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Fine Art Photography

Lesson 5 of 38

Storytelling Q&A


Fine Art Photography

Lesson 5 of 38

Storytelling Q&A


Lesson Info

Storytelling Q&A

we wanted to cover some questions from last segment film mallory you have a question for us ideo thank you all so much for joining us and asking questions really good ones davey photo asked when I go conceptual in my work sometimes I don't want or need a viewer to understand exactly what I was shooting for sometimes it's very personal I like to see what other people think can you speak to that in regard to explaining why you did what you did as opposed to leaving it up for interpretation definitely won take it away I'm gonna let you answer that okay so yeah you know this is something that I think about a lot because people have stories that are personal and that's really important to keep that for yourself and to not say okay internet this is exactly why I've done this this and this and I need you to know because this is my story sometimes it's not about that sometimes it's something that you want to keep for yourself and you want other people to explore that and that's why I'm so inte...

rested in all the mechanics of storytelling because it goes beyond what is your personal story and that translates into many many other stories so when I put an image out there I am very rarely saying this is what I intended exactly I'm saying I'm passionate about this I did this because I love it really vague things about my motivation for doing it but not necessarily specifics about exactly what the story is because I want you to interpret it for yourself like when I read josh's interpretation that was so exciting because it's the opposite of what I might have meant but it's just as valid of a story and it makes sense so I think that art is more successful if it's personal on one level but it also translates into many other stories so I think it's great put your art out there do what you love let other people know that you love it but then let other people interpret it and don't take that interpretation in a negative way and that can happen sometimes like I might have read josh's interpretation and been like I failed because that's not what I meant at all and then I would get really discouraged but that's not what it's about it's about understanding your personal and operation and letting other people be inspired that is fantastic we have another one kind along similar lines from c shoot can we find the story afterward when taking the picture as a photographer do you ever go on that just taking pictures see what happens and then construct a story after absolutely I don't typically work like that it's kind of interesting because I'm very much of this sort of old school like film photography filmmaking kind of background where you have to think about the story and then do it because you're shooting with say thirty five millimeter motion picture film you don't have that many options to get it done unless you've got a he huge budget you have to know what you're doing and then shoot it and that's my background so when I create an image I'm not so much saying okay I hope this works and then I hope I can find meaning in it but I don't think that there's anything wrong with that and I think that this goes back to understanding very specific elements of how you becoming aspired so let's say okay I know that I'm inspired by the forest I go out to the forest I play with the model we do all sorts of different inspiring things but I don't yet know why I've done that or what exactly the story is I don't think there's anything wrong with going into editing having fun being creative adding elements in later and then seeing where that takes you and I do this most often with my failed shoots where I've gone out the story didn't come through I didn't like it but then I say you know what why does this have to be in the trash why can't I just take this image that maybe didn't turn out how I expected but turned into something totally different that's just really really exciting to me in a different way I did that recently where I had I had a picture of myself in my room I haven't actually posted this or anything but I decided to add different props in way after the fact so later like a week later I was like I don't want to throw this in the trash so I photographed a ship and I photographed a bird and then I put that all into the same picture and then I was like you know what I like it now because it's not what I intended but it's something different it's something that I could be inspired by later so I don't think there's anything wrong with that I think the biggest problem really with with any of anybody who thinks that you have to do something a certain way is that there is no one way to do it so you know what if you want to be inspired later and you want to take a picture and then a month later say you know what now I understand the story behind this why not and then you put that out there and you say yeah this is it this is why I did this that's just a cz good um sam cocks in colorado is asking brick do you express yourself in ways other than photography you mentioned that you're writing a novel are you also into painting or acting or poetry I wonder if being expressive in other areas helps you with your photography yes that's a great question I I'm very much inspired by writing that was my first passion in life in general when I was very very young I began writing stories and that was I thought I would be a writer I was convinced that I would be a writer and as I grew up I started realizing that there was this whole visual component to storytelling that I was also really inspired by so I started writing more visually where I would write longer descriptions of things and really put a lot of detail in that translated into filmmaking that translated into photography and so it's a constant growing thing in my life where I mean I'm not that old so ivan twenty six and you know I did writing for about the first eighteen years of my life s successful writing when I was two or anything but you you know what I mean at that point I discovered filmmaking and then a few years after that I discovered photography so the photography is relatively new to my life and so I consider that to be just another way that I express myself I do poetry I d'oh write short stories I can't paint can't sculpt I'm very bad at those things anything with my hands in general but I consider all things to be an art form so you know if you ask me what kind of art do you do I'll probably tell you that I goes you know sit in the forest and become inspired and that's an art in itself is understanding what you loved to do and being inspired by that so those are my main areas of inspiration but I truly feel is though if I didn't have that writing background or the filmmaking background my photography would not be what it is in any way shape or form I was inspired by the words that I could write in the freedom with which I could write those words and the films that I would make and how you had to make all these decisions first and that all went into how it how it tell stories and so if I didn't have that I don't know where I would be when just the same if I didn't have photography right now who knows what I'd be doing in the future so I'm excited to see how photography inspires whatever I end up doing all right I think we've got let's do one more before we get into the self critique this from arena how do you get your models to feel the story you want them to illustrate will you ever actually just tell them the story or you use other techniques yes I tell my model stories all the time and it gets to a certain point with some models where we've worked together one hundred times and they don't need to know they want to know sometimes but they know that I don't want them to look at the camera I want their hair covering their face I want them to look creepy blah blah blah so all these things they know and so sometimes you don't have to do it other times though like we're working with jane the next three days I've worked with her a few times before but not to the point where she understands every little nuance of exactly what I want from her so I'm going to have to explain things and we're going to go over this in the posing segment just a little bit later today where we're going to be talking about how to tell a story to your model to make them understand the character and how they can embody that character I think that the biggest thing though is it yourself you understanding that story then being able to tell them this is what it feels like to be that character because that's really important when posing a model

