Skip to main content

Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 12 of 49

Shoot: Capture Child Portrait


Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 12 of 49

Shoot: Capture Child Portrait


Lesson Info

Shoot: Capture Child Portrait

Jade, I might get you to come over and stand next to Olivia for me. You don't have to climb up just yet, I want Jadie over here just so. And you know, we're gonna be careful. And when it comes to Olivia's little outfit, because we've got white and white, I wanted to keep it white, and this little white dress is gonna be nice and contrasting on that blue background, but it's all gonna tie in in terms of that color harmony, and that opposite in color tone in terms of composition to bring her out and make her the subject of this frame. But I found this beautiful little dress, it's just got a little bit of texture to it, and I know that when a little bit of wind hits it, it's gonna float, which is gonna be absolutely beautiful. Okay, so Jade, where are you? There (laughs), right behind me. Can I get you to come in and just stand in here and hold Olivia's hand while she steps up? Perfect. Now, you can step right on there, it's gonna be nice and safe. How do you feel? Good. Feel tall? ...

Uh, yeah. (laughs) So with this hand, you can hold onto this, but just don't pull it, but you can hold onto it, is that okay? Mhmmm. You're not scared? Nuh-uh. Good job. Okay, and then when I'm ready to take the photo, Jadie will let go, and then Olivia can hold on up here, and then Jadie will just be over here, so when I take my shot, and then she'll come straight back in, so it's literally going to be about 10 maybe 15 seconds before I actually take the photo, but I'm going to keep Jadie in here, right up until I'm ready to go, with all of the dry ice and everything. So, yeah. I'm going to get Jamie to come and help as well, if that's okay. But while Jadie's there I'm going to get my exposure shot while they get that sort of set up. So it's in steel, stainless steel containers, for safety, it's got a little bit of a, and they're going to pour some cold water over the top of this and that's what's going to make it kind of start to sort of, flow over the top there. So I'm just going to grab an exposure, and I want to get down to this kind of height here. Okay, you look so cute up there. And I'm going to go again, about a third of a stop over exposed to start with. Alright. It's not coming up on my camera there, but that's okay, look at that seamless, where the bottom meets the background, you can barely see it in that photo, and with Jadie jumps out it's really going to look like she's swinging. So in Photoshop I'm going to move the clamps, we'll just wait a little bit more for that... (laughs) This is so cool. Yeah, that dry ice is taking awhile. Here we go. I think this is where the hot water works brilliantly. Okay, alrighty Olivia what I want you to do, is kind of look up towards this light for me, sweetheart. Absolutely, beautiful, I'm just going to get another two shots. Okay, just relax your face for me, you're on a bit of an adventure up there, that's it. Perfect. Okay, well our dry ice is a bit of a fizz. But that's okay, stuff like this happens. (laughs) Are you okay there for a second? Yeah. I'm not, I need to stand up. (laughs) And we'll wait a minute, if we get some more water. So yeah, that communication back and forth, with the person that you're photographing is so important, you've got to make them feel comfortable you've got to get them to really kind of relax and enjoy the experience, because their expression, their body language, all of that is going to come across in the photos. So you really want to bring out their true personality, and have some fun with them, and I know that when this starts kind of going crazy, Olivia's going to be like, yeah I'm floating in the sky. She's gonna have some real fun with this, and we're going to put some wind on her, make her hair move, and it's going to be, it's going to be really great. But I can already start to see it coming together, and looking really cool, and if we don't get the dry ice, that's okay because we've still got a pretty cool capture there and we've got some lovely soft clouds underneath that swing. So, yeah, how're you going up there? Good. Yeah, do you like this set up? Yeah, it's really cool. (laughs) And it's so age appropriate for Olivia, which is fun because she's at an age where you know like, their imagination's running wild, and they're just having fun and everything should be about enjoying life, right? Yeah. Pretty much. Well, what if I take a shot, we're waiting for someone to come back with some more... More water there, I think, but yeah, Kenna, let's go and get some questions while we're waiting. Would you do multiple takes on this pose, would you have her sit down, maybe, criss cross, maybe her feet dangling, would you do something like that? Yeah, absolutely, so it's all about getting that variety, so my original vision is to have her standing, and then what we're going to do is kind of have her little legs swinging down below there, and have her sitting a little bit lower, so it looks kind of fun, but yeah, I love that question because you reminded me. (laughs) Perfect. Alright, so what we might do first, Garrett, is I want to get a shot of Olivia, just up here without the dry ice, because it is a bit of a fizz, and we might get a little bit of whooshing going on, to start with and then if we can get the dry ice working, we get it working, if not, I've got that shot, which is perfect and I've got these beautiful soft clouds, that in camera, look a lot softer than what we're actually seeing. You know, with our own eye. Okay, so let's get our whoosher. Perfect, so again, now if you can hold onto the rope, and then Jadie's just going to hold onto your wrist there for a second. That way. Maybe go back, because your whoosh is going to get in my frame, my shot. Go to the other side of the light, actually. Okay, you ready? You're not going to fall, I hope, good job. (laughs) And she knows not to pull on those things, and she's like, she's 10 so she understands what's going on, we've already communicated that. So again, what I want you to do, is kind of look up to that light, with a little bit of a smile, that's it, I know it's bright, sweetheart, okay. There we go Garrett, okay, one, two, three. There, that little bit of... Beautiful, one more. And it's just that tiny little bit of movement that we're looking for. And you can see it in the skirt, and just a little bit in her hair, perfect, Jade, can you come in? And can I get you to just hold Olivia's hand, so that she can sit down? And you can step down the back way, yeah. That's a girl. And now if you walk around the front, perfect. It's okay, it's not going to break. Okay, now if you sit up there, now it's not going to be high enough, but what I want you to do is cross your feet, and just sit back a little bit more, that a girl. And just pull your dress out for me, perfect. Okay, and holding onto the sides, and then I want you to kind of swing your feet back a little bit behind you that way, this way. Perfect, look at that, and then looking up. Okay and just try not to pull on those ropes, okay. Ready to go, Garrett, go for it. (laughs) Perfect! Okay, just try not to pull on that rope, for me, sweetheart, beautiful. Done. Okay, let's bring those little dry ice buckets in a little closer and see if we can't get just a little bit of mist. A little bit. Dry ice, gosh. (laughs) But the idea is there, and we've got that little bit of cloud there in the background. Now if you bring it back towards you just a bit, yeah, it's just enough full front of that frame, back a bit more. Yep, perfect. Okay, here we go. See if we can get some real clouds going on. (laughs) Okay. And just looking off over here for me, that's it, beautiful. We got any, go for it, go. Here we go. Hmm, it's not really showing up in my camera. Okay, I'm not even going to worry about it. It was worth the try, it was worth the try. But obviously when it comes to dry ice and things like that, you know, it's maybe we needed a little bit more, maybe we needed to add like boiling hot water, or all of those things, we did use cold water, that does work because of the safety elements here on set. But, obviously in that controlled environment, you can add some hot water that does actually work a lot better. So yeah, that was a lot of fun, thank you so much, you were absolutely perfect. Thank you. Oh, you're welcome, you're welcome, wasn't she perfect? (laughs) (applause) And we were still able to get what we wanted, and I know that in post I'm going to remove that bar, I'm going to remove the clamps that are on the stool there, and I'm going to make those balloons a lot bigger, and it's going to look like she's having, you know, an absolute ball, and there was one frame there, where she's laughing when the wind came across in front of her and I know that's going to probably be my cracking shot.

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.