Skip to main content

Fine Art Photography: The Complete Guide

Lesson 57 of 138

Self Portrait Test Shoots


Fine Art Photography: The Complete Guide

Lesson 57 of 138

Self Portrait Test Shoots


Lesson Info

Self Portrait Test Shoots

Whenever I have a photo shoot even if it's just myself, I like to do a test shoot ahead of time which is really smart for anybody if you want to come out with an image that works. So I'm doing a test shoot right now with myself as the model, but I won't be the model when I do the actually shooting in the space. The whole point of doing it this way is that I now know exactly what the light is going to be like, exactly what the conditions are like, what it feels like so that when I do put a model in the space, there are no surprises. Of course, surprises might pop up and that's just part of shooting, but I'm going to do as much as possible myself. I have this idea that if you're going to ask a model to do something, you should absolutely be willing to do the exact same thing, whether it's shooting naked in a forest or stepping barefoot into a barn, whatever it may be, so I wanna make sure that I take on the same role and I know what it feels like as a courtesy to my model but also so tha...

t we're not just sort of walking around not knowing what we're doing in the space. I wanna make sure that I get the model in, I get the model out and that she is quick and simple and done. So that's gonna be really important for me when I finally do get to do this photo shoot. So we're in this barn space right now and I want to hop in as the model, do a self-portrait, and figure out exactly what it's going to look like. So I've already taken some precautions here. One thing that I mentioned when we were walking through this space is how reflective certain things are in this barn. We had a lot of white going on in the background, and that white was going to reflect so much light that it was going to be very distracting in the final image. What I'm going for in this space, because it's so big, so natural, so beautiful, I wanna really draw attention to my subject in the foreground where the light is hitting naturally and then let the light totally fall off into the background of this image. That's going to be really helpful for me in editing so that I don't have to try to get rid of all the distracting elements in the background of the picture. So what we've done is, first we removed some shelving in this space that was white. That was reflecting a ton of light, it was really distracting. But the other thing that we did is just use black trash bags to cover up this space in the very back. So we had this weird old refrigerator type of thing and we covered up anything white back there. We didn't do a perfect job but it's okay, especially just for testing. We'll just make sure that there isn't anything distracting. But I have noticed that there is a door that's kind of open back here ourselves let's go back and see if we can close that and just block out all of the light. It's probably still going to glow and that's okay, just as long as we get as little light as possible. So I'm just closing the door in this really creepy way that this door closes (chuckling). And it may not stay, so if not, we'll just hook it somewhere. Somehow. Hold on, I'm hooking it. It's not hooking but it might stay. Oh, oh. Okay, if it doesn't stay, we're just gonna hope that it does. Oh, it stayed, okay. That should be a little bit better because it looks like we're just gonna have the outline of the door just glowing and that's totally fine. The one thing that I'm going to make sure of is that I don't have my subject in a space within this barn where she's going to be intersecting with something distracting in the background, because if you can imagine, if I'm standing here taking my picture and I've got a bright white thing in the background right behind my head or the glow of the door, that's gonna be a lot harder to get rid of later because it's intersecting with my head. I definitely don't want that, so I'm going to set up the self-portrait and my goal here is not to bring in the props yet or anything like that, it's just to get a sense of the lighting in this space, what the background looks like and how we can utilize this space to the best of my abilities to make sure that we're going to get the concept that we need, looking the way that we want it. So let's go ahead to my camera and I'm going to get set up for a self-portrait. Here I've got my camera set up. And I just have it pointing straight back, so I'm not really looking at the frame yet, I'm just simply setting it at a nice height. I don't know exactly the height that I'll be shooting at yet, it depends on the prop and the final height of the model. But this is my normal shooting range. I tend to be at about hip level. Part of that is because I'm almost always on a tripod and this is just a really easy height for me to set everything to. I'm quite short so the higher I go, the harder time I have actually looking through my camera and composing, and I generally don't like to shoot from my eye level because so many photographs are taken from that level, so this is just a nice compromise of height. It's also really good for compositing because if I end up needing to edit somebody into this room, first