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Fine Art Photography

Lesson 26 of 38

Shoot: Fairytale Scene Part 1

Brooke Shaden

Fine Art Photography

Brooke Shaden

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Lesson Info

26. Shoot: Fairytale Scene Part 1
Head behind the scenes as Brooke re-imagine a scene from The Princess and the Pea. Work with turning a well-known, traditional fairytale into something unique, beginning with the brainstorming and props.

Lesson Info

Shoot: Fairytale Scene Part 1

all right now we have a really exciting set up today I decided that I was going to as much as possible force the art department to get me mattresses and then they decided to take those mattresses and help me out with distressing them a little bit because I have a very specific set up that I'm going to do today so we are doing the princess and the pea and that is the story that I wanted to mimic which I thought was really appropriate since I've been talking so much about disney princesses and things like that so I thought why not go ahead and do something that really has to do with the story that a lot of people know it's really fun to be inspired by literature by stories by folklore things like that and then interpret it in your own way what is your spin on that so think about a fairy tale or you know one of those hans christian andersen stories or any of those stories that we all grow up learning think about those and how can you take that and inspire yourself in a different way so I'...

m doing this princess and the pea shoots that is my story that I'm going to work on today because I'm doing that though I have to say ok the princess and the pea we just heard the story we know that there's going to be ah girl with the mattresses and there is a p involved in things like that but that's not mine that would just be recreating somebody else's work and I don't want to recreate what somebody else has done even though the story is brilliant so I have to put my spin on that so we talked about on the first day what is your style what are those keywords that you'll be using to identify what it is that you do that makes you special and what I do that I hope makes me special at least that stands out in my mind as being unique for me is that I put a dark spin on things so this is a very happy scene because it's a princess who is you know happy because she's going to get to marry the prince and it's all very innocent and very light but I decided what if that princess sad things go terribly wrong for her and she's sitting on top of these mattresses and she's gotten buckets of peas and they are just pouring from her and it's almost like she has caused this mess and she's never going to get out of it she sort of trapped on these mattresses so that's where my imagination one and if you guys have your own ideas of you know what you would do with the story I would love to hear that so I think that's really inspirational to hear how you would interpret a story like that if you had to change it if you had to make it your own what would you do with it we all know the story now so I'm pretty excited because we have oh my gosh literally buckets of peas if your eyes concealed look at this oh my gosh they're frozen that was really cold some for the sound uh buckets of peace they have and I couldn't be for it excited about it because how often do you get to play with the bucket of peas or six mattresses that look completely awesome we're going to try to not let the model fall off of them today they're a little bit wobbly but don't worry because it's going to be very safe and we tested it yesterday by jumping on them so everything is good so I'm gonna go back to my white board here I'm going to erase what we had up from yesterday because we did do a few different shoots yesterday where I was sketching them for you before we started and so I want to continue with that I want to continue sketching out exactly what I want to photograph we've talked so much about how important it khun b to understand what you're shooting before you shoot it and I want to do that today now I have a feeling that things were going to go a little bit differently than how I anticipate I'm going to do the chute as I had it planned and I'm really excited for that but actually this morning I woke up put my clothes on high is going to sound may be completely ridiculous but I am aspired myself by putting the stress on with this two to because I looked in the mirror and I thought oh my gosh I could be the princess with the p because it looks like this little princess dress so I'm actually going to shoot the model first with the outfit that I had picked out and went out three days ago bought an outfit just for this set up but I'm going to now shoot that and then shoot another version of that with myself as a self portrait because I thought why not we're here we have this amazing set up so why not do something with that space in the time that we have so let me walk you through what this shot is going to look like because logistically in this space were a little bit confined were in a pretty tight space this is one of the bigger rooms here in this building but it's still not that big so we're in the space that is to me very very beautiful but we don't have that many options in here actually we have shelving on one wall which really is not something that I wanted to photograph it's a little bit messy looking it looks a little bit confusing we have windows lining the other wall over here can't use that to me because that's not how I shoot I don't shoot light sources so because I don't shoot a light source I can't you know shoot my cameras directly into these windows and then try to work around that so much so I decided that this wall over here is the on ly wall that we really have that's going to