Fine Art Photography: The Complete Guide


Lesson Info

What Tells a Story in a Series?

So what tells a story? What exactly makes something work? What makes a story come together and makes it believable? And I believe that one of those things is interactivity. How is the subject interacting within the scene? In my opinion, that's one of the biggest things that story benefits from is having your subject truly integrated into the scene that they're in. So if you're going to have a character in an image, how can you make sure that character is believable within there? So what I try to do with my images is to make my subjects interact with their surroundings in some way. Maybe it's like this. She's just laying there, but she's not looking at the camera and that's really important to me that she doesn't look at the camera, that she truly believes that she is there in that space and that that space is a real space that she exists in. That's the distinction for me. And then believability. So what makes it believable? Yes, interactivity does, of course, because if the subject is ...

interacting. But what else makes something believable? One thing you could say is time period. Making sure the wardrobe matches the location, matches the subject, all of that stuff works together. Another thing that you could say is the lighting looks smooth and clean and consistent. Another thing might be, I don't know, what can you guys think of? Story elements, like okay time period, wardrobe, colors. Making sure that the colors look like they belong in that scene and in that space that they're in. And then we have emersion. So making sure that your viewer feels emersed in the scene. Making sure that whoever is looking at this piece feels like they're in the right place in relation to the image, where they're supposed to be. Not physically like okay I'm standing here and looking at this picture, but what head space am I supposed to be in when I'm looking at this picture? Don't point with your middle finger, friends. That one. So what am I supposed to feel here? What am I supposed to think about this picture. What am I supposed to know about the artist who created this picture? And how do those answers immerse me into this image that I'm creating? Are you capturing an important moment? Are you capturing something about that scene, the character, the location, the wardrobe, something that's important? Really, what is the moment that you feel most compelled to capture? Let's say we had a model standing right here and she's wearing a tutu, she's a ballerina. What would be important for you to capture? Would it be the moment that she hits her perfect pose in the air? Would it be the moment after that when she's falling to the ground? Would it be the moment when she's preparing herself to do that pose? What's important to you? What moment are you trying to tell people about? And then the details. Details tell a story. I often shy away from details in a lot of ways. I love simple, clean looking images. I don't like very cluttered images generally. So it's hard for me with details 'cause I wanna put details in, but I don't want my image to look cluttered with different things. So in this series, for example, the detail was in some of the things that you might not notice right away, like how that yarn was put down on the floor line by line, like how I shot through those cameras. Things like that you're not gonna know right away. I might put these online and people might skip right past them. Maybe they're like, you know what, not visually very interesting for me. I don't wanna know anymore about it. That's okay, but the story is in the details for a lot of those images. So for this image here, where is the story involved? What is the story here? And how was it developed? That's really what I wanna talk about. You have doors, you have a person, you have a forest, you have fog. That's all the information you're getting right now, right off the bat. So what story can we find in this picture? My goal, when I'm planning a photo shoot is to ask myself in the moment that somebody else looks at this image, in that one moment, probably a fraction of a second that they're going to take on Instagram to look and scroll right past it or not scroll right past it. What story do I want them to see in this picture, in that moment and how can I communicate it really fast to them? So if you had to say what the story is here or just what general feeling you get from it, what would you guys say? Anybody? Choices. Choices. Easy right? Because there are three doors and we all know from a multitude of (mumbles) like game shows. People saying what's behind door three? You know, like it's engrained in us, in our society. So we've got three doors and she's sitting there and she hasn't walked through any one of them and you might have an opinion of which one she should walk through. Maybe you don't. I took it to Alice in Wonderland. Alice in Wonderland, yeah totally. Alice in Wonderland is a theme or I should say a character that I love to play with in a lot of my images and there's obviously a door theme in Alice in Wonderland. So you can take it there completely. Either way, it probably comes back to choices, right? It was for Alice, it is for me, it is for us. We all have a choice in life. We can take this just way down the line and say, okay you have a choice. You're who you are right now, tomorrow you might be someone else. You might walk through that door instead of that door, who knows. And that's why this is relatable in some sense. You might not think so, but in general, it's relatable because in a moment you understand what this image is about. That doesn't mean that you understand everything about it. That doesn't mean that there's isn't more depth to it. And maybe there's not. I'm not saying there is, but maybe. And then we have this image. So this one is a much more cinematic image than I usually create. So if you had to say what's happening here what would you say? Relationship and connection, totally. So then think about why are they reaching for each other and I don't have an answer to this, by the way. I created this with my sister and we had a very complicated relationship in a lot of ways and I created this with a lot of ambiguity. I didn't answer this for myself of why are we reaching for each other. Will she get away or will she not? Will we touch hands or will they not? And this is to me what story does is that it puts questions in your mind. Is she trying to get her hand or is this the moment that they've just broken away? You know, like what moment is this for them and why is it significant and who are these people and why are they on this beach and why are they wearing these clothes? And these are all the questions that we should ask when we're putting an image together for ourselves. This one we've got, we'll I won't say, because the moment I say what is happening, you understand the theme of this image. 