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Fine Art Photography

Lesson 32 of 38

The Business of Fine Art

Brooke Shaden

Fine Art Photography

Brooke Shaden

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Lesson Info

32. 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.

Lesson Info

The Business of Fine Art

okay now like I said business is my favorite thing in the whole wide world and so we're going to talk about a lot of different things to do with my business and business in general one of the things that were going to do that um really excited about is we're going to be writing artist statements and that probably makes a whole bunch of people cringe and say I'm not writing an artist statement you could do that I'm not going to do that but I want to talk about that a lot because an artist statement is something that allows you to focus who you are as an artist and put that out there two other people in a really intelligent way so we're going to be doing that we're gonna be talking about prince our portfolios how to manage a portfolio how to print deport folio we're going to be talking a little bit about social media the fact that in my opinion in order to be successful on social media you have to be sincere we're going to talk about contracts a little bit we're going to talk about copyr...

ighting and pricing and branding and all of these things that I am both good and bad at so there's some things on this list that I am very bad at and that's why I want to talk about them because they're things that have come back to bite me in the butt and that's really really bad so I want to make sure that doesn't happen to you now first things first my business is based on sincerity to me there is nothing more important than having a business that is exactly who you are one thousand per cent and you have to be confident to put that out there so I really do not enjoy following people online who are not one hundred percent sincere I see people a lot who say okay this is this is my images and if q by you know such and such for the month of february I'll give you fifty percent off involve a bill and it's great to do stuff like that to offer discounts and have different ways of putting your brand out there in your product but there's a certain way of doing it that staying true to who you are and so whenever I'm doing anything on the internet in person speaking to you right now I want to let you know how incredibly sincere I'm being to you whether you think what I'm saying is true or not whether you agree with me whether you think this is valuable information or not this is just me this is what I've been through everything that I can think of to tell you about business that's what I'm about to tell you so when building your brand you have to understand what makes you unique and that's how I started my business I said what in the world is separating me from everybody else at the time on flicker I started on flicker I started putting my images up there not knowing that it was something that could ever make me money I didn't realize that it was a profession I knew that there were people like in sears who took pictures at portrait studios but I didn't understand anything beyond that like when I had my senior photos done when I was in high school I went into the school I still don't know white backdrop and then I left and it was just like any other picture and I didn't know that that was a business that you could d'oh so when I went into this I started doing whatever I wanted to dio I was just creating because I thought it was really fun to create so I thought why not take weird pictures or creepy pictures put them out there defend them if I need to be passionate about it but then I started realizing this could be something more than that because people were saying this is different this is different and they were saying that and I was saying oh is that a good thing or a bad thing and the moment I realized that's a good thing I started turning that into my brand sometimes what makes you unique is something that you're working towards so it's not always that right now you know exactly what that thing is that's going to make you you what that thing is it's going to make people flock to you in the future to buy your product or visit your website or whatever it is it might be something that you haven't found yet so if you don't know what makes you unique you're taking pictures you don't know what makes them stand out maybe you have a website nothing makes that stand out think about all of the areas where you could inject yourself into what you d'oh I fully believe that everybody has a story to tell everybody has a very unique something to give to the world and it could be different it might not be through your images that might be through your personality but no matter what it is you have something to give to somebody else and we're going to talk a little bit about that later because I'm going to force you to tell me what that is so it'll be nice and fun oh jon voight guard giving me the sad eyes uh huh I like it uh so for me and my business what makes me unique I don't know if I can answer that one hundred percent because you might be thinking it's something totally different from what I think but in my business I try to be two different things I try to be dark and mysterious and creepy with my photos but quite the opposite with my personality so I have these two conflicting things and that is me so that's what I put out there as my unique thing it might not be unique maybe there are tons of people who are you know light and whimsical and love telling stories and then there are lots of people who love dark art and create creepy pictures and stuff like that maybe there are lots of people like that but if you own it and you say this is who I am and this is why I do it then that's what makes you unique it might not be the individual elements but how you present that to the world so who do I want to be simple question going back to day one asking questions like this about ourselves what is it that I want to do with my life I want to be passionate that is one of those key words for me that I know that I feel passion every single day I wake up and if I feel like I want to go take a picture I'm going to try everything that I can to go take a picture that day because I'm passionate about it I know what I have a passion for I have a passion for storytelling I have a passion for sharing forgiving from interacting with people on a really personal level and that's why all of my students yesterday we all spent like two hours just sitting in a room together and talking and you know asking questions and being with one another because that's what I'm passionate about um passionate about those connections I want to be sincere that's something that if I wasn't going to be sincere I would just stop what I'm doing if if I was put in a situation where I had to do something that I didn't feel comfortable with then there's no point in doing that I talked