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Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 26 of 49

Create Storyboard & The Scene For Senior Portrait


Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 26 of 49

Create Storyboard & The Scene For Senior Portrait


Lesson Info

Create Storyboard & The Scene For Senior Portrait

When it comes to creating storyboards for this, I often look back to an era of when they were younger, and I have some beautiful photographs of my grandparents when they were younger, and I'm always looking for inspiration to try and sort of bring the past to the future, in terms of those storyboards. I'll look at Pinterest and different things like that, even in old books, but I'll often even look through old photo albums of theirs, because they tell the best stories. I would sit for hours going through these photo albums, and I lost count of how many photo albums my grandparents had, but they were my best storyboards and how I wanted to photograph them, because they told the story of what they were like when they were younger, when they first started dating, and things like that. When it comes to storyboards, it doesn't have to be, you know, cut pictures out of a magazine, and do this. Look at different elements, like old photographs that belong to them to create those storyboards an...

d how you can, you know, create something completely new. And then when it comes to creating a scene, this next image, and again, this says something in terms of Alzheimer's. I was completely unaware of how it affected people. My grandmother having Alzheimer's is the first time I've ever had anything to do with someone with this horrible disease, and when I started to study and learn more about Alzheimer's. They recommended creating memory boxes, and putting some of their fondest memories into one place, and every day presenting that with them so that they could stay connected to some of those things that they had throughout their life. My mum and I created this memory box for my grandmother and used different elements from her lifetime to put into one place. Then I wanted to tell the story a little better. When I originally captured this frame, there was no photographs on the wall. This is a heavily compensated image to create this, but I needed to tell her story of a lifetime of this memory box. It not only brings awareness to Alzheimer's and how to understand it, but for me, it brought a level of understanding from a personal level. I went through all of her photo albums, and I found some of her most treasured photos, and this is what we started to create the storyboard from. You can see when I took the original image, it definitely doesn't look like the after, but that's the dining room table. That's kind of how it looked, and then I photographed a whole heap of picture frames that we had in boxes, and I started to put those photographs in those picture frames behind her to help tell that story. You can create something from nothing, and it doesn't cost anything. I didn't have a budget for this, because I didn't need one. It was just a matter of my time and knowing what I wanted to create. I knew that I had to incorporate all of this into it, and bring it to life to create something like that. When it comes to doing something like this, there's a lot you've got to consider in terms of lighting, which I'm gonna talk about next. But you can see here, the light is coming in from that top right hand corner, so it has to be consistent throughout every element in the image. When you are creating that plan, you've got to take all those things into consideration, because not all of my images are single capture, even though I love to create single capture images, sometimes it's impossible. When you are creating that plan, and when you download the bonus material from this course, it's got that mind map in there. A lot of these things are what you've got to consider when you start to visualize that final image, in terms of bringing it to life and making it seem real. When it comes to lighting, we are creating a beautiful set up here today. When you're photographing this age, Janis our model has driven a long way to be here with us, and given up her time to come, but when I am photographing this age, I tend to go to them. I go to their home. I photographed a baby for a client of mine, and he said to me throughout the shoot ... My studio was in my home, he would walk past the photograph of my grandparents and say, I wish we could have photos taken with my grandmother. He continued to tell the story how she raised him. It was really beautiful, so I said to him, is there a way that you can bring her to the studio? And he said, no she's in a home, and she can't travel. And I said, whereabouts is the home? So I offered to go to the home, because after the conversation I realized how important the photos would be to him. A few days later, I traveled to her home and I met the family there, and I was able to take a beautiful portrait of the grandmother holding her great grandson, and unfortunately, she passed away two weeks after I took that photo, but that was nearly five years ago, and I still get commented on my Facebook page, I still get emails thanking me for these beautiful photos that I took five years ago that mean so much to him. How wonderful is that? But I had to travel to her, and not all people are able to travel like Janis, so you've got to be aware of their abilities in driving, and the environment that you might be going into. Sometimes if you have to go into a home, it's not suitable to take photographs in, but if you're going to their home, which is what I've tried to create here, you're going to be surrounded by their life, and it's creating a beautiful scene and a set up of everything that belongs to them. I've just brought a whole heap of different elements here together to show you what could be done in somebody's home if you were to go there to take some beautiful portraits of them, and I think that everybody should be photographed, regardless of how old they are. Sometimes they're not going to contact you, because at that point in their life, they're not focused on having their photographs taken. They're focused on spending time with their family and things like that, and sometimes they're not well enough to get out, so you might have to be the person that instigates some of these photographs when you're talking to your clients. Ask questions, get information about their family, and encourage them to have photographs with their parents or their grandparents depending on their age, 'cause these are the most valuable photographs you'll ever take to a family, and for their future generations to be able to look back and help tell that story. I've gone around the Creative Lives studio and got in to a little trouble, but I've tried to source as many things that you could find in a home to create a similar scene. Janis has a wonderful story, and she is an incredible writer, and she was a literature major. I've got an old typewriter, I've got some paper. These might not be things that she has in her home, but they're things when I was hearing her story kind of thought, right, I've got access to these at the Creative Lives studios. I can use those as props to help create a more homely scene to photograph her in it. It doesn't have to be complicated. I'm gonna use a light to be able to light her, and we've got a little bit of a fan, and I've got a bit of fabric here, and I'm gonna try and create a bit of a curtain effect of a curtain blowing in from a window from the same direction as that light, just to add a little bit of life and movement to this photograph, so it's not so stagnant, in terms of lots of props just sitting still. Janis has also brought in a few of her own things that will having meaning to her. That's the beautiful thing about this. When we talked yesterday about creating photographs that are of meaning to them, I'm not creating this for any other reason but for Janis, and hopefully it has that wonderful meaning when she looks at it, and when her family looks at it that they're going to absolutely love. I asked Janis a question in my questionnaire, and we've been talking about how do you get the right information? And having those pre-set out questions. One of the questions I always ask people is if you could do something tomorrow without any restraint, what would it be? She mentioned traveling to three different countries, one being Portugal, which is one of my favorite places. A globe, Creative Live had a globe, these are kind of things, different elements you can incorporate into the shoot. I have a camera because she's got photos, there's a connection there, she's brought in some beautiful photos of her own. There's a book here, Who's Who Among San Diego Women, and Janis is in that book, so these are all sort of things that tell part of her story that you want to incorporate into that. When you go in there, you've got to be able to ask the right questions and get the right information to do it. I've just laid out some photographs that she's also brought with us, and in the background is a photograph of her husband Stan. Hopefully by adding all of these different elements, I'm gonna create a story that's just gonna be perfect for her, even though a lot of these things aren't actually hers.

