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Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 4 of 49

Find Inspiration for Newborn Portrait


Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 4 of 49

Find Inspiration for Newborn Portrait


Lesson Info

Find Inspiration for Newborn Portrait

So when it comes to finding inspiration, you know, these are the things that I've been talking about, you know, talking to your client and listening to their story, asking the right questions, and then researching those relevant things. Researching, just, you know, obviously going to the internet and typing in a million different things and seeing what comes up, and it's allowing yourself that time to do it. Whenever I go through these processes, I dedicate time to these things, so my plan is quite well thought out in terms of, you know, this is my client, this is what I'm going to do, this is how long I'm gonna spend researching it, and communicating that with them. So saying, okay well, I'm gonna spend the next few days, kind of, researching a few things, and then I'm gonna come back to you with a couple of ideas to see what you think about those. Pinterest is another incredible place to find inspiration, there is so much on there. Visiting art galleries is probably one of my favorit...

e things to do. Every city I go to, every time I travel overseas, if I can find an art gallery, I will lose myself in there. There is just so much you can learn from paintings, and I'm a big fan of the Rene Soncera, but just the way that they painted light, the way that they used that light to create a motion and to tell that story is fascinating to me. And magazines, believe it or not, like, when I'm on airplanes for a very long time, (laughs) magazines are a great place as well because you often have, you know, a different perspective on things from artists as in graphic designers, and interior designers, and things like that, and you can find all of that inspiration from those different areas and bring it all into photography. But also brainstorming with friends, I have such an incredible network around me of creative people, and I've purposely surrounded myself with creative people because that's where I feel alive when we're communicating, even if it's over wine, over coffee, we're always chatting about different ideas and concepts, and coming up with different things and helping each other out, which is incredible because as photographers, we're often quite lonely. You know, we're behind a computer for a really long time, and yeah, if you're not out and about and communicating with people on a regular basis, that's a great recipe for, you know, getting stale, unmotivated, and, you know, not sort of experiencing what it is that you can experience when you allow yourself to create. So I'm just gonna show you a couple images and talk about the ideas behind them so that you can understand why they were created. This particular image was, I think it's about five years old now, the twins are about five years old, so I actually went to school with the mother of these twins from grade three, and when she contacted me and she said she was having twins, I was like, I'm there, and I drove six hours to her house to photograph these babies. And the three bowls represent the three babies that they lost prior to these babies. And so they went through multiple rounds of IVF and nothing happened, and then all of a sudden they fell pregnant with identical twin girls naturally, so it's a beautiful, beautiful story. But I wanted to tell their story because it was such a journey for them, and they had so much heartbreak, but then they had this beautiful joy. So it's a celebration, it's not meant to be a sad photograph, but it's a process to get to that result, to get those beautiful babies. And then inspiration can come from many different things. In Australia, we have the Aboriginal community, the indigenous people, this is their Aboriginal flag, and so when I went to take this photograph, the parents brought with them, the flag, and I had some wool, so I've been able to, you know, do a lot to this photograph in post production to be able to create this for them, so it has so much meaning because they're so proud of their heritage. So it doesn't necessarily tell a story about, you know, something that's happened to this child's life, or anything like that, it's purely just a celebration of their heritage and their love of their flag, which is beautiful. And this is a recent portrait that I created for a family, I photographed their first baby three years ago, and they had a very hard time when that baby arrived into the world, and it was born 10 weeks early, so it was about nine and a half weeks old when I photographed it when they finally got home from hospital. And I just remembered this couple, you know, and their story, and then she contacted me, it must be now about 14 months ago, to say we're having another baby, and I was so joyed for them because they'd had such a hard time having their first baby, it took them nine years to fall pregnant with their first baby. And when it came to having their second baby, she said, I really want you to photograph my, the birth, not my birth, sorry, the birth. She said, but I have a surrogate, so she couldn't carry another baby herself, and she wanted me to be there to document that baby arriving into the