Tips for Photographing Your Kids Going Back to School!

NOTE: “THANK YOU” Shoutout to KXAN:
Many thanks to Stephanie and Larissa for having me on The CW Austin and KXAN to talk about photographing kids as they go back to school!          See the Video

It’s that time of year again, when kids are heading back to school.  Remember these moments with photographs!  Here are some suggestions that might help!

The most important considerations are not really technical. 

  • You can do this with any camera! Actually a smartphone/iPhone can really help because it is convenient, and allows for more spontaneous capturing of a moment in the midst of getting your child ready for school.  The best camera is the one you have with you when you need it! 
  • Try to think about the future, years later, after the kids are grown:  What will you want to remember about this moment with your photographs? Or even beyond that, what will your kids wish you had photographed, years later, after YOU are gone?  Let that inform you as to what to photograph.  Include mom or dad in the photo.  Include the front of your house, or their bedroom, a beloved pet, or their favorite backpack. Maybe have them hold a small sign or chalk board saying what year it is (“Starting First Grade!”, etc.) Get photos of them getting ready, putting things in their backpack, walking down the street to the bus, etc.   Remember you are not just photographing your child.  You are photographing a special moment in time, a context in life that will be ever changing. 
  • Change your perspective. See the world from different fun angles, to make a photograph more interesting. Try photographing looking down, or up, or photograph from your child’s eye-level perspective.  If you think about it, if your child is still little, their view of the world and memories may be a different perspective from yours!
  • Composition – Think about placement of visual elements in your photos. You don’t have to always put the subject in the center.  There is a popular guideline called the Rule of Thirds, where you divide the scene into thirds and place the key subject at one of those thirds divisions.  (see examples below)
  • Get to know your camera’s features beyond just the basics. This allows you to have more creative control. Learn how to choose where your camera focuses, or to lighten or darken the image. Some iPhones have advanced features such as Portrait Mode or Portait Lighting options. Did you know on an iPhone, in the Camera App, the volume up button will cause it to take a photo without having to click on the round circle button on the screen?  That can be really convenient for more spontaneous shots!   The more you take the time to learn how to operate your camera or a smartphone, the better your pictures will be!

You’re telling a story about a time in your life and in your child’s life that you’ll want to remember years later.  Rather than just one photo of them heading out the door, let your photos tell the story.  That story will change as they grow older.

Here are some examples:

Time to Wake Up!

Getting Dressed

Brushing Teeth
Try interesting angles, get the camera down lower to their level.  Even try unusual angles!

Get Your Shoes On!

Time to Brush Hair
Include Mom or Dad in some of the shots!  Years later, your kids will really appreciate this.

Get Your Backpack Ready!
Maybe include some shots with a favorite book or toy.

Framing Up the Shot
Consider using the ‘Rule of Thirds‘ when framing the shot.  Instead of placing your child in the center of the shot, imagine a ‘tic tac toe’ grid dividing the scene into thirds and use those lines as a guide to where you place them in the photo.

The Rule of Thirds says, don’t place them in the center.  So, the photo below is not obeying the Rule of Thirds.

The photo below is more in line with using the Rule of Thirds concept.  This is not an absolute rule!  It is just an alternative that sometimes helps.

All Ready to Go!

Note that most of these shots were all taken at the child’s level.


It’s tempting to just take the photo at the doorway. You might also want to include a shot where you see a bit more of the house. With time, memories fade. Many years later, your child might want to remember what the front of their house looked like.

Dad and Daughter, on their way to school!



  • I teach photography classes for all skill levels, ages 13 – adult!
  • ALSO photography is actually more than camera features and settings.  It is truly about how we see the world around us!  Something I started about 18 months ago is a group that meets at my studio on Monday nights just to do different book and video discussions and share from our life insights, and we intermittently have some pretty amazing guest speakers.  The topic is actually not specifically “photography.” The topic is life and how we can make our lives better and make the world better!  We’d love to have you join us.  It is ALWAYS TOTALLY FREE TO ATTEND.  The group is called LifeInsights.   Click Here to Learn More and see our current schedule!