Class Description


  • Brainstorm and develop concepts for creative portraiture
  • Turn a client's story into a unique portrait
  • Design and build your own props and sets
  • Take great portraits of subjects at any age
  • Shoot and edit portraits with confidence
  • Increase the odds of success in photography contests
  • Move beyond traditional portrait photography


Tired of the traditional, overdone portraits? Dive into creative portrait photography by turning a client's story into stunning portraits with substance. Learn how to brainstorm concepts for a unique image based on a client's story and personality. Explore options for building your own unique set and props. Working with techniques like Photoshop composting and in-camera double exposures, learn how to turn abstract ideas into portraits with meaning.

Join Kelly Brown, a nationally recognized portrait photographer that's captured several awards for her storytelling abilities, and go behind the scenes for five live portrait shoots. Create portraits that span multiple age groups, with a behind-the-scenes look at portrait photography for newborns, children, teenagers, adults, and senior citizens. From brainstorming to editing, weave a meaningful story in front of the camera.

Following the live shoots and editing, Kelly shares insight into photography contests, from the submission process to tips for wowing the judges. Learn how to prepare an image for a print or digital competition.

This isn't the beginner's class on creating a good portrait with basics like depth of field and properly lighting the subject's face -- this is the portrait photography class for photographers ready to go beyond the basics to capture their best portraits yet using creative storytelling techniques. Stop regurgitating the same tired traditional portraits you've seen hundreds of time and capture creative portrait photography that inspires.


  • Intermediate photographers looking to break out of the norm
  • Professional photographers in a creative rut
  • Environmental portrait photographers


Adobe Photoshop CC, Adobe Camera RAW


As one of the most awarded portrait photographers, Kelly Brown is known for her knack for capturing creative portraiture. The owner of Little Pieces Photography in Brisbane, Australia, Kelly is most known for her work in the newborn genre, though her portraiture spans all ages. With a straight-forward, easy-to-follow teaching style, she's taught newborn photography and posing classes in more than 20 countries. As the judge for international print competitions and the winner of highly reputable contests such as the WPPI Photographer of the Year, Kelly also shares insight into photo contests with her students.


  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.

  2. The Power of Portrait Photography

    Photography is powerful -- build the tools to unlock that power by using your own experience, challenges, and limitations to bring them to your portrait photography.

  3. Introduction to Newborn Portrait

    See the inspiration behind the newborn portrait and the props involved. Learn why Kelly designed the shoot the way that she did -- and how her creative storytelling grew her business. Touch on the elements that are different when photographing a newborn, including safety concerns.

  4. Find Inspiration for Newborn Portrait

    How do you find the inspiration for a storytelling portrait? In this lesson, Kelly discusses researching the subject -- the newborn -- digging into relevant topics, and finding inspiration for the shoot. See other samples of storytelling newborn photography and learn the story behind the images.