work for shooting but I didn't want a doorway to be in my way here so we've got the store way the doorframe it's brown it's kind of distracting and if we have the model sitting right up here on this mattress she's going to intersect with that doorway so I'm going to take care of that in post I'm going to get rid of that doorframe and I'm going to replace it with a solid wall behind her so I'm trying to simplify this as much as possible I don't want there to be little distracting elements that I didn't have planned their just because there are limitations with the space so that doorway will not be there in the end I was really pleased to find that the room behind that is actually painted a really similar color because it's painted a really similar color un actually just going to leave the door open and shoot the model with that blue backdrop behind that way it's a lot easier to sort of clone in or maybe take another method to get this wall which is a little bit greener cloned in right behind the model so that's how I'm going to shoot it I'm going to have her sitting up here she's going to be very very innocent and then I'm going to do a few different poses based on this this is something that I don't want to limit myself by I don't want to say ok I have one single image in mind and that's all I'm going to dio and the reason is because this is such a difficult set up to come across so if I have the option of finally shooting in this scenario which I've been excited about for so long I want to try a few different poses and that doesn't mean that it's going to be on the wind I'm not just going to say okay do this do that do this do that do whatever you want to do and let's see how it turns out because then that's not my vision that's somebody else's vision that's the models vision so because of that I have these poses planned I know that I'd really like to try something with her laying down maybe go through the motions of what this story is and that's how a siri's is created by saying ok what would the subject naturally do in this story and how many pieces of that story can I photograph so maybe well start with her sleeping maybe we'll start with her getting up maybe she'll look pain because of the p maybe she won't because that maybe that's not my character maybe my character doesn't feel the pee it all and they're just pouring from her body so maybe we'll do some where she grabs those peas then she has them just running out of her hands because she's sort of like given up like oh my gosh the pedes air coming out of my body that's funny o p is going out of my body ok anyway so is right thank you so we're going to do a few different things I'm going to draw the main set up that I have in mind for this um and then we're going to move on from there so I always start with my square frame and I'm going to reinterpret this story based on what we have to work with so I'm shooting straight at the wall I'm going to go ahead and draw my wall so that's the corner of the wall uh this is not going to be a good drawing we're just going to put that out there I don't know how to draw this that's a mattress that's another actress yep I'm stacking them those are my mattresses yeah okay I don't know but then we're going to have the subject right on top sitting with her dress sort of poofed out over here legs dangling and then perhaps there's a her arms they're really long monkey arms and then the peas will be spilling down to the floor from her hands and then the piece they're going to be all over the floor all over there I'm going to play with my camera angle for this because I thought it would be really interesting to be able to get really low to the ground and then have those peace sort of coming out towards the camera and have that interesting perspective but I also don't really know how much ceiling I want to get in the shot because she's going to be so high in the frame I have to think about that what is the angle that's going to make the most sense so let's say that I can't get that low angle and I really want that low angle because of the peas coming towards the camera then I might try something a little bit different maybe I do raise the camera up but then I might come over with these peas and maybe if I could get my shutter speed high enough I just throw the peas at the camera maybe not directly at lens because they are frozen little pellets but near the camera and if I can freeze that motion then they'll still be out of focus coming towards the camera and you'll have that depth so I want to try those two things I want to see how that low angle works but I have a feeling that it's not going to be exactly the angle that I want to get based on the height of the model so what is my story here eh non princess sits atop the mattresses instead of feeling the p she begins to have them pouring from her body so they're just going to be emanating from her coming from her a spilling all over the floor and it's almost like this embarrassing moment of this character has all these peas coming from her body there spilling everywhere and she doesn't want that queen to know that this is what is happening that she is ruining the situation she's lying it's almost like pinocchio with his nose growing long except she's spelling bees from her body so you know what my ideas and so much stranger when I say them out loud than they do in my head that's what we're doing though so I think it's going to look pretty neat because it's going to be my version of a fairy town but this version of the fairytales not very dark this is not a version that has me saying oh yeah I see the darkness in this it's actually more comical and I could be comical sometimes I mean I like doing something that's a little bit cheeky and just a little bit strange and funny but I do want to do something else I want to