Fine Art Photography: The Complete Guide


Lesson Info

Plan The Composite Before Shooting

So, what we're doing here is a few different set ups. We've got three set ups here. One, is super, super simple, moving somebody to a new background. So, how are we going to photograph somebody on a seamless backdrop, and then maybe move them to a totally different location all together? That's one thing that we're gonna photograph. The other one is keeping somebody on the same backdrop, but, using is as it's own set. So we're gonna use this black backdrop, and we're going to have somebody with this veil, really beautiful and contrasty, and in the red fabric. So everything sort of works together to create a spectacle in and of itself, so that we're not focused on, oh, what is the background, what is the location? It's much more about creating something in that space exactly. And then, finally, we're going to actually photograph this box here, which looks ridiculous, and you might be thinking, why are we photographing this box? But, I really like to use objects in very interesting ways,...

and I thought, you know what, I wanna photograph this really beautiful, creepy, small room, but we don't have that here, 'cause we're in a fancy studio. And I don't have that at my house, and I don't have that typically. So I thought, why can't this box be a whole entire room? So we're just going to photograph this box like it's a big room, and later on we're going to put somebody inside this box. Not literally. I'm not gonna ask anyone to like, curl up and stuff their bodies in there, but that could be really cool as well, and we should definitely do that later. But, we're going to photograph somebody in this space, and I've got, kind of an interesting, weird set up. We're sort of photographing a whole bunch of miniature situations here, because I also have this cup, and... Any guesses on what this cup will end up being? I'm excited. I bet you can't guess. Okay, I'm not gonna tell you yet. You have to wait and see what it ends up being. Or, if we can even make it work. But we're going to try to make sure that everything works. So, how are we going to do that? One way is to, first of all, think of our concepts. So, first, if we think about cutting somebody off of a backdrop. What do we have to consider in order to do that? There are a couple of things; one being something really obvious, which is, let's just say, hair. So you've got all this hair. Maybe it's flowing all over the place, and it's luscious and beautiful, but the bad thing about that is that you have all of these individual hairs going in all different directions. So, if I were to photograph my hair, which is blond, on, let's say, a white wall, like this, I'm probably not going to stand out that well against this background, right? You're probably not gonna be able to see every single little hair against the white. 'Cause it just blends in too much. So, I would photograph myself against this black backdrop because that contrasts a lot more. So the first thing that I'm thinking of when I'm trying to figure out exactly how I'm going to choose my backdrop, choose my new backdrop, choose my subject, is what contrasts the most. So, I'm looking for hair in particular, and skin tone as well, that will contrast from the backdrop that I'm using. So, if I have myself as a subject, I'm gonna go to that black backdrop. It can be problematic because I'm wearing a black shirt, for example. So there are certain levels of difficulty that you have to prioritize. First one being hair, always hair. Because that's going to be the hardest thing to cut. Why is it hard to cut? Because it's, in a sense, transparent. It's not transparent, but there's so many little, not that you guys can see these little hairs that I'm pulling, but, there're so many little, tiny hairs to cut around that it's going to be the biggest mess. The next thing that I wanna think about is skin color. Because if skin is blending in with whatever the background is, that can be really hard to differentiate. And I don't know if you guys have ever, let's just say you're gonna cut my arm out, here, and the background is almost the same color as my skin, and you can't really see a clear definition between the two. It's really challenging to cut along... This sounds really gross. I'm gonna cut along the skin; no. With your brush in Photoshop; to cut along the skin, because then you're almost guessing at times as to where the skin stops, and where the background begins. And I don't know about you, but I've had a lot of squiggly arms in my photos from being like, oh, I cut in too much, oh, I can't tell what's what, and then I end up with squiggle arms or something like that in Photoshop. And it's really bad. But it's not as bad as hair. So that's my second consideration. And then my third is fabric. So what kind of wardrobe is the person wearing, and how does that contrast with the background? So, if I had either this white wall, or this black fabric as my option here, I'm definitely gonna choose the black because my hair and my skin contrast with this backdrop. So, is it a problem