P.S. A “THANK YOU” Shoutout to KXAN:
Many thanks to Stephanie and Larissa for having me on The CW Austin and KXAN to talk about photographing kids as they go back to school!  See the Video






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We Are Not Broken

Last month, I had the privilege of meeting Nichola Cotto, Founder and President of a new nonprofit organization called We Are Not Broken

Nichola started We Are Not Broken as a way to encourage women and girls to view their scars (from injuries, accidents, abuse, illness, surgery, combat, …) not as something to be ashamed of, but as something that helps tell their story.  The concept is simple: provide free photography, spending time with the women and girls, in a safe studio environment, taking professional pictures and video that highlight their scars of survival and their true beauty.

Their website, explains more about the mission:

Shame and covering up, isolation, hiding, and feeling depressed. These are words that are often used in relation to scars, especially for women and girls. They have fought the ultimate battle of life and death and come out victorious. Yet all too often they find themselves in a mental and emotional battle because of the devastation left on the their body. Our mission is to change that. We want to encourage and enable women and girls to proudly show their battle scars by redefining beauty. If you have scars from some kind of abuse, cancer, life-saving surgery, combat, car accidents, or any other type of life or death situation, please contact us. These are your hard-earned victory marks and we want to give you a platform to show the world your true beauty. You are courageous, precious, victorious, and made for more! You are BEAUTIFUL.

From the moment I learned about We Are Not Broken and met Nichola, I sensed this is a cause I want to wholeheartedly support in any way I can. Nichola has big plans for We Are Not Broken, envisioning taking this worldwide!

Any of you who know me, know I believe we ALL should use our gifts to make a positive difference in this world.  [I talk about this a bit more in my earlier blog post ‘Reflections of an Old Photography Teacher’ ] This might be the perfect opportunity for you!

I am hosting two upcoming events at my studio where you can learn more:

  • Monday August 26th 7pm
    At Kevin Gourley Photography Studio 11740 Jollyville Rd. Suite 400, Austin
    Nichola Cotto will come and speak to our LifeInsights group that meets on Monday nights.  All are welcome to attend!  You’ll have a chance to hear a bit more about Nichola and her journey in creating We Are Not Broken.  (I encourage you to check out what our LifeInsights group is all about, and see our schedule of other great activities.  It’s always free to attend.)
    RSVP to:
    (Potluck dinner at 6:30pm.  Bring food if you can, but if you can’t, come anyway!)
  • Tuesday November 5th, 2019 7pm
    At Kevin Gourley Photography Studio 11740 Jollyville Rd. Suite 400, Austin
    We Are Not Broken – Volunteers Info Meeting
    Want to learn more about this amazing new organization and how YOU can get involved? Come to this meeting!
    RSVP to:
  • If you can’t volunteer to help, you can STILL HELP!
    Consider making a DONATION to support this organization!

We Are Not Broken had its official “ribbon cutting” ceremony today (July 30, 2019) at the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce:

Check out this news story on KXAN:



Learn More About Our Rocky Mountain Photography Adventures!

We just got back from leading our Summer Rocky Mountain Photography Workshops! 

Come join us for a presentation to share a few stories from our various adventures and see pictures from our most recent trip.

When:  Monday July 29th 7pm
Where:  Kevin Gourley Photography Studio, 
        11740 Jollyville Rd. Suite 400, Austin, TX

RSVP requested  (

We will soon be announcing our 2020 Rocky Mountain Workshop dates!  2019 is totally sold out.  We’d love to have you join us in 2020, but even if you can’t, come and hear more about our fun adventures on Monday night. 🙂

For those who are interest in going with us in 2020, you can be added to a special email list and you will get an early chance to register before the general public, AND you’ll get a special discount price!