'Cause if I say she's reaching for a star, that in itself is a theme is it not? Reaching for your dreams, reaching for your goals, looking for something beyond what you already have. And then we have this one where that's my creepy self being dead in the ground. Not really, I'm not dead, but that's me laying in the ground and so this is all about cultivating a new version of yourself. You know, there's a little flower in the ground. She's got a little bucket and she's watering what is her new self underneath the ground. This one's a little weird, I guess. I've never said that out loud, but still it's there, the story is there. And then we've got this one, which we're going to talk a little bit about universal symbols a little bit later on. But we have an umbrella here, which is a symbol that almost anybody would understand. You have an umbrella, you know what it means. It means that there is rain and you're trying to protect yourself from the rain. Easy, easy. So anybody looking at this image knows that there is an umbrella and that it's trying to protect her from the rain, but what is the point because she's already sinking in the water. So there's this dynamic of irony happening in this story, which we won't go that deep into story elements or anything like that, into irony and ways of playing with different elements of story. But it's really important to think about how are you telling stories? The way that I do it is through symbolism and theme. That's just my personal way of trying to create a story. So if I actually go back to the image of the doors there, I'm doing it the same way through symbol. I didn't say what is the door a symbol of, but the door is a symbol of choice here and so on and so forth. So the star is a symbol of dreams. The watering can and the flower is a symbol of new life. Then we've got our umbrella, which is a symbol for protection. So that's how I like to tell stories. That's how I like to communicate my stories. Then I wanted to ask you how do these images fall short in the ways that we tell stories? I want you to be really honest. Like I really want you to answer this because in my opinion these images fall short in storytelling. In my opinion, these images are not my best images. I look at them and I feel like something is missing from them. And you may not agree. You may agree, it doesn't matter. But let me just use this one, for example. Down here we've got this girl standing on the water and what else? Nothing, she is just standing there. And this is my problem with this picture is that there is no interaction. There is no intent. There is no symbol. So you could say, yeah there's some story. She's standing on water, of course there's something happening. But to me, you could have gone so much further, Brooke. That's what I'm telling myself. You could have gone so much further with this. You could have really had her doing something or put something more provocative in this image. So if you guys had to say for any of these, what happened? What did I not do? Please tell me. I'm serious I want you to tell me. You can critique me. I love being critiqued. I see less symbolism than in your other work so maybe other than the butterfly one or leaves, I can't tell exactly. Yeah, leaves. But there's not kind of like clear messages of symbolism and that could be taking away from any sort of theme. Exactly, thank you. I do appreciate it (laughing). And if you guys have anything else you wanna say, please feel free. I love being criticized. It's very helpful. But I think that these images do fall short and it's good to recognize when something falls short, isn't it? It's good to just be able to step back from your work and say, you know what, it's not working and it's okay that it's not working. It's good if it's not working. It means that you tried something and it didn't work out and so what. I mean, why are we putting that pressure on ourselves? Who cares if it didn't work out. So what if I've released this picture and I don't think it's a good picture? It doesn't matter. I'm not gonna be judged on one image. Well actually I probably will be by many people, but who cares. Who cares. More people will come. That won't be the end all, be all of your career. So in terms of storytelling, in terms of really creating a photo shoot that will mean something to yourself and to somebody else, it all comes down to the individual elements that you're putting into that shoot. You're putting in every single element. There's lighting, there's a prop, there's a person, there's a wardrobe, there's a camera angle that was chosen, a certain lens that was chosen. All of these things that go into this and in these cases, I didn't think about all of those elements. I created every single one of these images on the spot without thinking a lot about it. I remember I created this one out of desperation. I had had that photo for so long that one day I was like you know what, forget it, I'm just gonna do something. Make it look cool with the colors and put it out there. And I was just frustrated that I had never done anything with it. And it wasn't well thought out. So the more we think about in depth, every single element of what we're trying to do, the more impactful, the more story people are going to see in what we're trying to create. And that is what I hope that you can get out of this lesson, which hopefully the guide will help. We've got lots of questions in here regarding what we're trying to do with our images, how we're trying to do those things, and what choices will be most impactful for us. So I'm really hoping that the worksheet will be really helpful just in terms of summarizing how we build a photo shoot and how we can make that even better than it was before.

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. :)