do my style and really see what I can do to turn this into a scene that all respond to not only today but a year from now two years from now so I'm going to go ahead and erase this picture and we're going to draw a new frame based on other ideas that I might have of how I can photograph this scene so I'm erasing this frame and I'm going to draw my new square frame so I've got the square in there now this is a new set up it's going to look the same we're goingto have the mattresses in the same spot that is not something that we're going to be moving around but what am I going to have her do on those mattresses that's different so how can I use all those same elements I still use the peas maybe there are some on the floor to give that sense of oh I understand what the story is how am I going to pose her so then she looks different than she's emoting in a little bit of a different way I'm going to do that through posing so the scene will stay the same I'm not changing my angle I'm not changing the set up at all I'm just changing what my models doing now if I had full creative freedom here I would probably ask the model to get naked and lay on top of the mattresses on do something that's much more vulnerable not just getting naked to get naked but having a reason behind that I love the vulnerability of the model and how she could be sitting up here really sad and really hurt almost so I might do something where maybe she drops a shoulder and we just see a little bit of her spine may be hunched over something that shows that she is vulnerable in this situation so if you're sitting on top of the bed I know that we're going to do one with her laying down so maybe she'll be laying here maybe one armed drooped over with the peas falling out of her arm maybe with her head coming off the backwards I actually jen here gave me that idea yesterday because we got to come in here and I was laying on the mattresses and she was taking some pictures and she was like see if you can get your head to roll off the back which I don't know if we can because I had a hard time with that yesterday we'll see if we can because that's a really interesting detail so full credit to jennifer that because that was you okay so we'd have her hair coming down in that case which adds a really nice detail and then hopefully we'll have some light coming in on her face there as well so that's going to shed some light on her face not so much on the feet which we don't want to focus on is much or maybe we do because that could be really creepy so it just depends on what you're going for so I definitely want to do one laying down so I'm going to go through a couple of the different mechanics of this picture how I came to settle on this set up so I have all of my little things here that I have to focus on light angle pose set design all of that so we got mattresses it was extremely important that we didn't get mattresses that were brand new we couldn't have mattresses that had weird patterns all over them I know that my mattress at home is has this sort of like weird flowery pattern that's really contrast e we had to get very pale mattresses mattresses that would blend into this space that makes such a huge difference so if these were any different mattresses if they had a strange pattern on them or maybe it was like a mickey mouse childs mattresses on thousand of that exist but if it did that wouldn't if it in the scene so I asked for mattresses that were pale that had a yellow tinge to them that had a blue tinge to them I used my own color palette to create the scenes that I don't have to work with that later on so color I am making the model also blood into this scene you'll see when she comes in here that she'll be wearing a nightgown and it's sort of a blue green sea foam nightgown that I picked out the other day it's really soft that has a nice flow to it and it looks extremely innocent she will look like a fairy tale character because of this wardrobe that we have picked out so then we have compositing will I need to composite this image what will I have to do to make this work for me I don't think I'm going to have to composite this image at least not very much I will have to clone in the back so we do have that doorframe I know that I am going to need to get rid of that but I don't need to do that through compositing I'm going to take one straight shot and hope to get everything in one picture now let's say that I have these peas I decide with these peas that I will throw them out the camera or do something with those that I would do separately so I would make sure to get my shot of the model I always want to make sure that the models comfortable dropping my peas the models comfortable and not only that but that I make sure that I have that shot in focus everything's working without having to worry about throwing peas at my camera at the same time and of course this is assuming that I don't have any help so were I doing this on my own like I do every single shoot it would just be either me and a camera on me and a friend and I might not have that much help in terms of doing everything all at once in this case that we might be able to get it all in the same shop we're just going to have to see how it goes so what else the background we talked about the background it's a little bit distracting but we picked that one wall that was neutral enough to where I could fill it in in the background so that was good there were no other options in this room whatsoever I also made sure to pick a room that had this floor on it so because we had this beautiful floor it's wouldn't it has some interesting lines on it it looks to me like a very old maybe even regal floor in some ways even though it's completely messed up but that's perfect for what we're going for because this princess has been abandoned