Fine Art Photography: The Complete Guide


Lesson Info

Order the Images in Your Portfolio

So, I wanna talk then about how do you choose images for a portfolio. And this is going to be quite an interesting talk, because there are so many ways that you could order your images for a portfolio, there are so many ways that you could choose your images, and of course it all comes down to your personal preference. And the reason why I feel the need to say that is because I really believe that your instincts as an artist are the best thing that you have. And if you feel really strongly that a certain piece should be included in a portfolio, then you should probably follow that instinct, with some modifications. I have had a lot of instances where I've chosen a certain image for a portfolio, and I can totally defend that picture, and I know exactly why I chose it, and I'm really proud of it, where I've shown that same picture to other people and they'll say something like, "I totally understand why you chose this, "the concept is really strong, I get what you're trying "to do, but t...

echnically it's just not there yet, "so redo this picture with a better technique, "and then definitely put that in your portfolio." So always go with your gut. Always really ask yourself why do I feel compelled to put certain images in my portfolio. But aside from that, there are so many portfolios to have to put together. So there's like the website portfolio, where you have a website, you need images on your website, and that is your portfolio for your website. And I find that to be a really fun one to do, because you can change it whenever you want. It's not like committing to print, where, oh my gosh, I have this budget and I have to spend it on this many images, and how am I going to do this, it tends to be a lot easier online because you can swap things in and out. And I have this really cool website, not saying that the website is cool, but the method, where I actually have my website linked to my Flickr page, so when I update my Flickr, a certain folder in Flickr, it automatically updates my website, so I can constantly swap the location of the images and which images I want included and things like that, and I love doing that. So I highly recommend keeping that rolling a little bit, don't keep it too stagnant for too long. But then you have other types of portfolios, like if you're going to meet with a gallery you would probably wanna really curate those images just to fit that gallery. So that's something that we need to keep in mind in terms of what fits that particular gallery, what you wanna present in print, and what looks better in print versus digital too. I might wanna put images on my website that look really good as small, digital images, but I might print something totally different if it has different impact. And then, I also have one more type of portfolio, which I call the elevator pitch portfolio, which is where you're on an airplane, and you're sitting next to somebody, and they're like, "Hey, what do you do?" And then you have that awkward moment of being like, uh, what do I say without freaking this person out? And then, so then you pull up your phone, and you're like, "Oh, I'll just show you." And then you've got like 10 images that you show people. And of course, that can be whatever you want, you can switch it out whenever you want, but I tend to go like, full freak show when I do that, because I'm like, you know what? I don't know who this person is. I'm gonna show them the weirdest images I have and just see what they say, because this is a fun social experiment. So that one I don't think you need to curate so much, but it is good to keep in mind just to have it, something quick to show people. Maybe it'll be your party trick, who knows. So I've got all of my images on Flickr, and I always have, since day one. I woke up one morning, I said, "I'm gonna take a picture," and I took a picture and I put it on Flickr, and there it is, since that day. And this is my running portfolio. So if ever somebody comes to me, be it an art buyer, a gallery, an author, anybody looking for a certain image, if they've already looked at my website and they haven't quite found what they want, I will happily send them to my Flickr. I'm not ashamed of anything on there, it's my past, and if they wanna judge me for it, so be it, who cares. But it's really good to have one place where you can send somebody if they need to see your whole portfolio, and that has saved me so many times. There have been times, countless times, when authors, bands, galleries have come to me and said, "We need," you know, "I would love to feature your work "in some way, whatever it is, but we haven't quite found "the right set of images." I send them here and then they find them. And who am I to say, really, what the best images are? In one sense, yes, of course, the artist should know what their strong work is, but it's like they say, an image is good if somebody buys it. And I'm not really saying that's true, like from an artistic standpoint, but if somebody wants to buy something and you have it out there and you're willing to sell it, best to have somewhere to send them to get those images. But I have 719 photos on Flickr, and I have more than that on my desktop that I just, they weren't good enough to publish so I didn't put them on there. 