On a very rare day I will shoot a commissioned portrait for someone. I am quite a shy gal and get very nervous with interactions so I usually cuddle my kitties and call it a day. I am going to put myself out there to do this more frequently this year. It is something that I have found to be very rewarding when it does come up.

I’m sure that many of you can relate to being nervous with: social interactions, client work, needing to please someone beyond yourself. My number one achilles heal is the fear of letting someone down, so you can imagine my anxiety around this type of situation. I believe it is good to feel some of that fear from time to time and to learn how to overcome it. Or at the very least, to deal with it better.

Every time I do, I come away with an experience that I treasure. That was particularly so with this photo shoot.

Adrienne contacted me with the sweetest email (it is going to be really hard not to say “sweet” over and over in this post) asking if I would photograph her. She had been through a tough time with the death of her parents and she had a story she wanted to tell. After a series of probing questions I discovered she feels most at home in the forest, that she loves blue and cream tones, and that a metaphor she identifies with is searching for the light, or being the light. It was a perfect jumping-off point to begin creating image ideas.

She had the tree roots image all thought up so I played on that idea and helped it come to life. I had three images planned for her, but got caught up in the moment (I feel like I am in a constant state of “caught-up-in-the-moment”) and we created six images together. She was so open to playing and experimenting and fully trusted my process. We spent hours together that day, talking and creating and talking some more.

While she was changing in a bathroom near our shooting spot I struck up a conversation with a woman who was also in the area. It turned out that she was also grieving and that was why she was visiting. What a coincidence! And further, she was an underwater photographer. The next day we met up with her and had tea at my favorite spot and talked for a long while before I had to leave.

These are Adrienne’s images. She is one of the most genuinely kind-hearted people I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with and I’m honored to share her images with you, with her blessing.

Thank you Adrienne for your kindness and willingness to explore.
I’ll be looking forward to the charity you are setting up and to seeing more of your art, life, and soul in the future!

  • March 14, 2017 - 9:33 am

    Rachel - Such a beautiful and touching story. The photos turned out wonderfully. I’m glad that you were all able to find each other and share part of your journeys together. Sometimes, stepping out of our confort zone brings us more than expected.ReplyCancel

    • March 14, 2017 - 9:34 am

      Rachel - *comfort. I got carried away and didn’t reread 😉ReplyCancel

  • March 14, 2017 - 1:16 pm

    Sue Finley - What I treat to see these images after unexpectedly meeting you both in AZ. They are so beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • March 14, 2017 - 2:57 pm

    Paulo Carvalho - Outstanding photos! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • March 15, 2017 - 5:30 pm

    Fit BMX - I bet she was thrilled with these,they look really great!
    The few times I have done commissioned woodcarvings for a friend, it was always nerve racking. They never seemed goodenough. So I know how you feel. 🙂ReplyCancel

I’m in the midst of creating a new video series, so while I process those thoughts and do some shooting for it, I thought I would share this little speed edit video! I recorded my editing process on a whim last week. It was a fun one to edit, and if you look closely you can see a couple of instances where I tried something and doubled back when it didn’t work. I love exploring through editing; trying one piece here or there and moving it around until it fits. That is the greatest thing about compositing – being able to explore visually while trying to create your most authentic vision.

Music: “Halation” by Evolv, licensed from SongFreedom

Since I didn’t shoot this underwater (I have yet to master the underwater self-portrait), it didn’t quite matter where I shot it so I opted for my usual blank wall outside. The natural light emulated the natural conditions in the world of the image, and the coloring was neutral enough that I could blend with it.

There are always many layers to think about with a composite like this. The most important one right away is making sure the focal points match as well as the lighting. Both of those things can be shifted slightly, which I did do in this edit, but for the most part they matched. Another consideration is color and making sure everything looks like it was in the same world.

The main tools I used in this edit were the background eraser tool, replace color, and toggling of blending modes. This video is about 2 hours of editing sped up to a couple of minutes, with roughly another 45 minutes that I cut out totally. All in all, it was about a 3 hour edit. I hope you enjoy!

“Let It Go”
March 2017

Is there a part of my process you would like to see featured in a video? Just let me know!

If you want to learn some of these techniques in person, plus a whole lot more, take a look at my upcoming events!

