Fine Art Photography: The Complete Guide


Lesson Info

Contract for Commissions

Alright, so this is a quick example of a shoot that I did earlier this year. And, I am perhaps the worst businessperson in the world because whenever I do shoots, I tend to say, "Okay, you're gonna get one image and one print and this is what we're gonna do and it's gonna be great." And then I get there, and I'm like, "Oh, you're so nice. Let me just take lots of pictures of you." And then I end up with tons of pictures, and then I'm there and like, okay, I've got six images of this lovely girl. Well, I might as well just give them to her because I already did them and so then, I just hand her over the images. Bad, bad Brooke. That's not good. You know, you should-- You deserve to make the money that you put into the shoot for your time and for your effort. So, that's really bad of me that I do that, but what I should do in perfect world, which I do do most of the time, but sometimes I fail, is that I have my shooting price and my one image licensing fee for $ and then I charge $500 fo...

r each additional image. And, there's a really interesting little trick here because I don't know about you guys, but do you ever get nervous to photograph somebody? Like, what if what they're expecting doesn't come out right? That's me every single time. So, I go into a shoot like this and she had requested, I believe, these three images with the hole in the ground, walking into the tree, and with the roots. And those were the three images that she didn't say you have to take them. She just said, "These are guidelines of what I would sort of like to see." And then, I thought of these other three images that we could do as well. And I went into this with six ideas and we shot six ideas. I ended up with six pictures. I showed her all six pictures. So, then, what she could have done if she wanted multiple prints or the high res files, she could've said to me, "Okay, well, we've got the one image. I'd like to purchase three more pictures at $500 a piece." And this is what has happened to me in many different situations. Let me just back up there. Where somebody has written to me, "I want five images." And they're like really certain about that. But then, I take a lot more than that and I show them these edited files and they're like, "Oh, I really like these other pictures." So, then, I end up making my shooting fee and the licensing fee plus $500 per additional image, which ends up making the experience a little bit more worth it sometimes depending on how much work has gone into it. One thing that I always do when I have a client for a commissioned portrait is I try to edit in as many layers as I can. And, I try to do this for any image of mine, I will say, so this isn't a different process. But if you're in the habit of editing where you're merging your layers down or you sort of do things to the layer directly, I would highly recommend splitting it out into as many layers as possible so that if a client ends up saying, "Oh, I don't like that lantern. Can you get rid of the lantern?" It's on a separate layer, just click the layer, it's gone. You know, simple things like that, so that you're not having to recreate the image from scratch, which I've done way too many times. So, speaking to your question, Tori, this is an exact example of that situation where I was on set, I was under the impression that I was going to create album art. And I should say, I was not mislead, okay? I knew that I was going to have to do some portraits. I just didn't realize quite how many portraits setups I was going to have to do. So, my portrait setup is like, stand in front of this window and I'll take your picture real quick and that's my portrait setup. But, about a week before we did this photo shoot, I got an email saying, "What lighting kit do you want?" And I'm like, "Oh, no." And then I realized we were going into a studio to shoot and I was like, uh uh. So, I was starting to freak out a little bit 'cause I don't know how to do that stuff. So, I remember, I got to this photo shoot and there was this lighting kit that I chose because it was a continuous light, so I didn't have to, like, strobe anything or anything like that. I got there and it's just like in a bag and I'm like, oh, man, usually lights aren't in bags when I get to a light and I don't know what to do. So, the caterer came in for the day and I was like, "Hey, do you know how to put together lights?" And this poor caterer, this like, teenager and I put together this light, like tried our hardest to do it and I used that light throughout the day as best I could. But, I was in this situation where I'm already there, I knew I was gonna have to do a portrait, something simple. I did not realize that they wanted artistic portraits. And, that's the type of situation where if I'm already in that situation, I'm super up front with these people. So, you know, I said, "I'm gonna give you the best images that I can and you're gonna have an album cover and you're gonna have artistic pictures and I don't know if I can create nice portraits of you, and I'll just say that right up front, so that they know that's where I'm coming from. The last thing that I want is for the whole experience to be over and I get home and I'm trying to give them these portraits and they're terrible and they know that they're terrible and everything is bad. And that's what I don't want because then, I feel like I've tricked them. So, I want to just try to get out of that tricking people scenario as best I can. So, what I try to do now is say very very quickly in the email process, "I don't shoot portraits. I don't do this. I don't do that. Just list the things that I don't do so that they know not to ask for those things. In this case, I was actually really glad that we did it because I ended up really stretching what I could do for the shoot. And I'm not saying these ended up being the best pictures that I took that day, but they're examples of portraits that I took of this beautiful woman who I wanted to give the best pictures I could to and this is what we came up with. So, working in the situation, I would say give as much as you can with realistic