719 photos. That is a lot of content to go through to pick, let's say your top 30 images. I mean, how do you even begin to do that, right? And I think that after some time you start to separate yourself from your portfolio. Maybe you have images from three years ago that you just don't feel connected to anymore, and that's a really easy way of curating your portfolio. The way that I do it, personally, is to look at about the last year, and I'll try to pick the majority of my portfolio images from the last year, maybe two years, or depending on how fast you work, and then I'll sort of say, okay, if it's older than two years, I have to really justify why that image is going to be in my portfolio. Maybe it's a standout image and it's just like, something that has defined your work, that has pushed you forward, that really means something to you, put it in, of course, but if you find that you're choosing images for your portfolio, let's say from your comprehensive Flickr site, and 80% of those images are from 10 years ago, maybe we need to be doing a little bit of work in the current times to try to figure out where you're going with your portfolio and what it means to you now instead of being a little bit outdated. So here's my website currently, and this has a smattering of images. I used to have 96 images on my website, and now I have 48, so I've cut that number in half recently. And I tend to feel like, if somebody can't find what they want out of almost 50 pictures, then maybe they need to see my entire portfolio, instead of being like, oh, I'll just add a few more, maybe that's what they want, oh, I'll add a few more. I'd rather just have a really nicely curated few images and then be able to send them somewhere else. So this is my website currently, and as you can see, I've got this purchase button, which is good, because if you have a gallery or anybody landing on your website, they see images, they also need to know where to get those images from. And it's just super important that you have that organized into your website so that it's really clear how they can do that. And then I have my Gallery tab, where I have my general portfolio, and then I have my Fourth Wall series, which is a totally separate series. You could argue that maybe it fits into my other work, but generally it doesn't really, so I have a separate section for that. So this is what you see if you click on that Fourth Wall tab, and I would generally recommend that you don't have a ton of text on a landing page. A landing page is where somebody lands on your website. And that's why, if I just back it up, this is the first thing that you see. Whatever is in that first position in my grid there, on the side, that's the image that pops up. And that's just a personal preference thing, it could be different for you, doesn't really matter, but as long as they see images first in general, that tends to be pretty good. But I've got my artist statement here, because this is not the first page that you land on on my website, and the series tends to be a little bit more, what's the right word, I wanted to say heady, but that's like a really terrible word, but whatever, we'll say heady. So then you can click on the individual images and they show up there. And this is just an example of how I organize my website, and yours could be totally different. So how do we choose images then? I wanted to do this with this photo a day challenge that I did in July, where every day for the month of July I created content. And I thought it would just be a lot easier, instead of trying to look at my 719 photos on Flickr, to talk about this one month of work that I did. So here I have images, and I wanted to share a little bit of what I was thinking about when I chose these pictures. So we've got technique, color, and quality, and those are the first things that I looked at when I went through that month of images, and I chose these images as my least favorite pictures from that month. And you might disagree, and you'll see more than that, I'll show you all of the images in just a second, but as I looked at all 31 pictures that I created in the month of July, I went through and I said, what technique stood out as being bad, what colors stood out as being not quite fitting with my portfolio, and then, do any of them have bad quality to them. And I went through, and I chose these images for several reasons. I chose this weird one with my eyeballs here because I felt like the technique was kind of off from how I would normally edit, from what I would normally do. It was a fun day, though. I wrapped mushrooms in string and then put them in my mouth, and it was this whole weird process of shooting, I'll have to tell you later, it's fine, but it was really weird, and it created a really, odd technique that I was using to edit that I never tried before, and I felt like it was really clunky and it wasn't very smooth, and so every time I look at that I remember having mushrooms wrapped in twine in my mouth, and I don't like this picture. Good story, right? And then we have this one with the tightrope, and that image I shot really early in the morning, I was just super early to my photo shoot, which tends to happen to me, and so I end up sitting in the dark for long periods of time waiting for the sun to come up, and I was just so bored that morning and I just wanted to shoot, and so I shot, and it wasn't bright enough outside, and the images were so dark that the quality was just really lacking. And I remember just struggling so much with banding in the picture, where you