We’re Back from our Rocky Mountain Summer Photography Workshop!

We’re back from our Rocky Mountain Summer Photography Workshop!  What a fun time!

They say “a picture is worth a thousand words” so rather than writing at length about what we saw and experienced, here are a few shots from the trip!  Note all the landscapes, scenics, waterfalls, wildflowers, and wildlife (including elk, moose, marmots, squirrels, birds, muskrats, bobcats, and coyotes).

You can read more about the 2019 workshops CLICK HERE

2019 options are all sold out, but we will be announcing our 2020 options soon!   

INTERESTED IN 2020?  Click here if you’re thinking about maybe joining us in 2020.  We want to know!  You’ll get a special discount if you get on our “early interest” list AND you will get an early chance to register.

  • Participant Comment: “This workshop is great for photographers with any and all skill levels. Kevin and Gail not only knew exactly where to take us for the ideal pictures, but were also available at all times to help us. Taking this workshop from someone who knows the park as well as these two do, makes for the perfect photo opportunities, and an all around incredible trip.”

  • Participant Comment: “What an amazing trip! My daughter and I had a wonderful time meeting new friends, experiencing RMNP with such a fun and knowledgeable guide, and of course, taking loads of gorgeous photos. It doesn’t really matter what your photography experience level is, Kevin leads you step by step to producing fantastic photos. The itinerary is set up so there is plenty of time to enjoy the park at a leisurely pace without the crowds, free time in the afternoon, and optional dinner with your new-found friends! Kevin is such a patient instructor and is available for individual help as needed throughout the workshop. Highly recommend!”

  • Participant Comment: “This workshop includes two can’t miss parts, Rocky Mountain Natl. Park and Kevin Gourley. On one hand, there is the natural stunning beauty of the park and on the other Kevin. The trip is designed to place the students in the right spot at the correct time which is essential. Kevin’s is available for help or suggestions at all times including editing during our breaks. He can help you with any brand of camera. It is a very complete package.”


Reflections of an Old Photography Teacher

The first time I ever taught a photography class was in 1978.  That was back in the days of film. (Some of you remember those days.) Well, over the years, I have been involved in, supported, and founded numerous photography groups/clubs.  I have loved working with so many truly beautiful individuals who have a common interest in photography.

I don’t like to describe myself as an “old photography teacher” but when I look in the mirror, with each year that passes, I am discovering an older guy looking back at me. (And that annoys me just a bit.)

The older I get, the more I find myself reflecting on all of my wonderful experiences with so many of you.  In fact, I think I am coming to realize that even though I LOVE photography, what has really been the most meaningful thing to me really is YOU.  All of you. 

When I think back to all of our various experiences in the various classes I have led over the years, wow, what a wide range of incredible experiences we have had.

I have stood in a frigid wintery 30mph wind on the side of a mountain photographing the sunrise while everyone in my group  shivered and grumbled about the cold, but it was a fun experience we still talk about.  I have run through a forest in the rain with fellow photographers as we all sought shelter from a sudden rain storm. We have spent time in classes together talking about all aspects of photography. We have hiked miles and miles of trails together.  We have shared a few beers or cups of coffee and talked about life. We have had a few exciting close encounters with wildlife. We have stayed up very late under a cold dark sky photographing the stars.  We have photographed mountains and portraits and water droplets.  We have eaten burgers by a mountain stream. We have laughed and shared many many smiles, and we have cried together.  We have experienced life together.  And THAT is what I am finding really matters the most to me.

I have found that in the midst of the diverse group of people who have come my way and have taken my many classes, I am overwhelmingly grateful to know each of you.  I don’t mean that as a simple platitude.  I really mean that with all my heart. (I mean to the point that I have a tear in my eyes when I think about all of you.)

I believe it is really important to stay in tune with what matters in life.  The pursuit of fame and fortune sometimes sounds attractive, but actually none of those things really matter as much to me.

