyist myself, I do not discuss working with clients or business in any detail in the lessons, but – again – much of what I cover could easily be applied to client work.

You’ve been a teacher’s assistant in several of the CMU online photography workshops but this is your first class as the instructor. What do you love about teaching and what is the best lesson you’ve learned from being an instructor?

There’s truly nothing I don’t love about teaching. I taught public and persuasive speaking during graduate school so when the opportunity to get back into teaching presented itself through CMU, I jumped at the chance. It’s a dream come true for me to be able to combine two things that mean so much to me – teaching and photography – and I hope my love of both comes through in my workshop lessons and in my interactions with the students.

Hands down, the thing I love the most about teaching the lifestyle workshop is seeing the students’ growth from the first week to the fourth. I’ve been absolutely blown away by some of the assignments the students have turned in, and seeing individual progress through those assignments makes my heart swell. I’m so proud of the students who put so much of themselves into the workshop and into their assignments and who produce lifestyle images that tell amazing stories in beautifully executed ways. And I truly love the friendships that develop in CMU workshops. I’ve gotten to know many of my students, and I consider them friends now, so it means even more to me to see friends of mine taking off with their lifestyle work.

Another thing I absolutely love about being an instructor is that I’m continually learning with each group of participants and with every assignment that’s posted. I love providing feedback to others because it helps train my eye to thoughtfully examine a student’s image from one corner of the frame to the other, which ultimately helps me in my own photography journey because I’m constantly seeing things in new ways and then applying that to my own work. I love the learning aspect of photography. I love knowing that the journey is never complete; that excites me and challenges me and I love having great groups of students to share four weeks
of that journey with from time to time.

Is there anything additional you would like to mention about the class that would be beneficial to those on the fence about signing up?

One of the greatest compliments I’ve received from past students is that the lifestyle class has changed the way they look at photography or changed the way they shoot. That makes me proud because I want students to come out of class with a new perspective like that and a new way of approaching photography. So if you’re wanting a creative push and a class that really encourages you to look at the ways in which you shoot, the lifestyle class is a great fit for you!

Thank you so much for allowing me to share a little bit about the Lifestyle Workshop with you! I’m always happy to answer questions about the class or help you determine if it would be a good fit for you so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if I can offer any additional information!

Here are some of the beautiful images taken during this workshop from some of the alumni!








Thank you Ashley for taking the time to answer our questions and thank you for sharing both your gorgeous work and the beautiful work of your students!