Skip to main content

The Power of a Story

Lesson 3 from: Family Photography: Capturing Connection

Julia Kelleher

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

3. The Power of a Story


Class Trailer

Day 1




Psychology of Parenthood


The Power of a Story


Composition and Color


Psychology of New Parent and Connecting


Pre-Session Questionnaire


Posing Basics for Connection


Lesson Info

The Power of a Story

Storytelling elicit emotion okay this is a very recent image that I did um it's called shepherd of her heart and there's a lot of connection there simply by the title simply by the symbolism simply by the child's expression with the mother is wearing the breathe sheep the lavender everything there has meaning okay everything has a symbol even down to the color tones the cool palette all of that makes you feel something doesn't it and the fun part about art which is while I'm going to art museum so much is you get to pick it apart and what was the artist thinking it is got you got you got to imagine getting so it's like a little experience for you and that's what artists do is they create in there are authentic self but they do it to form and express something that they feel about the world that's a neat thing it's connection guys it's connection I made this image to connect with you I spilled my heart about love motherly love and think about my experience with motherhood I have a mothe...

r who has an anti social disorder who is also extremely depressed and could not hug me she told me she loved me but I needed that physical affection okay, so one of my things as an artist that's just a personal a personal thing that I do because I'm creating a series on the mother child connection okay it's a personal journey so symbolism I mean I can kind of see all your mind's going this opens up a whole new can of whup you know it's cool isn't it it's like a it could be a symbol really story storytelling is what I listens emotion and we're going to talk about that thing I said in the beginning that writers and movie makers have that we don't okay that we have to contend with a story is an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment is like the definition from wikipedia or whatever it is okay an account of past events in someone's life or in the evolution of something okay the elements of the story theme plot characters setting style and tone you confined that online anywhere you look about story okay ah good story is one that touches people ah good story is has to have substance some kind of deep truth communicated that's what connects ah good story needs conflict resolution a good story creates a vivid mental picture and relate it to your own experience ah good story is the story that is perfect for your audience as an artist a good story is a story that you love and love to tell okay movies and books they have the advantage of time to send their message you read a book sometimes you read in three hours straight who up till five in the morning okay and then movies you sit there in the theater going on you just forget about the whole world around you and this story just impact you like crazy we don't have that do we? We have one moment a few moments to elicit a story to capture that connection which to me is a beautiful wonderful challenge I love that about it because it's like I have just a few moments to suck you in how am I going to do that? Okay and the beautiful part about that is it is so quick because sometimes you sit there and watch a movie what is this ever going to go anywhere? I can't believe I'm giving this all my time fall asleep okay as image wham bam thank you, ma'am. I mean that's it that you know if you doesn't capture the attention then it's done okay? I think that's a really neat thing about stories but what how we have to do that then is to use symbols in our work. Okay? Symbols can create spectacular stories. This is one of my very first composites that I ever created. Okay, um this wonderful girl is from ben she's a model and I was shooting her andi I had this vision of putting her on the books because I love books were actually work with books tomorrow a little bit with an image the candle and the three lights, of course, have symbolism with eternity. This is called roped into her imagination and it's a story about reading and how the allure of a story can suck you in what I love about books and movies and stories it's like suspension of disbelief, you get to be somebody else and do something else for a few hours of your life, I used to go to movies by myself all the time it was great because I could cry and laugh and giggle and be as loud as I want nobody care like I don't have to worry about the boyfriend I had next door, you know, so going to movies was one of the most amazing things to me to do it on your own and stories are very they're fun and once you realize that in an image symbolism is what creates that story now all of a sudden you have this sing out there and everything you look at cannot be a symbol what cannot symbolize. How can I use that your mind is going to start getting a lot more creative on a regular basis. This is called the unbearable lightness of being it's by my friend dear friend and mentor tom rouse, who is a spectacular photographer and digital artist I love it is so dearly because he's the one who who helped me take that leap into compositing and storytelling and doing things that might be surreal or outside the box or a little odd or risky okay, he takes risks on a daily basis in this image I love it's a woman holding his blood and if you look very carefully there is a faith in the lips oh yeah ducky to thought not cool you see the face in their talk about similar zone the mouse speaking and talking the female red lip holding the strings trying to pull her away hold her back I mean and the title is the unbearable lightness of being how appropriate and how powerful isn't that just like it takes you to a hornet and what's neat about it is its ambiguity you don't really know what it's trying to say to you you have to guess and your mind goes and only three places you're like what does that mean? What I mean? And you start to like ask those questions about and you get intrigue and you connect with it some art makes you connect some you go home whatever it's ok doesn't doesn't do it for me okay that's okay not all are is going to intrigue you symbolism it could be a view ambiguous it could be directed obvious it can create conflict it lets the viewer take part in an image those babies twins were posed very specifically yin and yang hey, how much symbolism is there that you didn't even realize until I showed it to you? But your subconscious mind felt it the balance, the symmetry to being the same do you see what I'm saying? So even in the simplest images that you just happened to photograph of a newborn twin session can be extremely powerful and send subliminal messages and subconscious things that sent that create a story there's a story there it's not doesn't have like a climax and a finish an ending but it certainly tells you so much about the lives of these two little babies. Okay symbols this is my husband bless his heart