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.


  1. Class Introduction

    Meet Brooke Shaden in the first lesson, and learn where the fine art photographer finds her inspiration. Then, gain an overview of the three-day class.

  2. My Evolving Style

    No one starts out creating their best work, Brooke says, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get started. See how Brooke grew in her craft, where she started, where she is now, and how she's always motivated to continue to create beautiful images.

  3. Visual Examination

    How you describe yourself as a person will influence your art. In this lesson, embark on the process of visual examination. Learn to visualize yourself, your style, and the story you want to tell -- and how that translates into photography.

  4. Storytelling and Character

    Brooke is more motivated by storytelling than photography -- and you can tell by looking at her work. Learn how to train your mind to find your inspiration, to then start telling that story. Work on building a story by starting with an object or person from your inspiration, and asking yourself questions about that item. Build a story with elements like theme, setting, character, time, and conflict.

  5. Storytelling Q&A

    Build on the concept of storytelling with questions from students like you.

  6. Critique Yourself Part 1

    Critique is an important aspect of any type of fine art -- but photographers shouldn't consider critiques from others as fact. In fact, Brooke encourages photographers to learn how to critique their own work. Follow Brooke's process for self-critique in this lesson.

  7. Critique Yourself Part 2

    Everyone will have a different favorite image. After sharing her favorite and least favorite images, Brooke shares what some of the students in the class pick as their most and least favorite images. The insight helps build the skills to critique a photograph.

  8. Identify the Problems

    Learning to identify problems in your own work helps you focus on areas to improve your art form. Watch Brooke work through some problems in her images. Learn to correct the problems that you see in your images.

  9. Posing Overview and Q&A

    Posing for a portrait and posing to create a fine art photograph are often very different. Dive into creating a story through body language, emotion, and character after a brief Q&A on questions from the previous lessons.

  10. Ten Basic Poses

    Learn how to create a better pose using ten basics. Work with poses to create lines and shape while telling a story. From basics like creating separation to advanced topics like creating believable action, pick up essentials to building a pose in fine art imagery.

  11. Posing a Man

    Posing looks different for men and women. In this lesson, Brooke shares her tips on posing a man in an emotive manner, while keeping the "manliness" intact. See different examples of fine art poses for men.

  12. Shoot: Posing Demo

    Should the model look at the camera? Brooke shares the pros and cons of eye contact and why it's often avoided in fine art photography. Run through a checklist to perfect your pose. Then, jump into a live posing demonstration to see those tips in action. Watch Brooke direct a model to portray a specific emotion, then watch how she fine-tunes the pose to create the desired look.

  13. The Art of Self-Portraiture

    Even if you don't actually want to be the subject matter in your own images, learning how to photograph yourself helps you learn how to direct a model to create fine art images, along with building the ability to express yourself and create something from your imagination. Build a foundation for self-portraiture in this lesson.

  14. Posing Yourself

    Walk through the process of posing yourself for a self-portrait. Learn how to focus and trigger the shot when you're not behind the camera, while still having enough time to get into the pose. In this lesson, Brooke shares tips for the process of posing and shooting yourself for fine art.

  15. Shoot: Self-Portraiture Demo

    Go behind the scenes for one of Brooke's self-portraits. See the process in action, starting with the test shot. As she talks through the process, watch Brooke create a pose, critique herself, then improve the pose. Using student suggestions, Brooke goes through several different poses portraying different emotions to use in a self-portrait.

  1. Shoot: Indoor Scene Part 1

    Starting with a blank canvas, learn to build a scene for an indoor shoot. Begin with a vision and an empty room, and watch how Brooke begins to bring her creative vision to life. See the inspiration and the blank scene, then watch Brooke build the scene.

  2. Shoot: Indoor Scene Part 2

    With the model and set in place, watch how Brooke captures the shot. Go behind the scenes on decisions like composition, angle, lighting, exposure, and focal point. Learn to evaluate the scene to get the details of the story in the camera.