a little bit about this yesterday with my students when we're in that room for a couple hours we're talking about sponsorships and I forget josh maybe ask that saying you know how do you do sponsorships and what is it like with your sponsors and basically I said that I've lost sponsors before because I won't go out there and say you know what buy this product because bob bob or whatever the reason might be I find back a product that's great I'm going to talk about it but I'm not going to do it to get something for free I want to be sincere in my dealings with people how I approach different situations and if I feel like I'm doing something solely for the benefit of somebody else where they're just trying to get ahead in the world when I can't do it I can't allow myself to do that so there are a lot of different things in my life that have been governed by sincerity I want to be challenging and I mean challenging to you like I want to go shooting with you and challenge you to do something different I want to go shooting with myself and I want to challenge myself to do something different I want to make you think about things that maybe you wouldn't have thought before that's my goal in teaching and educating that's why I love it so much because I know that I can create something in you that maybe you might not have explored before I want to be whimsical so I think that's quite obvious today based on my outfit which I just saw a picture of and I probably should have looked in the mirror before I left the hotel room this morning but in any case I want to be whimsical because that's those are the kinds of characters that I love I want to be able to look back at my life and say I lived my life just like the characters in my imagination I want to be inspiring that's the biggest one where I kind of like cower and say you know that's the hard thing to say I want to be inspiring because I mean who I don't know who could never know that but but that's something that I hope to be because I inspire myself on a regular basis so if I conspire some the house then that would really make my life totally worth living no matter what so what do I want my pictures toe look like so now we're going out of that personality you know who you are but what do you want your pictures to look like so I want them to be dark and beautiful at the same time going back to these key words that we've been using to describe what we dio I wanted pictures to be dark and beautiful I want them to be square format so just basically putting it out there what I want my pictures toe look like natural I would like to have very natural looking images nothing forced no really bright neon colors things like that timeless something very very important to me I don't want to put anything in an image that's going to signify a modern time period fairy tail and this one is a bit of a crossover with who I want to be personally all right now how could my business utilize those traits so how can I take all of those keywords not just for my pictures but for who I am personally and put that into my business you have to know what you're good at and then you have to use it so if you understand all of those things that make you unique those are the things that you're going to try to hone and be really good at once you're good at those things you take those and you put them into your business so what is my business like my business is weird pictures dark pictures trying to be beautiful all these different keywords fairytale square format yes that's my photography in a nutshell but it's more than that because I don't just say I'm a photographer here are my pictures and then I shut up after that I am much more than that I am my whole entire brand so I am somebody who's very passionate I'm very inspired so I'm going to say yes thes air my dark pictures I try to make them beautiful and I want you to know how passionate I am about those pictures and that's what sells the product it's not just saying here's the product I hope you like it it's saying here's the product and I'm going to tell you exactly why I love it's so much a person with talent must have a place to showcase that talent very much like the subject on this completely black background so if we have no place to put her she has no contacts there's no reason for her to be there but if we put her in that scene that we set for her a couple days ago then she has a place to be she has a scene to work with and just the same as in business if you understand where you're going if you understand where you want to showcase that talent of yours than other people will buy it there will be an environment for you to work in so you have to understand where you're selling tio you have a product that is a business every business has a product whether you want to think of it like that or not I hate thinking of it like that it's not like every single day I wake up and I'm like I'm going to go create my product don't do that I mean that would be crazy because then that wouldn't be artistic but I create what I love and then I have the foresight to understand that that could be sold as a product and I don't mean to talk about money I hate talking about these things like that in terms of products and money and you know providing for your future but that's what has to happen if you want to be a full time artist then you need to know how to make money from your art it's just a fact of life once you understand your talent then you have to find a place for it to thrive and only then will you see your true potential so just like this subject in this image here she is she's finally sitting in her place where she fits perfectly and there we can see what she has the potential to be and because she has that foundation that scene built all around her we understand this character a little bit better same with us once we have a place to go to share what we dio to speak passionately about what we do we have that foundation for ourselves to thrive so it's all about understanding what is it that makes unique how can you take that and put that into a bigger foundation of something that allows you to expand and grow and become the artist that you want to be it isn't enough to know your talent you have to share it in the right way so if you have a town let's say that you're like you know what I am the most awesome pet photographer ever right shelly you're like I'm awesome I know I'd take good photos she's not saying that really I'm just putting words in her mouth but she is so she's a great pet photographer and she knows it but what are you going to do with that if you are on facebook and all you ever do is post your pet photography to your personal facebook page and you're not really marketing it to anybody than you just have a talent and that's never going to go anywhere that might not provide for you and so that's what we don't want to have happen we want to find the right market for our content we want to be able to say oh you know what okay I'm a fine art photographer so