expectations as soon as you're able to give those expectations. (sighs) Otherwise, just say no, you know. Just say, that's not what I do. And this doesn't usually happen to me because I don't display images like this. You don't go to my website and see portraits of people on my website. So, the fact that people ask for them sometimes is just an indication that maybe one, I'm not putting clear enough information on my website. Maybe two, we're all human and they don't know what photographers can do and they would rather hire somebody who can do everything probably than someone who has to do this and another photographer that has to do that. So, I totally get where they're coming from and it's important to just remember that's where they're coming from. So, these were the images that I was contracted to do. It's the front album and the back of the album cover there. So, sort of like the front and back of her, just the same situation from both sides. And you can see I used my fancy light in this picture. Yeah, I did. It was great. And that ended up being really fun because it gave just a slightly different feel to the back of the image. And it was, it actually ended up being really serendipitous because as I was about to shoot this, only then was I like, (gasps) if this is supposed to be the back of that image and she's front lit from this one, I have to have back lighting on this picture and I was so glad that we had that giant honkin' light there that I was able to use for something. These images, as far as this experience went, I did not have this planned ahead of time, so I did not know that I would be creating these two pictures. And in my experience, what happens with really creative people on set is that your energy just meshes together and there's this synergy between you that you get excited to take their picture 'cause they're excited to have their picture taken. And that's what happened here where I had brought all these props to set that I did not think that I needed, but just in case 'cause I was really nervous for the shoot. And I went in and I said to her, "You know, we got the main pictures. Do you just wanna play for a little bit?" And we just, we went ahead and took a whole bunch of photos that they ended up purchasing. So, I ended up giving them I think it was seven or eight images that they requested right away that I knew I would have to produce. I ended up producing 32 images that day of this woman, some portraits, some more artistic, and then, I think, they ended up purchasing 15 or images all together. And so, that ended up being a much better payday because it's $500 per image for this photo shoot. So, just a good example of how being over prepared and shooting more than you need can really be a benefit in a commissioned portrait situation. These are just a couple more images that we did that day. Okay, so talking about the contract again. I just put it all out there, okay? I just wanna run through this one more time for commissioned portraits. You have to say who the person is that you're entering into this contract with, how many images they're expecting. Always be up front about that, and I would even say, add image descriptions as well. Now, things will evolve on set. Things will change. That's okay. But, at least if you have a contract describing the types of images, like, you might say, not just we're gonna produce five images, but we're gonna produce five fine art square format images, for example. This is going to save you from them being like, "I want portraits." Then, you can be like, "Well, our contract says that you get five fine art square format images," you know. So, just adding that into the contract could be really good, at least I think. So, that would be description of the images, alteration of the images. Can they alter them later, just like we talked about. What it's associated with, what the copyright is like for you or for them, because if you're doing a commissioned portrait, some people will assume that you are releasing your copyright, that you're creating it solely for them, and that's an option for you. If you wanna do it that way, do it that way and that's okay. It just depends on how you see this image and how you wanna be able to use it later. Good example of that is there are certain people that I have photographed that I have then used those images to sell in galleries later on, depending on our contract. So, totally depends on what you wanna do, how you want photo credit if at all. When I do a commissioned portrait for somebody, that is their image. I don't want photo credit. I don't care what they do with that picture. I will ask them if I can blog it usually or if it's, you know, a teaching reference or something like that, then I will do that. But, outside of that, I'm not generally looking to sell that image, or not looking to, you know, promote myself with that image exactly. So, just keeping that with them. Transfer of the license, if it's applicable here, you know, if it's a personal photo shoot, then generally not applicable. If it's not, then it is if it's with a publishing company or so on. Payment method, same as before. When are you getting that money, how are you getting that money, how you're delivering the images and your timeline for delivering those images, and damages. The one thing that I didn't mention is that I had said earlier April that when I have a commissioned contract, I will price out my additional images and edits. So, I have had, you know, perhaps the biggest headache professionally with having people ask for many many more edits. And you can understand why because they're having their photo taken, so they're gonna be like, "Oh, my arm is too fat. Oh, can you move my jaw in? Can you make this eye bigger?" Well, they wouldn't say that, but you know, things like that. And it becomes really daunting. So, I generally give people three edits for free, where they can come back to me and say change these things. Three times. And if they ask for more changes, if they have to email me more than three times, then I put a price on that and that price is often in the $500 dollar range to say if you want more edits than three, then you have to pay more money for that.

