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Fine Art Photography

Lesson 13 of 38

The Art of Self-Portraiture

Brooke Shaden

Fine Art Photography

Brooke Shaden

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Lesson Info

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.


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:09:49
2 My Evolving Style Duration:18:00
3 Visual Examination Duration:24:41
4 Storytelling and Character Duration:32:40
5 Storytelling Q&A Duration:07:59
6 Critique Yourself Part 1 Duration:30:18
7 Critique Yourself Part 2 Duration:13:06
8 Identify the Problems Duration:24:10
9 Posing Overview and Q&A Duration:15:17
10 Ten Basic Poses Duration:35:30
11 Posing a Man Duration:10:25
12 Shoot: Posing Demo Duration:11:53
13 The Art of Self-Portraiture Duration:17:49
14 Posing Yourself Duration:24:27
15 Shoot: Self-Portraiture Demo Duration:17:18
  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Shoot: Indoor Scene Part 1 Duration:23:54
2 Shoot: Indoor Scene Part 2 Duration:21:13
3 Shoot: Butterfly Daydream Duration:30:05
4 Image Compositing Duration:37:59
5 Shoot: Using Props Duration:18:26
6 Editing Indoor Shoot Part 1 Duration:26:22
7 Editing Indoor Shoot Part 2 Duration:20:47
8 Editing Butterfly Shoot Duration:18:33
9 Editing Pool Shoot Duration:24:48
10 Shoot: Outside with Open Sky Duration:23:49
  Class Trailer
Now Playing
3 Shoot: Snow Scene Duration:26:36
4 Editing Outdoor Scene Duration:31:28
5 Editing Fairytale Scene Duration:26:32
6 Editing Snow Scene Duration:15:59
7 The Business of Fine Art Duration:26:03
10 Making Prints with Q&A Duration:33:50
11 Becoming You Duration:32:35
12 Taking Risks Duration:29:40
13 Bonus Video: Expand Your Space Duration:01:17

Lesson Info

The Art of Self-Portraiture

I thought it was a little bit weird when I decided to do self portrait ce for creative live because I know that a lot of people aren't into that and it's a very specific genre of photography people who want to do self portrait where that's actually applicable to what you do on an everyday basis but I really felt like since I've been doing self portraiture I compose models so much better because of it I know howto work with people because they know how to work with myself it could be really intimidating to do a self portrait and I know that and it's really hard to get into not just because we all have insecurities about the way that we look but just learning how to work the camera and the timing that you have tohave and pre visualize ing the image before you shoot it understanding what it's going to look like that's all really hard to dio I started doing it cause I was try I was way too scared to ask a model to do anything with me so I just went and shot myself it was a lot simpler at t...