maybe I go on facebook and I joined a fine art photography group on facebook maybe I am a fine art photographer so I approached galleries and I'm selling that to somebody who would buy it or who I could help with that information build a community and create a product the's are the two things that I think created successful business so you understand what your product is you understand that you have something that you can sell to somebody else but you also have to build a community around that product in many different ways maybe you have a studio and so you put that out there I have a studio aiken take portrait sessions things like that you build that community and you let people know what it is you're offering it's less about where you share your pictures and were about how you share your pictures so a lot of people say what's the best website to be sharing my photos where am I going to get the most business from I don't believe in that I don't think that there is one place for you to be to make money off of your art I mean you could join red bubble and you could so your pictures on there does that mean anyone's going to buy them not necessarily you might not have a community on there so it's all about where you want to be where do you want to show your pictures and how can you find the people who are already there and bring them to you you have to be passionate sincere and honest so if you are not being there things if you could be on any social networking site you khun b on facebook and you could be posting your work and you can pay to have that work you know slide of the top of the news feed or whatever on facebook but you could do that as much as you want and if you're not being passionate and sincere and honest and what you're doing that doesn't matter doesn't matter if you're paying all that money and everybody seeing what you d'oh if they don't like how you're presenting it to them everyone can see through it so if you are putting on an act that is not true to who you are I think that's the most obvious thing when it comes to business I have followed many photographers where I love their work but I just don't like how they present it I don't think that it's very since seared to who they probably are on the inside why they create the work that's what I'm drawn to so I follow people who I don't even care for their art that much that doesn't inspire me on a regular basis but there dr inspires me and their passion inspires me so I would much rather get on the internet and see somebody who's saying I just did the most fun shoot that I've ever done and I'm so happy with how it turned out I might not like how it turned out but if you like how it turned out that I want to know and I want to follow that so joining social networking sites what are we going to do on the social networking sites to build our experience to build that community joining groups and speaking honestly within those groups so when I started flicker I started joining different groups and within those groups I would just put my opinion out there in a really nice and sincere and passionate way I would put my myself out there and I would respond to different comment threads and stuff like that and I would say here's my two cents about this topic and try to say it in the nicest way possible I would put my pictures out there into groups and I would say these are my pictures and I'm really passionate about them and I hope that you likethe um simple is that I would get in touch with friends people who I didn't know but who could maybe help in the future people who I just wanted to know because I thought that they were awesome and it's amazing the tie hey the people that you could meet in that situation you never know how they're going to help you so I would I would message people who I thought ho wow that's an amazing photographer then never write back to me and almost always I would get a response and it might not be that we're lifelong friends but it might be that that person has given me invaluable advice and so now I have that to take with me and I can take that into the future and grow with it helping people so just being in these groups interacting on social media and offering help to people is such an important thing to dio I have a friend bonnie of two birds photography and she's incredible woman and she is constantly putting herself out there and she's joining groups on facebook and she's saying to other people I'll help you if you want help and I will message you with this and I could do this for you and I am just blown away by how many people's lives she's touched just by doing that just by reaching out to other people do you know her yeah you see you're like I know bonnie because everybody does you know what there's a community built around her because she puts herself out there organize a meet up this could be a really awesome thing to do I was just talking teo kate over here by the behind the scenes about that this morning where she was saying that she moved to seattle she didn't know anybody she started organizing meet ups and now she has friends because of it people who she can keep in contact with maybe people who will help her business in the future and that's what I have found my organized meet ups sometimes just big group shoots to split a location sometimes just a fun shooting a park and I keep in touch with those people and we help each other joining contests sometimes I do this through sites like flicker sometimes I do it more professionally I guess you could say but not very often s o I joined contest that puts my workout there lets other people know what I'm doing I'm not doing it to win a contest I'm doing it just to interact with people standing by your beliefs the really important thing that I think on social media is being able to put yourself out there and then say this is what I say stand for and I stand behind that and I think that the people who get lost a little bit or those who will cater to other people on social media so you might join a group and maybe really want to contribute something but you think that maybe your opinion isn't valued there so you just don't say anything that is completely the wrong way to go about it because the people who get noticed or the people who speak up interact with your community the way that the best version of yourself would treat other people this has been an incredibly valuable life lesson that I have learned I started out on flicker joining different groups and I would get into these heated debates with people like bubble of law I think this this business and I would get really excited about them but at the same time I'd get really nervous and people tend to get a little bit more bold online and they would be in person so you say things maybe regret them later and so I try to go into every interaction understanding that you know what maybe I'm having a bad day maybe I am not the best me that I can be right now but if I can go online and I can take that one moment before I say anything and I can say