Creating a great photo for a client is one thing - but turning your passion and ideas into a series that is shared, shown, and sold is a whole different business. If you do it right, you’ll be shooting what you love all the time. Learn how to choose which ideas to create, how to turn your concept into a production, and steps to getting your work seen and even sold in Fine Art Photography: A Complete Guide with Award-Winning Photographer, Brooke Shaden.

This is an all-inclusive workshop that provides the tools you need to run a successful and creative business as a fine art photographer. You’ll learn creative exercises to find and develop your ideas, how to create an original narrative, how to produce your own photo series, post production techniques and skills for compositing and retouching, how to write about your work, ways to pitch to galleries and agents, and how to print your pieces so they look like art.

This workshop will take you on location with Brooke as she creates a photo series from scratch. She’ll walk through every step for her photo shoots including set design and location scouting, she’ll cover techniques in the field for capturing your artistic vision, post-production and compositing techniques, as well as printing and framing essentials.

She’ll round out this experience by discussing all of the details that will help make your career a success like licensing, commissions, artists statements, social media plans, gallery prep, and pricing your work.

This comprehensive course is a powerful look into the world of fine art photography led by one of the world’s most talented photographers, Brooke Shaden. Included with purchase is exclusive access to bonus material that gives exercises and downloads for all of the lessons.


Class Introduction
Storytelling & Ideas
Universal Symbols in Stories
Create Interactive Characters
The Story is in The Details
Giving Your Audience Feelings
Guided Daydream Exercise
Elements of Imagery
The Death Scenario
Associations with Objects
Three Writing Exercises
Connection Through Art
Break Through Imposter Syndrome
Layering Inspiration
Creating an Original Narrative
Analyze an Image
Translate Emotion into Images
Finding Parts in Images
Finding Your Target Audience
Where Do You Want Your Images to Live?
Create a Series That Targets Your Audience
Formatting Your Work
Additional Materials to Attract Clients
Which Social Media Platforms Will be Useful?
How to Make Money from Your Target Audience
Circle of Focus
The Pillars of Branding
Planning Your Photoshoot
Choose Every Element for The Series
Write a Descriptive Paragraph
Sketch Your Ideas
Choose Your Gear
How to Utilize Costumes, Props & Locations
What Tells a Story in a Series?
Set Design Overview
Color Theory
Lighting for the Scene
Props, Wardrobe & Time Period for Set Design
Subject Within the Scene
Set Design Arrangement
Fine Art Compositing
Plan The Composite Before Shooting
Checklist for Composite Shooting
Analyze Composite Mistakes
Shoot: Black Backdrop for White Clothing
Shoot: Black Backdrop for Color Clothing
Shoot: Black Backdrop for Accessories
Shoot: Miniature Scene
Editing Workflow Overview
Add Fabric to Make a Big Dress
Edit Details of Images
Add Smoke & Texture
Blend Multiple Images Into One Composite
Put Subject Into a Miniature Scenario
Location Scouting & Test Photoshoot
Self Portrait Test Shoots
Shoot for Edit
Shoot Extra Stock Images
Practice the Shoot
Introduction to Shooting Photo Series
Shoot: Vine Image
Shoot: Sand Image
Shoot: End Table Image
Shoot: Bed Image
Shoot: Wall Paper Image
Shoot: Chair Image
Shoot: Mirror Image
Shoot: Moss Image
Shoot: Tree Image
Shoot: Fish Tank Image
Shoot: Feather Image
View Photo Series for Cohesion & Advanced Compositing
Edit Multiple Images to Show Cohesion
Edit Images with Advanced Compositing
Decide How to Start the Composite
Organize Final Images
Choosing Images for Your Portfolio
Order the Images in Your Portfolio
Why do Some Images Sell More Than Others?
Analyze Student Portfolio Image Order
Framing, Sizing, Editioning & Pricing
Determine Sizes for Prints
How to Choose Paper
How to Choose Editions
Pricing Strategies
How to Present Your Images
Example Pricing Exercise
Print Examples
Licensing, Commissions & Contracts
How to Keep Licensing Organized
How to Prepare Files for Licensing
Pricing Your Licensed Images
Contract Terms for Licensing
Where to Sell Images
Commission Pricing Structure
Contract for Commissions
Questions for a Commission Shoot
Working with Galleries
Benefits of Galleries
Contracts for Galleries
How to Find Galleries
Choose Images to Show
Hanging the Images
Importance of Proofing Prints
Interview with Soren Christensen Gallery
Press Package Overview
Artist Statement for Your Series
Write Your 'About Me' Page
Importance of Your Headshot
Create a Leave Behind & Elevator Pitch
Writing For Fine Art
Define Your Writing Style
Find Your Genre
What Sets You Apart?
Write to Different Audiences
Write for Blogging
Speak About Your Work
Branding for Video
Clearly Define Video Talking Points
Types of Video Content
Interview Practice
Diversifying Social Media Content
Create an Intentional Social Media Persona
Monetize Your Social Media Presence
Social Media Posting Plan
Choose Networks to Use & Invest
Presentation of Final Images
Printing Your Series
How to Work With a Print Lab
Proofing Your Prints
Bad Vs. Good Prints
Find Confidence to Print
Why Critique?
Critiquing Your Own Portfolio
Critique of Brooke's Series
Critique of Student Series
Yours is a Story Worth Telling


