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Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 13 of 49

Image Review for Child Portrait


Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 13 of 49

Image Review for Child Portrait


Lesson Info

Image Review for Child Portrait

So these are our first exposure shots. Alright, you can see that little bit of wind going through there, which is exactly what it is that I want. Just that movement in the hair and that movement in the dress. And then when we go forward, there was one of her laughing. Yeah. There it is. Aw, there was another one of her laughing when she was standing up. It was one of the last ones. Or did I not get it? Anyway, there's one of her laughing with a big smile, sitting down, and I just love that expression on her face because she looks like she's having an absolute ball. So yeah, in terms of looking at that image now, I know I'm gonna move that clamp, I'm going to move the bar up here and tidy up around there and then enlarge those balloons so they're almost touching. And I can already pre-visualize it and I'm really happy with how that turned out. That's exciting. Wondering if there's a way we can see the setting on this again. Nora, would you-- Oh yeah, yeah. Great. So I, perfect, ...

I shot this at 2.8. And what I, I was still at ISO because my lighting conditions in here have not changed. And I was a third of a stop over-exposed when I'm looking at my meter. So when you frame up your image, when you're down and in your position and you push the trigger halfway to get your focal point, your meter is then going to adjust. So I'm looking at what my meter is telling me. It's taking in all the information that's in that frame and it's telling me where, at the moment, that that information is sitting, where it thinks I should take it. But it's always gonna try and bring me back to that middle point and space in a white metered. But on a brighter setup like this, I need to push that exposure just a little bit. I could take it a full stop over-exposed, but because I've got balloons up here and I've got a light coming in, and it's, this is going to be the brightest part of the image because it's the closest, brightest object to the light source, I don't want to potentially over-expose that. We've got a white dress and we've got a white stool. We have got a lot of darker elements in the image, as well. So when you look at your background, in the top right corner there, it's quite dark. Her hair is quite dark. And so those elements are going to confuse the camera, in terms of where it thinks my exposure should be. And that's why I know that, because of those brighter elements in the image, being in the foreground, I need to slightly over-expose to bring that exposure up so that I can get that perfect exposure in camera. But when it comes to getting that perfect exposure, you can't do it from looking at a thumbnail on the back of your camera. You have to have your histogram up. And then you've got to understand that the histogram is just a recording of all the information that's in that file. So it's gonna show you the highlights, it's gonna show you the mid-tones, and it's gonna show you the shadows. So I'm constantly looking at, am I potentially over-exposing those highlights, how much room have I got to go? And then I'm looking at those shadows, do I have enough detail in those shadows? And if I don't, that's where I've got to bring in a reflector. So understanding how your camera works and how it records the information that you are framing up is really, really important in terms of getting it right in camera. Because if you're not getting it right in camera, you're gonna then be playing with files in Photoshop or Lightroom or Camera RAW, and trying to adjust those exposures. And if you're using a higher ISO, you know, anywhere from 1200 up, and some cameras are incredible at high ISOs, but some aren't, but if you're under-exposing a photograph and then you're trying to bring up that detail in post-production, you are going to run into a lot of problems in terms of noise and banding. So you wanna make sure that you get that exposure right. And the only way to do that is to have the histogram up and be looking at that information and how your camera is recording it and telling your camera what to do. But the reason I shot it at 2. is because I want that beautiful depth of field. I want that focal plane to be very narrow and I want the background to be nice and soft and blurry. So that's why I'm shooting it there. And I'm focusing on her face, I'm moving that focal point, and I'm, got down low enough so that I'm on that same plane as her. So yeah. I notice that you have some reflections in the balloon. Is that something you'd be concerned about when you're actually shooting, or would you just worry about that in post-production? Yeah, I'd probably just tone those down. And in here, because we've got multiple light sources, it's a little hard for me to completely control, but in my studio, I would definitely take into consideration all of those different little highlights and try and eliminate whatever it was causing those. But yeah, here it's a little different because we're filming and I'd be dark if we didn't have any lights on at the moment, so it's, it's all part of the environment that I suppose you're in. But it is controlling that light and directing it where you want it to be. So whether you wanna add more light, you wanna reflect light, you wanna, you know, sort of take away light, subtract light, in terms of blocking it or using darker reflectors and things like that to pull it away, it's all part of that final look that you're going for, that mood and style that you're trying to create. But yeah, with this I, like that'll take me a couple of minutes to kind of remove in post-production, but you really would wanna try