of all, this is a good medium height. It's not too tall, it's not too short. So that's gonna be really good for compositing because if I photograph somebody in a different space, as long as I'm in this range, she's probably going to fit into this room now. But the other good thing is that since I shoot so much of my stuff from this angle, as long as I can keep that consistent, then I have a lot of stock images already taken that will fit into this space. So that's going to be super helpful. So I'm just getting set up, I'm looking through my camera for the first time here, getting it set. And I do see the glow of the door in the background, I see the white legs of this weird refrigerator thing in the background but that's okay. I'm just going to position myself in a really smart way. Right now I am on a Sony A7R2. And I'm on a 50 millimeter lens. I tend to shoot almost everything on a 50 millimeter lens. But for this particular series I'm going to have to switch to a 25 for some of them because the rooms are so tight. But we don't have to do that here because we're in this giant, lovely barn. So I'm getting set up, making sure that I see exactly where my light is going to fall, making sure that I place my subject, which today is me, in this space, but I need something to focus on. So I'm just gonna move this chair in position so that I can focus and then I will actually jump into that space. I'm just guessing right now at where I think this should be relative to my camera. So I'm gonna go head and jt set it right there. We'll see how that works. It might be a little bit shifted to the left, but that's all right, just as long as it's generally in the right spot. And I'm going to sit down for this image. So this is a good height. I'm also getting my focus, that looks good. Now the chair is a little bit brighter than I will be cuz I'm wearing not white today, so as long as I keep that in mind with my exposure, I should be pretty good. I'm at F4 right now and I want to have a lot of depth of field in this image, I want it to be really shallow. So I'm going to turn my F stop to F2, and see if we can't get some really good blur in the background. I also want a really dark background and since I always shoot underexposed, I'm just gonna go ahead and underexpose this just slightly. See how that goes. So I'm at 1/100th of a second right now. I'm gonna move that until I think we have a really nice dark background but the subject will be properly lit. So I've moved that to 1/800th of a second, which is a really big jump but it actually works quite nicely for this set up because we have so much natural light coming in. So I'm all set. ISO 250 is my final setting. And I'm going to go ahead and move the chair, sit down, do my test shot. I've got my remote. So we'll just move the chair out of the way. Then I'm keeping in mind exactly where it was, which was about here. I'm going to sit down, I don't need to do anything special here, I'm just testing the light, just seeing how it looks, not getting in any particular pose. And point and click. Okay. Got it. And then we'll see how that looks with the light and with the background in particular. And it's looking really nice. I think that I have a good exposure here, and this is not an exposure that maybe everyone would choose, it's quite underexposed, but I much prefer to shoot under because that's what it's going to end up looking like in the end anyways with the way that I edit. So we have an underexposed image, I can hardly see any of the background. if I just look through, it's very, very blurry, so that was a complete success, and I think that I'm good to go for this barn space in terms of knowing where I might place my subject, what I need to do in the background, how I'm going to set my camera and maybe even a height if that works for their props tomorrow. We're in this tiny little room right now and this is where we're going to shoot our fish tank photo that I'm super excited about and it was actually a last minute addition to my series that I thought would just sort of bring home this idea of being trapped in a space and really integrating somebody into that space. So we've got a fish tank. And it is a huge fish tank as you can see. This is where it ended up getting set down, but I'm probably going to move it for the actual photo, but I don't know yet because I haven't tested the light in this space. What you can probably see in this little tiny room is that there's one little tiny window and with that window, we have to use the entirety of the light coming in there to light this scene, which I hope, I think will actually look really good if we can get the model in the right position, if we can get the fish tank in the right position, and if the room looks okay with this lighting. All of this is fine to just say verbally, with my eyeballs, oh it looks really good, I'm sure it'll turn out great. But the reality is that this could be an entire mess of a photo shoot if the lighting just has too many shadows to really see enough detail. Something that I might consider doing in a space like this where the room is so incredibly dark except for right where the light is hitting is to take a couple of different exposures in this room. So I would consider photographing the model in the fish tank, wherever the light is