  3. Shoot: Butterfly Daydream

    Work within the same space to create a different fine art image. With something as simple as an empty wall and a few still life props, go from creative vision to art print about a daydream. Refine ideas about posing, props, composition and more in this lesson.

  4. Image Compositing

    Sometimes, those fine art ideas aren't something concrete that could actually exist in real life. Other times, shooting in exotic locations isn't feasible financially or practically. Brooke suggests shooting as a landscape photographer to capture backgrounds for composite work whenever the opportunity presents itself. Learn how to shoot with a composite in mind, considering factors like matching the lighting and the perspective. Then, gather some basics on editing composites.

  5. Shoot: Using Props

    Start shooting a composite image using some backdrops and a kiddie pool. With a composite in mind, watch Brooke work the scene and plan ahead to mix multiple images together. Work with multiple poses and props. Then, move into a second scene and watch Brooke work with props in a self-portrait.

  6. Editing Indoor Shoot Part 1

    Move into editing for fine-art photography. Go through the complete editing process from the first live shoot with the vines. Work with aspect ratio, merging multiple images, layer masks, curves, cloning, and more.

  7. Editing Indoor Shoot Part 2

    Continue working with the image from the previous lesson, making overall adjustments to the image. Here, Brooke shares how to edit lighting, replace color, adjust overall color, add make-up, and more.

  8. Editing Butterfly Shoot

    Work with the butterfly shoot in Adobe Photoshop. Analyze how to improve the image, then work with several different editing techniques, including composting, adjusting brightness, making local adjustments, working with color, and more.

  9. Editing Pool Shoot

    Start working with the indoor-outdoor composite mix from the pool shoot. Learn how to paste a subject against a different background with realistic results. Work with trimming out the background, blending edges and more as you learn to create realistic composites.

  10. Shoot: Outside with Open Sky

    Move away from the computer and jump into more complex fine art composites. Working with multiple images and objects pasted together, start with the shooting process. Work with matching lighting, capturing the right angle, creating a strong composition, and telling a story in fine art photography.

  1. 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.

  2. Shoot: Fairytale Scene Part 2

    Gain insight into the process of creating a fairy-tale inspired fine art photograph. Integrate motion into the image and work with motion blur, multiple exposures and more. Work with multiple poses with a model, then move into a self-portrait.

  3. Shoot: Snow Scene

    Move into the final live shoot of the course as Brooke brings the outdoors in. In this start-to-finish shoot, work on the story and vision for the scene, then learn how to create (and photograph) a snowstorm indoors.

  4. Editing Outdoor Scene

    Finish the vision from the live shoots in Photoshop, starting with the outdoor shoot. Work with complex composting techniques, like replacing the sky. Throughout the process, pick up editing tips, like choosing a brush and keyboard shortcuts.

  5. Editing Fairytale Scene

    Fine-tune the Princess and the Pea shot inside Photoshop. Extend the canvas, work with the warp tool, clone out a doorway, and more as Brooke turns her vision into a high-quality fine art photograph. Then, learn how to add textures to your image using photographs of textures that you can create yourself using desaturated black and white images.

  6. Editing Snow Scene

    See the progression from the test shots to the final shots from the indoor snowstorm image. Because the shot used a tripod, the editing options for adding snow becomes simpler. Besides working with the snow and adjusting color, learn how to add a fake light to an unlit lantern.

  7. The Business of Fine Art

    Fine art may seem trickier to turn into a business than something like portraits or weddings -- but it is possible. In this lesson, learn how to build a business as a fine-art photographer. Work with building a brand, finding a place for your work, sharing your talent, and selling your work as a product.

  8. Eight Business Practices for Fine Art

    Build your own fine art business with eight actionable steps. Here, Brooke shares a list of eight actions fine art photographers should do while building a business, from building a portfolio to contacting galleries.

  9. Beginning Your Artist Statement

    An artists statement should describe your photography thematically, visually, and technically. Writing an artist statement feels daunting -- in this lesson, Brooke simplifies it by sharing the process she used to write her own artist statement.

  10. Making Prints with Q&A

    Turn your fine art digital photography into art prints, wall art, and photography books. Decipher the difference between various types of printers, papers, and print sizes. Learn how to find a reputable printer. In your portfolio, learn why details like the order of the print matters. Then, find out how to prepare for a gallery meeting and what to expect during the meeting.

  11. Becoming You

    Becoming an artist, becoming yourself, is a process just as important as the business side. In this lesson, Brooke shares how to grow as an artist. Learn how to move forward, how to challenge yourself, and how to grow as an artist.

  12. Taking Risks

    Taking risks moves you forward on your fine art career path. Taking a risk that has nothing to do with money, Brooke says, helps you move forward, expand your reach, and grow your confidence. With that confidence, learn how to build opportunities like book publishing and more through risk-taking.

  13. Bonus Video: Expand Your Space

    In the bonus video, go behind the scenes as Brooke shares how to work in small, tight spaces by composting. This technique is good for both small spaces and shooting with a shallower depth of field.



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 Wilson

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.