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Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 19 of 49

Image Review for Teenage Portrait


Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 19 of 49

Image Review for Teenage Portrait


Lesson Info

Image Review for Teenage Portrait

We can flick back through some of these photos. So you can see taking that first test shot. And when you're using strobes like that, it's just a matter of putting those lights in a different position, moving them in and out, feathering them. You know, changing the aperture that you're shooting with to be able to control the brightness and how much light you're actually capturing there. So for me, this is something that's a little different and out of my comfort zone but I love doing it because it gets me really inspired. It gets me motivated to want to create. So that was the second shot we took. This is where we didn't have that strip coming in onto the background to separate. So if we go to the next one, I think that's where we introduce the strip. Yep. So you can see just that little bit of extra light now coming in to create that separation. And what it's done is created that beautiful sort of circular light around her as well. So that light's not just coming in from one place and ...

bursting her there. So fabric is very very difficult to get perfect in camera. Unless you're spending a really long time styling it and getting it absolutely perfect in place. But I know that I can really soften that and create some beautiful lines in post. And it's going to be absolutely gorgeous. So we go to the next exposure and that's just a little too bright there on that background. And then toning it down again. So we can start to have some fun. But what I like to do with these sort of exposures is put them all one by one, side by side, and start to sort of zoom in, have a look at the detail, the expression in the face, and then start to look at which one, which lighting setup or intensity is best for this particular photo. So we'll go to the next one. Yeah, and this is where we start to play with the crown. But obviously you don't want to have every photograph with the crown and that's why I did it with and without. So it's nice to change things up a little bit. And then changing the brightness there, increasing the intensity, which is perfect. So I'm loving these expressions. A little softer with the hand in the hair and that little smile. And then standing so, you can see here that very first capture with the shadow coming here across the eye so the next one is where we brought that hair back and took that shadow away and you can see the beautiful catch light in both eyes. So I love that little expression there because it's kind of like a deep in thought process. And increasing that exposure. Something a little different. And in black and white that's going to be absolutely gorgeous. And these are just going to be a little more moodier without that connection towards the camera as well. Yeah, these are lovely. And then that first one. You can see those two lights coming through here but we wanted the light to come from here so we had to remove the light, bring it forward and up, elevate that. And that was where we did that. So the screen is a little bit brighter in terms of what the capture actually looks like, which I'm completely happy with. In post I'm probably going to crop this. I'm going to soften that fabric and I'm going to control some of those highlights and shadows to really give this image some depth which is going to be beautiful. But I love the simplicity of this. Next. That's the last one? Oh cool. (laughs) Alright. We got some questions? Yes, let's start with our studio audience. See if you have any. Grab a mic. One person online had asked whether those tones that were really beautiful and you mentioned they matched her eyes beautifully, did you do that on person or-- No. Were the tones selected based on the other things that were your inspiration? Yeah, so I actually picked those primary colors because I find them really rich and when you're working with reds, greens, and blues and golds it adds that beautiful kind of richness to an image in terms of that color harmony. So for me, that's where I went with that and then when I found those green gems to go on the crown and then I got the green fabric and I looked at her eyes, I was like oh this is the perfect match. So no, it wasn't an intentional match in terms of the eye color because I only met Maya just before coming in to this shoot. So that's the beautiful thing about something like this, is that you could have a family come in for a portrait and there might be somebody there that just inspires you, catches your eye, takes your breath away, and you might sort of say to your clients, do you mind if I have a little bit of a play at the end of this? I would love to photograph your daughter and create something really unique and different for you. It's okay if you say no, no problem at all. But when it comes to a shoot, it's 80 percent them, what they want, and 20 percent me, which is a little bit of play and that's where I kind of like to have things on hand in the studio that I can play with and incorporate props, all that kind of stuff. So whenever I'm out and about, if I see something that's really unique, I'll buy it and it will just sit in the studio until I'm ready to use it. And it might be just that one person that comes along and sparks that little bit of inspiration in terms of using something. Alright, one more from online. People are wondering about your white balance and your choice of white balance when you are using these fixed lights. Yeah, when it comes to white balance, I'm in a studio space here where there's a heap of different lights going on, but at the moment I'm pretty much auto white balance all the time. I shoot camera raw. So that means that everything I'm capturing in that raw file is there. I open it up into camera raw on my computer and then if I need to make any adjustments to my white balance I do it all there. If I was to shoot with natural light like I do every day in my studio and I've got a sort of an overcast day where the sun's popping in and out behind the clouds I don't have time to do a custom white balance every time I go to take a photograph. So I tend to stick with auto white balance. My camera is unbelievable. I shoot with a Canon 5DS and those raw files like anywhere between 50 and 60 megabytes a file. And so when I open them up in a camera raw I can just make a quick temperature adjustment in terms of that color balance (laughs). In terms of that, but I'm usually going to set it around 5500 Kelvin. I prefer my images to be nice and warm and I believe that that gives them a certain richness as well. Great. People were definitely commenting on how beautiful the color temperature and tones, the light tones of this image were. Absolutely. And when you're shooting with beautiful pro photo lights, and I'm using auto white balance, here I don't really have any major color issues. There's no bright colors throwing in any bad colors into my set so it's going to be pretty standard. It's going to be pretty nice. People are asking about the backdrop. Do you have any info on that or we can share in the chatroom? I don't, it's actually not mine. This backdrop belongs to CreativeLive, but it is a hand-painted canvas and if you can get your hands on some blank canvas and paint your own you are just going to have so much fun and create beautiful, unique backdrops for you as well. I love doing that in my studio. But as you can see, it's lighter in the middle and darker on the outside which is perfect for framing your subjects and things like that. You can buy lots of canvas backdrops online but it depends on your budget. But if you feel creative and you like painting and getting your hands dirty, I suggest painting your own which is also an incredible experience. (laughs)

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.