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Class Introduction

Lesson 1 from: Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Kelly Brown

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Lesson Info

1. Class Introduction

Dive into storytelling portraiture with the why behind this type of photograph. Gain an overview of the course and see the story behind inspiring portraits.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


The Power of Portrait Photography


Introduction to Newborn Portrait


Find Inspiration for Newborn Portrait


Create The Scene for Newborn Portrait


Prepare & Pose Newborn for Portrait


Shoot: Techniques for Photographing Newborn


Newborn Image Review


Introduction & Find Inspiration For Child Portrait


Create The Scene for Child Portrait


Prepare Set for Child Portrait


Shoot: Capture Child Portrait


Image Review for Child Portrait


Introduction & Inspiration For Teenager Portrait


Create The Scene for Teenager Portrait


Building Set for Teenager Portrait


Shoot: Portrait with Teenager


Shoot: Pose Teenager for Multiple Looks


Image Review for Teenage Portrait


Introduction & Inspiration For Adult Portrait


Creating The Scene for Adult Portrait


Lighting for Adult Portrait


Tell Your Subject's Story


Shoot: Lighting for Double Exposure


Introduction to Senior Portrait


Create Storyboard & The Scene For Senior Portrait


Connect With Client to Create Portrait


Shoot: Lighting for Senior Portrait


Shoot: Be Creative on Set


Image Review for Senior Portrait


Portrait Shoots Recap


Global Adjustments in Camera Raw®


Editing In Photoshop® CC: New Born Portrait


Editing In Photoshop® CC: Child Portrait


Editing In Photoshop® CC: Adult Portrait


Editing In Photoshop® CC: Teenager Portrait


Editing In Photoshop® CC: Senior Portrait


Introduction to Entering Print Competitions


Process of Print Competitions


What to Consider For Print Competitions


What Judges Look For Overview


Image Impact


Creativity, Style & Composition in Images


Entering Photography Competitions Q&A


Image Lighting


Image Color Balance


Technical Excellence in Images


Photographic Technique


Storytelling & Subject Matter


Lesson Info

Class Introduction

I am here to teach storytelling portraiture, and this is the first time I've actually really taught it. Because for me, it's more of a personal journey about what I love to do. And a lot of the creations and concepts that I have come from a very personal space. So I've not shared that before, because it is personal, and as artists, we tend to keep a lot of that near and dear, and not share all of that. So yeah, it's exciting to be here, but because it's something that I've not shared publicly before, it is a little nerve-wracking to get it out there. Because, you know, we're our own worst critics when it comes to creating art. We fear what other people think. Judgment, all of those things. And yeah, but wow. What a couple of days I have got planned for you. So yeah, it is incredibly exciting to be back here at CreativeLive and sharing this with you. Storytelling portraiture, for me, it means a lot. Because when you think about photographs, and how important they are in our lives, and t...

