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Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 24 of 49

Shoot: Lighting for Double Exposure


Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Lesson 24 of 49

Shoot: Lighting for Double Exposure


Lesson Info

Shoot: Lighting for Double Exposure

I'm just gonna bring your hair around a little more just so it sets flat and doesn't stick up in your face. And like the last shoot, I'm a bit fussy with when it comes to getting hair perfect. Okay. Yes please can we get the house lights down. So are you comfortable there? Yes, perfect. Okay, so what I want you to do is kinda lean forward and bring, let me see what it looks like when you bring this hand up to your face, other hand. Yeah, and then looking back over this way for me. Yeah, so this is kind of the look that I'm gonna go for here but what I want you to do is just turn your body more towards that camera, that way, yep, perfect. And it's gonna be, I'm not going to necessarily have the same connection that I'm looking for in the other portrait if that makes sense, so I'll show it to you. What I want to do before I do my double exposure, I just want to get an exposure so you don't have to look at me just yet. And we've got that light set on... F4. I've got my iso on 100 and ...

I'm shooting this at 3.2, just because I don't want to let much light in, I want to keep this really kind of moody. Do you know what I actually want? Can I get another apple box, just to put under Raymond's feet so I can bring that knee up to bring his chin up a little higher, if that's possible. But I'm just gonna check my light, you can close your eyes if you don't want to strip bursting into you. (camera clicks) You can take it in. Yeah, just even on that front leg. Perfect, yeah, see the difference that makes and makes him a little bit more comfortable. So, this is not gonna be a double exposure. But what I'm doing is you can see here on the back of my camera, I want to leave enough space over here for the other portrait. So, gotta make sure I position him in the frame there, exactly where I want him to be. (camera clicks) And let's just get an exposure shoot, and that actually looks pretty good. So we've got that light absolutely perfect there. Yeah I like that. You ready to rock and roll? (light laughter) Okay, I've never done this on camera before, filmed. (laughter) So what I'm gonna do here is go through, my manual menu, sorry, down to my multiple exposure setting. So at the moment it's set to disable so I'm gonna click on that and click again on disable and now I'm gonna go down to on function control, and click on that. So down here I've got it set on average, so you can change it to additive, bright, or dark. Let's change it to additive. And then we've got two exposures, if I wanted to change the number of exposures I was gonna do I would change it that way. So pretty simple right? Sounds simple. (laughter) Okay so I'm gonna pop it back on live view. Okay just looking exactly where you are, that is perfect. And I'm looking at the placement of where he is in my frame. (camera clicks) Yeah that is pretty cool. Okay so now I'm ready to take my next shot but you're gonna get changed really quickly for me so I can keep talking about this. So you can kinda see on the back of my camera here, it's very very dark, it's going to look very different in the final image, but now when I go to take that next shot what I can do is I can see the first image, which is called a base plate, I will be able to see that on the back of my live view, so I can line up the next shot exactly where I want it to be which is very exciting, Alright, so Raymond shouldn't take too long there to get changed now I'm not too concerned about where I was standing to take that shot, because it's all about moving the camera to frame it so that I can get him in the perfect spot to be able to get that amazing exposure. But while he's getting changed, Kenna, do we have any questions? Let's start with the studio audience and see... Yes, go ahead. So to do the double exposure do you have to use live view? You don't have to no, you can use it that way. Using live view here today just means that everyone can see what I'm doing and I can demonstrate that, because I can't be tethered. So you don't have to but when you're doing this additive, I think it's actually a really great way to get it perfect because you can look at the back of your camera and you can see where that base plate is to line it up perfectly. So yeah, it's a lot of fun. You had mentioned several different settings including additive, what are the other ones, like what are the differences between those settings and your camera? Okay so if I was shooting a woman back-lit and I'm overexposing the white, if I selected white, then basically the next shot that I do is gonna fill that white space. If I choose black, and for example I'm wearing black, if you had a really dark exposure of me and another image then you could basically overlay me onto that image and it would replace all of the black that I'm wearing. So really really fun to play with. And gosh. You know the very first time I started doing this, I was basically going outside shooting clouds and then I would come in and shoot my grandfather. And because we were just playing he thought it was brilliant that you could do that with a digital camera, coming from a film background. So we had lots of fun with it and created some really different effects, but there's so many amazing double exposure photos out there. One of my good friends Ryan Schembri, who is another instructor. He is the absolute master at this so I've learned my techniques through him and when I look at his double exposures, they absolutely blow my mind. So I'm really excited to be able to do this for Raymond, and create something that's unique and different and it's one shot, well, it's two, considered as one shot. (laughs) in terms of a raw file. Yeah... While Raymond is still getting changed question that had come in I know you've talked about this, but some of these people that you photograph you have met them in person before and some of them you haven't, and so the question was how, is there an amount of time that usually it takes for you to think about the person's story or in between when you meet them and when you come up with the concept? Yeah, do you know, when I'm shooting family members I can sometimes have a concept, an idea in my head for months before I actually execute it. When I, and that's for me they're more my personal projects, they're more getting my children involved in the process of photographing them and you know getting them to create those story boards, but when I am photographing someone that I've never met before if I'm commissioned for a shoot, it's usually a two to three week process. So, I'll meet them we'll go through what it is, why they've asked me to photograph them, and I'll get to the bottom of that story and in terms of telling it and sharing it which I really think is really unique but it depends on what it is, also I talked earlier when I did the newborn section of this and when I created that beautiful surrogacy symbol, you know, I was contacted