As I reflect on all the ways all of you have blessed my life, I realize I have so many people I would truly call “friend,”  I figure I am wealthy beyond measure.  Thank you all for being “you.”

I tried to give you all some small bit of photographic knowledge, but I think what I got back from you was far more valuable.  You may not have even realized just how much you mean to me.

The main reason I created the LifeInsights group that meets intermittently at my studio on Monday nights is really an affirmation of just  how much I think our relationships with others around us matters immensely.  It is a way to genuinely go a little “deeper” into sharing our life experiences and insights.  In a sense I am pushing back on the trend of social media that is causing our relationships to be more superficial. So the LifeInsights Monday night group is simply meeting and discussing various books or videos or we go out to dinner. 

I am on a mission to make the world a better place.  Granted my small actions won’t change the whole world, but perhaps our small actions matter more than the bigger ones. When I think back on who had the greatest impact on my life, it was not big name celebrities or politicians or famous people.  It was people like my 1st grade teacher.  I figure we ALL can do something to rebel against this polarization of society and harm being caused by social media becoming way too anti-social (some irony there).

Maybe we can make the world a better place by simply taking the time to know people around us a little more. Take the time to listen to their stories, and show a little more love and patience. If we all did that just a little bit, maybe that is enough to change the world.

Thank you for making my world so full.

Immensely grateful for each of you who has taken any of my photography workshops over the years.

Kevin Gourley


Check Out The Upcoming Photography Learning Opportunities

PHOTOGRAPHERS:  Take your photography to the next level. These classes will help!

Photographers Weekend Boot Camp 
Learn the important fundamentals of photography in one weekend!  All day Saturday + Sunday afternoon.   
Register by July 1 and SAVE $20.

Finding Your Way – Photography Workshop 
Whether you are just starting out in photography or you have years of experience, this class will meet you where you are and help you find new directions to head to improve your photography!
Register by July 1 and SAVE $50.

BONUS SAVINGS:  Take both of the classes (above) together and save an additional $20 if you register by July 1Total Savings: $90! 

Light & Photography Workshop
Highly recommended for anyone serious about wanting to improve their photography!   WE ARE CONSIDERING SHIFTING THIS TO A WEEKEND CLASS. LET US KNOW IF YOU ARE INTERESTED!
This course is a comprehensive look at light in its various forms, both natural and artificial and we look at the many ways we photographers can control and manipulate light to create great photographs! If you have taken Photography 101 or our Photographers Weekend Boot Camp, this is great next step! 
Register early and SAVE $70!

2019 Rocky Mountain Fall Photography Workshops 


LifeInsights Group – Join our free book discussion group.
This isn’t about photography, but we meet at our studio on Monday nights and you are welcome to join us!


A True Rocky Mountain Photographic Adventure

To all of you photographers out there, whether you are just starting out, or you are pretty skilled in your photography, we want to highlight our Summer and Fall Rocky Mountain Photography Workshops coming up in July and September!


(lodging options are filling up fast!)

As one of last year’s  Rocky Mountain Photography Workshop participants said, it was “truly an unforgettable experience.”   Over the years, many of our participants have made similar comments, some returning 2, 3, even 4 times!

We go as photographers and we come back as good friends.
It happens every time! 
Gain great skills, create some great images,
and share in this fun experience.

We go to a lot of excellent photography locations at the best times when the lighting is optimal and when wildlife photo opportunities are most likely, but also a part of the fun is simply being around others who love photography.  Plus Kevin will be there to help you with camera settings and suggestions on how to get the best shots.

We have a great time together!  The shared experience of getting up early and going out into this magnificent national treasure called Rocky Mountain National Park, hiking together, photographing wildlife, waterfalls, mountains, and sunrises makes the experience truly memorable.

I have included a few photographs (below) of some of our previous participants enjoying this fun experience.