she's in this space but she hasn't I mean this is not the story that rust told you earlier this is like the story of the princess who was sitting on the bed who then I didn't know where to go after that everybody left her they thought she was a fraud and she is just spilling pees everywhere so let's take a look details what are we doing about the details in this picture like I said we distress the mattresses that makes it believable if we had not done that if these were new mattresses it wouldn't work in the least bit it would be a completely unbelievable scene especially in this space and then we have the makeup the hair she's going to wear that same wig that she wore yesterday so she's got her red wig on which makes her look much more like a fairy tale character because she's got flowing red luscious curls and that makes for a good fairy tale character so he's going to have that wig on but we might mess it up just a little bit maybe just tease it back a little bit make it look a little bit wild because we don't want her to look prim and proper sitting there we want her to look to shovel like she just does not even know what's going on anymore she might as well be a mental patient in a hospital so let's get our model in here if we can and we're going to see if we can get her to jump up on these mattresses without tipping over hello you look beautiful in that I know that's why I'm going to sew portrait I was inspired by your outfit okay so let's turn around let's show everybody this is the outfit that I bought so it has a little robe to it so it has this extra part so if I want to move it around a little bit aiken do that because this part's kind of stuck to her body a little bit more but this part can do whatever we want we can have it flow over the side of the mattress when she lays down and so when I found this if it had only been this part I would not have purchased it because this is what I want this motion so I could do this to it it can look beautiful it hangs in the air it's soft but it's a little bit too clean so I might actually just have her roll around on the ground I'm not gonna make you do that all roll myself on the ground and then I'll rub it on her just to get her a little bit dirtier and we are going to see what we can do about the hair so I might just tease it back like this just with my fingers because I don't have a brush with me right now and that's okay you don't need a brush so I'm just making her look crazier crazier I'm so sorry I forget whose weaknesses but uh I'm very sorry and I'm just going to tee this then she looks a little bit crazy she sort of looks like she has bed head now which I think is kind of awesome it doesn't look like it okay good on us up on the side of you and see what we can do here so I think that these details are really important and some thing that somebody might not think of doing because if she comes in here looking beautiful I know that the photographer and me wants to say you look so beautiful let's just let's just take your picture just like that because I like pretty pictures too but I know that I want to create a story and that's going to be much more lasting for me than if I took a pretty picture for her and that's not to say that that's for everybody because I love pretty pictures there's a time and place for that that just happens to not be my inspiration and my personal motivation for doing portrait it's so I think that looks really good yeah you look crazier so let's try to get you up on this mattress now I'm going to help you as much as I can aim for the center yeah just like that and I'm just spotting her a little bit just in case how yu feel it there good okay swing your legs over the side if you can I've got the mattresses for now so don't worry too much I know okay so scoot forward more until your knees are at the edge good good I just want to see your feet dangling real cute they're perfect now we see her up here we have her set and so I can take this and really spread it out a little bit and that's going to create some interesting movement now if I wanted I could come in here and do that for one of the shots creates a motion maybe I would do this all at the same time like that and I could get the hair moving so that it looks like there's a breeze coming through the room which I think would really add to that abandoned feel maybe you imagined that the window over here was left open or that maybe the glass is broken from it so in that case I'll have to be over there doing it because it wouldn't make sense to come this way so I'm thinking these things through before I even get my camera out I don't want to be set up with my camera and leave her over here and just say hey jane just wait for me for twenty minutes while I go do all this stuff and no I want her to know exactly what we're doing in this case if I was going to have her sitting up here from multiple shots and we're in this absolutely freezing room that's when I would probably say does anybody have a blanket and then so does anybody have a blanket out there or something that we can cover her with while I get my camera set because contrary to popular belief I do care for my models and I want her to be comfortable thank you so much yeah so you can just cover up there while I get my camera set I know oh gosh don't lean back here making me nervous okay now I'm gonna come grab my camera and I'm going to get my settings and I'm going to see what I need to do now I'm not going to put it on the tripod quite yet because I'm going to see about angles I know that I need to move her just a little bit so I'm going to have you sculpture but over this way just slightly there you go is perfect and I'm just trying to send to her in the doorway so the more I sent to her in the doorway her hair her shoulders they're not interacting with that doorframe