  5. Create The Scene for Newborn Portrait

    Take storytelling ideas for newborns and turn them into reality with handmade props. In this lesson, Kelly walks through different props she's created and how she went from the original inspiration to crafting a unique prop.

  6. Prepare & Pose Newborn for Portrait

    Kelly preps for the live shoot by checking the props and making sure everything is within easy reach. Gain tips for working with babies, including wrapping and posing.

  7. Shoot: Techniques for Photographing Newborn

    In the first live shoot, go behind the scenes as the story comes to life. Watch Kelly work with getting the baby settled and in position and gain shooting tips when working with newborns.

  8. Newborn Image Review

    While reviewing the images from the shoot, Kelly shares tips on composition, camera settings, and why she framed the image the way that she did. Gain additional insight into the shoot from student questions.

  9. Introduction & Find Inspiration For Child Portrait

    Dive into storytelling portraiture for children, starting with tips for finding inspiration. Build the ability to research and brainstorm ways to represent a child's story visually.

  10. Create The Scene for Child Portrait

    Building the setting for the story is an essential part of capturing a story online. Delve into creating a set -- or working with a composite -- for a portrait of a child. Learn tips on matching the lighting to the set during the photo shoot.

  11. Prepare Set for Child Portrait

    Build a set that creates an illusion while keeping the child safe. See the inspiration behind the set, then gain insight into tricks for creating special effects like fog and wind indoors.

  12. Shoot: Capture Child Portrait

    With behind the scenes access, see how Kelly created an imaginative shoot with minimal Photoshop work. Gain insight into posing and working with kids. When shooting portraits and a prop or element to the shoot doesn't work exactly as you thought, learn to tackle unexpected challenges.

  13. Image Review for Child Portrait

    See the results from the live shoot, including the exposure settings like shutter speed and focal length. As she reviews the images, Kelly further explains elements of the shot that she didn't detail during the live shoot.

  14. Introduction & Inspiration For Teenager Portrait

    The teen years can be a tough age -- so where do you find inspiration to create a storytelling portrait for a teenager? Kelly shares tips on finding inspiration for these portraits, as well as portraits that she's created in the past and where the ideas stemmed from.

  15. Create The Scene for Teenager Portrait

    Go behind the scenes for Kelly's prop designs for teen portraits. Learn how to build a unique wardrobe piece and craft unique props with a built-in light source. See a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the lighting and studio set-up.

  16. Building Set for Teenager Portrait

    On a limited budget? Learn how to create a crown prop with about $15 in craft supplies. Then, see how easy it is to create a "dress" from backdrops that you already have on hand.

  17. Shoot: Portrait with Teenager

    Craft a story for a portrait featuring a teenager, a technique that's great for high school senior portraits as well as any youth portraits. In this live shoot, see the lighting settings, the pose, the camera settings and more involved in the teen portrait.

  18. Shoot: Pose Teenager for Multiple Looks

    Introduce variety into the stylized portrait session by building in a variety of poses. Using the same props and set, go behind the scenes as Kelly builds several different shots into the same session.

  19. Image Review for Teenage Portrait

    See the results of the live shoot, including the camera settings for each shot. In this lesson, Kelly shares the shots and how she plans to continue the vision during photo editing. Gain additional insight from student questions.

  20. Introduction & Inspiration For Adult Portrait

    The more years a portrait subject has, the more stories they have to tell. Learn how to find inspiration, develop the ideas, create a storyboard, and work to bring a story to life for adults.

  21. Creating The Scene for Adult Portrait

    Go behind the scenes for an elaborate prop set-up for an adult breastfeeding portrait. See how Kelly turned the idea into a custom prop set.

  22. Lighting for Adult Portrait

    Lighting evokes the emotion of the story. See how lighting is essential to creating the mood for the image. Walk through the lighting set-up, including the modifiers, used for the next live shoot.

  23. Tell Your Subject's Story

    Meet the subject for the live shoot and learn his story. In this lesson, Kelly discusses the inspiration for the shoot and where the idea for the double exposure came from.

  24. Shoot: Lighting for Double Exposure

    In the live shoot, learn how to capture a double exposure portrait in camera. From framing each shot to working with lighting, watch the concept of the double life come to life in a portrait.

  25. Introduction to Senior Portrait

    The older generation often has the most incredible stories. In this lesson, Kelly shares tips for creating portraits of senior citizens that tell a story. Develop the ability to find and build inspiration in this lesson.

  26. Create Storyboard & The Scene For Senior Portrait

    From the subject's story, build a storyboard and scene to capture a portrait. See how Kelly assembled the set for the live shoot, and why each element went into the set.