prior to the birth to photograph the birth and then that concept then started to come to life. Once they brought their baby home from hospital I still I wasn't, it wasn't until that moment was I confident that I could actually pull this off and create something. So it was when she came home from hospital and she contacted me to say 'hey we're home from hospital' that's when I was able to, you know, talk to her about this idea that I had, you know, a few days before the shoot, not necessarily a few weeks, but I'd had that time and even though I'd created it for her she loved the idea, the concept, you know, growing through that process of creating something for her was a little different. So each situation can be different but if this is something that you really want to make a business out of creating these incredible story telling portraits. Which is what, I mean if I could do this all day, everyday in my studio, I would, because it's fun right? I mean, we get to do what we love every single day. I would but I would make a business out of it, a business model in terms of, you know, right this is the plan, and Kenna mentioned that bonus material of that mind map it takes you through that process from the first point of contact, all of the questions that you ask, right through to creating the scene, how you're going to source everything you need and then create it, right through to the actual capture. And then you've got the delivery how do people want their photographs, you know, delivered to them? So I personally offer, you know, gorgeous big framed images, I do museum grade glass and then, what we do is we choose a frame with my framer that's gonna suit that photograph. or I can do large canvases. It's entirely up to the person and we can have those canvases framed as well. Some people like the framed canvas because it reminds them of, you know, having a painting done of themselves. So that's kind of unique. But it all depends on the shoot and what it is I'm personally doing right now but I would say allow yourself two to three weeks to come up with, from that initial point of contact right through to capturing that image. Look at this. Looking spiffy. Okay so we're gonna get these lights turned off again Come and stand on this side for me. That's it, perfect. I'm just gonna look at where this light's falling on you, yeah, so what I want you to do now is turn towards this light, that's it, and I would like you to put your hands in your pockets, so we can kind of make it a bit more relaxed. That's it, perfect. Let's get rid of that crease, yeah that's good. so with this frame I'm gonna get Raymond to look at me and I want him to look really strong like yeah, get into a position that you're comfortable in. That's it. And you can see that light so I want you to turn your shoulders towards that wall a little more, keep going, and turn your feet, so you're nice and comfy. Yeah, and now face back at me. see that stance that's kind of powerful and that light coming across his face is just perfect so now with my live view here I can see exactly where I want Raymond to positioned there in the frame and now I'm going to move forward hang on two seconds, there we go, okay, pushing my camera's capabilities here and I'm just making sure I line him up perfectly. Okay, one two three. (camera clicking) Yeah. (laughs) You know that feeling when you look at the back of your camera and you're like, it worked. (laughter) That is pretty cool. And I'm gonna show him first. Wow that's amazing. Two different people right? Yeah I love it. So you can, you do that. I know it was so quick but so cool. No thank you. The thought process that goes into a photograph like that is what takes time. the building the concept, the idea, and planning it out, and being prepared, because, I mean, if you don't put the time into all of those elements you're not gonna be able to execute it the way that you want. So, like, I've had this in the back of my mind, I've been thinking about it, over and over, how am I gonna get it perfect, how do I want to light this, and you'll see when we bring the image up on the screen. I Love it You like that? Yeah, I love it. Look at you. Very cool. It's two different people. Shall we get rid of this light? Because you poor ladies can't see. (light laughter) Can you see now? Alright. I think, to date, that's probably one of my proudest images, as simple as it is. I'm really proud of it because it tells a unique story and it's something I've never done live before. (laughter) But yeah, I am super excited about that, and I'm absolutely pumped thank you so much again. Thank you so much. I appreciate it thank you You were great, thank you so much Raymond. Thank you, thank you. (audience applauds) So if I was to be asked what would be my favorite age to photograph, I would toss up between an adult and a child, I mean a newborn. I do photograph my own children a lot, but I love newborns and I love just that different kind of creativity that I can bring to those sessions. But when it comes to photographing an adult, and being completely inspired by their story, that just blows my mind. And I know, how proud he is of the changes he's made and I want him to love that photograph and I know how much it's gonna mean to him and that's pretty cool right? and I, just the difference in him, so my all my plan for that particular shot is in Photoshop, I'm mean I really don't have to do too much to it at all, but on the hand down here I am going to remove the tattoos and on the eye up there I'm also gonna remove those. So that it looks like, you know, it is completely different whatsoever. I'm gonna add a little bit of a little bit of highlights and shadows down there to bring out some more of those tattoos, especially around the cheek there. And that's pretty much all I'm gonna do the background looks incredible. I've got a little bit of a crossover there where the jacket meets the things so I'm just gonna get rid of that, I'm gonna clone that out. But in terms of composition I'm really happy with it. I love how he is closer to the camera in that second capture and it makes him appear larger like, and stronger and more dominating in this image, you know, that's the past, you can tell it's further in the background and that's the future coming forward with that new path. So in terms of that story telling for me, yeah, kind of can't get better than that. I kind of got that little bit of excited-ness, going on right here now. As you should Kelly, just to thank you again to Raymond for being part of this course. And thank you Kelly, what a beautiful story to be able to share, people at online were very appreciative. We had so many people apply to be models for this class and it was Raymond's story that really really stood out for me because I was just blown away at what he's doing for other people and how much he gives. And you know he's got a beautiful family and when you read his story and how important family is to him, that was what really resonated with me, because family, to me, is number one. And I just really wanted to help him tell his story, and I think that that's extremely powerful .

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.