hitting beautifully, and then keeping my camera locked down on a tripod and taking several other exposures to lighten up the dark areas of the room, which means that whatever used to be perfectly exposed will now be really bright and over exposed, but the dark areas will be much brighter. That's one thing that I'm considering when it comes to this type of shooting situation, which is a little bit different from how I normally shoot. So I'm definitely going to do a self-portrait here and try to figure out exactly where the light is hitting at what level and where I can put this fish tank finally in the shot. The only thing that I can't test right now exactly is the reflection of the fish tank, and will the window be reflected in the glass, too much or too little, and how that looks. So I'm going to see how it looks in this position just in case that's where we need to keep it but I will be keeping in mind when I do the actual photo shoot that the glass may be too reflected and we might have to make some lighting adjustments based on that, so I'm going to get my camera set up and of course, I was using 1/800th of a second earlier because it was so bright in that barn, and here I'm going to have to take that down considerably, probably below 1/100th of a second. I'm not as concerned about the shutter speed because we're not moving around in this picture. If I have a model in a fish tank, well there isn't much she can do in there, she's kind of trapped, so I can go much lower with my shutter speed and not worry a lot about blur, so I would much rather go that direction than having a really kicked up ISO and then potentially deal with a lot of grain in all of these shadow areas. So I'm going to set my camera and then I'll come right back here and pose for a self-portrait with this light. I ended up at 1/80th of a second and I think that's going to be pretty good. I think that my general happy range of a shutter speed is anywhere from about 1/60th to anything above that. I tend to not worry so much about motion blur, simply because of the style of shooting that I'm generally doing, which is a little bit creepier, a little bit darker, and having that blur often adds a little bit of authenticity or believability to the photo, because someone really would be in motion in certain situations. But in here I'm not worried cuz I'm just not going to move. Now I'm going to shoot myself on the ground because that's the height of the fish tank, so I'm not too worried about what's happening up here in the ceiling area because I know that I'm not gonna get my model up there unless we have some magical way of hoisting the fish tank to the ceiling which I can assure you, we do not have that ability. So instead, I'm just going to get down to the height of the fish tank. I focused right back here on this wooden board and I was able to use that as my focal point because it stood out so much in this image. So I'm going to just crouch down right here. And I'm going to... Take my portrait. And I'm going to see how this light looks with the settings that I'm using. So now I notice something else which is that my skin is reflecting a ton of light but the fish tank is actually almost invisible back here. And part of that is because it's not directly in the line of light like I am. I am exactly level with the window in this room, which means that I can feel light on my face, even when I crouch down, I might not be directly in line with the light but I'm so much brighter than this dark fish tank that it's a little bit hard to tell how this is going to come out. So I'm gonna go back over there and I'm just going to shoot this scene without me in it so that I'm not reflecting light in the scene, and I'm gonna see what my exposure needs to be for this fish tank alone without anybody in the scene, that way I have a base line for my model coming in, I'll know generally the exposure that I need for the fish tank to be able to see the detail in this glass and in the blacks. So I'm going to set my camera just to have a little bit more leverage in that exposure and see if we can make it a little bit brighter. I took it down to 1/30th of a second, so really, really low shutter speed. Again, I'm okay with that in this room. I could bump my ISO up, which is at 250 right now, so it's still pretty low and I wouldn't mind going up to even 2000 with my ISO, but the lower the better. So knowing that this is my threshold, that I need to be at F2 with 1/30th of a second for my shutter speed, an ISO 250 to be able to see this fish tank clearly gives me a base line. I know that if there's just a fish tank in this room, that's what my settings would be. Knowing that we're going to add water and that there will be a semi-reflective human in this fish tank, that lets me know that I'm probably going to have to take a couple of exposures so that I make sure that i get all of the detail possible. This happens all the time when I come into a space and I just, I just don't have the ability to get every single thing exposed that I need to be exposed. So I will often take multiple exposures of the same scene, lock down on a tripod, absolutely nothing is changing with that, and then, once I have my multiple exposures, I can simply blend in wherever I see there's some detail missing from a different shot. So that's