By Laura | 03rd April 2019

Inspired by: Brooke Shaden

More than any other genre, fine art portraiture has benefited from many advances in post-production techniques, and one of the greatest exponents of the art is Brooke Shaden.

After studying film at college, Brooke realised that she could tell incredible stories and explore the archetypes of human nature through the medium of photography, and this became her primary tool in 2008.

The Brooke Shaden style

When you look at Brooke’s work you’re often reminded of disturbingly beautiful dreamscapes or scenes from a Lewis Carroll fantasy world, but what might not be immediately apparent, is that nearly all of her images are self-portraits. Her work tends to be quite dark and uncomfortable for the subject to pose for (she’s regularly submerged or semi-submerged in ponds and lakes!), making it much easier for her to work efficiently and concentrate on the story of the image if she doesn’t have to direct a model.

Brooke Shaden takes her images primarily with a DSLR and 50mm prime lens, but that’s only the beginning of the story because so much of the magic of her work is in her incredible post-production skills…

Photoshop wizardry

Brooke is a master of masking and layering textures over her images to create a surreal and otherworldly feel to her work. Whether it’s removing her head and replacing it with butterflies, having limbs of trees growing from her arms or flying through the air, her photography manages to make the unreal believable, thanks to her vision and Photoshop skills.

Learning from Brooke

If you study Brooke’s work, it’s clear that she knows exactly what she’s doing before she begins a project: she believes that you can only achieve the freedom and expressiveness that her imagery demonstrates if you have a clear plan before you shoot. Fine art portraiture of this nature stems from an initial idea, so begin by allowing yourself to daydream and break the rules – creativity needs a playful nature, after all!

Technically, Brooke prefers natural light to shoot in, often outdoors under cloud cover (she regularly drops sky backgrounds into her images in post-production) for the even lighting that makes using textures much easier.

If you visit her blog you can watch many tutorials on how she uses textures and layer masks to weave her magic, and you’ll even find over 150 free textures to download and play with. We recommend watching her in action before experimenting yourself, but once you have a handle on it your photography will reach a whole new level!

Brooke Shaden is a wonderful photographer, and we hope that you feel inspired to follow in her footsteps into the world of fine art portraiture.You could even print the end results onto one of our canvas prints.


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