he time it wasn't easy because I would have trouble with the ten second timer and understanding different things about it but it was a lot better for me than going and asking a stranger to model for me I didn't have anybody around I didn't really have that many friends still don't it's just life I guess but so I now I asked people to model me for me who are my friends I meet them I become friends with them they model and I know how to direct them because I do self portrait er they're not traditional models a lot of the time they're people who have very little modeling experience but I know how to tell them to do things because I've done it myself so I know what it feels like so we're going to talk about technique exactly how to work the camera what buttons you have to push and stuff like that how to focus different things like that that often come up with self portraiture and we're going to talk about posing of course so what we just did in the last segment we're going to be applying that to this how to pose yourself in that way directing models so directing yourself it could be difficult to direct yourself because you're trying to think about okay what's my exposure and what's in the background and then what what is a white changing and then you have to pose yourself which can be really hard and confidence how to get past that hurdle of being able to photograph yourself and being okay with how you look because it doesn't matter how you look somebody is going to have insecurities I mean I have photographed the thinnest models who then I take a picture in the photo shop and they say can you make my arm a little bit thinner and it makes me so sick because I'm like I really can't believe you just said that like like you're you're like twenty pounds thinner than I am and you want your arm thinned out but everybody feels that way about themselves that it never enough there's always something to change I want to look a little bit different this in that I mean I've had my own insecurities round like oh gosh my thighs look too big and my arms look too big and I have a double chin and I've had those moments in self portraiture I've looked at the picture and I thought oh my gosh I can't believe that I look like that in that picture but then you get past it and you start to think so what if I looked like that that's just how I look does it really matter is anybody really going to judge me so this is my first example of a self portrait this is not what I'm talking about when I say self portraiture this is an absurd picture this is a selfie I just learned that that was like a real thing that people say when they take a picture of themselves so this is not what we're going to be doing today we're not going to be holding the camera out snapping and hoping that it looks good not the point the point is to create something artistic and to learn from it these are examples of my self portrait it's these are examples again with the goose were who but these are examples where we've got me in a picture where I've been completely alone when taking the shots okay I take that back that bottom with the umbrella down there I wasn't completely alone I had somebody throwing water on me which was very hopeful for that picture but in general I'm too totally by myself I go out alone me and a tripod nothing else and I take a self portrait and this I can do because I'm shooting and even light on leon overcast days before the sun has come up after it's gone down there's nothing to worry about with setting up lights or not being able to carry my equipment it's very simple and I have the privacy of being able to do it by myself so I don't have everybody watching me try to pose and try to get it right and understanding what I've done wrong and judging me essentially but that's how we're going to do today I'm gonna let everybody judge me think what you want call me fat I don't care it's ok so we're going to be doing that today and I'm really excited about it so I think that it's good to put yourself out there and let other people know that you don't care how you look it's just it's just a thing that we need to get past to get to the real meat of the situation which is who you are as a person and how you can portray that in an image so why take a self portrait why would anybody want to do this some people are naturally drawn to it maybe you were a supermodel before and you're like I'm hot I'm gonna take a picture of myself generally that's not what happens though generally it's normal people who happened to want to express themselves in some way so toe learn how to direct a model number one reason why I suggest doing self portraiture to express yourself to be able to say this is who I am and I'm putting it out there in an image to become part of your imagination to say you know what I'm going to be a character in these stories that I come up with that is really empowering to be able to put yourself out there in that way and make yourself into somebody that you aren't that's what I do is self portraiture I don't usually take a picture of myself based on an emotion that I'm feeling and then express who I am I express who I am in my imagination in my daydreams that's what I love to understand what the model feels like not just how to direct the model but you actually need to know what you're putting them through so recently I photographed my model in a cess pool it was really gross and I was like you know what you're not getting in there alone I'm coming with you and we both waited in to the cess pool and I took her picture and afterwards she was like you know what that's really cool that you do what your model does because I don't want to be in here all by myself and she didn't want to be and I didn't want her to be in there all by herself so I do what my model does and after doing self portrait so I know what it takes to have to want to get in that water and to do something like that do something uncomfortable convenience I don't really like organizing shoots very much I don't like having to find all this whole team to go run out and do a shoot I like to be spur of the moment I've got an idea I've thought it through I'm ready I'm going to do it then I run out with me and my camera my