brooke stop it I don't have a bad day anymore take it away from yourself for a moment and just be a better person to whoever you're about to interact with that's going to make such a difference in your business your business is split in half in my opinion so it's the product that you sell and then how you sell it the personality that you're using to sell that product so we all have a product we all have a personality but do we mix the two and how does one motivate the other all right so my product how do I sell it what type of photography do you love to dio basic questions so I like to do fine art photography but how do I want to see that presented I like to create prince I know that about myself I like to showing galleries so in the fine art photographer and I present that in the form of prince how do you want to spend your time I mean literally what do you want to dio I know for a fact that I don't take a lot of commissions because I don't want to spend my time meeting new people in that way I love interacting with people I love education I love going out shooting for fun but I don't like the pressure of having to create for somebody else so I don't spend my time doing that where does my work fit in so no I don't mean like where does your work fit in in terms of where you're going to put it on the internet I mean literally if you have something that you want to be doing you want to make prince where do you sell those prints where can you put that work to further whatever it is you're trying to dio so what kind of photography do you love to do and why I love fine art photography because I enjoy personal work and I get anxious when I work with other people so I know that and that this is something that you could probably argue with me and say well then you should push past your fear and just do it but if I already know what I love and I'm really confident in what I love then why not just do it life is too short to not be happy to think that you have to do something else you know what I'm antisocial I admit it if I have a choice to sit at home or go to a party I'm going to sit at home one hundred percent of the time I know because I've only been to one party in my whole life so I know that I'm not going to go to the party because it makes me uncomfortable I don't like putting myself out there in that way so how do you want to see that work presented you have an image what do you want to do with it do you want to see that in book form do you want to see that in print form do you want to see that hanging on a stranger's wall because you created a portrait for somebody else all those things are valid answers it doesn't really matter how you want to see it presented as long as you understand why you want to see it presented in that way so for me I like to see prince books album art magazines but covers things like that so I've created a book of my photography my ramblings and things like that because I love writing and I love putting pictures in print I create prince because I love seeing my pictures and print and that's one way to sell them album art is an amazingly wonderful thing to be able to d'oh because I don't to do anything I create the picture and then somebody buys the file so things like this are all really practical things that I'm saying okay I have a product what is that products specifically going to be how can I translate that how do you want to spend your time so spending your time now this is such a big deal to me and this is why I don't do those commission shoots so I want to spend time taking pictures literally I don't want to spend all my time retouching I don't want to spend all of my time and client meetings I don't want to spend all of my time traveling I know these things about myself I want to take pictures I want to edit my pictures I want to write I want to be a writer I'm going to spend as much time as possible writing stories or blog's I love teaching that is one of my biggest passions in life so I want to spend my time trying my best to educate people in my own little way that I try to dio I want to spend my time inspiring other people again whether that works or not is a whole other story but that's what I would like to spend my time doing and I want to spend my time alone just really funny but I do it's a literal answer to this question if I could choose I mean I don't mean totally alone I mean like with my cats in my husband but I don't want to spend my time and big groups of people I'm would much rather have small interactions with people where I can create lasting relationships so am I going to go to a party no I would much rather sit on skype with somebody and have a really nice conversation and go out and interact with fifty people so where does my work fit in galeries album are book covers internet movie posters all of these different things and you have to ask yourself that question where does your work fit in what is it that you do and where you going to put that work so for galleries how do I know from ready for a gallery show and these are questions that you have to ask first off no matter what kind of work you d'oh not specifically how do I know if I'm ready for a gallery show but specifically how do I know if I am ready to put my work where it needs to go so in my case it's how do I know if I'm ready for a gallery show and I'm going to take you through that just a little bit you have to have a cohesive portfolio so this goes for most photography I would say in order to move forward in your business you have to have a portfolio that fits together that works together in some way that you can sell that to somebody else um I recommend having at least twenty images in your portfolio I recommend more but twenty I believe is the minimum that's if I had twenty solid images that I really liked I would send those to a gallery I would feel good about that a siri's when working with the gallery it is extremely important tohave a photo siri's if you have a photo siri's that means that you have something very cohesive that you can present then they know that they can sell multiple prints together an artist's statement I believe that any type of photographer should have an artist statement and that's why I want to focus on that during the segment artist statements are so important that it allows you to clear your mind and understand what you do in a really cohesive way you have to have prince and you have to know how to addition those prints so there are some things that I talked about in my first class on creative life that I won't go super in depth with but I will touch on again just for a refresher like prince and additions your preferred paper how do you want to print your work what paper are you going to use how are you going to choose that paper and a cv which is really just your resume and an artist resume so you need to be able to write down previous shows that you've had maybe publications that you've been in awards education things like that

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.