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Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 14 of 49

Introduction & Inspiration For Teenager Portrait


Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 14 of 49

Introduction & Inspiration For Teenager Portrait


Lesson Info

Introduction & Inspiration For Teenager Portrait

This segment is all about photographing teenagers, and as I mentioned earlier in Australia it's not something that's very popular. So we don't just have those bookings for like the high school senior shoots. I often have teenagers come in though for family portrait sessions. If I come in and I connect with someone who is a teenager, it's a pretty sure bet that I'm gonna photograph them in another way and create something special for them. Because having a teenage daughter of my own... I know, and I... Well, you know I was a teenager. So I understand what they're going through. In today's world I am, you know, aware of the influence from social media and the pressures to look a certain way. To be a certain way. To be perfect in a sense, and it can be really tough on kids. Especially when they're sort of you know between that sort of 14 to 17 age group, because they're growing at such a rapid rate. The hormonal changes that they grow through are huge. Also their brain is developing so fa...

st for them to be able to actually mentally understand what's happening around them and to them. It's very complex being a teenager. Our model is 17, and I remember back to that age. I already moved out of home. I'm sort of aware of some of those struggles that you go through at this age. I'm really excited to actually create something for our model today that shows her beauty and makes her feel powerful in herself. So, that's really exciting. I'm gonna take you through a few of my slides here, because it's important to know where I'm obviously finding inspiration. Again it's those same points. It might be from one place or another, but it's starting off that research process. And starting with a few little pieces of information that during that meeting when you asked those questions. They're starting to give you answers, and then you're kind of taking notes. Then you can't wait to get on the computer and start researching different things, or perhaps different eras. Our model today has a very, she's got a very classic look. She almost reminds me of, you know sort of medieval times in terms of her porcelain skin and her bone structure. She's really quite beautiful. That's inspired me as well to create what I'm gonna create during this setup. Going through some of the photos that I've created and what's inspired me. Everything speaks to us differently. I was in an art gallery and this image really moved me. Really, really moved me. It's called the Martyr. It was in the Louvre in the Louvre Art Gallery. I just stood there for such a long period of time staring at it, because it's very, very dark. The more you look at it the more you start to see into the background of what's happening to tell this story. I was completely fascinated by this. It's very dark, it's very moody. It's gonna speak to some people, and it's not gonna speak to other people. So it's okay to be naturally drawn to something that really resonates with you, because like I said we're all completely different. So what I create today, not everybody's gonna go out and create the same thing, but that's the beautiful thing about this. It's story telling portraiture. It's creating and finding inspiration from so many different things and factors. That are gonna help you tell someone else's story and be impacted by so many different elements and things that you've learned along the way. This particular painting inspired me to create something that was... In the next images you're gonna look at it and go, what is that? But the next image shows you a little behind the scenes footage of what I tried to create something similar. This was when our pool was first put in. (laughs) It was warm. It looks a little cold. But, I did want to create something like this to create the following image. It is a composite photograph, because I knew that there was no way that I could do this as a single capture image. That's that process that you go through. Yes I create single captures for entering competitions that have that as a guideline for some of those categories, but not all categories are single capture. You can enter illustrative categories where you can enter heavily composited images. For this one the background was taken in New Zealand. The deer was taken in another location. Then obviously the photo that was taken in the pool was added later in post production. But I've tried to create something a little different and put my spin on it. The deer has a great meaning in terms of why it's there in the frame. You know it's kind of like that new life type thing that's coming through there. So that's my sort of spin on something like that. It's not gonna resonate with everyone, but for me it was an important photograph to try and accomplish. What I loved about this was. It was really hard to do. So I learned so much throughout that process of trying to make it look realistic and trying to create something. I love that creative process of trying to come up with something that was unique and different. You know that the thing when I talk later on about enter awards and things like that. You know when you put an image up in front of a judging panel and you've got five completely judges in there. It only takes one of them for an image to resonate with them. Then they'll fight for that photograph if they want it to have a better score. So you don't have to impress all of the judges. I've often in judging history, you know, sort of gone quite high on an image that me feel really uncomfortable, but because it made me uncomfortable it made me feel something. When you are creating something some of those things don't always go, ah you know that's gonna make someone a bit skirmish. Or that's gonna make someone not, you know, enjoy it or feel comfortable. It's just about creating for you and creating pieces of art work that you know people are gonna love that are in the photos. I even found inspiration from quotes. This was a beautiful quote that's actually the lyrics out of a song. You know when you walk into a room everything changes. Darkness starts to tremble at the light that you bring. Every heart starts burning, and nothing matters more than just to sit here at your feet. So when I think of that, I think of how bright the room becomes when my daughters walk into it, or any of my kids. Especially, you know, my girls. When they smile they really do light up a room. So for me as a parent that was something that really struck a cord, and when I'm creating I wanna create something that really does kind of have that impact and is something just that little different. So I can see a lot of you looking at it going, I wasn't expecting that to pop up. But that's my crazy imagination and that's my level of, you know, imagination that's bringing those lyrics to life for me. So I've created that portrait for me, and I think that's really important as an artist as well. You know having these personal projects and being able to really have some fun and explore the possibilities of what is possible. I'll show you later on exactly how I created that, which is pretty cool. But when it comes to creating storyboards... When I'm photographing my children, which I highly recommend to everybody out there. Get them to create a storyboard, and then you interpretate it. Then you become the opposite end of the stick. Get them to create a beautiful storyboard. I've got two of my girls on Pinterest with their own accounts set up. I love going in and seeing the different boards that they are creating, because it inspires me in such a different way. Because that's what they see, and I would've seen something completely different. You know, what was it that grabbed their attention? Was it the pose? Was it the way that the art form? The way that it was created? Was it the colors? Was it the composition? All of those things. So I sit and I talk to them about that. I allow them to actually, you know, be free in their thoughts and let them know that it's okay to think, you know, think outside the square. Think that anything's possible in terms of creation. In terms of being artistic.

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.