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Fine Art Photography

Lesson 37 of 38

Taking Risks

Brooke Shaden

Fine Art Photography

Brooke Shaden

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Lesson Info

37. 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.

Lesson Info

Taking Risks

start taking risks that I have nothing to do with money take money out of the equation because that's where we get stuck so what risks can you take in photography in your life that will propel you forward where you don't have any risk involved right andy book do something that doesn't require anything but some of your time and put that out there and see where it takes you shoot something that you wouldn't normally shoot take a risk see if that evolves your style starting new blawg shoot something for a charity joined a group submit to a gallery enter a contest thes air all things that you could do these are things that you could do for yourself that don't cost money where you're still putting yourself out there in a very vulnerable way you're making yourself known to people but you are not spending money to do it when you succeed it small risks you gain confidence to take larger risks so maybe I write an e book I put that out there maybe it's self published maybe nobody buys it but may...

be two years down the road an actual publisher sees that book just by chance and they say oh you've published a book do you want to write another one this is what happened to me I have made a book it was a blur book I don't know if anybody would buy it I put it out there into the world I hoped it would be taken for what it is I hope people would buy it couple years later I end up in this little meet up a photography meet up with a publisher I have a conversation with him I don't think he remembers me ah year after that I got an email from him will you write a book I say no I say no I won't write a book because this is not the book that I want to write I don't want it to be about this topic however I've been pursuing this school that I have to write a book I would love to be a writer so here's my book I send him my draft I say I've been working on this for the last two years if you want to publish it I would be honored a month after that he says okay I'll publish your book that's how dreams become reality you work at them you wait for them to happen I'm pursuing this I'm pursuing my writing career all the while not knowing if anything is ever going to come of it but hoping that something does and then through random chance by putting myself out there by saying no to something that I didn't want to do I was able to do one of my biggest streams I was able to complete that and put that out there this is one of my big risks this year it's called promoting passion this is my new blawg it is my new brand essentially this is what I like you this's what I'm putting out there into the world and I am just hoping that people like it I don't know if they will that is not my number one goal to have people like it my goal is to feed my creativity and my inspiration and hope that I can promote that in others I'm rebranding rebranding is an incredibly terrifying thing to dio you become known for one thing and then you say actually let's take a step back and I'm going to be that but I'm also going to be something else and people say to me all the time you can't do that you were a photographer you do these types of photos this is what you have to dio and I say yeah well five years ago I didn't do that I was somebody else entirely so why can't I be somebody else now why can't I keep growing so yes I will always do these pictures I'm so passionate about photography I love what I d'oh but there's more to me than that then just those photos I want teo right I want to be a writer I want to write a novel I want to write blawg post I want to be a motivational speaker there's so many things that I want to do with my life that aren't contained in this box of photography so I rebrand myself I take a risk in doing something that I don't know if it's gonna work I don't know if anybody will accept it but that's what I want to do so these are some of the big concerns with taking a risk I won't know how to move forward I come up with this all the time I have this big risk that I want to take okay I want to a documentary I want to do this book but how do I do it I mean literally what steps do I take to make that a reality if I'm making a new block how do I make that new block what if what if everybody reads my own blood but they won't come read my new bog all these fears start to creep up and then you say well there's no point in even figuring out how to do it because I'm safer where I am right now my plans will fail so I have this new blogged maybe nobody reads it maybe after a month it's dead and nobody's following my photography anymore maybe that's the case I thought a lot about this before I did it I thought there is no guarantee that a single person's going to click on this bog and then what what do I have but the answer to what I have is I have what makes me passionate and what makes me happy and I believe that if you put that out there and you tell people this is who I am this is what makes me passionate other people are going to be passionate about that as well my followers won't follow me any more I think that a lot of people have this fear that if you have anybody who looks at your photography and you do something a little bit different they're not going to be okay with that but that's okay because you ditch them and you say that's all right I'm doing something for myself I'm doing something new and if you don't like it then you stay behind but I'm gonna find somebody new who's going to follow this because I'm going to create a community around what I d'oh I will lose money that's probably true in my experience it's always been true anytime I start something new I lose a little bit of money but then I tried