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The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture

Lesson 12 of 36

Preparing a Conceptual Beauty Shoot

Jennifer Thoreson

The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture

Jennifer Thoreson

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Lesson Info

12. Preparing a Conceptual Beauty Shoot
Jennifer discusses the differences between working as a conceptual photographer and a commissioned one.

Lesson Info

Preparing a Conceptual Beauty Shoot

On the last segment we touched on some of my more commission style work eso what I photographed women beauty portrait sce mostly that kind of thing but after like I'm engine too I started with weddings so weddings is where I found my interest in photographing women always found I was drawn to the bride, which I think a lot of people are but also learning tio like work with her body make it cool shapes, interesting shaves learning that I could get a lot of body language out of her just in little things like the hands and the way the shoulders were and that kind of thing. So when I started making more conceptual work, I started with that little nugget with photographing women and it kind of developed into the commission work with it when, which then developed into more conceptual style women's work if that makes any sense so it was a process of getting come to this point. So now when I photograph women it's for joy it's not really for profit hardly ever take commissions, and if they do, ...

they have to be something really special someone I know um so now it's just I just do it for me and it's a different feeling than the work like if you look a testament versus this women's work we're going to make today very different feeling we're kind of going back into that nostalgic quality with they're going to black and white square very balanced, very still that kind of thing. So, um it's a different visual language, but it's using the same queues as I'm using with testament so I use when I do this at home, a lot of wool, a lot of natural fibres, things like that. So like this, we've got some stuff that people have collected from outside. I would make wreaths for people's heads, stuff like that. So, um, symbolic baptism, death, resurrection, that's in the work using like an antique gown or anti garments and things like that that would actually have the physical dna of someone's body and it bats in the work so there's a lot of visual cues that you would see in testament or medic or flora that show up here to today, we're going to do, um, this kind of clay and ash thing. So this all came from the pottery class when I was learning to make pots, and I have told you a little bit about that experience, but actually digging the clay from the ground was that process of actually working with my body and pulling something out of the ground was very meaningful and then learning how to clean and process and turn that into something that would be functional, it was a pretty interesting thing, and that that clued me in, I guess, the whole nother world of visual meaning, so just that little nugget just learning to work with clay have a whole body of work of women wearing clay, so I used white porcelain clay and I used white because white is very symbolic in christian language, so I could use any color I wanted and say here's, another like, ah, lot of people e mail me asking me what I use on the models and which is totally fine, and I don't mind at all, but then I'll see, you know, on a website, a ton of portfolios of people using the same thing, and as I don't mind at all, however, I wonder, does that mean anything to any of them? Is it? Is it coming from anywhere? Is it doesn't have a reference point, or does it just look neat and people just want to do it because it looks neat, so there's nothing wrong with doing something because it looks neat, but if you're trying to market yourself as a conceptual photographer and have working galleries and trying to get into that niche, I think it's important to know where the meaning comes from. So, um, the clay, the white porcelain again is kind of like this. This purity sort of symbolism in the christian faith so that's why I'm using it also the volcanic ash we use when we were making pot to strengthen the pot if it was too weak if the walls were too weak and I found that really interesting because of my interest in gender equality and feminine like feminism and our role kind of in our society, the idea of strength is important to me so there's a really literal way tio use that material so the materials are very, very significant they're also very beautiful, so when I'm working in a kind of venue like this, I am making beautiful images it's about beauty and there's nothing wrong with that it's ok, but I know that that is how this work is going to function. So this work versus testament, for instance and like the women stuff, I know when people look at it they're going to pull something very different they're going to look at it as a beautiful object they may not see anything more than that, and I know that because I've asked people to make that list for me when they look at the work versus something like testament where I think there's a little bit more to it so it's just two, two ways of working and I still do them both and I loved them both, so okay the clam using is where is it? Right here. So it's white porcelain slip clay and what slip means is and this is like dove or something like that oak ash whoops! You could get this at any clay store. I get mine at new mexico clay they have everything under the sun clay so again it slips so as you can see it's liquid so the slip and I could just pour onto the skin and they kind of slop it onto themselves it's not actually molding clay on and slip comes in every color too you can get it in black green whatever you want on dh then the second the volcanic ash um in testament I had a big heap of it on the bed with the pigs but you can buy it in small bags. Tio you know, when people breathing too much of it just doesn't note it's not toxic, but it's it's significant uh but it's inexpensive and it comes in like twenty or thirty pound bags if you want a lot of it. So it's kind of a cool material. I've seen people using baby powder and god knows what else, but the fact that it's it's got some kind of symbolism to me is is important also, I use a lot of natural organic things I make wreaths and stuff out of these guys so when I was doing a lot of commission stuff, I would make this kind of like an offering to people I would make the reason they came in, they would help me gather the materials for it, and I would, and I would gather things along with him and kind of have a conversation while we were doing that get to know them a little bit, and I found it help this kind of let our guard down, some just kind of having a conversation in a really casual way, but then I would make this wreath, and I just take little bits and pieces of these and bend them and use that line there. If we have time in a minute, maybe will kind of get one going, but you can take just the base layer of the some of that are kind of long and have some strength to them like these two and make the base crown out of that they're not very started because I don't need him for very long, but I can just kind of we bet around used the twine to bind this base layer together, and they'll just start adding to the top and adding volume from there it's really simple, nothing complex at all, and they're really beautiful and images and symbolic they also so kind to me look like the crown of thorns. Which is off, obviously very loaded. A symbolism. So we'll get to this in a minute. Maybe we'll make one. But that's the idea.