that my shirt does not contrast with the background? You might say yes. If you want this to be super easy for you guys, and you're like, I don't wanna cut that shirt off the background; well then you wouldn't use black. So, what would you use? That's the question. If you only have white and black, you probably wouldn't wanna go with white, you wouldn't wanna go with black, and that's why people use green screens, and blue screens, and things like that. Because they have a lot of poppy color. That's not a word, is it? Poppy color? Well, bright color. And that's really good, 'cause your hair isn't that color, except for you, Samantha. You are just, I'm sorry, you don't fit on any backdrop right now. You're wearing black, you have blue and purple hair, and light skin; I don't know. But, aside from that, normal situations. You know, if you have a bright green screen behind you, your hair will contrast, your skin will contrast, your clothes will contrast, if you wear the right thing. So, just always coming up with the contrasting background to the best of your ability. Let's say you're using bed sheets, you're at home, you're like, I don't have a bright green bed sheet. It's okay. So that's why we prioritize here. So, why is the fabric okay, but the skin is not? Here is my explanation for this. Clothing does not have a particular shape to it. You can make it any shape you want, in general. Unless it's super skin tight or something like that, this cloth could be out here, it could be in here. You never know where it's gonna lay. So the great thing is that if I'm, let's just say, this is my pose, okay? Yeah, I hit that really well. So this is my pose. I could take this fabric going along my leg here, and I could cut it just like that in Photoshop. Just totally cut off that whole bottom portion of the fabric. And you probably wouldn't know that I did that. And I base this on people generally not emailing me, telling me that they've noticed that I've done that. Even though, in almost every single picture I've ever cut somebody and put them on a new background, I have done that to the fabric. I've cut my own shape into the fabric, into the dresses, into the flow of the dress, and generally people don't notice these things. And I love that. So the only caveat here is fabric like this, that's see through. So if you have transparent fabric, you're going to need to think very carefully about the background that you're moving somebody onto. So, let's say that I've made my choice, and we're in this compositing situation where I have black or white, and I've already thought it through, and I thought, okay, my hair is blond, my skin is light, so I'm gonna use this black backdrop. But if I then add this to the mix... This is really disgusting you guys. Okay, so, I'm deciding to photograph myself in this, and I'm all like, oh this the best photo shoot, and then I suddenly realize, oh wait, I have to move myself to a different backdrop, but you can see everything happening through this fabric. The issue is what is going to be the new backdrop that you're choosing? So, if I'm photographing on this black and I decide, okay I wanna end up in like a field with light rays coming down behind me, and green grass, and rolling hills in the distance, is it going to work to have black showing through my transparent fabric? Probably not. You're going to have to either erase in between all of the more solid pieces of that fabric to try to make the green or the blue, or whatever is back there show through, or you're going to wanna choose a totally different backdrop all together. So my advice is this: either think first about where you're gonna move your subject to, and choose your background based on that. Or, choose something that's highly contrasting. So in this case, let's say I've made my choice, and I'm going to move myself and this fabric to a backdrop that is a stormy sky in the background. Well, then I would probably choose the gray, seamless backdrop because that's gray, and the sky will probably be gray. So I can actually blend the background of this fabric in with the background of the clouds, without having to do any cutting or major erasing or anything like that. There are two ways that I look at compositing with backdrops, and that is, am I completely and wholly cutting the person off of the backdrop, or am I trying to blend this person into a new backdrop? The difference is, cutting would be, literally, every single hair, every, you know, arm hair that may be sticking out. I'm trying to grab all those things and completely move that person. But the blending would be, okay, I'm on a gray backdrop, and I know that my new background is going to have a lot of gray in it, so instead of cutting the person out, I'm just gonna take that whole, entire picture of me on that gray backdrop, plop it into the other picture, and then blend those two together so that the grays from one image blend into the grays from the other image. So that's what I'm thinking about in terns of exactly how I'm going to choose my backdrop for this set up.

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. :)