tripod that's it we go do a picture together me and my camera my tripod shyness I was very shy when I started way too scared to ask people to model and this is a really good way to get around that because the more that you work with yourself the more confident you'll be when you do work with a model practice if you want to try something new and you're not sure how it's going to go or you have a new lighting set up and you don't want to ask a model because maybe the pictures won't turn out and you won't have anything to give them do it with yourself first see how it goes see what the lighting is like and if it's going to turn out well or not and then bring the model in okay now the issue of you don't like how you look who here loves the way that they look josh loves the way that he looks that's great okay perfect wonderful I'm glad oh he says no okay never mind just doesn't like the way it looks all right so now I think that everybody has insecurities about this and there's loving yourself and then there's really little loving every single physical bit of yourself it doesn't happen that often that's okay you don't have to love every bit of how you look you just have to love who you are and be able to get past that self portraiture is not about how you look in the least bit it's about understanding that you're more than what you look like and that's why I love self portrait ce I go out and I take a picture and I'm looking beyond what I look like in the picture it's not about oh my face looks weird there oh I really like this angle of myself it's not at all it's about saying this is not even me this is a character that I'm creating and I just happen to be playing that character so even you do self portraiture right do you feel the same way when you're creating a paper when I looked back at the picture when I'm editing I don't think of it as myself same here yeah it's easy to remove yourself if you can think of it in that way that's a character I'm the photographer I'm just editing this person's face and it's not me and I do that all the time I mean sometimes I forget that it's me in a picture I'll be looking at I'll be like oh yeah I modeled for that picture it's easy to do sometimes so once you find meaning beyond your looks then you're free to create your spirit so if you can get past how you look and you can say this is who I am inside and I'm going to create that in the picture it doesn't matter what you look like in that picture it just doesn't I have taken pictures where you know I've gotten like a weird angle on myself and I think that I look a little chunky or something like that and that's what I'm thinking to myself when I'm editing and they don't think I'm going to keep it that's how I look so what I'm not going to fix it I'm going to go with it and if that's how I look that's how I look and I try to push myself past that and I say you know what maybe I'll put this on the internet maybe somebody will say you look fat but probably nobody's going to say that because people don't care that much in general I don't hear negative feedback about the way that I look it's generally about why do you take self portrait or you really full of yourself that kind of thing if anything and I get it I understand that association with self portraiture but if you've done self portraiture you know that it's not about that it's about something far more than that so there are too many people willing to bring you down for you to be one of them I think that this is such a huge problem is that we judge ourselves so harshly and in judging ourselves we bring ourselves down more than anybody else and we become scared to share a picture so we think that other people will share those opinions of ourselves but in general they're not going to share those opinions the masses probably won't feel that way about it you feel that way because you're so close to the situation that you can't separate yourself from it the more confident you are the more confident others will be in you so if I put my picture out there and I originally thought my arm looked a little big and maybe I was scared to put that out there and I didn't want people to think that well if I put that out there and I say this is me and I love it then people aren't going to say you look fat they're just going to say oh that's really cool that you're confident enough to do that I know that people say that because that's what's happened with my self portraiture I put it out there and I just say this is me take it or leave it and if people leave it that's okay I don't care but hopefully they're able to jump on board everyone is too busy worrying about what they look like to care what you look like that's my favorite thing to think about right we're all so like into ourselves right like we're like oh gosh you know how do I look in the mirror today I'm gonna fix my hair I'm going to do this I'm going to do that but does anybody really care really I mean there are so few people in that category who are just out there to judge others there's so many more people who are wonderful and caring and kind and we need to focus on that put ourselves out there and be okay with what anybody has to say I would rather photograph somebody who's confident than somebody who's traditionally beautiful every single time no matter what this is something that I really believe in I don't care if the most gorgeous model in the world contacts me if they're not confident if they don't love themselves I don't care I don't want to photograph hm I will photograph anybody and I mean that I mean give me a challenge I will do it I don't mind I think that it's beautiful to photograph normal people people who aren't necessarily traditionally beautiful or who were signed to an agency or something like that so much more inspiring to be able to take somebody who's not used to posing or who hasn't had their picture taken and show them how amazing it can feel the longer you buy into beauty the longer our beauty standards will exist I think that this is a huge problem that we feed it's not just that you know the magazines put out a certain type of beauty it's the fact that we won't step up and take our own picture and say I'm beautiful the way that I am