which means that I'm going to have a much easier time cloning that out later so let's see about these angles now I talked about getting really low so let me just lay down on the floor here and see how it looks if I'm really low to the ground it's interesting I have to say I'm going to keep playing down here I do quite like it let me take a test shot and we'll just see how this goes for us I'm going to get my camera settings now for right now I am at s o five hundred f four point five and I am at one eightieth of a second and we're going to see how that goes I haven't taken a test shot yet great all right now it's pretty dark but I can already tell that the window light on the wall behind her is very bright so what am I going to do about this this is exactly that situation where I am going to take multiple exposures and I'm going to use those multiple exposures for emanuel hdr so for the moment I'm going to shoot this not caring about what that wall looks like justus long as the mattresses and our model are all really nicely exposed that's what I'm going to worry about so the shot that I have it's good enough to the point where I could bring up the shadows I condole down the highlights but just for safety just in case I want to take an exposure of that wall at the very end of this set up that's a little bit darker so now I've shot from the floor I'm going to go ahead and raise my camera up now and I'm going to see what I can d'oh but shooting from this angle and we're going to see how that looks I don't get much further back for that there we go so I don't think I like that angle is much because it's not dramatic enough for me I actually really like being down low because it makes her look like she's up a lot lot higher so if I shoot her from way up here it sort of looks like somebody is just staring at her you know how when you use that camera angle where it's just whatever your height is and you shoot from that perspective then you kind of know even if it's subconsciously when you're looking at an image that somebody was holding the camera at that height and so if I get down really low it looks much more like the subject is sort of someone's voyeuristic lee looking in at her like we're at this very strange perspective seeing her is this character instead of a model sitting up there on the mattresses so I'm going to go with a really low angle which means I'm going to shoot this handheld for this one because my tripod I'm not going to try to get it low considering my shutter speed is high enough that I can shoot it hand held for right now so I'm gonna go ahead and do that I'm going to start posing you and then I'll come back over here and I'll play with my camera a little bit more so let's get the piece set before I take her blanket away I'm gonna take these peas and I'm gonna pour these peace everywhere and we're going to see how that goes so I'm gonna move one bucket of peas over to the side and I am just goingto let them roll good look at them frozen together way we need to do right it's a very strange day okay so I'm just spreading them out I don't want them to look clumps like this so I'm just going to keep kicking them around oh my gosh please nobody slip on these beings I didn't think that one through um aren't take those shoes off just in case they're a little sleepy okay so we've got lots of peas but we got a lot more so I'm gonna let these pull up right at the bottom where her hands are so I'm gonna have to piles where her hands would naturally be dropping the peas well might as well just go for it it was really fun okay now we have a whole other bucket of fees and I'm going to pour that beer okay when take your blanket away the piece are very cold so I'm going to try not to pour them all over you let's see what we can do now I can't even see the top of her so I'm not that concerned right now with putting pees all over her because we can't even see that so instead I'm going to try okay okay I'm gonna try to place thes strategically on the mattresses wherever I can maybe you'll see some there maybe some over there oh those are so cold oh my god for my feet that looks good okay I won't torture you anymore I won't put any on your feet or anything oh I definitely am I lied I'm gonna put some between your toes yeah I think I think this little nugget would be oh no I'll do it last okay I'll do it last well I'm gonna put it though right there between her toes because I think that will be an amazing detail we'll really be able to focus on okay so can I get you to scoot forward even more to the edge of this mattress good that's where I want you and now I'm going to want to post her with a lot of detail so she's sitting up here she looks very regal atop that mattress and I really like that but that's not what we're going for so I need to break her down a little bit what broken in this picture I'm gonna take this forward just so we see a little detail of that I think just once I maybe yeah that's good good so we've got that coming forward now I like when you're sort of hunched over a little bit up here yet and now I liketo have palms up because I think that that looks really interesting it hades detail of the fingers you khun see that really nicely then we're going to have those peas falling out of her hands so what I'm going to ask her to do is remember how this feels to have your hands open and then when we go to shoot I'm going to put two big things of peas in your hands and then you're just gonna let them go gently sit on your hands look like they're just slowly falling open now I am going to actually err on the side of pushing that back so we see some light on her face I'm going to see a little bit and let me have you look this way good and then chin down a little bit more good perfect and I'm going to have a cast arise right over here perfect

