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Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 8 of 49

Newborn Image Review


Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 8 of 49

Newborn Image Review


Lesson Info

Newborn Image Review

I can't wait to get these photos on my computer and start playing with them. Okay so the different sort of exposures that I'm looking at here, I was shooting two thirds of a stop, oh actually, yeah I did end up at two thirds of a stop overexposed. When it comes to my camera settings I'm not actually looking at what the number is for my shutter speed. A lot of the times I get asked what's your shutter speed? So when I'm taking in and composing my shot in camera I bring my camera up as I showed you and I get my focal point, I move my focus point to where I want it to be which is usually on that baby's eye area and I go for that contrasting point which is you know, sort of usually deep into the eye socket there. Because your camera will focus on the most, highest contracting point to that focal point. And then what I look at is the overall composition. I look at the foreground, the middle ground, and then the background. So I'm taking into consideration absolutely everything. So in this i...

nstance I'm looking at where the composition is in terms of the placement of the cranes in my frame. You know I've got, you know, lacking background over here and over here but I'm gonna crop this as probably more of an eight by 10 ratio. And get rid of those sides. Because it's pointless to have all that negative space leading out there when I want to frame this in a way that brings that subject to the forefront of the image. So my forefront is these, the placement in my frame of those cranes. Now I'm looking at my middle ground which is the baby. It is my main focal point. So you can see that I've actually got the baby sort of center of frame. But up in those, in between those top two thirds. So if you think of you know your rule of thirds you've got you know that first plane coming through here and that second one coming through there. So that baby is intersecting that middle, that top plane and then the middle of my frame in terms of composition and balance. Which is really important to me. If we go to the next image I think it's, yeah and there is another one after this? Okay go back to that previous one. Yeah so that was the one. She does have her little fingers curled up there but they look soft. If she had a fist I would have recaptured that. Because that fist shows tension. But because those fingers are just kind of just resting there curled over it's very natural. So I'm not too concerned about them being absolutely perfect. And being just over three weeks of age and being as fidgety as she was really wasn't worth me sort of fussing over her and getting it absolutely perfect. But for the point of creating this beautiful photograph they're lovely and soft and she looks comfortable and relaxed. So when I look at that background then I want to make sure that I don't have to do too much to that in post production. If I hadn't of had both Garret and Jade pulling on it I would have creases, wrinkles, things like that that it would take me so long to kind of touch up in post production I really want to make sure that you know I've got a nice smooth background to work with. So yeah that's probably the frame that I'm gonna work with. I love just that one little crane flying off there into the distance. I know in post production I'm gonna touch up some shadows and things like that and I'm gonna really make sure whenever I am doing anything to this photograph that I'm not losing any detail in any of the highlights that are around this area here on the crane. So anything that I have inside this photograph that is drawing my eye away from the main subject I'm gonna like hone in on and really kind of look at the ways I can, you know, bring those exposures down or remove sort of any distracting elements as well. So yeah, I'm stoked with that. To come up with something in my mind and to be able to create that, it's different, I've not seen anything like that, so for me that's kind of huge. Like to create something that's completely unique. So yeah. The budget's that you set up, are they the same or close to the same, do you have a maximum that you set up for each of these shoots? Yeah so the budget will change for every single shoot. But it depends on how much time and how elaborate I really want to make this. So for a budget like this, you know these backdrops they cost probably around $100 each, and then the paper cranes I think they cost me about $60 each. So in terms of what I've spent it's about $ and I'm happy to do that because I'm pricing for these portraits to accommodate for that budget, which is huge. But a lot of the stuff that I make I really try to do it on a budget. I'm trying to find things, like if I actually knew how to fold a paper crane I probably would have done it at night and I probably should have but I found them on Etsy. 500 of them and I thought, fold 500 cranes or. My time is also valuable. So that would have taken me quite a few hours if not days to fold and create those, and when I think of my time and how valuable it is in terms of my business and what my hourly rate is, it was heaps cheaper for me to go and buy them on Etsy and have them delivered. So they're the sort of things that you've got to weigh up. But I am very conscious of not spending too much money. So when it comes to backdrops, I'll often paint them, make them myself, the flower, you know, finding the cheapest things to be able to create that. The wooden bowl, and the four wooden bowls that was something I already had in my studio. But yeah it will change for every single setup. Something that we're gonna create next for our child portrait that has actually cost me a little more than I wanted to, but at the same time it is unique, it is different, and sometimes you just have to go sort of up but it's how you price it and how much time you spend on planning to create these images. But yeah when it comes to creating a budget, when you are working out how long you're gonna spend creating one conceptual art piece for a client how long is it gonna take you from start to finish? Is it gonna take a couple of weeks? Are you gonna allocate an hour a day towards that? Then what is your hourly rate? Working out what your cost of doing business is, how many days of the week you can work, and all of those things. How much you actually need to earn to pay yourself a wage. It all goes back to that how to price your business, to learn what your hourly rate is, to be able to know exactly what you have to price for it. Because what I'm gonna charge is not what everybody else is gonna charge depending on where you are at in your business. And what your cost of doing business really is. But then it's factoring in that budget. Fantastic Kelly, great question. Some of the folks online were asking the same thing, so thank you. One more question and that is, this is from Loretta Clark, people are wondering if you would use this same setup for another client? For another baby? Or is it a one time thing. So with something like this I probably will get asked to create something like this for someone else. I recently had a client come in and I have a workflow throughout all of my newborn sessions. I know what I'm pretty much gonna do. I'm gonna work on my posing bag, I'm gonna use two props, and then I'm gonna photograph your family beautifully. So I've got that workflow down pact. But I recently had a client come in and she had five photographs of mine that she had found on the internet and she wanted all of them. And they were all award images. And so I said oh well, so that was tough. But I've got to be able to deliver and I said look, this is how they're created. This is the time that it takes to create them, and then I give her the choice. You know, are you prepared to spend that much time with me today, because some of them take a lot longer to set up and create than a normal sort of flow posing on my bean bag would take. So it's all about that communication process. But I really do love creating unique pieces for everyone, so my surrogate symbol, that is never going to be used for someone else. My wings with the love heart, will not be used for another baby. So this one here, because it was a concept piece created for that family because of what they've gone through in terms of you know, building their family, this is purely for them. So it depends on what it is that I'm creating, like my flower doesn't really mean anything, it was just something beautiful that I saw in a fashion magazine so I can use that for another client. So it depends on that story and what's it relevant to?

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.