  • I tuned in for most of Brooke's lessons in this course and watched some of them more than once as they were rebroadcast. First I want to say that Brooke is a very good instructor. Her easy-going, friendly, down-to-earth, somewhat quirky manner cannot be mistaken for unprofessional. She is very prepared, she speaks well (not a bunch of hemming and hawing), she is thoughtful, she is thorough, she is very relatable and at ease, and she is definitely professional in her presentation. I really thought when I first tuned in that it would mostly be background noise while I was at work, sound to keep me company. Not because I didn't like Brooke but I really didn't think I was into fine art photography nor did I think I cared about the business side of things much. Not now anyhow. I was really wrong. Brooke sparked a deep interest in me to delve into fine art photography, to consider creating images for myself, from my imagination. In fact, I realized that this was something I'd been thinking about for a couple of years though I hadn't put a name to it (the idea of creating pre-conceived images based on my own creative goals). I gleaned many little treasures from her about image sizes, working with printers, different types of paper, selling, interacting with galleries, and so much more. I may not need all of what she taught right now because I'm definitely headed in another direction at the moment, but she planted ideas and information in my head that I know will be useful at some point. Things I may not have thought of on my own, but that seed is in my head now so when the time comes, I'll know. I'd really like to buy her course but at the moment, with the holidays right around the corner, it's not in my personal budget. I'm grateful to have caught the live and rebroadcast lessons though, and her course is on my list to own. I think it's a great reference to be consulted over and over again, not watched once and forgotten. Kudos Brooke for really putting together an excellent course.
  • I'm retired now, but spent decades in the people and training business. Brooke is extraordinary! Even though this course is extremely well organized and she's left nothing unattended, she moves through it with friendly conversational manners and without a sense of it being stilted. It's as though we are all her friends, not students, as she shares her heart and passion with us. What a joy it is to listen to her. And what a clear, unambiguous command of her subject. Wow! She explains it with such ease using explanations and techniques that won't overwhelm artists just starting their portfolio or the Photoshop-squeamish among us; but despite its simplicity her resulting art is breathtaking and beyond original. I wish more of my professors at school were as engaging. This was by far my best buy at Creative Live yet.
  • What an amazing 20 days this is going to be! Brooke is so enthusiastic and has such a lovely manner. What a bargain for all of the information Brooke will be sharing with us. So excited. Thanks Brooke and Creative Live. :)