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Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 30 of 49

Image Review for Senior Portrait


Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 30 of 49

Image Review for Senior Portrait


Lesson Info

Image Review for Senior Portrait

So coming back to the original capture where we're looking at the amount of light that we need to come through, I thought that when I saw this come up on screen, I'm like, it's perfect. Then I looked at the laptop and it was a little underexposed. So I really want to try and get that exposure right in camera. Like I said, if I'm underexposing those photographs, what's gonna happen is I'm gonna run into all types of problems later on in post-production when I'm trying to get, you know, detail into those shadows. Okay, then we brought in, we changed our exposure, lifted it a little, so that's where we can start to see more detail there, and this is where we've started to bring in that reflector. So you can see now the difference. Can we go back one? You can see all the shadows over there, and then we go forward one, and then the detail that's starting to come out in all of those different elements. Because when I'm looking at potential award images that tell a story, if you were to enter...

something like this, I wanna make sure that every single little detail has got lots of information that I can, you know, kind of bring out in post-production and really define, because they're all elements that tell the story, so they're all important within the photograph. So that reflector is really huge there. Okay, go on to the next one. Yeah. So this is where I'm starting to look at this exposure and making sure that we've got focus. I'm looking at the different expressions, the body posture, all of those sort of things, and I think we leaned forward in the next one. Yeah, just a little bit more. And I really love this. I think that this kind of is a bit more relaxed for you. But that's an old lady. (laughs) So you don't like to look at yourself. Nobody does. No. No one does. No. But, like, right now, would you go, you know what? I wanna have my portrait taken. I'm gonna go out and I'm gonna book a photographer. Well, not anymore. There. But I'm pretty sure that your kids would love to have some photographs of you. Yeah. Even if they don't they'll say so, yeah. Yeah. (audience laughs) They're very dear. They're keepers. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I like that. But that's what we're sorta talking about here, is that, you know what, I'm not taking this photo for Janice. Yes, it's gonna have a lotta meaning for her in terms of the different elements that are in there, but this is kinda for her family. Her kids are gonna want this. You know, like, when she, if I was in her home, oh my God, I'm pretty sure I'd have a field day taking a photograph of her in amongst her own things, her own personal items and her objects. Especially with dad and their gift. I mean, they're very sentimental. Yeah. That has meaning to them. No one else, I'm not taking this photograph for anyone else. Yeah. It's for her family, for her. So this is the importance of photography and what I keep coming back to. So if we move on to the next one. And again, a little bit of a different exposure. I've lifted my exposure in the next one 'cause I was a little concerned about getting that focus. And if I prefer a different background, I can head swap if I need to in terms of that focus and expression. But obviously you wanna try and get it perfect in camera, absolutely. But yeah, I like this intense look that she's kinda got into the camera, as well. And then we did one with a little bit of a smile. Not that one. (Janice laughs) And then we started to have a bit of a wind gust there. But capturing fabric and things like this and just adding those different elements, you know what, you might do it on the day, but you might go back later on and go, you know what, that's not really how I kinda visualized it would be. It didn't work out the same way. Is that the last one? Yeah, so that's probably a bit more realistic in terms of getting that to work. And you know what, in post, I may even add a little bit of motion blur to the fan to make it look like it's actually moving, as well. Or because it's an old fan, you could set back up if you were perhaps on a tripod or something like that to line it all up. I could take another shot while Janice is not in it, because when you turn it on, you know, it may blow her away. But it could almost, you know, be on in another capture and you could bring that in in terms of those different kinda elements and the movement in the photograph. But yeah, I don't think it needs to be on, but I just think that that's, like, a little kind of gust of wind coming through just to add a little bit of meaning and life. And you can see where I've got her face, I didn't ask her to bring her face back around towards me, because when you are taking a profile shot, if you ask someone to look that way, you either want the profile or you wanna have them turned enough so that you can see the outside of their face on the other side of their nose. If that line starts to break, then you're gonna come into, you know, a few sort of, you know, awkward sort of posing sort of issues that you're gonna have there. So there are all the different elements that you must look for when you're looking through that viewfinder. But I'm also trying to get my crop as perfect as possible, as well. So you can see I don't have a lot of side there. This is pr-, I don't really have to crop this too much. Just a little bit of those B-flats over there. But I'm really happy with the way that that turned out in terms of all those different elements, and I love the way that the gaze is this way and then you've got Stan over here, and as the, you know, that eye direction is looking towards him, which all of those different little elements and leading lines in this frame in terms of composition work really well. So yeah, and I know looking at this in post-production, there's a few highlights that I'm gonna tone down. Over here in the background, I'm gonna make sure that the text is a little bit more predominant. So I'm gonna bring that out. That's something that you can't really do, you know, in camera. When you're trying to fill shadows over here, it is going to lighten that a little more. So I'll darken that down, make sure that, you know, all of this is darkened down just a tad more, as well, those highlights, and obviously the cup there, as well. So yeah, I'm kind of excited about this, and thank you for allowing me to create this. Well, thank you. Thank you, thank you. (Kelly laughs) It's been amazing communicating with Janice, and I'm a big believer in when you meet people, you just learn so much, and it makes you grow as a person, and that