I hope you’ll join us for the fun and adventure!   The 2019 Rocky Mountain Photography Workshops are close to full, so now is the time to be signing up! 

CLICK HERE to learn more about the workshops and to register.

  • “The workshop was outstanding because we had total access to Kevin and Gail’s knowledge and experience in photography. We were presented with multiple shooting locations and lighting situations from which to learn. Kevin was always available to provide advice and help resolve any problems with camera settings or answer questions. The availability of daily photo reviewspermitted one to make any adjustments to shooting techniques before the next day. This was the most hands-on learning experience I have had and I look forward to more with Kevin.”

“A 5 star experience from beginning to end…”

  • “This workshop provided a broad depth of experiences in the RMNP because Kevin is so knowledgeable about the area and about the best way to photograph it. I really appreciated the care given to maximize each student’s experience, no matter their skill level. I will definitely consider taking other trips with Kevin and Gail.”

  • “Could not be happier with how the workshop turned out. Everyone involved was so nice and easy to get along with. Kevin was an excellent teacher – patient, explained well, relaxed and never felt rushed or that I may be holding others back. It was very rewarding and would highly recommend Kevin’s workshops!!”

  • “Kevin is a natural-born teacher and superbly facilitated the group while providing one-on-one attention. I learned a lot without feeling overwhelmed with technical details and had fun in the process. I highly recommend this workshop!”

  • “This exceeded all my expectations!”

  • “The natural beauty of RMNP was enhanced by Kevin’s knowledge of the park and locations that were custom picked for great photographic shots. Kevin’s calm, patient and knowledgeable teaching style meant that everyone, at whatever level they were at, felt comfortable asking questions, making mistakes, learning from them and then getting immeasurably better pictures as a result. The improvement in my photography from Day 1 to Day 4 was unbelievable. I came thinking the auto settings on my camera really took better pictures than I did, and I left seeing and believing that the pictures I now understood how to take were vastly superior to anything the camera could capture in auto mode. It was a 5 star experience from beginning to end.

  • “This is a workshop you can’t afford to miss! I came to the workshop with a goal of never using Auto settings again… I achieved that and more. Kevin is such a great teacher and is able to work with photographers of all levels. He made everyone comfortable, I am from Virginia and did not know anyone in the group (as were several others) by the end of the work shop I had made a group of new friends! We were able to get so many landscape and wildlife pictures. The whole experience was amazing. I’m ready to sign up for the next workshop! Thank you Kevin” 

  • “The Rocky Mountain Summer Photography Workshop was an amazing experience! The success of the workshop begins with the organization and preparation of the instructor. Kevin and Gail were superbly organized and prepared! It was a treat to be lead to the best spots at the optimum time of the day to photograph the spectacular beauty and wildlife in the park. They demonstrated great flexibility and adaptability in meeting the needs of the group with the ever changing clouds, weather, and wildlife. It was also an incredible learning experience having a photography professional available to coach and instruct on the best methods for creatively composing a scene, capturing stunning images, and the correct use of a wide range of photographic equipment. Not only can I wholeheartedly recommend this workshop, but I’m already scheduled for a Rocky Mountain Fall Photography Workshop with Kevin!”

  • “Thanks for another spectacularly successful workshop in Rocky Mountain National Park! The conditions were even more challenging than last Summer, yet everything progressed flawlessly. We were at the right place at the right time to capture some incredible images. Thanks for everything!”

  • “I am a true beginner to photography. I took Kevin’s Photography 101, which I highly recommend for beginners, which explained a lot of the technical side of photography. I am a hands on/visual learner and being able to apply what I had learned in the 101 class at this workshop really helped me be able to take better/sharper pictures. Kevin is an extremely thorough and patient instructor. This workshop provided fantastic learning opportunities everyday with breathtaking views. I look forward to the next workshop.”

