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Set Concept and Design Overview

Lesson 19 from: Fine Art Conceptual Photography from Shoot through Post-Processing

Bella Kotak, Pratik Naik

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Lesson Info

19. Set Concept and Design Overview


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

Set Concept and Design Overview

So this is like the fun fair! This is where we get to play! So everything that we talked about earlier today, this is where it all comes into action. I'm gonna talk to you guys about the vision, Pratik, you're gonna talk to us about the technical. The fun stuff. Oh god. (laughs) We both have different fun things, and this is why we complement each other. I'm gonna talk to you guys about what I had in mind for this shoot. So, the first thing is, over here on the left, you can see my, it's not mine, but it's a flower wall that I really wanted to bring to life here. And I actually communicated with Tanya, our artist, she's a set designer, that we were put in touch with and I communicated to her that I wanted a wall that was full of different types of greens because it's a set piece; if this was covered in flowers, we would have had a little bit of... We would have to shoot quite quickly 'cause, you know, flowers wilt and die very fast, so I wanted something that would stand the light,...

as well. So, stand some heat, stand some light, and just stand some wear and tear, essentially. So, the flower wall has different tones of green, different foliage, and then, I also told her that the vision I had in mind is of a, and it's inspired by the dress, entirely by the dress, it's a very unicorn, mermaid-vibed dress, with sequins, all iridescent tones. So I said, if we go with a base that is green, give me some texture so that I can play and push and pull colors in an interesting way, but also give me some neutral tones in there as well that can complement the dress. So that's why she's got some lighter colors in there, like this white stuff, as well. I also told her that because I quite like the mermaid vibes, it was a very broad, broad spectrum of what I asked of her and she really delivered, because I did say I've got these mermaid vibes in my head, if you can give me some plants that kind of replicate that kind of feeling of under the sea. Yeah, add some of that in there, why not? I would love to see what you do. So Tanya essentially just sent, we were going back and forth, and she just sent me ideas that she had, and we came up with this, and she did a fantastic job. So, as you can see, there's bits over here, which I asked to be left long, because something that I really like to do is have the model enveloped by the scene, like have her wrapped up in vines or something, just have it very much a part of the scene, and I thought I could that with this wall. Another thing, so, the inspiration began with the dress and grew from there, so the dress inspired the set, essentially, and it also inspired the make-up, it inspired how I picked my model as well. It inspired everything. It was really the spark for this whole idea. And, as it is, I love fairytales and fantasy, so we decided to bring a unicorn horn in as well and turned her into a unicorn, and so now, that's her character. But yeah, so we turned her to a unicorn, we put some plaits and braids in her hair. The make-up, as well, was inspired by the colors that were coming out in the dress, and we added some texture as well because I was feeling very under the sea vibes as well. So she's like a mernicorn. Right. (laughter) Is that the next Transformers movie? 'Cause I can't decide. She looks like a unicorn, but I'm feeling mermaid vibes Right, yeah. That's good. What ever you feel. Yeah, I mean, this is it, isn't it? This is art, we're creating art. We want it to be very much individual and unique, so yeah. This is how you really play anyway. It's kind of how it is. Yeah, it is. This is essentially how we play. You were watching me live, and this is exactly what I get up to (giggling) by myself. By yourself and a million friends, that's all. That's all. That's all. Okay. But this is the good thing because even when we go out and have a drive and sometimes we see scenes like this anyway. It's not like you have to craft these things because there are areas, you know, I have an area in my backyard with a fence, there are these overgrown little shrubs and stuff, so it's not uncommon to see us in nature, which lends to the idea that you can take lights outside if you want to, in case you like this look and see how it looks as well. That's right, 'cause it's always overgrowing things over walls and fences. You actually are right. I do like that fence in your garden. Yeah. But essentially, yeah, just keep your eyes open to it. You can probably see this in most places in Seattle, 'cause it rains so much here. As we were driving, there was so much foliage just hanging off the bridges and I loved it. So, yeah, it's pretty much that kind of thing that we recreated for a studio for you guys. So that's the overall vision. Now, do you wanna tell us a little bit about the technical? No, not really. (laughs) Okay, so one person I want to introduce you to is Ken. He is gonna be helping, and he's actually the mastermind behind a lot of the lighting setups and stuff as well, so he's gonna be helping me in talking about technical, adjusting things, and he's amazing, because studio lights is a whole other ball game, and it's a whole other monster. But the goal, what we're trying to do today, is start from scratch and play with our settings until we get something we like, we can tell you why we don't like it, why we do like it. You can interject and ask us why did you pick that certain setting or power of lighting, why this modifier, not that modifier, and we'll be tweaking as we go along before we get to our final vision and end up at our destination. Yeah, and what I really wanna show you guys is that if you are not familiar with studio lights and if you're somebody who's very comfortable in a natural light world, then I hope from this, you'll take away the fact that it's not difficult. Yep. It's really not tricky. It's not scary. It's very accessible. We were actually having a conversation that if you wanted to play with some lights, it's not difficult to rent, is it? No, exactly, and you can get any light as long as it's a light source that you can play with and modify 'cause at the end of the day, we're using just one light. We're not using 12 lights at upfront, we're not doing all of that. You can get much of what you need with one light. Yeah, or at least at start. I really believe that. Like, if you're gonna start out, start out with one light, add two when you're comfortable. But again, like with everything else, you grow organically and you just, yeah. Don't be scared to make mistakes. Exactly. Yeah. Hopefully we won't make a mistake today. I hope we do so they can learn exactly what not to do. If we make a mistake, we all learn together. And then the other thing that I want to mention is that like I reiterated before is we shot with a SLR on set, on location. We're doing medium format as a comparison purpose but doesn't mean that you need this, it's just to show you the differences between the two as well as having a lot of toys to play with so why not, right? Yeah, 'cause a lot of people don't have access to a medium format camera so it's very difficult to know the difference in quality between an SLR file and a medium format file. And as I've noticed, it definitely elevated my work shooting with a medium format. I started out, as you saw from the beginning of the class, I started out with with a point and shoot SLR. I still shoot with an SLR but when I have particular pieces that I know are going to be in galleries or are going to be printed big for future exhibitions, I'll reach out and get a medium format camera for that. Again, you can rent these as well. Just because the file's bigger so print beautifully. The information in that file, as you can see when we shoot and we pull out those images, will talk to you about the information that you can, that that file has that you can push in full colors, highlights and shadows. And then on top of that, the fact that there's just the quality to it that you can't really get with an SLR, DSLR camera but that's a personal preference that, again, is up to you but I wanted you guys to experience what a Phase One file looks like. And also like we mentioned, studios rent them a lot as well. People don't necessarily own them, they rent them for shoots and then they build their clients for the rental budget so it actually comes on no expense to the photographer normally. Yeah true. Just get the client to pay for it. Yeah, exactly. Get them to pay for everything, it's fine. There you go.

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