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Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 25 of 49

Introduction to Senior Portrait


Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 25 of 49

Introduction to Senior Portrait


Lesson Info

Introduction to Senior Portrait

This age group that we're gonna photograph is seniors, so it's a generation that have so much, so much life to tell. They have such incredible stories they have lived, and to be able to try and capture that in a photograph is not always easy, but sometimes it doesn't have to be hard. So I focus on connection. I focus on a lifetime of together, I focus on love. I focus on the really simple things for this. Some of my photographs are a little more complex, but some of my favorite images are extremely simple. So this image here was taken just after their 60th wedding anniversary. These are my grandparents, and my grandfather's the reason I'm a photographer. He gave me a book when I was 16. It was an old book, and he was always very fascinated with photography. He wasn't a photographer, but he was always very, very persistent in taking photographs of his family whenever anyone came to visit. We all had to line up, and it didn't matter whether we were in our pajamas or, you know, our swimme...

rs. We would stand in front of our old beat-up cars and we would have to have a family portrait. Some kids would be crying in that portrait. Some kids would be running around. You know, my brother would often be pinching us. But it was always those photographs that documented that time, and he knew the importance of that while we were growing up. And I always admired that about him because I think we can lose the importance of a photograph. We get so caught up in the taking of it. We get so caught up in being known as a photographer and the ego that sometimes comes with it. But if we come back to the importance of those photographs, you know, they are our legacy. So when I look back now at all the photographs my grandfather took of us growing up as kids, they're my favorite memories. At the time, they might not have been (laughs), because no one wants to stand there and have their photograph taken. You want to be off playing in the yard and things like that, but he knew he had to document every single second he had with his family. And that's where my passion and love of photography come from, and I am beyond grateful for that gift he gave me. So yeah, after their 60th wedding anniversary, I wanted to be able to capture something that just showed, you know, their connection, their love of each other, and it was so simple. They were wearing sort of quite busy clothes as they always did (laughs). My grandfather always had a check flannelette shirt on 'cause he was a farmer and he was hard worker. And my grandmother was a seamstress, so she always wore quite, sort of, you know, colorful clothes and whatever she had made. So I just picked up a piece of fabric out of my studio and I wrapped it around them to create that connection. And it's one of my favorite images, and it's blown up about this big in my house. And every day I walk past it, I'm reminded of the love that they had for each other, but also of that connection. I mean, and how many people are married longer than 60 years these days? Not many, and you know what? He always said one life, one wife, and that is something I'll always remember. So when it comes to finding inspiration, and we go back to our points, everything comes down to that listening, especially with this age group, because they have so many stories to tell. They have a lifetime of experience. They have, you know, some sad memories, but they've got some great memories, and being able to capture that is really incredible. Sometimes, though, when I was photographing my grandparents, it wasn't always for them (laughs) or anyone else. I was a little selfish, because I have my own fond memories of my grandparents, and I wanted to create images for me that I could keep and hang in my house. And I know that is selfish, but I needed to do it. I needed to have beautiful photographs that every time I walked past, that it reminded me of a time when I was little and with them. So I used that as inspiration to create some of these beautiful photographs. But, obviously, you know, when you're visiting art galleries, and I talked in earlier segments about how painters painted light, how they saw it and how they created mood depth, and, you know, this incredible emotion through light. So I've used that in that previous image that you saw to create that connection. It was just that beautiful, soft natural light coming in through a window that I just had them sit there in front of, so simple. And my grandfather was sitting on a stool, and my grandmother was standing behind him with her arms around him. So that's how that was created, so easy, so simple. But the power of light is incredible, and I learnt that through visiting art galleries and looking at how they painted that light. And yeah, different things, like I would sit for hours when it comes to brainstorming. I would sit for hours talking to my grandfather about the different concepts I had, because he always had a love of photography. And when digital photography came out, and he was the type of man that would pull everything apart. I kid you not, he would get a new car and he would pull the engine apart just to see how it worked and put it back together. And yeah, I caught him one day trying to pull apart my digital camera (laughs). (audience laughs) So I'm like, Pop, no (laughs). Not probably the best thing to do here 'cause I have no idea how it goes back together. And they didn't come with manuals like cameras did, you know, when they were a little different. So yeah, I would talk to him about how he wanted to be photographed or how I could photograph him, or even just practicing different techniques. Some of my favorite photographs have just been practicing new techniques that I was learning along the way. So it's really, in terms of inspiration, you can find it absolutely anywhere. But when I talk about being selfish and creating images for me, I will never, ever forget the sound of my grandmother laughing as I stood on the bed above them to take this photograph. But the reason that I took this photograph was because they lived on a farm and it was a really old farmhouse, and I just love nothing more than going there. And every morning I would be the first person awake, and I would go and crawl into bed with them, 'cause it was always so warm and they always had these flannelette sheets that were so soft and warm. And my grandmother would just lay there, you know, playing with my hand or my hair, and my grandfather would tell me a story. So these are my fondest childhood memories, and now every time I look at that, that's what reminds me of that time. So it's okay to be selfish and to create your own inspiration from a memory and things like that. And these are probably more personal projects that I've been able to create, so yeah. You can see that I don't remove anything. It's all really very natural because the lines and the marks are from years lived, so I'm not gonna remove all of those, unless, of course, they ask me to. But this is my grandmother Cheryl and she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a little while ago, about seven years ago, and four years ago, it started to get quite bad. So she would just laugh. When it started to get bad, she'd just laugh. She still knew who we were. She would forget our names, but she knew we were family, you know. And I sat her down in front of the camera because I just wanted to photograph her, and this was after my Pop had passed away. And we were just having a conversation, just a general conversation, and then she would start telling me something, and I captured all of these different expressions. But this is her, this is how I remember her growing up. So in terms of being inspired, you know, you can turn something that's not so great into a really beautiful lasting memory, because that's how I choose to remember her. And yeah, boy, did she have an incredible laugh. That's pretty cool, right?

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.