to make it back later I won't know how to move forward but you won't go anywhere if you don't try so if you stay right where you are there is no chance of moving forward whatsoever my plans will fail and they probably will and I can almost guarantee you that they will but there's no better way to learn okay wooden beds don't sink this I know I know that because I had to try it in order to understand that my followers won't follow me any more so then you get some new ones you find people who are willing to understand your passion who are willing to follow you on that journey and in the end it's not about the amount of people following you it's about the quality of people following you are those people engaged with what you're doing I will lose money but an investment in your future is rarely on the stake it is so rare that I have put money into something in any really significant way and then had that be something that was a complete waste of my time what makes me qualified I find that your confidence in yourself is all the qualification that you need to do anything if you believe in yourself other people will believe in you too and I think that confidence gets you far further in life than anything else than money than status I can go into a gallery and I can say hey I've been in twenty other galleries and I'm awesome so do you want me maybe they'll say no because who acts like that but if I go into a gallery and I say you know what I don't have any experience and I might not know what I'm doing but I do what I love and I would love to be able to share that with you I would rather work with somebody like that on somebody who has a lot of money or is going to be arrogant about what they d'oh to achieve the career you want you must not feed a career that you don't want so if you are saying yes to all the jobs that you don't want to be doing how are you ever going to move forward to shoot what you do want to shoot or to do what you do want to dio and this isn't easy it's not like this can happen overnight but the more you start saying no the more you can say yes in the future there's one of my favorite little quotes here you can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you you have to go to them sometimes this is a little winning the poo quote they're my favorite I looked them up about once a week because they make me so happy but I think that this is such an important thing you can't stay there hoping that other people are going to help you that they're going to pull you out of the hole that they're going to pull you out of the darkness you have to go to them you have to find that white and you have to be able to say I did this for myself I am confident in what I'm doing and then people will be willing to help you don't underestimate the value of doing nothing of just going along listening to all the things you can't hear and not bothering so that's another winning the poo quote and I truly believe that if you could just take a step back and appreciate what you have instead of focusing on what you don't have you're far more likely to move forward when you hear the silent and see the invisible you discover endless ways to make your dreams come true so the moment that I take a step back and I say I don't know how to make a documentary but you know what stop it doesn't matter that I don't know how to make a documentary I know how to do so many other things I know how to inspire myself I know how to inspire others I'm going to take that and I'm going to use that to achieve my goals in my dreams and hopefully those will be the same dreams and goals that other people have how can you push yourself one step further to reach the goal that you have set so I mean literally think literally about this what are the solid concrete things thatyou khun d'oh these are the stepping stones that you're going to take these are the things that might not be immediately visible maybe you're trying to walk across water a river that is really really harsh and you don't know how you're going to get to the other side maybe all of those stepping stones are hidden under the water so if you never put your foot out and you never dip your foot in that water feel to see if there's anything there to help you you will never know you're just going to see this river that looks incredibly impossible to cross but it's not there is a way to get across it you let others know how passionate you are and you organize your thoughts so when you do this when you take a step towards saying I am passionate I am inspired other people believe that you realize that if you don't take action it may never get done or someone else made do it so how terrible would I feel if I've got this this great idea for a documentary I'm so passionate about doing it and then I let somebody else run with it and they take that idea and they do it and my idea is gone my dream has been stolen by somebody else and I can't let that happen this is my dream this is my goal I want to make that a reality for myself so step one write a proposal this is how I really go through this risk taking process I write proposals constantly I wrote a proposal for my documentary I wrote a proposal from my business I wrote a proposal to galleries to be able to get into galleries this is just my personal step by step process of how I go about doing these things whether it's for a business idea or photo shoot for someone else to see orjust for yourself you'll be able to be more focused and organized if you write it down I find that when I write things down I remember them better of course I feel more connected to it and I feel held accountable for it so I write all of these things down in a proposal so you don't need to read this it's just my personal proposal for my documentary so I have this documentary written with an overview segment one segment to what the documentary is actually going to look like the goals of the documentary all the little details that I need