Class Description


  • Brainstorm and plan a fine art photograph
  • Design a story with props and posing
  • Shoot an image that only exists in your imagination
  • Complete the vision in Adobe Photoshop
  • Self-critique your own work
  • Build a business from fine art photography
  • Approach galleries with confidence
  • Grow your own unique style and brand


Sometimes, creative vision is bigger than a camera can capture. In this class, learn how to turn imaginative ideas into physical fine art prints. From planning the shoot to assembling composites in post, work to turn the images in your dreams into a concrete photographic image. Go from a dreamer to a professional photographer with the help of artist Brooke Shaden.

Start with defining your style and building your creative vision in this three-day class. Then, learn tips and tricks for bringing that vision to life using posing and props. Go behind the scenes in nine live shoots ranging from self-portraiture to creating your own fairytale. Use posing, props, motion, and composition to tell a story.

While fine art photography isn't usually the first business model that comes to mind when considering a career in photography, Brooke shares how it's possible to earn a full-time living from your art. From building a brand to approaching fine art galleries, learn what you need to turn a passion for fine art photography into a career. As Brooke says, you can't stop because your best work is just ahead.


  • Intermediate photographers ready to take fine art to the next level
  • Professional photographers looking to expand their storytelling and compositing skills
  • Fine art photographers at any skill level


Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom


Brooke Shaden is a storyteller. The American fine art photographer is well-known in the art world for her dream-like, fairytale images. Her work often uses dark tones, heavy emotions, self-portraits, and juxtapositions. Working as a fine art photographer for more than a decade, she started her art journey after studying film in college and now teaches and speaks along with continuing her work. Brooke's work has been featured in dozens of gallery exhibitions, along with magazine and book covers and limited edition fine art prints. After growing up near an Amish community in the United States in Pennsylvania, she now lives in California.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Brookes Posing Guide

Self Portraiture

The Art of Self Critique

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



Brooke says she wants to be inspirational - she has achieved this and so much more during this course. I am so inspired to follow my dream of becoming a fine art photographer and step out of a life as an academic and stop finding excuses. Watching other photographers shoot and edit is always a great way to learn, everyone does things slightly differently and I enjoy Brooke's no fuss techniques. Seeing so many of Brooke's beautiful images through the course has been great and seeing shots from the shoot through to editing really makes them come alive. If you are looking for inspiration or you want to learn techniques or new skills then this course provides all of these things with a big dose of positive thinking thrown in.


Brooke is amazing! I love this course. Brooke is easy to listen to. She has a beautiful insight into creative fine art . Love it! I have learned so much. I especially love that she is so candid about everything.

renee Akana

I love Brooke and the wonderful way that she teaches. She is a gift to us all. Jane, her model, was lovely - a beautiful girl, a wonderful attitude and a real professional.. I could not do what Jane did to help Brooke convey her story.