he's such a good sport this image is called the eternal pessimist. Okay my husband is a pessimist bless his heart but he is a pessimist he's also extremely positive he's pretty balanced guy but look at all the symbols in here he's holding the rope the cloud he's holding that cloud over his head there's a spiderweb on it it's been there for a heck of a long time. This spider is so pissed off he doesn't want to be there he's up on the top of the light post okay, the umbrella in the background stuck in the cracks okay on the right there the umbrella it's stuck launched in the ground in the cracks there's a lot of storytelling going on here. Okay, but think of how much fun you can have this cool like you two have a lot of fun with your work. What objects? Animals things, ideas, events are concepts symbolized your parental ideals. Okay, parental emotions, parental actions. So think about it. This could be almost anything so let's have some examples birds, butterflies, crows, insects, owls they all have different connotation. I'm gonna be working with butterflies tomorrow, actually, on saturday when we do composites but I'm shooting the image for it tomorrow using butterflies what butterfly symbolized new life, new life freedom exactly metamorphosis, change growth all of these things have to do with parenting, right? Okay, the monarch butterfly in particular is one that migrates and travels a huge distance and just inherently knows where it's supposed to go. Okay, so I'm going to be using monarch butterflies for a very specific reason. Okay? Owls that could be wise. They could be haunting there's all kinds of meaning going on, they're insects a ladybug or cockroach hello, different meetings. Okay, what about shapes? Circle triangle square. Jagged edges were so smooth and my regular client work. I dont you guys probably haven't seen me use a lot of square buckets, have you is anything in nature square and gettis said this to me she goes babies around nature is round so I'm going to use everything that's around like you go girl that's exactly what I thought I didn't know until you told me but yeah that's it nothing in nature is perfectly square really it's all human made things that are square square is actually a very weak shape triangle was much stronger okay so a circle mother nature's big compositional thing is that spiral the golden mean we call it you'll see it everywhere and you know trees around and lovely so to me babies they're very natural and from the earth so I should be photographing them in round things to give that symbolism okay people like well you actually thought about this okay what about water wind fire on earth the major elements those all have beautiful meaning okay whether we're going to be using water very much so tomorrow okay we're gonna be shooting with water wind, rain fog lighting and son they all have different connotation fog confusion misdirection where am I going? I can't see there's so much meaning there right same with lightning strike once deadly or um very explosive like wow something just happened you know I mean it can mean both positive and negative things about trees plants, grasses, flowers the banyan tree I was going to dio the image that we're doing tomorrow by the way all these misery because I have not done so what would be fun to experiment? But I was really thinking about the roots of a banyan tree, and I wanted them to be part of a parent because the banyan tree does not let anything grow around it. It's that route, brutus, you seem in hawaii and a beautiful one in maui, and the tree grows and then it has it plants down these trunks like roots, it's, very sinuous looking, but it will not let anything grow beneath it as canopy, but in ancient times, it was also the roots. The banyan tree were used as an infertility treatment. Yeah, crazy isn't so when you start researching on the symbol, you were like, oh, I can use this so you'll have fun with it. And it's it's it's a neat thing to try to explore, and I encourage you to build a library of symbols that you want to use. Yeah, kind of wondering where you where you did this research, where can people go to learn about symbols? I'm about to tell you I have until you can find it all over the internet, but I'll tell you what, I'll give you a website to go hunt that out in just a second here, but a setting for a scene, the lavender flowers you just saw that was a setting for a scene okay. That's. The whole area that the story takes place. It's. Very important. Okay, what about posing? How was the subject? Composed? Is their connection within the pose that's going to give symbolism if there's no connection that's going to say something? Okay. Cool versus warm colors. All that stuff composition has huge symbolic meaning. We're just about to get into that, but yeah, if you want to go somewhere, I really like this. The website and in fact, I just found it found it's called universe of symbolism dot com and you can kind of look up different items and things that will tell you its historical meaning a little bit about it. Give you some symbolism about it as well. But it's really fun to, like, kinda think about stuff, and you'll have a concept in your head. And this is all about pre visualization of the image. You going to do some of this fine art stuff? That's fine artwork. You start thinking about a parental ideals. So say, for example, adoption. You know, you want to tell a story about adoption? What symbols can you use to elicit adoption? Okay, a little girl alone on a bench foster child, you know, in those kinds of images left and right, tell stories.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

BD Design Cards
Butterfly ClamShell Lighting Set Up
Newborn Posing Design
Newborn Prepartion Sheet
Standard Lighting Set Up
Studio Gift Card
Gear Guide
Downloads with RSVP

Ratings and Reviews

Natalia Malinko

This is the second course with Julia I have seen. And it's amazing and very inspiring in so many ways! I appreciate so much the honesty of Julia, her spirit for doing things she loves. Like a photographer and artist myself, I feel identified with her perception of world and the passion for artistic and family photography. This course is about never give up, it's about hard work, and also it's about cultivating creativity and honesty. I highly recommended this course to every photographer who want to grow and understand himself and the business of professional high-quality photography. Thanks, Julia and Creative Live, for this one!

a Creativelive Student

So glad I bought this class - well and truly worth the investment. This course has helped me realise why it is so important to make an emotional connection and how to use it to my advantage {while giving my clients the very best too}. I cannot wait to try some new printing/mounting glad Julia was kind enough to share this! I got a lot out of this course and would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to take their newborn photography business to the next level.

Jenny White

This class was amazing!!! Julia does a great job of showing her process, how she captures beautiful images from start to finish. It was worth every dollar I spent!!

Student Work