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Creative Motivation and Defining Your Story

Lesson 4 from: Fine Art Conceptual Photography from Shoot through Post-Processing

Bella Kotak, Pratik Naik

Creative Motivation and Defining Your Story

Lesson 4 from: Fine Art Conceptual Photography from Shoot through Post-Processing

Bella Kotak, Pratik Naik

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Lesson Info

4. Creative Motivation and Defining Your Story


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Artistic Vision and Inspiration


Personal Projects


Creative Motivation and Defining Your Story


Organizing Your Inspiration


Building A Character


Creating Wardrobe and Props


Location Scouting


Lesson Info

Creative Motivation and Defining Your Story

When it comes to creative motivation, you wanna look within and you also wanna start getting obsessed as well. So fine, I love magic. What do I love about it? And to start like... I guess what I was doing was just taking aboard everything. I was watching movies. And I still do. But really more analytically this time. So what do I love about this? Is it the colors? Is it the styling? Is it the hair? Like what is happening here? Why did they pick this actress? You know, what is it about her? What is about those features? And I began to realize it was the delicate features in the girl's face that I was naturally drawn to. That was interesting to me. I didn't realize I liked that until I started looking out for it. I started going to museums 'cause I love to paint. So I was like maybe museums might have something for me in terms of styling and stuff like that, 'cause you know, fairytales, royalty. Museums. So Pratik and I would go to museums in every city that we go to. Like, literally we ...

