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Storytelling & Subject Matter

Lesson 49 from: Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Kelly Brown

Storytelling & Subject Matter

Lesson 49 from: Capturing Story in Portrait Photography

Kelly Brown

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Lesson Info

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.


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


The Power of Portrait Photography


Introduction to Newborn Portrait


Find Inspiration for Newborn Portrait


Create The Scene for Newborn Portrait


Prepare & Pose Newborn for Portrait


Shoot: Techniques for Photographing Newborn


Newborn Image Review


Introduction & Find Inspiration For Child Portrait


Create The Scene for Child Portrait


Prepare Set for Child Portrait


Shoot: Capture Child Portrait


Image Review for Child Portrait


Introduction & Inspiration For Teenager Portrait


Create The Scene for Teenager Portrait


Building Set for Teenager Portrait


Shoot: Portrait with Teenager


Shoot: Pose Teenager for Multiple Looks


Image Review for Teenage Portrait


Introduction & Inspiration For Adult Portrait


Creating The Scene for Adult Portrait


Lighting for Adult Portrait


Tell Your Subject's Story


Shoot: Lighting for Double Exposure


Introduction to Senior Portrait


Create Storyboard & The Scene For Senior Portrait


Connect With Client to Create Portrait


Shoot: Lighting for Senior Portrait


Shoot: Be Creative on Set


Image Review for Senior Portrait


Portrait Shoots Recap


Global Adjustments in Camera Raw®


Editing In Photoshop® CC: New Born Portrait


Editing In Photoshop® CC: Child Portrait


Editing In Photoshop® CC: Adult Portrait


Editing In Photoshop® CC: Teenager Portrait


Editing In Photoshop® CC: Senior Portrait


Introduction to Entering Print Competitions


Process of Print Competitions


What to Consider For Print Competitions


What Judges Look For Overview


Image Impact


Creativity, Style & Composition in Images


Entering Photography Competitions Q&A


Image Lighting


Image Color Balance


Technical Excellence in Images


Photographic Technique


Storytelling & Subject Matter


Lesson Info

Storytelling & Subject Matter

I talked a little bit about this photograph before with a letter in there. So you can see if you're sitting back there, you might not see the letter. And, when you're printing down for a competition, because it's gotta come up underneath the lights, you can sometimes miss elements if you don't excite the judges straight away. So, one panel jumped up straight away, went to it and another judge on a different panel didn't feel the need to jump up out of his seat because it didn't excite him. It's okay, we've seen hundreds of babies in photography competitions, photographed with the different elements from dad's career and all that kind of stuff. That's okay I got it. But, I was offended at first, but what it taught me was I need to create more impact here to help tell the story back here. Beautiful photograph, but that when we think about, that incredible excellence, that outstanding scoring range, that judges are looking for. So, they'll have a sheet of paper in front of them that will...