  • “Attending a workshop with Kevin is absolutely wonderful… so wonderful in fact that I did the same workshop twice. Kevin is very knowledgeable of the park as well as techniques to make us capture the best photos we possibly could. Kevin is very patient, kind, funny, passionate about teaching others how to take the best photos, considerate, extremely organized, etc. You won’t find a kinder, patient, and talented person to not only plan an awesome itinerary for the group, but to also be a tour guide of the park and provide facts about the different sights… AND provide constant photographic tips and instructions and reminders that were extremely helpful. Thank you Kevin. The workshop is worth the expense.”

The Bottom Line

Register for this workshop.  You will be glad you did!  You’ll end up with new photographic skills, great images, wonderful memories, and new friends.  But you need to register NOW.  Lodging options are filling up rapidly and space is limited!  Click on this link to learn more about the Summer and Fall workshops!


Let’s See Your Wildflower Shots and Locations!

If you have been out photographing the Texas wildflowers, email  with your BEST shots from this year (no more than 3) and please let us know where you found the best wildflowers!

We’ll then post your photos along with the locations you listed so you can help others get their own great shots before wildflower season winds down.

Rebecca Marburger took these shots in the woods in her back yard in Weimar!

Sarah Lieser reports:  There are some pretty flowers around the back roads of Austin and Washington County this year. Also, there are some pretty spots on the back road, Meyersville road, in front of an old white church.

Brandi Pierce reports:  These were taken off of Sam Bass Road in Round Rock.

I spent a little time at Inks Lake State Park on Saturday (3/30/19)  Some of the wildflowers appear to have “peaked” a few days prior. Still was a nice trip. Here are a few random shots. – Kevin Gourley

This final image was looking down on a Bluebonnet and then the image was taken into Topaz Glow for a little post-processing enhancements.


Featured Photographer: Dr. Sandy Hurwitz

In our Featured Photographer series, we highlight the work of our former and current students!

Your Name: Dr. Sandy Hurwitz

Type of Camera: I shoot both a Nikon D800 and a Canon 5D. I host friends and family on our ranch and love getting new folks into wildlife photography. Being somewhat familiar with both brands enables me to better help newer shooters and helps me learn from experienced ones. My primary lenses are an old Canon 600mm prime and a newer Tamron 150/600mm variable. 

What do you love to photograph the most?
Wildlife / Nature –  I live on a ranch in South Texas which is one of the most diverse eco-zones in America. Our flowers bloom at least nine months of the year, our vibrant bird populations change seasonally and our temperate climate provides year round shooting.  In the Spring, Summer and Fall I concentrate on birds and wild flowers. In the late Fall and Winter I focus more on deer and other wildlife. Sunsets and landscapes are, of course, year round. The best thing about outdoor year round shooting for me is not the changing fauna and flora but the changing light. I never get over my fascination with lighting. 

What is one thing you have learned that has improved your photography? 
I basically use one quality camera of each brand and a very limited number of lenses. Every camera and every lens has its own characteristics and it  takes a long time to truly understand the fine nuances of individual pieces of equipment. I also almost always shoot in M mode which enables me to eliminate variables while giving me maximum control. With wildlife, you seldom can can move yourself or the subject to get better lighting or composure. Almost every image I capture or more importantly fail to capture is unique, you don’t get second chances. The benefit of multiple cameras, lenses and settings does not, in my experience, compensate for quicker reflex time and equipment familiarity in producing the maximum number of quality images. 

Advice you’d give to others wanting to grow in their photography skills:
Have fun! Find your passion and pursue it intensively. Push your limits to avoid getting into ruts. Most importantly, always have a coach. You never outgrow your need for one. The better you become, in fact, the more you need a coach. Olympic athletes are the best in the world but how many of them show up at the Olympics without a coach? Workshops combine all of these in one neat package…. coaching, concentrated shooting, new experiences, social interaction, travel and fun. I always come back a better photographer and a better person when I attend one. 


Kevin Gourley Photography Workshops, Austin, TX – Austin Photography Classes