probably what I'm going to have to do in here, and it's really good to have tested that ahead of time, because you definitely don't wanna have a fish tank that is I'm sure hundreds of pounds being moved all over the place when you could just have it done ahead of time. This is the final space that I'm going to shoot in, this room and then one right next to us here. So I wanted to do one final test in this room and the test really in this space, since this is a much more normal space than I'm used to shooting in, is really to test two things. One is the lighting right now. So you can see how there is all this light coming in the room, all of these spots of bright highlights. This is not ideal. But if I get here to do the final shoot and for whatever reason, the schedule gets away from us and I have to shoot in this space with this light, I wanna be prepared and have a plan as to how I'm going to deal with that. I'm not used to shooting in this direct light. I will avoid it at all costs. But if that is what happens then that's what happens and I have to be able to get through that shoot. The important thing to remember about planning your photo shoot is that sometimes you have clients with you, sometimes you have people relying on you to get something done on a schedule, and that's schedule isn't always of your own making. So tomorrow when I get here I'm going to pretend that this entire photo shoot is for a client, that I absolutely have to produce images from each set up that I do. And that kind of mentality is gonna be so helpful when you're thinking about how could I make this work? It forces you to have back up plans upon back up plans. So I'm going to photograph myself in this scene, but the other thing that I'm going to be thinking of aside from the light is the color temperature in here. There is a lot of yellow on the walls and on the floor and it's casting a bit of a yellow glow onto myself and other people, and I wanna make sure that I know how to deal with that or at least that it looks manageable when I get a shot in my camera. So I'm going to go ahead and set up this self-portrait really quickly and see what I can do about these spots of light. In reality what I'm going to have to do most likely is to hop into this room, choose an angle for my camera and photograph this floor at a time when the light isn't coming and hitting the floor. That way I'll be able to edit in a clean floor that doesn't have any light on it later, should I have to shoot in this space in the light. The only other thing that I'll have to do is avoid the pockets of light. Of course I wouldn't wanna put my models straight in that light that I don't want to have. So I'm gonna go ahead and do a self-portrait in this space, see what the color temperature looks like and see if I can avoid the light. I still have my settings from the previous room, so I'm going to go ahead and keep myself at F2 because I love the blue that's happening in here, but I'm just taking my shutter speed back up and I'm going to about 320. And this looks pretty good except for that floor. I'm currently focused on the beam in the center of the room so I'm going to go stand there. And let's get this set up. I'll do like a 1950s cool person scene. I don't know if my head was in that. So we'll see. I'm also wearing yellow which isn't very good for casting light, but in actuality, I think that it looks pretty nice at least in that space of the room. There is more yellow if I shoot directly on the wall, but I'm not too worried about it. I think that knowing Photoshop and knowing what can be done, we can probably separate the skin tones and neutralize them should we need to from the wall and the background. So I think that this space looks good. The light is way too bright on the floor, but I will come in separately, photograph the floor without the light and then I'll be able to add that in later, so I'm not too worried about that anymore. I'm just going to flip around and photograph the next room which I don't anticipate any problems with, I just wanna see how big the subject looks along this wall which isn't actually a very tall wall so I simply wanna make sure that it looks believable as a room and aside from that, we'll be pretty good. So let's take a look at this room now. Just flipping my camera around. I'm gonna shoot through the doorway. I'm gonna go ahead and turn my camera so that I am shooting portrait style. Right through the doorway. It's much darker in that room so I'm just adjusting my shutter speed to about 160. Let's see if my focus is against the wall. Perfect. And I'll go stand against the wall. It looks okay but I do notice that when I'm standing in there, my head is actually really close to the ceiling, which is very unusual for me, I'm usually nowhere near a ceiling. So knowing that, I'm going to make sure that I photograph this wall blank with nothing on it, without a subject, without any props so that later on in Photoshop I can extend the wall upward and that way, I will have extra space to be able to create more head room in that room. So it was really good to go around and get a couple of self-portraits, just see what the light is like, what the color temperature is like, how we can manipulate those things. So I'm feeling pretty good about putting my model in these spaces.