to know to move forward and that somebody else might need to know to help me move forward step two writing materials list so I am making sure that I can write a list of things that will help me okay I'm writing I'm making a documentary what do I need to do what materials do I need I need cameramen I need camera equipment I need people to be in the documentary I need travel expenses I need to be able to get places to shoot this documentary understanding every single item that will aid in your success will give you solid goals to work towards so if I know that I need a cameraman maybe all contact some cameramen if I know that I need a plane ticket maybe I will do a fundraiser to try to get that money to get the plane ticket to fill my documentary step three reach out to those who can help this part is scary because if you're inviting someone else into your dream but you don't have to think of it is asking for help think of it more as spreading the joy so I'm making a documentary I'm doing it because I think it will help people so if I kept that to myself that I would never be putting that idea out there that I believe will help people and that in itself could be selfish so why don't I try to make it a reality is that I can help more people than just myself step for go for gold but don't let it break you I think that a lot of people get really tourney down by the fact that things don't go perfectly the first time or the second time or the hundred times sometimes but that doesn't mean it should let you fall to the ground and feel like you can't get up again so I am trying the best I can but if it doesn't work out right away I'm okay with that I'm okay was trying again and again and again if my dream is big enough will you fall or will you fly this picture is a really interesting one in my portfolio because I always ask people do you think that he's coming up or going down and people always have different answers and then I tend to judge you and I say are you a glass half empty or half full person I actually think he's falling though so um let's see sometimes we must fall in order to learn how to fly so that's the beautiful thing about it is that we're not all going to start out rising to the top of the pile and findings his tests but if we do fall and we understand what it feels like to fail than we understand how good it feels to succeed never mistake falling for being defeated it's just the first step to success risk taking shoot what you don't want to shoot so if you're shooting what you don't want to shoot then you're much more likely to understand what you do want to shoot this is what I started out shooting so when I picked up my camera I moved to los angeles I did head shots and these are my headshots and I looked back at them and I say thank goodness I didn't continue with my headshot career it didn't make me happy I didn't enjoy doing this these air just my friends I mean I didn't get paid but these were things that I thought I had to do to be successful until I realized that there is nothing that you have to do to be successful I tried fashion photography a few times I decided why not I'll get some wardrobe together I'll get a stylist I'll get all these things and see if I enjoy it and if I don't enjoy it then at least I know for sure but I don't want to do so I did fashion photography I don't enjoy fashion photography it's something that I know and I closed off to that idea not at all because maybe there's a way to do it in my way that somebody will accept but that's not my goal in life that's not my passion refused to shoot what you don't want to shoot with saying no to the things that you don't want to dio this will help you become the photographer that you want to be so I started out with those head shots I did a few little fashion things that I just did anything that I could to try to find my voice to try to figure out how I was going to form a career to be able to make money so I'm doing these things that I don't want to do and I'm saying I don't like it I don't want to be this photographer if I was going to be a photographer that did these headshots then it would be the same as me sitting at a desk job that I don't want to do or just doing anything that I'm not interested in so why do that so I started to form a career that I love knowing that anybody conform any career that they want if that is their passion say no more than you say yes be confident enough to say no it's an extremely scary thing to dio to turn to somebody and say I'm going to refuse your money because in the future I don't want tohave to build my career based on those jobs understand what you have to give when you know what makes you unique you know how to provide for yourself and others so I'm saying to myself what can I give to you everybody sitting here right now what can I give to you that makes me unique and that's home teaching this class I'm saying to myself I am doing my process start to finish I don't know anybody else was process I don't know how other people do things I know that probably I do things a little bit differently and I'm going to teach that I don't know if anybody wants to learn it but I'm going to teach it some passionate about teaching I'm passionate about what I d'oh so I'm taking that into a career channel that into a deliverer ble so what I called delivery bowls or your products things that you can give to other people when you can turn your uniqueness into a tangible item to give to others than everybody has helped because what we need more in this world is people who are unique people who aren't afraid to be though themselves people who aren't afraid to say this is me giving it to you take it or leave it and I hope you can do something with that so what do I hope to further passion inspiration creativity storytelling this is me in a nutshell this is what I want to do with my life I want to give that to you and I hope that people will accept that but I can channel