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Once she encountered Stephen's work online, Sarah knew she would love to attend a workshop of his someday.

Featured Article

Illuminated and Enlightened

Inspired Series

Article by Lindsey Tonkin

Photography by Stephen Karlisch

Originally published in River City Lifestyle

When our publisher Christian Owen dreamed of creating a beautiful monthly print magazine to celebrate the beauty and bounty of our River City, finding the perfect photographer was paramount to the success of her vision. Sarah Bell, whose work masterfully captures everything from portraits and landscapes to the ever-challenging realm of interiors, was the obvious choice for Photo Editor. But the mark of a true professional is that they never, ever stop learning. This month in our Home issue, it is fitting that we chronicle Sarah's recent journey to Dallas, where she attended an immersive and inspiring workshop hosted by celebrated photographer Stephen Karlisch and his wife Kristen, explicitly designed to explore the art of photographing interiors. 

On a Google quest for interior lighting information, Sarah stumbled upon Stephen's website over a year ago. Architectural DigestVerandaElle Decor and House Beautiful have featured Stephen's work, to name a few. Since COVID hit, he has dedicated significant time to coaching fellow industry professionals. Coach Stephen maintains that "the creative time in photography should be spent on location - making your images in camera, not on the computer." 

"I loved every image on his site and saw that he offered online coaching sessions in addition to one-on-one in-person workshops." Upon later receiving an email that he would be offering a group workshop, she signed up immediately. "I studied strobe lighting techniques in studio while attending the International Center of Photography in New York, but it was mostly for portraits. I wanted to see how Stephen applies strobe lighting to interiors," Sarah says. 

"I think interiors can be one of the easiest subjects to shoot and also one of the most challenging," explains Stephen. "If you are going into a shoot with the point of view of documenting the space as it is, nothing could be simpler. Anyone can do that. It becomes a challenge when you start to understand the relationships of the furniture in the space, the use of textures and color, the details that tell the story, and how it all fits together within the architecture. Then looking at how the lighting is directing your viewpoint and affecting your reaction to the elements in the space. Once you learn to control the light and tell that story through composition, you start to figure out how endless this pursuit is and how rewarding and maddening it can sometimes be."

Sarah, who has been photographing professionally for twelve years, still enjoys being a student. "It is always good to learn and see what peers are doing, where you can improve, get feedback and learn new techniques. A group workshop is fantastic because you learn alongside photographers of all ages and backgrounds," she says. "When I returned, I felt refreshed and inspired by the lighting techniques Stephen showed us, inspired by each participant's work and personality, inspired by a new editing and software workflow, and also by Kristen and Stephen, the talented, fun, and patient couple team who enlightened us all."

  • "It is so enriching and inspiring to learn with other talented photographers," Sarah says of the workshop experience.
  • After twelve years of professional photography experience, Sarah agrees with Coach Stephen that you should make your images on location, not on your computer.
  • Once she encountered Stephen's work online, Sarah knew she would love to attend a workshop of his someday.
  • Stephen explains how lighting changes how you photograph a space and everything in it.
  • Sarah drew inspiration from Kristen and Stephen Karlisch's relationship and their lighting workshop in Dallas.K