being a photographer, I think, allows us to do that on a more regular basis because we're meeting so many people all the time, different people who experience different things which we can learn and grow from, as well. We did have a question from Sunny, who says, I know you talked about it a little bit, but... This person, Sunny is thinking about how to find subjects. She's very interested in senior and legacy photography. Do you have any thoughts around that? You know, if this is something that you really wanna get into, you could perhaps do model calls. If you've not photographed someone in this age range before, do a model call. But if you've already got a clientele base, talk to those clients. Find out, you know, more about them, ask the right questions, and then offer to go and photograph them. Or, like, for a long time, I've said in my studio, especially with my newborn clients, because it's such a celebration of life, you know, if you have other family members that you would like to bring to the studio, please feel free to bring them. And I have had so many grandparents turn up to be in the photographs with those newborns, and some have driven a really long way. Like, I had a family come recently, and they had been living in London. They moved back to Brisbane. Her family lived in Brisbane and his parents lived in, I think it was Proserpine, which is, like, a 10-hour drive away. They drove to Brisbane to be a part of the family photographs. So we've just created a beautiful album, and we've got photographs of all the grandparents together with the baby. We've got individual photographs of those grandparents with their baby. One of my most favorite photographs that I've ever taken is with a couple that were in their 80s, and they came to my studio. They had one daughter, and she married a gentleman who didn't have contact with his family, and they had one baby. Both of them are doctors. They're not going to have any more children. So that one grandchild has no cousins, no aunts and uncles, and has his mum and dad and has his grandparents for a short period of time. But they're in their 80s. They're not gonna see him graduate. They're not gonna see him get married. So those photographs of them holding him, he's gonna have those for the rest of his life and know how much they loved him. And that's what photos do. Photos show people how much you loved them, how much they were loved. That's the power of what it is that we do. But if you're not communicating, if you're not asking the right questions, you won't find people to photograph. But invite people into your studio and remember that you're creating a legacy for them. You know, it's not a chore having more people turn up to the studio. Like, I have a group on Facebook, and I often see people go, oh, do you charge more for this? No. I just take less photos. But I incorporate them in the photographs. They want them there because it's important to them, and that's what they have to remember. This is what photography does. Question. This has been incredibly inspirational, so I just wanna say thank you. I mean, this is why we're a photographer. I have mountains of books of just notes and ideas of things that I wanna do for concept shoots and then never do them. I just have a really hard time getting to the execution stage. And I'm just seeing how simple you make it and I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about how to make it more simple and maybe not so complex where we get stalled. Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think you're not alone in the fact that you've got a heap of ideas written in notepads and things like that. And it's, it doesn't matter whether you're a photographer or not. Like, even Janice has filing cabinets full of things that, you know, she's written and worked on. We all have these things, but I think we get to a point where it becomes too hard or we've overthought it. And I've got in my phone a notes section full of ideas that have, some have been there for four or five years that I've not created. Because sometimes we have an idea and then when you try, when you wanna create it a certain way, you can't figure out how to do it, and then we overthink it. But I think it's just a matter of just doing it. And sometimes it's not only about overthinking it or thinking that it's too hard. It's that fear of what other people will think of what we're about to create. And when you allow that fear of what other people think of your photographs, your art, to get in the way of creating, then it's gonna hold you back, absolutely. So I got to a point where I just stopped worrying about what everybody else thought. But what it comes down to and why I've included in the bonus material the mind map and that what to expect is that you have to have a plan in every aspect of your life. If you don't have a plan, you won't have a goal. Or if you don't have a goal, you won't have a plan. Something like that. But you have to be able to create a plan of attack to get to that finished image, finished photograph, because if you don't evaluate all the different steps and even little things like I mentioned before about the light. You know, how am I gonna light it in a way that's gonna, you know, create that emotion, that story? You've gotta be able to break every element down and then kinda just allow yourself to do it. If you don't give yourself permission and time, you won't create. But also dedicating time to going out and about and sourcing things like pool noodles. You know, things like that. Walking through art and craft stores going, okay, I wanna create this. This could actually work. And if it doesn't, you know what, you've learnt something. Next time I'm gonna use this. So that's why when I create a project like this, I allow myself two to three weeks from start to finish, because it gives me that amount of time to be able to make sure that I can actually pull it off. These last two days have been the exception, because I would usually only work on one shoot at a time, whereas I've come up with five completely different concepts as well as taught in the same time in an environment that's not my studio. So whilst it's not perfect and I'm not the best at what I'm doing here and teaching, it's me. And I'm okay with that because I really don't care what other people think of what it is that I'm doing. I'm more focused on the impact that I leave on people's lives and what I create for them. Because I have this, you know, saying, you know, people just have to mind their own business. What you think of my work really shouldn't impact me, and I have to remember that every time I create, and you've gotta remember that. It's none of my business what you do in your studio and what you're creating. And I think that's what it all comes down to, if that makes sense.

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.