world. So then I just couldn't stop thinking about how incredible this story is and that I wanted to create something beautiful for them. So what I did was, I went to the internet, and I researched surrogacy and the symbol for surrogacy, and I found this necklace. So this is where I came up with my concept and my idea, and I told her about it prior to the baby arriving, and she said, I would absolutely love that. So then I had to go out and source and find all the materials to make it. I'm not sure what you call them, but we call them pool noodles, they're a flotation thing, well they're hollow in the inside. So what I was able to do was thread the inside of those with wire, and then bend them into a shape. Though, you probably can't see it, but down on the bottom there where there's the tube like circles, in there is a ball, and it's got weights in it, so that's was where the support came to hold the baby into position. So you can see my dog there in the background, that's my backyard on a rainy day in Brisbane, and then over here what I did was, I just wrapped wool all the way around it to create that structure. And at the top here, there was a piece of fishing line that connected that to a support at the top, so it wasn't going to move or go anywhere. And then when I took the photograph, I had mum, 'cause it has to be single capture, I had mum just sitting off to the side here within arms reach of her baby, so it couldn't move, even though the baby was low to the ground, not a lot of support there around her, so I just had to make sure, like, that her back was deep enough in there so there wasn't a lot of rolling, and that when I took the shot it was literally mum's hand, one, two, three, bring the hand away, and then bring it down to be able to create that. But being able to create that for her, she just loved it, she said, oh my god, I can't wait to share this in all of my surrogacy support groups, and it's gone crazy, like, it is absolutely gone crazy. So yeah, that has meaning for her, and whilst other people look at it and don't realize that that is the symbol for surrogacy, that's fine, it doesn't matter to them, but it matters to them, and so it's pretty powerful. This is probably a painting that really grabbed my attention in an art gallery, and I was fascinated with all these kids and the look on this woman's face, like, you know, she could do anything, this woman, she's stern, she's fierce, she's strong, but yet she's being overpowered by all of these little humans. And I was asked to go and photograph a set of quintuplets for their first birthday on the other side of Australia, so I had to fly over there, so I'd never met them, and I was not sure what to expect. And when I got there, these tiny little humans were so fascinated with me, they weren't scared, but they weren't overly, you know, excited to get towards me either, but I wanted to create something for her because what this woman has achieved is really quite phenomenal. So she has a three year and a five year old, and then she fell pregnant naturally with five babies, which is a one in 55 million chance. So, (laughs) and she has one boy, they're all girls, (laughs) and the two older ones are girls. So yeah, she ended up with one little boy, but I wanted to show how she'd got through that first 12 months because we sat and we talked about her struggles, what she'd been through, not only with her mental state of looking after all of those little people. And, you know, them arriving so early and having them in hospital for so long and then, you know, being only to take home one baby at a time, and still having babies in the hospital, like, it was an incredible story. But yeah, she got through it all, she survived, even the changes to her body, and the back problems that she now has from carrying that much weight on her front, she's got that many struggles, it's not funny. But, you know, I've had this judged, and I've had judges say, oh, you know, I don't really like the expression on her face. That's her, I can't change that expression, but that's okay because she knows the meaning behind that, and she's powerful, and she knows that. So that's all that matters, I suppose, when it comes to creating those photos, no one else's opinion but hers. And creating a storyboard, this for me is extremely important. I often just cut pictures out of magazines, or I print photos that I've taken on my phone, and I just, sort of, stick them around so that I can see a visual of what it is that I want to create. So this particular storyboard here, obviously, I'm inspired by this mother child connection and the way that the mother is looking at this child, that's what really grabbed me. And then I started to think about how I was going to style it in terms of color, how I was going to pose them, and then how I was going to frame it. So when my cousin had a baby and she had to go through IVF to have that baby, and she knew this was going to be her only baby, I knew this was going to be her king, like, this baby is, like God to her, and she puts him on such a peddle stool, and he is like a little prince, he is just adorable. So I wanted to create something that was inspired by all of those beautiful paintings that really resonated with me when I wanted to create this photograph for her. So yeah, I just absolutely adore that.

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.