are not going to a museum, we're going to a gallery but we're just soaking in all kinds of information from other artists and that have come from before us. And looking at the choices they made and why. So again, why did they use these colors? And that's when I learned about hand posing. I noticed that a lot of portraits, have really considered hands because obviously they're painted. Those hands were crafted. That's why artists do hand studies. And they constantly studying hands at different angles. And so when it comes to the final painting, the hands are like this, or like this, of the women. And I noticed that by going to a museum. And now I bring that into my own work. Like okay, I wanna craft hands, too. So invest in yourself and your craft. And that means basically, go to workshops. Creative live, you're here, you're learning. Well done you. You're winning already. Yeah, anything you can do to just learn, learn, learn. And you don't always have to be learning about photography. Like investing in yourself. So if you're lacking in business knowledge, and business acumen, take a business class. Go online, see what they have on there. But yeah, you wanna make sure that you are making yourself as strong as possible. And that's why I'm also going to say self-care as well will help you perform better. And I noticed that when I was shooting weddings especially 'cause you know that that's active, you're on your feet all day. Hands up to wedding photographers. You're on your feet all day. You're running. You're lifting. And I realized that I wasn't strong. Also when you're assisting other photographers, you're lifting bags, you're moving lighting, you're very physical. And especially with me. I'm like a one woman, like, it's just me, the model most of time. And I'm hauling flowers. That's a workout in itself. So I started to like, go for jogs, go for walks. But I started to look after myself nutritionally, like, I can control that. So self-care, so just really start looking after your body. It's the only one you've got. And I've noticed now that my stamina is so much more. I can keep going a whole day, and still be able to get up the next day and not feel like I'm dead. Like I can shoot again so yeah. That's why I put it in there 'cause I'm like I've learned something and I wanna share that. So learn to communicate effectively especially when working with other people because your vision, especially if you're being selfish and it's your own. You wanna be able to share that. You wanna be able to communicate effectively to your model, to your team, to your makeup artist, everybody that, guys this is my photograph. We'll take one for you. But first let's take mine. Yeah. And have your vision on board. And to communicate that very well. Never stand in your own way. And I put this because I think I did this for the longest time and I think it's a normal thing to do. Like if you're an artist especially, I didn't have, my mom is very artistic. So I got it completely from her. But you will have people, who will stand in your way and they'll be like, are you sure you wanna do that? You should've been a doctor. You should've been a lawyer. You know, like, that happens. And even like half the time you're like, oh my God I should've been a doctor. Like you know just for the money, I should've been a banker. But, yeah, don't do that. No, no, no, commit to who you are. And really commit and honestly just be like, you know what, I'm gonna be the best, best donut photographer ever, you know. That's what you wanna be. Perseverance over perfection. And I'm putting this in there because I'm a perfectionist and I have really had to work hard on this. 'Cause if I'm not happy with a photo, I don't wanna share it. I'm like, no, no, no, no, no. And then I showed it to Pratik, and he's like, you better share this right now. I'm like it's mine, it's okay. And it's not great, it's not your best but that's okay, you know it's not your best. Share it because at the end of the day, when you're sharing, it's different to sharing it online, and having it in your portfolio. So I don't necessarily need that piece in my portfolio, but I have it online so that I can like, you know, A, have a record of it. B, use it as motivation to become better. So okay, not every picture is gonna be better than the last, but the intention was there. And that's basically what I wanted to say as well. Make each picture better than the last. And that's your intention. Like, it might not happen, and that's fine, too. But the intention should be there. That okay, what am I gonna learn from, in this photograph? Like what am I gonna apply in this photograph that I've learned from photos before this? And if you make a mistake, that's okay. That's fine. That's another lesson learned. So keep persevering. Keep sharing, even if it's not your best. Like, guys, you saw my Flickr. Like my earlier Flickr work, when I look at that now I'm like, ugh, no. But I leave it on, I leave it on there. And a lot of people delete their earlier work and I don't blame them because you know, you don't want clients really looking at that. I feel like now people have such short attention spans, they don't have the time to go all the way back unless they're really interested. And if they're really interested, then they can see that I was not that good at the beginning. And that's okay. 'Cause that just shows, that if I could do it, so can you. Like that's really why I leave it there. So when it comes to vision, I wanna talk about this quote which I really like. Which is, "Everybody looks at what I'm looking at but nobody sees what I see." And that's where you bring your subjective, artistic eye into play. So I shoot in places that are very like, you know, normal I would say like people will pass this bush all the time. And I walked past it one day and I was like, oh my God, this bush, you know. Who gets excited? I got excited because not everybody was seeing what I was seeing. And I was like, this is gonna make an amazing backdrop. Oh my God. So I called up Camille. Camille, are you free tonight? And so she came over and yeah, I dressed her up, and we took this photo, and yeah. This is pretty much my life. (laughing) And well known in the Oxford area. That girl by the side of the road. Speaking of which, I actually had a story, and I was shooting and this is a story and a lesson. So I was shooting by the side of the road one day. And I was shooting against these roses. And I set off a smoke bomb. It was raining, it was lightly drizzling because England. And this car pulled up next to us. And he was like, he beeped at me. And I was like, oh God, what have I done? So I came over and was like, hi. And he was like, hey that looks really interesting. What are you doing? And I was like, yeah I'm just taking a photo of a friend. And he's, I'm the... What did he say? I'm an art director for Saatchi and Saatchi in London. Do you have your card on you? Oh, I learned a lesson that day. I was like, no, no I don't have my card on me. Oh my God. Yeah and I was like, what's your name? And he's like, my name's Martin. And I was like, okay. And I was like, your full name. And he's like, no, no, give me your name. And I was like oh okay, my name's Bella Kotak. And he took out his phone. And he's like put my name. And I saw him type Kotak wrong. And I was like awww. And it was like, you wanna, and he's like okay, cool