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Fine Art Photography: The Complete Guide

Lesson 40 of 138

Subject Within the Scene


Fine Art Photography: The Complete Guide

Lesson 40 of 138

Subject Within the Scene


Lesson Info

Subject Within the Scene

Then we have backgrounds. We have location, we have color, we have lighting, we have all of these elements, props that go in, wardrobe, but what about the background of an image? I know that you might be thinking, "But the background is the same thing as location." Yes and no, because it's how we choose to photograph our locations that give us the background. I can say with some certainty that these are not my best photos that I have ever taken, and it's because of the backgrounds in these pictures. I remember taking this image in the forest, and this was, like, week one of taking pictures, that I had just started taking photos, and I decided I was gonna go out, and get some balloons, and do this photo. I ended up with an image that was so confusing to look at. It just drove me nuts because I'm wearing a black dress, and the trees are all dark, and it's winter in Philadelphia, and it's just so crazy to look at. I ended up in this church in New Zealand, and I thought it was gonna be the...

best location to photograph in, and it just looked really confusing when I finally got my camera there. Could I have chosen something else? Yes. What if I had just set her down on this beautiful ornate floor and photographed from above? I would've been so much happier with this image than I am now. This was also from my first week of creating, at the train station. I can solidly say I did not know anything about taking pictures at that point, so I've got these distracting lights in the background, and this sign that says, "Danger." I wouldn't do this again. Just so you guys know, I'm very into safety now, in train stations, and I wouldn't do that. Then we have this picture, which, I actually loved the background. I had seen pictures of this. It was used in the Les Mis film. I was so excited. I was like (gasps) "I'm gonna shoot there, and it's gonna be wonderful." And I got there, and I loved it, and my thought was, "Okay, I'll put my subject "in the stream of light so that she stands out." My problem was, putting her in this nude leotard where she doesn't actually stand out at all. There's plenty of light going on in the picture, so the fact that I put her in it is, I guess, helpful, but not quite right for this background that's so confusing to look at. That's where I feel that I've gone drastically wrong. But in stark contrast, I visited this chateau in France. It was gorgeous, my favorite place that I've ever photographed, and there were plenty of rooms with a lot going on, with furniture, and mirrors, and fancy doors, and all sorts of stuff, and I just, I kept taking my camera in there, setting it up, and thinking, "There's so much going on in the background." It kept distracting me. I love simple backgrounds. It's just my favorite thing. So I'm going for a background where there's almost nothing in it, where it has enough character, it does tell a bit of a story, but really, the focus is not on the background at all. This was photographed in the same place, just in the room right next door to that, and again, making sure, there were about seven bathtubs in this place, and I could've chosen any of the bathtubs. Some had windows behind them, some had curtains. This was the only one that had a blank wall and nothing touching the tub, so I decided to use this one 'cause it was as simple as it could be. This background was very complicated, but in this case, I decided to edit my subjects into the scene so that I could light them as bright as I wanted to without having them blend into the background. So I could darken the background manually, brighten my subjects manually, and then there wouldn't be so much confusion with the subject and the background here. Here we have another one, which, I don't even think you can get any more simple than this, where I took my favorite tool, my brush tool, and I just painted the background out, which, I'm sure, had a house back there or something like that. I simply painted it out because I wanted to make sure my subject would be the thing that stands out in this image. Now, I'm not saying that you can't have complicated backgrounds, but simply to know if that's going to be your focus or not, and if not, consider, is it complicated for the right reasons, or is it complicated because that's just what it looks like, and you're there, and you're gonna shoot what's there? Always important to remember. Here's another image that is made very simple after being very complicated. That was the original image here, just a tree. (laughs) It looks like a cell phone picture even. I will admit, this is really embarrassing. Yeah, there's a car in the background. I actually have the next picture. The car's over here now, you know, really fast. Okay, so I decided to use this tree, and see what I could do. It was a challenge to myself to see if I could transform the space. I started to expand the tree outward. We've got some roots popping in here that I photographed from a different spot right around the same area. There I am, hello. And then there we go, no more car, isn't that great? What if I had left that, you guys? What if I had left that? It would've been a drastically different photo, right? This would not have been the same image, and even without this building, and the car in the background, it's still so confusing to look at. You almost have trouble seeing the separation between the tree and leaves in the background. So I painted it right out, and I started to refine the image, making sure that it is cohesive, making sure that the lighting works, that the wardrobe works, that the colors work, and just doing everything that I can to refine, refine, refine. There, we have the first picture that I'm very glad that you laughed at 'cause it's really bad, and I need to be kept in check, and then the final. You may think, "Why did you bother with that picture? "Why didn't you just try harder "and go get a better photo?" I agree, I have nothing to say, except I am lazy, but it worked, you know? The fact is that there's a lot that you can do with the location to really alter it to fit your needs. This is my very fast little speed edit here, but I like to start with nothing. You'll see, as this comes around again, that this was just a hill, like, a hump of dirt with grass on it. In case you didn't know what a hill was, that's what a hill is, okay? I decided to manipulate it to fit what I needed it to be. I wanted there to be this straight line going through the image, this straight, dark line, really bold, really graphic, and then I mimicked that with the smoke that I added in later. This location just didn't exist. It just didn't. I couldn't find something like this, so I used the background that I had, which was a normal little hill, and I shaped it to what I wanted it to be. I'm not saying, "Do that." I'm not necessarily saying, "Go out and composite any background you want," though it is really fun and very convenient. What I'm saying is, just really pay attention to shape, and form, and what a background looks like so that you can make it how you want it.

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.