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Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 3 of 49

Introduction to Newborn Portrait


Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 3 of 49

Introduction to Newborn Portrait


Lesson Info

Introduction to Newborn Portrait

Our first little subject and newborn is three weeks old. She is about nine pounds and I've got this beautiful set up here. So what I've done is I have the supportive section in the middle where she is going to be positioned, I've got some additional supports over there. My idea is once we bring the background on top here is that I will stand very safely up here to take that shot. So its an aerial perspective so that's where I'm going to be to actually take that photograph if you can visualize that. And like I said, I've used a couple hundred paper cranes and we have hot glue gunned those to the backdrop. So I had to sacrifice a backdrop but that's okay. Because usually when I'm creating pieces like this they're one of, they're unique, and I've hand painted backdrops, especially the one, the regional photo with the owl, I painted that backdrop specifically for that shoot so I'm not going to use it for anything else because it was for that shot. And for me, that's probably the most impor...

tant thing when I'm creating set ups like this is that they are unique, I've not done them before. Sometimes I have clients come in and they're like, oh, we want that. And it'd be my big, giant white flower with a baby in it. And whilst I am creating unique set ups for each individual person because it tells their story, sometimes you do get people that go well but I want it. But, yeah, when it comes to, you know, creating something like this and having that vision and bringing it to life, when you start, you can often change directions. So you can have your first, you know, preconception, conceptual idea and then it'll start to evolve throughout that process from the beginning, right through to that catcher. So I originally had an idea where all of the cranes would come straight down and then as I started to play on that, I'm like, oh, I like how it goes this way. So don't ever feel restrained that it has to be a certain way. Let your imagination fly and just go with whatever you think looks great and what you're comfortable with. And that's what is always gonna make those images unique. In the photography industry, it is hard to stand out. It is really hard. You know, we struggle in our businesses to get clients in the door all the time but what I found throughout creating all of those photographs is that has made me unique and its made me stand out and people find me, they go out of their way to find me. So when you allow yourself to create and not, you know, constrain yourself through your fear of what other people think and if you focus purely on your own ideas, your own clients, and telling their story, you're just gonna blow up. You know, your business is just gonna explode because it's you and no one else sees it like you and that was probably the biggest thing that held me back from creating for a long time. It was oh, no, people will think that that's stupid. Like, and I grew up with, you know, being told everyday, what will people think. You know, look at your hair, what will people think. Go and get dressed properly, what will people think. So it took a long time for me to go I don't care what other people think, this is me. And I'm going to create what it is that I want, what I love, and what I'm most passionate about. So, you know, for anyone out there watching, this is me. It doesn't bother me if other people don't resonate, don't like it, don't love it. This is the way I express myself with photography and to really nourish my own creativity. So I think we're pretty ready here to kind of start getting set up for our newborn shoot and I'm going to explain that process of bringing this over. But like I said, we've got our heaters on so it's nice and warm in this space, our baby is being fed this morning prior to coming to the studio so I always communicate with my newborn clients, the mothers and the fathers, prior because it's really important that when that baby comes in here, or, you know, at the beginning of the shoot that they're well prepared and they understand what's about to happen because they might see a drawing, they might see a photograph but they don't know how it's created and especially for newborns, you've got to make sure that you're giving them that peace of mind that safety is at the forefront of everything that you do and they're comfortable, you know, with you creating set ups like this. So that's probably one thing that's different when you're photographing a newborn is that all of those safety elements have to be really, really focused on and it's the same with a child and things like that but you can communicate with a ten year old. You know, and when you are creating these set ups, you're gonna make sure that you can communicate, ask the right questions, and know that the child fully understands what it is you're about to do. But a newborn, you've got to put so much more thought into it so I've been chatting with mum prior to this and she's really aware of what I'm going to do, what I'm going to create, and she knows my level of experience, and she knows I'm gonna treat that baby like I would treat my own, which is really important so that care goes into it. Because often, this is the first time in those first few weeks that they're leaving the house with that baby and seeing their baby in a stranger's hands, like she doesn't know me from a bar of soap, and I've come from the other side of the world so I've got to build that relationship with her, that trust, to be able to deliver what it is that I wanna deliver. So yeah, I'm ready to start getting organized here. What do you reckon, Kinna? Sounds great. (laughter) Okay, so I've got Garret here with me. He's going to help me bring a few things across. I might start with that little soft one underneath. So I've got this little pillow here and because I've got such a big well. In the middle here, it's too deep for the baby for what I want so I need to create some support. Have you all seen the photographs of newborns on a block, where their hands are together in there. It looks, the illusion is created that it looks like they're being held up in the air. So that's very similar to what I want to create here. So I need to put enough support in here to keep that baby in the position that I want it in. So that deep well, I need to fill a little bit. I'm going to have the baby's head here and bottom here and then the cranes are gonna come up here like it's being lifted up. So that support needs to come up and around the head so that the head is elevated above the body. Okay, so I'll keep those close by. And we've got a beautiful wrap bib but what I might do is bring the backdrop over. We'll start with this one in your hand. So cause we've got black boxes, I need to make sure that we can cover those and you can't see through. And we'll just line that up over the center of that hole so I have cut a hole in it. Because as I've pushed down on the fabric and the well, the weight of the baby, what it was doing was wrinkling my blanket so to keep the blanket nice and smooth, to eliminate a lot of that post production work that I would have to do. I've sacrificed it and cut the holes to create that circle. Plus its also gonna allow me to easily place my hands in there to adjust support so I can add more or take away. Alright, so that's what it's gonna look like. And you know, when you are creating images like this, don't ever be disheartened when it doesn't work. Because its all part of that process of creating that helps you grow and evolve and then realize, well, you know, that didn't work, that's okay, next time I'm going to do it this way. And that's the thing, you just gotta have fun and play. That process is probably the most rewarding part of all.

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.