  27. Connect With Client to Create Portrait

    Building a connection with the client is essential to learn their story in order to capture a true representation of the client. Watch Kelly work to build that connection, live on set.

  28. Shoot: Lighting for Senior Portrait

    Behind-the-scenes in this live shoot, perfect the set, composition, and lighting before taking the shot. Work with the light source modified by a softbox. Put it all together with the final shot and the perfect expression.

  29. Shoot: Be Creative on Set

    Add variety and creativity to the senior portrait by building in different poses. Gain insight into working with the older generation, including posing with a subject that likely won't be able to sit in one position or stand for long periods of time. Work to imitate the look of natural light, window light and even a curtain using studio lights when a window isn't available.

  30. Image Review for Senior Portrait

    Take a look at the RAW, unedited results of the live portrait session. Work through Kelly's thought process to improve each shot, taking better portraits with just minor tweaks.

  31. Portrait Shoots Recap

    Review all the images from the live shoots during the culling process. Kelly explains why planning the shoot helps to prevent overshooting, and what she looks for when selecting images.

  32. Global Adjustments in Camera Raw®

    With the shooting finished, jump into editing inside Adobe Camera RAW. Work with color temperature, get started adjusting skin tones, and work to keep composite edits consistent.

  33. Editing In Photoshop® CC: New Born Portrait

    Starting with the newborn portrait, develop a workflow for editing stunning portraits. Work with tools to correct perspective, apply a crop, fix the background, adjust props, perfect the skin tone and more.

  34. Editing In Photoshop® CC: Child Portrait

    When the expression on your favorite photo isn't quite perfect, learn how to swap faces inside Photoshop. Perfect the child portrait from the live shoot, including removing the safety clamps from the props and extending the background.

  35. Editing In Photoshop® CC: Adult Portrait

    Tweak the double exposure adult portrait from the live shoot. Learn how to remove a tattoo, fix highlights and shadows and more in this behind-the-scenes edit.

  36. Editing In Photoshop® CC: Teenager Portrait

    Work to perfect the teen portrait from the live shoot. Learn how to adjust the color of your props if you couldn't quite get it right when assembling them. Draw the eye to the portrait subject with a few editing tricks.

  37. Editing In Photoshop® CC: Senior Portrait

    Fine-tune the senior citizen portrait inside Photoshop. Work to draw the eye to the subject using a gradient tool and layer mask. Dodge and burn with a layer mask to continue to draw the eye when working with a busy environmental portrait.

  38. Introduction to Entering Print Competitions

    Photographs that tell a story are great for entering into competitions -- but how do you get an image noticed by the judges? In this lesson, Kelly discusses why you should enter photography competitions.

  39. Process of Print Competitions

    Photography contests follow a specific pattern. Pinpoint the difference between print and digital competitions, then walk through the process of preparing an image for a print competition.

  40. What to Consider For Print Competitions

    Sure, you probably considered factors like composition and sharpness as you shoot, but there's much more to consider when it comes to print competitions. Even the paper type that you choose for your photo plays a role in how that final image looks. In this lesson, Kelly walks through the different factors to consider for print.

  41. What Judges Look For Overview

    Understanding what the judges are looking for allows you to make the best choices when submitting to competitions. Dig into all the different elements that judges look for in a competition.

  42. Image Impact

    Creating an impact is essential to winning a photography competition and getting the judges attention. In this lesson, Kelly shares tips for making an impact on the judges.

  43. Creativity, Style & Composition in Images

    Composition meshes with creativity and style to tell a story. In this lesson, see a selection of images demonstrating how each element plays a role in the image as a whole -- and how that image performs in competitions.

  44. Entering Photography Competitions Q&A

    Gain additional insight into photography competitions with questions from students during the live class.

  45. Image Lighting

    Lighting helps create a mood in the image, from the source to the direction. In this lesson, Kelly expands on the portrait lighting tips from the live sessions with details on natural light, lighting direction, shadows, and more.

  46. Image Color Balance

    Color balance ties together creativity and style and keeps the image cohesive. Discuss using different colors to create emotions and tie together elements in a photograph.

  47. Technical Excellence in Images

    Technical excellence is essential to success in photography competitions. In this lesson, Kelly explains the technical details that the judges look for in a competition, and what photographers should consider before entering the image.

  48. Photographic Technique

    Gain insight into different tricks and techniques involved in creating an image. From building a connection with clients to demonstrate poses, pick up additional portrait photography tips using different techniques with a photography contest in mind.

  49. Storytelling & Subject Matter

    A story and subject that wows is key to getting a judge to look closer at a photograph. In the final lesson, gain final insight into capturing that story and choosing the subject.



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.