Class Description

Conceptual portraiture is where art and photography meet. In this class, Jennifer Thoreson will explore the intersection of fine art and photography and discuss the practice, process, and business of bringing conceptual portraits to life.

Jennifer is a visual artist, speaker, and lecturer whose photographic work has been widely published internationally in print and online journals. In this class she’ll reveal the process for developing commissioned and exhibition work. 

You’ll learn how to:

  • Create unique, imaginative props 
  • Secure the right type of model
  • Price your work
  • Approach galleries, museums, and publications

Jennifer will help you define your personal style and show you how to put together a conceptual series. You’ll get the inside scoop on what it takes to make a living through fine art photography and also get Jennifer’s tips on managing the business side.

If you want to expand into the expressive and exciting genre of conceptual photography, The Art and Business of Conceptual Portraiture with Jennifer Thoreson is the perfect place to begin your journey. 

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with RSVP


Bonus Materials with Purchase

Book Proposal Sample.pdf

Critical Mass - Digital Book.pdf

Curriculum Vitae Example.pdf

Keynote PDF Segment 1.pdf

Keynote PDF Segment 2.pdf

Keynote PDF Segment 3.pdf

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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a Creativelive Student

"Thinking about art is not making art." In this inspiring and informative workshop, Jennifer helps you put thought into action - through meaningful self-reflection, exploration and by taking her through her own processes. Through exercises and examples, she explains how to pull out a thread of an idea and develop it into a conceptual project that is informed and invigorated by personal experience, preference, interests, and so much more. Her workshop not only feeds the creative soul, but offers earnest information on taking first steps toward publishing and showing fine-art. Jen so beautifully shares her talent and her love of teaching - I first "met" her on Creative Live and have had the joy of being mentored by her in-person as well. This workshop is a very close second to spending time with her one-on-one. Thank you, CL, for bringing her back!

kalei harmon

I love Jennifer, she's one of my cL favorites! She is such a soulful photographer and her art just resonates with me in so many ways. While she was creating her conceptual piece with the mother and child, my eyes welled up because it was such a profound experience to witness. I appreciate that she has a graduate degree in art and is able to refer to others in the field who are leading the way. She is so genuine and I'm grateful for her willingness to bare her soul to us through her art and process. I've learned so much by watching how she interacts with models and communicates efficiently and gently to get AMAZING poses. Definitely worth the buy if you're looking for inspiration from an artist who creates images which evoke emotion and communicate a message, not just trying to make "great photos." I can't wait to learn about the business side of it all!


I am so grateful for this class; it is just what I have been looking for to help me go beyond my "photographic potty training". By leading us through her own creative process, Jennifer Thoreson invites us to think about why we do what we do and to make our work more meaningful and authentic, creating our unique visual vocabulary. Moreover, she provides detailed info on submitting work to galleries and publications, contests, printing editions, preparing an exhibition and pricing. In her calm, unpretentious manner, Jennifer demystified art without trivializing it and I finally saw light at the end of a rather long tunnel.