Class Description

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.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. Storytelling & Ideas
  3. Universal Symbols in Stories
  4. Create Interactive Characters
  5. The Story is in The Details
  6. Giving Your Audience Feelings
  7. Guided Daydream Exercise
  8. Elements of Imagery
  9. The Death Scenario
  10. Associations with Objects
  11. Three Writing Exercises
  12. Connection Through Art
  13. Break Through Imposter Syndrome
  14. Layering Inspiration
  15. Creating an Original Narrative
  16. Analyze an Image
  17. Translate Emotion into Images
  18. Finding Parts in Images
  19. Finding Your Target Audience
  20. Where Do You Want Your Images to Live?
  21. Create a Series That Targets Your Audience
  22. Formatting Your Work
  23. Additional Materials to Attract Clients
  24. Which Social Media Platforms Will be Useful?
  25. How to Make Money from Your Target Audience
  26. Circle of Focus
  27. The Pillars of Branding
  28. Planning Your Photoshoot
  29. Choose Every Element for The Series
  30. Write a Descriptive Paragraph
  31. Sketch Your Ideas
  32. Choose Your Gear
  33. How to Utilize Costumes, Props & Locations
  34. What Tells a Story in a Series?
  35. Set Design Overview
  36. Color Theory
  37. Lighting for the Scene
  38. Props, Wardrobe & Time Period for Set Design
  39. Locations
  40. Subject Within the Scene
  41. Set Design Arrangement
  42. Fine Art Compositing
  43. Plan The Composite Before Shooting
  44. Checklist for Composite Shooting
  45. Analyze Composite Mistakes
  46. Shoot: Black Backdrop for White Clothing
  47. Shoot: Black Backdrop for Color Clothing
  48. Shoot: Black Backdrop for Accessories
  49. Shoot: Miniature Scene
  50. Editing Workflow Overview
  51. Add Fabric to Make a Big Dress
  52. Edit Details of Images
  53. Add Smoke & Texture
  54. Blend Multiple Images Into One Composite
  55. Put Subject Into a Miniature Scenario
  56. Location Scouting & Test Photoshoot
  57. Self Portrait Test Shoots
  58. Shoot for Edit
  59. Shoot Extra Stock Images
  60. Practice the Shoot
  61. Introduction to Shooting Photo Series
  62. Shoot: Vine Image
  63. Shoot: Sand Image
  64. Shoot: End Table Image
  65. Shoot: Bed Image
  66. Shoot: Wall Paper Image
  67. Shoot: Chair Image
  68. Shoot: Mirror Image
  69. Shoot: Moss Image
  70. Shoot: Tree Image
  71. Shoot: Fish Tank Image
  72. Shoot: Feather Image
  73. View Photo Series for Cohesion & Advanced Compositing
  74. Edit Multiple Images to Show Cohesion
  75. Edit Images with Advanced Compositing
  76. Decide How to Start the Composite
  77. Organize Final Images
  78. Choosing Images for Your Portfolio
  79. Order the Images in Your Portfolio
  80. Why do Some Images Sell More Than Others?
  81. Analyze Student Portfolio Image Order
  82. Framing, Sizing, Editioning & Pricing
  83. Determine Sizes for Prints
  84. How to Choose Paper
  85. How to Choose Editions
  86. Pricing Strategies
  87. How to Present Your Images
  88. Example Pricing Exercise
  89. Print Examples
  90. Licensing, Commissions & Contracts
  91. How to Keep Licensing Organized
  92. How to Prepare Files for Licensing
  93. Pricing Your Licensed Images
  94. Contract Terms for Licensing
  95. Where to Sell Images
  96. Commission Pricing Structure
  97. Contract for Commissions
  98. Questions for a Commission Shoot
  99. Working with Galleries
  100. Benefits of Galleries
  101. Contracts for Galleries
  102. How to Find Galleries
  103. Choose Images to Show
  104. Hanging the Images
  105. Importance of Proofing Prints
  106. Interview with Soren Christensen Gallery
  107. Press Package Overview
  108. Artist Statement for Your Series
  109. Write Your 'About Me' Page
  110. Importance of Your Headshot
  111. Create a Leave Behind & Elevator Pitch
  112. Writing For Fine Art
  113. Define Your Writing Style
  114. Find Your Genre
  115. What Sets You Apart?
  116. Write to Different Audiences
  117. Write for Blogging
  118. Speak About Your Work
  119. Branding for Video
  120. Clearly Define Video Talking Points
  121. Types of Video Content
  122. Interview Practice
  123. Diversifying Social Media Content
  124. Create an Intentional Social Media Persona
  125. Monetize Your Social Media Presence
  126. Social Media Posting Plan
  127. Choose Networks to Use & Invest
  128. Presentation of Final Images
  129. Printing Your Series
  130. How to Work With a Print Lab
  131. Proofing Your Prints
  132. Bad Vs. Good Prints
  133. Find Confidence to Print
  134. Why Critique?
  135. Critiquing Your Own Portfolio
  136. Critique of Brooke's Series
  137. Critique of Student Series
  138. Yours is a Story Worth Telling


April S.

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.

Ron Landis

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.

Angel Ricci

When the title says comprehensive, it means comprehensive! I loved every part of this course. It's inspirational, motivating, and insightful towards creating art work. Even if you are not necessarily considering a fine art specialty, the concepts discussed in this course are applicable to many areas! I find this super useful as a videographer and photographer and look to apply all of these exercises and concepts for my personal and business work moving forward. It is lengthy, but you will not regret a single minute. Brooke Shaden is an amazing artist and educator. I recommend keeping up with her work, presentations, and any future courses that may come in the future.