yeah, I'll find you yeah. I'm Martin at Saatchi and Saatchi. Just give me a call, okay? This looks amazing, this looks great. And then he's like, you know I drove past you and I came back and drove past again and I wanted to say hi. He's like, you should have your cards. (laughing) I should, I should. But I couldn't say anything because he's like, gotta go bye, and he went. I was like (scream). I didn't have my cards. All I remembered was Martin. And I'm pretty sure he wrote my name down wrong. So I spent like two days calling up Saatchi and Saatchi. I was like, hi can you put me through to Martin? And they're like, oh he's not here. And somebody else is like, no he just left for Shanghai. And I was like, oh no maybe that's a different Martin. Do you have another Martin? An art director? And turned out they were two different companies. But never found Martin until... Until this year. When Adam, a friend of ours, happened to be working with Martin, who now works at a different company. And a friend of ours was like, Bella, I'm working with this guy who said he saw a girl shooting in Oxford by the side of the road. Was that you? And he said it was with flowers. Pink roses. I was like, it was me, oh my God, it was me. So now I have my connection to Martin. So I sent him an email, still waiting. But fingers crossed. (laughing) I'll keep you guys updated on my Martin situation. But this happened. So this is me by the side of road. That was a total tangent, by the way, sorry about that. Oh, keep your cards on you at all times. Please learn from my mistakes. Have them everywhere. In your bags, in all your pockets, everywhere. Just like, put your cards under your hat. Have your business card there. You never know. Yeah so, I literally just shoot everywhere. By the side of the road. I actually think of this as a challenge. So I love finding beauty in unusual places, and I really love showing that off. I love it when someone's like, oh my God that's so opulent. Where did you shoot that? Was that like a paradise? And I was like, it was a bush. (laughing) Like, I freaking love that. So okay, so you wanna be your own inspiration. So that means channel your heart. Channel your pain, channel your strength. If you don't know what inspires you, literally just look within and that is, I know sometimes the hardest place because you have to really be vulnerable as well when you're doing that. You have to be like, well you know, you really need to look within. And use that. We are all stories. We are all books. We are all a thousand stories within us. Seriously we really are. I have stories from my childhood in Kenya. I can turn that into a series if I wanted to. You know. I have stories about things that I've seen on the side, like where like homeless people. It freaking breaks my heart. I can turn that into a series. And actually, you know, we've seen photographers who do. You know. Look into things that really move you and shoot from there because that work will be strong because it moves you and your strength will feed that work. And that will really connect with other people. 'Cause people, we look at pictures now and it's like, you know, a beautiful picture is a beautiful picture at the end of the day. But if there's no story to connect you to that beautiful picture, eh what is it? You just move on. So I honestly think that the Mona's are sharing my love for floral things and just committing to it and just being like, 'cause for me, it's birth. It's birth every year when spring comes 'round. It's birth. It's growth. It's new life. It's new opportunities to create again. It's all of these things and I just push it in my pictures. And I don't know. You probably get 10 percent or five percent of what I feel. But at least you're getting something. So that's what I'm trying to say. Like when you're like, oh how do you get inspired? I'm like, you know what? Literally just find something that moves you. And create from that place. That's where your main inspiration should be coming from. Everything else is outside sources. I honestly feel that feed it. So in my case, I love going to museums as you can see, but I also use this as inspiration. What do I like about it? The hair, the colors, the model. I love the shape of her eyes. I actually, do you know in Photoshop, I actually tweak eyes a little bit? Because I love being able to control the shape of them. So I tweak them a little bit. Sometimes I make them a little wider. Sometimes I like pull them out a little bit. So that, 'cause they're crafted here. And I like that so I want to craft my own. And of course, and I'm being selfish. So yeah. Colors. See the greens here. The green of the dress with the green of the nature. Like why did they use the same color? Like what's happening? Where's my eye being drawn? The color of the dress matches the color of the eyes. There's a connection there now. You know. The color of the hair. Where am I seeing the same color palette? Like what's happening? What am I drawn to in this photo? What am I drawn to here? The halo, I think that looks really cool. This headpiece. Sucker for headpieces. So clearly there we go. Pearls, I love pearls. Rings, all of these little details in my inspiration. I start pulling them apart. And just taking my own, spinning my own take on it. And that's how you should use inspirations. You suspend your own take. 'Cause at the end of day, you are an artist. Don't be copying somebody else. Because you have your own artistic appreciation for what is beautiful and what isn't. And so you just wanna channel that. So over here especially like with the pearls. I love them so much but it's like, what can I do with them? When I strung them on, I strung them on Camille in that first picture. She just had some pearls around her. But it's a bit boring and I remembered that. So now in my latest photo, which unfortunately I don't have a photo of over here, but my latest photo, I started putting pearls on faces. Like I stuck them on with eyelash glue. And I think that looks really cool 'cause I'm channeling my love of pearls and then I'm adding my own spin to it as well.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Practice PSD File - Sleeping Beauty
Pratik Naik Retouching Actions
The Royal Collection - Fine Art Actions
Practice PSD File - Location Shoot (~700mb)
Practice PSD File - In Studio Shoot (~1.3gb)

Ratings and Reviews


Great class and great instructors. Genuine and informative. Practical tips to create stunning images. Seeing them work through the process from shoot to finished image was great and I loved that they shared the thought processes behind the creative decisions. Definitely recommended!


Truly a remarkable duo. Bella is so down-to-earth and humble for a photographer with such a strong beautiful and ethereal voice. Her explanations of her process really inspired me--I was sketching concepts throughout the class. Pratik's process really opened my eyes to "smart" retouching--understanding what can be done in fewer brush strokes and slimmer PS files. All in all a really unique and inspiring class that makes me excited to realize my next conceptual shoot. They're also adorable together!

Mai Her

I've gained sooooo much from this I can't even contain my appreciation and excitement! So much inspiration and so much generous advice and tips to help me! Thank you so much Bella and Pratik and Creative Live!

Student Work