  • March 8, 2017 - 5:42 am

    Sreeman - Brilliant idea for manipulating indoor shoot to under water scenes !!ReplyCancel

  • March 9, 2017 - 10:53 am

    Eli - I totally admire your work your images are stunning!!!ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2017 - 7:41 am

    Fit BMX - I always love these edit videos. It is hard to believe an edit this great only took you 3 hours, it takes me longer than that to edit a photo that goes into the trash at the end! LOL
    Can’t wait to see what videos you come up with next. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2017 - 11:25 pm

    scott jackson - Stunning work Brooke. I am inspired and amazed by you creativity, imagination and talent …and your awesome skills in photoshop ……something I will aspire to .
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful images and videos

Let’s get really honest really fast here. I consider myself a good business person. I make decisions swiftly and effectively most of the time. I have strong ideas with a lot of follow through. But the reality is that being a good business person isn’t all about gavel banging and big ideas; that is just the fun stuff. I’m good at the fun stuff. I can take pictures for days, post on social media endlessly, find topics to write about on my blog, etc. etc. etc…

But that isn’t the GRIT that it takes to run a successful business.

Let’s define successful business. I don’t just mean a “working” business, or a “bringing in money” business, or a “getting by” business. I mean a business that runs smoothly, is profitable in the ways that it wants to be, and treats clients in the most respectful way possible.

I started my business when I was 22 years old, and was 21 when I started laying the groundwork for it. I was very naive. I had no experience in running a business or in business at all. I never even bothered to take a class in college despite having that available to me (Oh what I would do differently now!). I would say that I entered into my business selfishly. Not in every way, but in some ways that ended up being really detrimental to my work. The number one way I messed up from the get-go is thinking that I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. Let me explain.

My stubbornness in wanting to do only what pleased me was really good in some ways. It allowed me to focus like a lightning rod on the tasks that brought me joy. That proved to be helpful in starting a very specific business that eventually grew in only those aspects. I wouldn’t do that differently at all. I would never go back and accept odd jobs or different types of photography sessions because that was not my passion and therefore not my pursuit.

What took me six or seven years to learn was how to separate what I want from what my clients deserve. A business requires two types of respect: respect for your clients and respect for yourself. I had respect for myself, enough to only do what I loved. I lacked in respect for clients. I did what they asked for the most part, but I did it in my own time. I lacked respect for other people’s time, and in doing so, didn’t respect my own time.

For years and years I told myself that I simply got too many emails to deal with it. I wouldn’t respond to people, or I would take months to get back with people. It cost me money in jobs, but far more importantly, it cost me relationships. My attitude was that I was above it all – that I could respond whenever it suited me and I rarely thought about that person waiting. (Well, I might be exaggerating at how bad I was, but still, it wasn’t good!). I decided at some point that I wanted to change my behavior so I hired an assistant. She helped a lot and I was able to mostly stay on top of my work. It was a wonderful 2 1/2 years. And then that ended, and in October I found myself alone again working as a business of one.

Come December 1st I knew I wanted to make a change, and I didn’t want to go back to my old ways of being unreliable. I liked the feeling of being in control of every aspect of my business. In that way it felt the same as doing self-portraits. I love being in full control, so why not in business as well as creativity?

On December 1st I reformed. I became a totally new business person. I made these significant changes:

  1. Email Labels. I have had email labels for a long time, but I really got to using them properly. I made two folders, one called “Fresh Greetings” and another called “Pending”. Every time I would receive an email I would put it in Fresh Greetings, and when I answered it, I took it out. When my Fresh Greetings folder was empty, I knew I had finished my emails. My Pending folder is for emails that couldn’t be responded to yet.

  2. The 24 Hour Policy. I decided I would not let any emails go unanswered for more than 24 hours. I carved time out every single morning for 20-30 minutes to knock out my emails. I am a morning person, so I use my best energy on tasks that aren’t as much fun as taking pictures or writing, etc. So, my best 20 minutes are spent emailing. Further, as emails come in through the day, if I am conveniently at my desk and can answer, I do. I don’t let it linger. I used to think I would look too “uncool” if I started answering people immediately, but it is better for everyone.

  3. I shifted my attitude. I used to see emails as annoying or time consuming. Now I see them as neither. I look upon the sender with genuine love and appreciation that they took the time to email me. I want to give them that same respect by sending my heartfelt thanks to their message, or to give clients the respect they deserve with a prompt reply.