that and other things prince photo sessions my blawg charity workshops so promoting passion that's my blogged that's my log that I am so incredibly passionate about its new blogged that uses photography and creativity to make larger points about passion inspiration creativity and confidence so amusing who I am at my core I'm a photographer I love creating photographs I use that as a metaphor in a sense for bigger things for inspiration passion motivation confidence I am building all of those things into what I d'oh so I create videos every single monday I put out a new video and that is my goal this year to create promoting passion videos things that I can release on my blogged content that I hope will help other people because I am happiest when I am helping somebody else so how can you help people you right here right now if you had to teach something to me right now what would it be if you had to give something to me what would that be so teach me something what if you were confronted with having to teach something to me right now what would it be that makes you unique that allows you to teach something to me so jen let me ask you what do you have to teach me besides prince or sizing yes besides in case anybody caught that on the break we were prancercise ing yeah besides that may be embracing colors that you don't know maybe enjoy that would be the very obvious disconnect that we're having right now and who we are as people fundamentally and that's why I asked you that because we're very different people but you have a passionate of vibrance aboutyou that perhaps I don't have in the same way so I can learn from you and the sooner you understand what makes you unique you can take that and give that to other people and everybody benefits from you understanding what makes you you storytelling in confidence now I want to talk a little bit about something that I am terrified to talk to you about that I might cry about because I'm really scared so last year I went to india and I taught workshop so I was teaching photography to survivors of human trafficking and I did this workshop hoping that I would be able to teach story tally in confidence to a group of women who perhaps didn't have a lot of that in their life so I went to india and I started teaching this workshop where we did storyboards we brought in found materials from the streets we made storyboards we were able to take nothing trash and leaves and make it into a full concept for a photoshoot and they started to understand the importance of telling your own story I taught them how to use a camera so I got a camera for them I bought that just a cheap camera something that would be good enough for them to start the foundations on we brought that over and I use that to help teach we started doing self portraiture so I started saying to them ok um what I want you to do is take a picture of yourself telling whatever story it is you have inside of you so we sat down we wrote stories we went out shopping we let them buy anything that they wanted from a market that would be their costume who they felt they were on the inside to be able to tell this story so in this case this was one of the most beautiful story she said that she wanted to be a peacock so she bought this bird costume because she wanted to fly she wanted to be better than she was she wanted to move on move forward in her life this one was an extremely emotional self portrait because she felt that all her life people men in particular we're bringing her down we're pulling her away and she wanted to do a self portrait that showed that so we all put our hand print on her fabric that she bought and this was signifying that they're people in her life who are trying to attack her trying to bring her down but she's strong enough to overcome that and then they vote her off me so they did their self portrait and then they dressed me up and we got two d'oh this really fun photo session where they took my picture and they interpreted me as a teacher as an educator in a way that they thought made a lot of sense so the workshop ended I went home and I kind of felt this emptiness afterwards like what am I going to do now I mean how do you move forward from that and so I started talking to a couple of people one is my friend laura who runs this organization lost me and this organization teaches all sorts of workshops they bring instructors into kolkata india which is where I traveled tio they bring them in to try to teach all sorts of art forms to these survivors of human trafficking we go into shelter homes they teach workshops and then hopefully everybody involved can benefit so that's what I was doing there but I sat down and had this conversation with laura had this conversation with a really special person named david union who a lot of people know he runs an amazing convention called after dark that I get to go to in april and I'm so excited so I sat down with him and he said so you want to do more so why don't we just do a whole school why don't we just go back to india and do an entire photography school for these people for these women and shelter homes who are susceptible to human human trafficking who have been through the human trafficking system why don't we do that and see how big of an impact we can make he's a dreamer he's somebody who has big ideas and I said yes let's do it let's go into india let's make this school and let's make it self sustaining so we're creating a school that that's bad that's bigger than just a workshop bigger than just teaching a small group of people for one week and then leaving and never going back we want to create jobs for these women over there this is my passion I've been there I'm going again in just a couple of weeks I'll be back there teaching another workshop to a new group of students but at the same time I'm going to be preparing to start a school it's going to be a school in studio combined I'm not going to go into too much