see the light change from tonality. I had issues with the blacks being actually black, they were sort of like a muddy blue color, and I just couldn't seem to get rid of that. So I had technique issues, and color, and quality in that one, and so for each of these I can find technical problems that, I can't include these in my portfolio. If I loved a concept here, I would have to redo this image to be able to include it. And then we have these images, which ended up being my favorite pictures from that month. And I think if I just go back and forth you can really see a difference between them, one, between the color palette, I think, of them, and two, between how integrated these subjects look into their scenes. I think that there's a definite difference here, especially in this one, of looking more cut and paste, especially in this one, and in all of them, let's just say, versus this, where they look a little bit more integrated. So these were my favorite images, and when I went through and looked I looked for technique, what worked out really well, what didn't work out really well, colors, are these color palettes moving in the direction that I'm interested in right now or not, and then concept as well. So not just quality, because you have to assume if you're choosing images for your portfolio, they had better be good quality images, but concept is, in my opinion, the most important thing, way above technique, way above colors and lighting and things like that. So I looked at these images for concept, and I asked myself, do these follow along a concept, train of thought, that I want my work to continue right now or not, and each of these did. So that's why I chose these images, but let's take a deeper look at the series as a whole. I chose these two images to put side by side because, I'm sure that you guys have experienced this, where you're trying to choose images for something, and you have these two pictures, and you're like, I just can't choose between these two pictures because, for whatever reason, you just love both of them and you can't see any clear reason why one should be better than the other, and that's how I felt with these pictures when I was choosing them. You might have an idea of which one you like more, let's take a poll, I love that there are four of you guys sitting here, because it's like, we can just split things evenly. Okay, so who likes the bird's nest one better? I knew it, split right down the middle, this is great. Okay, so I couldn't choose, and I went through and I asked myself, is the technique good here? Is there anything that would indicate that one is better than the other? And I couldn't really see that, and then I looked at colors, and I said, "Well, they're almost the same colors," so that didn't really have any impact. And then I asked myself about concept, and I really liked both of them very much. And I ended up giving the edge to this bird one over here for concept because I felt like there was just slightly more to read into with that picture than the other one, but I even told myself, you know what, maybe one day I'll just flip-flop them, and who knows, and maybe I'll use both, and it was really hard for me to choose. So I have this little checklist of items, for example, is the technique polished, is the concept uniquely presented, and I really wanna stress that, because concept, theme, idea, story, whatever you wanna call it, this is all something that people tell me over and over, "Oh, everything's been done before." And I don't really care if that's your opinion or not. I don't care if it has been done before, or if it hasn't been done before. What I genuinely care about is are you presenting this idea in a way that's unique to you or not. You don't want your portfolio to be super repetitive. So if your images aren't saying anything new, if they don't look very different, then maybe you don't want to have a really repetitive portfolio to show somebody. Because if you think about a gallery who's looking at your portfolio, they're just waiting to be wowed, right? They just want to see something that impresses them that's so different, that's so unique, so making sure that you're not repeating yourself. Are the images attention grabbing? You don't want to pick your most boring images to put in your portfolio, you wanna be able to really show yourself and do something incredible. And then, are they cohesive? And when I talk about cohesion, we're gonna look at this just now in just a moment, I don't necessarily just mean with color, just mean with lighting, just mean with concept, I mean in all of those ways, is there some flow to the images or not? And then cater to your audience. And this was a hard sentence for me to write. That's not a sentence, but yeah, you get what I mean. I mean, not that you should create for your audience, but if that you have large portfolio and you're choosing images for a certain person to look at, choose the right images for that person. If there's a gallery that specializes in, let's say sepia-toned pictures, then maybe you'll choose the sepia-toned pictures, instead of bright and colorful images that they're very unlikely to choose for their gallery. Versus let's say a book cover, which we already discussed a bit, you know, making sure that the image that you're gonna present to a publisher has head room for text, that it is croppable, for example, and all of those things.

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. :)