and I'm going to do this because I love my self so we stay in the shadows and we say I'm not going to take my own picture and I'm just going to look at these magazines and say yep that's whatever they say that's what it is but it's not what it is it's about what we feel what we're going to put out there in the world so I take my own picture I put it out there and I say this is my standard of beauty whatever I look like that's okay and that's what I want everybody to do to take your own picture put that out there and say I'm okay with how I look so by photographing your unique beauty you're saying no to a universal standard of what beauty is I think that that's the most powerful thing about self portraiture but don't expect it to be quick taking us off portrait it's a process it's something they have to learn it something they have to walk through and it's fun but it's also a little bit scary don't expect it to look great at least not the first two times when I was taking my picture to start I was so weirded out by it and I was like how do I look like that I can't even believe that me and there were so many moments where I was just like I can't believe that this is happening that I don't look the way that I thought that I looked but it's okay because you have full control over what you're doing you khun delete a picture if you don't like it whereas if somebody else is taking your picture you can't do that so that's really nice you khun light yourself how everyone you can get angles on yourself that you happen to like you have control over what you look like in that picture this is a great example of not looking very nice in the picture isn't it I thought it was a good one so I took this last time I was in seattle I think yeah I think it was then and I was in a very public space on this carousel horse with people watching in the windows and I had so so many bad pictures from the shoot and I think it's funny and I've gotten to the point where I just save all my bad pictures and I laugh with them periodically and I don't mind at all sharing a really ridiculous picture of myself because who cares I make that face sometimes I know it doesn't really matter if I share that with you do you think any less of me because I shared a stupid picture probably not I hope not I mean maybe you're just like oh what a weirdo I'm going to turn this off now but hopefully not all right now I took this picture last week and this is what I posted today and I was a little bit weirded out to post it because it's something really different for me I hadn't really done a picture like this before the biggest hurdle himself portraiture is getting past how we see ourselves and realizing that the mind is more powerful than the body so we are physical we are our bodies so much of what we do is how we interact with people how we look how we move all of that but it's more than that it's it's how we're envisioning ourselves it's our minds it's how we get past what we look like and try to put who we are into an image that's why I like self portraiture I tried to do that in this picture I did a shoot that was very personal to me it was really kind of scary to dio it was fun I was playing around a lot in this case I just had a thin wedding veil over my body and I was trying to play with those textures and I learned a lot when I was doing this picture and I learned because I wasn't scared to put myself out there and just do it okay the only real perfection is the one that we create for ourselves so if you think about that you really think about it you have control over what is perfect to you you're able to take a picture of yourself and say this will be my new standard of beauty this is what I'm going to judge myself against just me and myself alone that's it you don't have to look at the magazines you don't have to be scared to take a picture because it's all about you and you alone you're not comparing yourself to somebody else it's just you self portraiture is about feeling a connection with your character physically or emotionally so it's not so much about ok I looked great because that's what we call it selfie and so that's not what we're trying to do we're trying to do something different we're trying to create that connection were trying to become a character the moment you become a character that's the moment that you step outside of yourself and you're not just I'm not brook any more I'm whoever that characters that I'm creating maybe I'm ella and I'm that disney princess and that's me now that's great I'm not myself anymore I get into character I don't stay in character all day or anything but once I go to do that picture I understand who it is and I become it now this is a good example of how self portraiture is really helped me to pose other people so I did this shoot with myself in the red dress first and then because I had done that shoot I knew how to direct my sister when I went to photograph her very similar poses arm up arm down leaning in towards something very very similar but I was able to direct her because I knew what it felt like I knew how to tell her to get into that character so because of that I could say I need a lot of tension I told her teo archer back as much as she could issue leaned forward I had removed the dress at the same time I knew that would work on ly because I had also done it I move my dress at the same time everything worked together it became so much easier to direct her this picture this is one of the very first times that I used a model I modelled with my friend olivia here and what I had to do with sit down at that chair I put my head on the table and I had to feel what it was like to become that character afterwards I posed her and I remember telling her very specific things like okay hunch your shoulders but relax your back as much as you possibly can to really see sink into the table I told her to put her forehead on the table and not her chin that way you're creating that separation and there was still that arch going through even in the face so I was telling her all these different things to do when creating this image

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.



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.