elling story through those images, it's an incredibly powerful thing to do. I'm gonna go through a little bit more of that in a moment, but when it comes to finding inspiration, I'm gonna share all that with you, and how, and where I find that inspiration. I'm gonna talk about the different concepts that I come up with. I'm gonna share with you how I light all the different compositions that I'm going to choose for each particular setup. And over these next few segments, I'm going to create five completely different portraits, in five completely different age groups. So we have a newborn coming in, we have a little child, a 10-year old, then we have a teenager, who's 17, then we have an adult in their 30s, and we have a lady coming in who is in her 80s. So I'm going to create a completely unique setup for each and every one of those age groups, which is pretty cool. But yeah, like Kenna said, I'm known as a newborn photographer. It's what my business is solely focused around. But even though that's what my business and my everyday studio is operating as, a newborn studio, I tend to really focus on my clients, and create storytelling portraits for them in those sessions as well. So it's not something that I just do every now and then, I'm always trying to create something special and unique for every single client that comes in. Because I feel that that's really important as an artist, to nourish that creativity that we have, and to not get caught up and feel stale in our every day-to-day business, in creating images for our clients. Because we all have to meet those expectations. So, when we I have a client come in, you know, I just love learning about their life. I love listening to their stories, and then creating something for them, that's meaningful for them. So I often create images that are for me, and they're part of my inspiration, they're part of my creativity. But what I really love to create, and what I find so... What's the word I'm looking for? It's like an honor. It really is an honor to create something for these families, that I know that they're gonna take away, and they're gonna hang on the wall. And every time they look at those photographs, they're gonna know the true meaning behind that. Not everybody else will. Not everyone seeing those photographs is gonna know that meaning, but they are gonna know it. And that's the value of what it is that I wanna create for my clients, and also for some of my personal projects. But these storytelling portraits that I started creating quite some time ago, did start off as personal projects, and I've been really able to incorporate them into my everyday studio, which is really fantastic, it is. But yeah, it's very rewarding, that's for sure. So, I'm gonna talk a lot about the design elements for each setup, and how I came up with those. The research into finding all of the materials to create each setup. And I talked before about light, I'm gonna show you how I use light to either create emotion, or bring mood an impact to a photograph as well. So yeah, all of that's going to be communicated through the posing, composition, camera angles, lighting, and I'm gonna share everything. Hopefully I don't leave anything out with you guys. So our first model that's coming in is a little three-week old baby. And you can see there's a little pencil drawing there. These are my ideas and concepts. And when it comes to creating something like this, I have to be able to talk to them to find out more about their story. So this little baby is the second child. They lost their first baby to a miscarriage, and so I wanted to create something that gave them hope. And I did some research around the baby's name, I did some research around other photographers who have created beautiful, meaning portraits when something like this happens. And then, I started to research some other fields. And I found paper cranes were the symbol for hope. So I've used a couple of hundred paper cranes to create something really beautiful, to make it look like they're holding that baby up, you know, that's really hopeful for them as a family. So I've talked to the mom about this, and she's extremely excited, and it really resonated with her, and that communication is really important in terms of bringing this vision of mine to life, and having them completely understand the process, and what's involved, and hopefully, bringing it to life, that execution's gonna be there. But like all subjects, there is a certain element of, you know, you're not sure how things are gonna go, or how they're going to react, so it is important to have that communication there. But with newborns, it's slightly different, because a newborn has their own agenda. You know, they're not gonna listen to my instructions. I've gotta work with them and be led by the baby to create images like this, and it takes a little patience. So you can feel in the studio this morning that it's a little warm in here. It is warming up, but that's purely to keep that baby nice and comfortable. So throughout my newborn sessions, I'm gonna have all of the same sort of principles that I have in my studio right here to create this portrait. I've got the studio set at a really constant temperature so that the baby's not gonna be cold, because it can't regulate its body temperature, and it's not also gonna overheat. In terms of safety, I've got lots of supports around the baby here. I've got somewhere nice and soft where it's going to be positioned. And, I've got towels, and I'm gonna have some assistants beside me as well. I'm not gonna have any noise playing in the background, because I'm gonna be constantly talking. And, I think that even just those soft sort of tones, those consistent tones, are what babies are used to. Because when they're inside the womb, obviously, it's quite noisy in there. But it's not necessarily about the noise, it's more about that consistency of sound, because they're not used to it being dead quiet. So yeah, I'll be talking throughout that whole process. Our next shoot is with our little 10-year old. And this is something that I've been wanting to actually create for some time. And when I met this little girl over the internet, prior to coming to Seattle, and I really resonated with her story, because she reminded me so much of my own daughter, who's just a year older than she is. So, she has some difficulties with learning. And so does my daughter, Mackenzie. So when it came to creating this portrait, I wanted to create something that was really positive for her. I didn't wanna focus on all of the things that she struggles with, I really wanted to focus on her. And gosh, the life that she's got ahead of her. And it's the same with my daughter. You know, we really focus on all the positives, because, you know, school can be tough for kids that have got a difference, and it can be really challenging for them. So, we need to be able to lift them up, and make them feel as important as what they are. And this little girl is fascinating. She has her own charity where she helps other children with similar struggles. And she just