detail about it because we actually have a video about it and I'm showing you this video because I'm so sorry but um we're hoping to raise money um twenty five thousand dollars to start the school okay I hate asking for money so um we're starting a campaign and we're hoping to raise twenty five thousand dollars to start the school in india and I'm just going to play the video everyone has a story to tell it might be a little story or big story might be personal or maybe completely made up in your imagination but no matter what it is everybody has a story to tell the only problem is that not everybody has a way of telling their story last year I travelled to kolkata india and I worked with shelter homes for survivors of human trafficking when I was working with the group I was able to teach them photography but not just the technical aspects I worked with them on storytelling and held and put their vision out into the world it's all about self confidence and finding that inner voice and sharing that with whoever will listen when I was there I realized something very important and that was that there are a lot of people going through these shelter homes but they don't really have anywhere to go after by teaching photography to these students they're able to take that skill into the real world not only with their newfound confidence but technical skills that could help them with the career later down the road together with the amazing organization blossom who works in calcutta india along with dave jr we're putting together a school for survivors of human trafficking and for those who are susceptible to it our goal is simple to create a school that self sustaining something that will teach these people how to take pictures the mechanics of the camera as well a self confidence in storytelling but make that into something that could be a true career so this school we'll also have a studio attached to it and that studio is going to provide all of the income for the school that way it is self sustaining the way that the school works is simple it's a five month program and anyone who takes that five month program against a certificate at the end that says that they've completed the program and they understand how to work a camera and they're equipped to take other people's pictures if those same students decide to take the same program again they become teachers assistance this way they're learning the material all over again but they're also helping to facilitate that material to new students if those students complete two semesters of the school that means that they can now re enter the school as a teacher that means that they can get paid for photography so how are they getting paid well that's where this self sustaining school comes in there's going to be a studio attached to the school studio is going to be a really life high functioning studio creating portraiture for clients all of the income that's generated from there goes to pay the people working at the studio as well as the teachers who are in the school once a student completes their schooling they have the option to either become a teacher or go work in the studio that's expanding business human trafficking is a huge problem not only in india but everywhere around the world and this is just one small place where we can start to make a difference it's I'll be travelling back to india at the end of february and I'm going to be teaching that same workshop all over again to a new group of students it's butt while I'm there also be setting up the beginning stages of the school trying to set up all of those logistical details like where we going to rent space what is the studio goingto look like how are we going to get equipment and all of those important things that we have to consider we're asking for a donation of twenty five thousand dollars and that's to get the school up running to make sure that for the first year we have enough funds to keep it going that money's going into so many different things like paying rent on a building tohave school and the studio mind that's going into things like desks and computers and cameras and education it's going into things like rent for the studio space in school desks chairs computers cameras as well as travel expenses and a stipend for the educators who will be working in the school this's the amazing thing about having a community is that we're all like minded and we understand the power than image can have it's not just something that we share on the internet and we hope that other people enjoy it's something that comes from within it's something that is so incredibly powerful that I feel that everybody should have the opportunity to share that power from within to the whole world and make a difference in that way so I really hope that you'll join me in this project it means so much more to me than I can express right now and I know that if everybody in this amazing community just don't needed one dollar to this project we could fund it and that would make such a difference in so many people's lives from myself brooke shade in blossoming on david union we want to thank you so much for considering to donate this project and I hope that you have beautiful inspired day okay so I've calmed down now and I'm not going to cry anymore but I wanted to end the class like that and I was really nervous about it and I thought I was up all night last night thinking about it about how much I hate asking for things especially for money but this just felt right and so I wanted to put it out there and if it's something that you think that you might want to help with then I would be so incredibly great awful on dh if not that's okay too and I still hope that you have had a really really good class and that you feel inspired and that you're passionate and that you go out and create anything that you might want to create no matter what it is

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.