and eliminate those in capture, if you can. So yeah. So a couple questions about the post that you're planning to do with this. Kathy Cook says, will you add, since we didn't get the dry ice to really work as your vision was, will you think about adding or try adding that in post? So, not for this image. Because I'm trying to capture single-capture images, because I love entering competitions, it's a part of me that just keeps my creativity alive, it pushes me to create new images and to get it right in camera, I'll probably just soften down those clouds on the bottom and have a little bit of fun with those. But if I wasn't gonna enter this into a competition, I may go out and shoot some clouds, you know, and screen them over the top of this. Another way to add clouds in post is, if you do have a smoke machine or something like that, or you are somewhere with smoke, if you photograph that smoke on a black background, then you can overlay it and add that as a screen layer onto your image and it'll add some beautiful smoke in that foreground. But yeah, for me, with that end result potentially being an award entry, I wanna try and keep it as a single capture. So in post, I'll probably just use a little bit of blur to soften down that foreground underneath her. We have a couple people asking about lighting. And so one is, is this a dimable light? Maybe you can talk a little bit more about what lighting were used here. And then the second half of this is, could you do this with, say, just a speed light? Yeah, so you could definitely do this with any light source. It's knowing what those light sources are capable and then it's understanding your camera and knowing how your camera's gonna record that light. So if you are using different lighting techniques, that's fine. Just make sure you're aware of what those lights are capable of. So for this particular setup, I wanted it to be very bright and airy and light. So I needed a large amount of light to come in. I'm using an LED continuous daylight balanced light and I've got it on its strongest setting. So obviously, the closer I bring that light, you know, the brighter I'm going to make my subject so I'd have to change my exposure. And, obviously, it's gonna get a little bit more contrasty in there. So I wanna pull it back as far as I can and diffuse it with this large soft box so that that light really spreads. When it comes to lighting, you know, there are so many different ways to light things. And in my studio, like I showed earlier, I have so much available natural light. And I have to block it out most days because there's too much for what I'm working with. So often what I'm trying to do is just replicate, you know, that sort of being outside in a giant soft box. When you've got the sun in the sky and things like that, like for this, this is all I'm trying to do, is replicate a big, giant soft box of light just going everywhere and being diffused beautifully. But yeah, this is an LED daylight balanced continuous light. There are so many of them available out there, different brands, and when it comes to buying the right light for you, my best advice is to talk to people who know lights best. Go to trade shows, talk to people who sell them. You know, asking if you can hire them so you can try before you buy to see whether it's the right light for you. Because it can be a large investment and you wanna make sure that it's the perfect light for your studio, your space, and what you're trying to create with that light, as well. If you were in your studio, would you have kept the ISO at 640, or was that just unique to this space? Yeah, no, actually, I often shoot at 640. In my studio, it doesn't necessarily change much, the lighting there, because it's so diffused. I have very large, thick glass panes and in between two of those glass panes is a frosting. And it diffuses the light so beautifully, but after about, I think it's about 10:30 in the morning, the sun then starts to go above my building. So I don't have any direct light or anything coming in, so it's just a wall of really soft light coming in. And I just find that if I've got my ISO at 640, it's where I'm comfortable shooting at, in terms of the aperture and in terms of the shutter speed that I need to make sure that my photos are nice and sharp. But when it comes to ISO, like if I didn't have all of these additional lights on in here, it would be very dark. We've got a very dark floor, so it's gonna subtract light. I'd probably have to bump up my ISO because I think I was only at about 125th of a second, in terms of shutter speed. I will come down to a 60th of a second, hand held, but you do have to be so careful because if you want to nail that focus, you want a much faster shutter speed. So I'm happy around that place there and where my capabilities are. But it's all about practice, practice, practice and getting it right for you, in terms of what you're comfortable with. I know a lot of people aren't comfortable at shooting at 2.8, but it's, you know, it's a personal preference and yeah, I used to be quite concerned about getting my focus in camera and then I had a lot of students come to me, saying, I just can't get my focus, I can't get my focus, and what I found was, when they were taking their shot, is that the were focus recomposing at a very very, you know, small focal plane. At, say, either 1.8 or 2.8, and sometimes at 1.2. But I had to explain that that focal plane is so small that even that slight movement of focus recomposing can take you off your focal point. So that's why I always get my camera and I get my composition right, I then toggle my focal points to put that focus point exactly where I want it to focus. And then I take that shot. So I'm, my camera's not moving in my hand. So that's another thing to kinda consider, as well.

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.