thinks that anything is possible. She has the most beautiful, positive nature and attitude. And for me, the first thing that came to mind was the sky's the limit. And it really is for someone like her. So I wanted to create an image. And all of these are gonna be in-camera single capture. For me, that's really important, because I love that creative process of coming up with something prior to actually taking the shot, and thinking the whole, entire setup through from start to finish. I just love that aspect of it. And when you click that shutter, and you look at the back of your camera, you know you've got it. It's just, you wanna jump up and down. I won't do that, though. (audience laughs) So yeah, the sky's the limit. So I can see behind be, I have this big backdrop. Now, that's an iPhone photo taken out of a plane window. So we were able to print that. And there's three strips, you can see the seams. So in Photoshop, I'll obviously remove those. But I wanted her to be above the clouds, with that sky's the limit, and have some burnt balloons, and make it really age appropriate. So this is not a formal portrait, this is just something that's gonna capture her right now, and tell a little bit of a story, and be fun, which is what I wanted it to be, and have a positive swing on, you know, just her life and where she's at right now. And focus on the good things that she's doing for not only herself, but other people around her, which is really incredible. So I'm excited to finally meet her in person. And then we have our teenager. So this was really fascinating for me, because in the United States, photographing teens is very popular. In Australia it's not. So you don't often photograph a teenager unless they're coming in for a family portrait. And my daughter is almost the same age as this young lady that's coming in, so I've got a very... My older daughter, sorry. I've got a very good understanding of where she's at right now in terms of the pressures of high school, fitting in, all of those things. And, when she wrote to me, to tell me a little bit about her, the first sentence was, "I'm average." Most teenagers today feel average, sadly. It's because there's so much pressure on them on social media to feel a certain way, to look a certain way, to be perfect. And, when you've got parents that are pushing you to get good grades, and do this, and do that, you know, it can be really restraining. It can feel like you've got the weight of the world on your shoulders. And I purely, throughout this shoot, just want to make her feel like she's not average. I wanna show her how beautiful she is, and that she is the queen of her own life. So I've made a beautiful prop for this, and we're gonna style it and set it up, and just show her exactly how beautiful she is. Because every day throughout my life, and my daughter, and constantly telling her that beauty comes from within, it's about being a beautiful person, not beautiful to look at. Even though she is beautiful, but anyway. And then our next subject is going to be this incredible human being called Raymond. He is coming into the studio to share his story with us. This is gonna be a little bit of fun for me, this is a double exposure in-camera. So I'm gonna use two different light sources to show... How do I explain this? To show the life of where he's come from. So he's had a life, a previous life, that he knew wasn't right for him. He had a lot of struggles. And what he's been able to overcome, and to achieve, since some of the really hard times that he's been faced with, is mind-blowing. So I wanna show his previous self, and then photograph his current self, and how powerful he is within himself, and what he's doing for his own family and thousands of children around America that he goes and does speaking to, in terms of getting your life on track, and pointing it in the right direction. So he is a very fascinating character, so he's gonna bring in two changes of clothing. It was actually tough to know how to tell his story, because I could have gone in so many different ways with this. But, at the end of the day when I was communicating with him and listening to what he was saying, I just, you know, what he's achieved is phenomenal, and I want to portray him in that moment. So it's going to actually be very very simple, but the final result is going to be quite impactful and powerful. And then our senior shoot is of a beautiful lady in her eighties. And she's has a fascinating life as well, like really fascinating, and she's wonderful to listen to. But throughout all of our communication, she never mentioned that she was a writer until the very last email. But I was reading these emails and it was like reading a chapter of a book, I didn't want to put it down. It was really amazing. So, the more I started to learn about her life, and what she's achieved, and what she's done, and the places that she's been... And, she was a literature major. So it enabled her to edit and do anything and everything with everybody else's words on paper, but not her own. So I said, have you ever written anything of your own, and she said 'I have filing cabinets 'full of stories' that she's never edited. So, my portrait for this is going to basically share her with a very empty, clean slate, but almost thinking about the life that she's had, and what she will write next, because I believe that she will. So yeah, that's gonna be really exciting. And I'm gonna use probably more props and things like that with this setup in that segment, but yeah. So yeah, we are going to cover a lot of different styles of photography. I wanted to make everything extremely different across the board, from our newborn right through to this shoot. And, just to show all the different ways that you can light, create style, and pose to bring different elements to a photograph.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Mind Map & Prep Guide

Ratings and Reviews


Among a sea of wonderful teachers here at CL, Kelly is the cream of the crop. All of her classes are outstanding and this one is no exception. Amazing teacher. Amazing class. Amazing education. If you are hoping to stretch yourself to create deeper more meaningful stories in your images, or are feeling the pull of print competition but need some direction, this is definitely the class for you. Thank you Kelly!

Melissa Soto

Kelly Brown is a true inspiration. She has been my idol in this industry since I began. This class was amazing. I love how honest, authentic and genuine she was. But most importantly I loved her wise direction and teaching style. Kelly brown thank you for this gem. You helped light a fire in me. I’m so excited to start telling amazing stories with the skills I have learned from this class.

Marjorie Stevenson

Just loving this class! Kelly is one of my favorite instructors. She is very good at articulating her ideas and carrying them to an absolutely wonderful end product. Her images are always stunning. I love that she always puts safety first with her models. Thank you Kelly for sharing your creative visions with us.

Student Work