have a scoring range. Beside it will say, outstanding, excellent, above average, all of those things. And, then to the side of it, is a paragraph that breaks down each of those scoring ranges. So, when we look at that sheet, where does that photograph actually sit within those criterias. Is it exceeding technical excellence in superior skill and craft. Does it have impact? Does it have emotional qualities? All of those things, that's everything that a judge is considering when they look at a photograph. So, I can look at this now and go, you know what he was right. I didn't do anything unique in that fore ground. I placed a baby beautifully in a prop. I put some medals down, I put a hat down. There's nothing that's not been done before there. It's all been done before. So, it didn't excite him and this is a judge that's been judging for a really long time and I have a lot of respect for. So, I just needed him to get up and he didn't. But, I didn't make him get up. So, I deserved that. But, I learned from it and it's what took me on. But, when it does come to story telling and subject matter, you know, gosh, teaching this class has been phenomenal. To be able to share this because when it comes to story telling it's very personal. You know a lot of the stories I've told are very personal to me. I've shared a lot of photographs of my family members and things like that. Some are heart breaking, some have come through trauma and some have come through celebration and joy as well. So, it doesn't have to be one or the other. It just has to tell a story and when you can do that successfully without a title, you are gonna blow some judges away. Absolutely blow them away. But, it all comes down to, having a vision, creating a concept, putting all of the different elements together, doing the research, doing the work, taking the time and allowing yourself the time to actually do it, to build that story and make sure that every element contributes towards that story, and then to print it beautifully and present it in a way that nobody else has. And, when we think about being unique, a lot of photographers and artists say, everything's been done before. Well, I've created some work that hasn't been done before in the photography industry, I believe. I've never seen anyone create a photograph like the two on the wall with the paper airplanes and the balloon, that's different and unique. And, that's why they created this or they received the awards that they did. So, that story, everyone's story is different and that's why finding that inspiration to create that story comes from communication and listening. Listening to their stories, and when we had Janice in the studio and some of the stories that she had, even just listening to her on set, before I took her photo made me go, you know what, I had always visualized her looking this way, but I need to actually capture her looking at the camera and pose her differently because of how the stories she told at that time, impacted me, and what I resonated with and what I took away from them. So, if we go into everything fueled with ego, we tend to not listen, because we get quite caught up in what it is that we're doing and that place that we're coming from. So, it is very humbling to sit and listen and learn to somebody and their story and to tell it and it's an absolute honor. I think what we do, we forget what a privilege it is to take somebody's portrait. For me, its phenomenal. I can't call it a job, even though it is a job because what we create and what we do is truly a gift and I do feel privileged every single day that I am able to pick up my camera and create a legacy for a family. Even if it's a baby that's been alive for three weeks. Even if it's someone at the end of their life. Those moments that we capture now, are gonna live on for absolutely ever, regardless of whether you enter them into a competition or not. But I can tell you that every single photograph that I've ever entered that's done well has come from a place of love and passion and just pure listening and from privilege. I really truly do feel privileged. So, the story behind this photograph, was that the mother came in for the shoot and, then the father came home later from Afghanistan. So, I was able to photograph the baby and tell a story with words about how his father wasn't there. And then when he came home, he came home a few days later, she contacted me and she said you're not gonna believe it he's home, so they came back in and I did another shoot with dad. So, this is a client image. It's pretty cool. And, this is the image that I talked about that scored a 98 in one competition and then an 81 in another. The 81 is nothing to balk at, it's something to be very proud of but when you go from that to that you're kind of thinking what happened, why did it not get the same score. Surely I was gonna get the same score. No, because we all see differently. We see differently when we pick the camera up and we look through it. I could put a prop here on a table and ask you all to come and take a photograph and I can guarantee you no one's photo will look the same. But, it's the same as a judge, when they're looking at an image that's been put down and then they are all looking at completely different elements with inside that frame. They're all going to come up with their own story. They're all gonna resonate with something different because that's gonna be fueled by past experiences of their own. So, when you are entering competitions, just have in the back of your mind, that they could read anything into this, it's okay. They're gonna see something different, that's okay, because if they see something that you didn't see, you're gonna learn from it. If they see something that's great, you're gonna go, wow and it's gonna give you that boost of confidence that you need. But be warned, it is addictive. Entering competitions is very very addictive, because you, if you are competitive like me, you are continually trying to exceed your own skill level and better yourself, which is not a bad thing because it leads to evolution and if you have a look around at the world today, we're continually evolving at a much faster rate. So, if we're not evolving within ourselves or in our businesses or in our artwork, then we become stale and stagnant. That's kind of it, when it comes to everything that judges are looking for in photographs. My experience is what I take away from it and why I encourage other photographers to want to enter because, it is pretty incredible. It is really incredible. I don't like talking about the awards that I've won because it is a very personal thing, but my beautiful Creative Live family invited me here to do that, and I was very nervous to do it because it is personal, but it is a privilege to be here to share it with you all in our online community, so thank you.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Mind Map & Prep Guide

Ratings and Reviews


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.

Student Work