From December until now I have completed a photo a day challenge, spent a full month traveling, and am selling my house. Busy, right? Even in that chaos, I haven’t gone more than 24 hours without responding to an email. Further, in January alone, I received 3 emails from clients thanking me for being so easy to work with – for making decisions quickly and for responding immediately.

I stopped the toxic behavior I was exhibiting. If there was a decision to be made, I used to put it off for weeks if I was unsure. Now, I make it immediately. I don’t wait and let it linger, I simply search my soul and say what I feel is best. Sometimes it means outright turning jobs down, or taking them, or telling people to hold off for a better time. Sometimes it involves answering interview questions right then and there, and other times I simply can’t at all. This new way of working has revolutionized my time.

The downside is the increased desire to check my phone and make sure my inbox is cleared, that all decisions are made etc. So, the next step in my business reform is to lock my phone up after a certain time of day until I wake up. Productivity should only be taken so far. How far? As far as you can take it to be on top of your work while not letting everything you do need a productive excuse. Read more about that idea in this incredible article.

And it isn’t just emails. It is everything. For example, I have a tax day on the first of each month. I organize and categorize my receipts. I backup my files once a week. I follow up with people by creating events on my calendar to remind me.

The big change I made was IMMEDIACY. I always thought that was crazy. I thought people who were on top of their emails didn’t have a personal life, or were addicted to their phones. That doesn’t have to be true. I spend most of my days without a phone in front of me. I try to be in the moment for whatever I am doing, truly committed. I have found that I have more freedom – with my time as well as in my mind. I no longer stress about getting back to people. I no longer worry about if I’ve missed a deadline. And while I do suffer from thinking even more about my work now that I’m on top of it, I know that I can change that as well and not let the immediacy of my business bleed into my personal time.

Yes, it could all crumble and I could slide back into my old ways. But so far, so good. I’m 4 months into working alone again and I have never had a more smooth running business.

Want more details or to share what works for you? Leave a comment!

I am arranging a small mentorship for anyone interested in this topic.
A totally-free, just-because-I-love-business, Skype session with about 10 or so people.
To turn YOUR business around and to help each other grow!
Want to join? Let me know below!


  • March 6, 2017 - 10:18 am

    Nick Cormier - Yes please, sign me up!!ReplyCancel

    • March 6, 2017 - 10:21 am

      brookeshaden - Fantastic! I don’t know how or when I turned into such a business-loving person, but here we are 😀 I’ll send you details soon!ReplyCancel

      • March 6, 2017 - 11:01 am

        Nick Cormier - Awesome, thanks Brooke!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 10:42 am

    Rachael Sammon - Oh, this is so what I needed right now! ♡
    And I’d love to be included in your Skype session if you’re not already maxed out, please!ReplyCancel

    • March 6, 2017 - 10:46 am

      brookeshaden - Happily! I’ll send you more details soon 🙂ReplyCancel

      • March 6, 2017 - 10:48 am

        Rachael Sammon - Thank you! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 10:49 am

    Kimberley - Yes, please include me.ReplyCancel

    • March 6, 2017 - 10:50 am

      brookeshaden - You got it, Kimberley! Will send details soon 🙂ReplyCancel

    • March 6, 2017 - 11:17 am

      Kimberley - I was so excited I did not even read the part about skype session…Eep that would be perfect timing.ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 10:50 am

    mike epner - Makes me smile! Would be fun to join and maybe offer up some ideasReplyCancel

    • March 6, 2017 - 10:52 am

      brookeshaden - Yeh-es! Will send details soon. Wow, everyone is in for an amazing treat when they talk to you!!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:04 am

    Angel - I would love to be a part of this.ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:04 am

    Angel - I would love to be a part of this please. ReplyCancel

    • March 6, 2017 - 11:05 am

      brookeshaden - You got it! Will send details soon 🙂ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:05 am

    Ronne - Yes sign me up too <3ReplyCancel

    • March 6, 2017 - 11:05 am

      brookeshaden - Absolutely! Sending details soon 🙂ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:12 am

    Marcy - I would love to do this!ReplyCancel

    • March 6, 2017 - 11:13 am

      brookeshaden - You got it! Will send details soon 🙂ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:12 am

    Katrin Auch - Wow, really impressive Brooke. I would love to be a part that workshop, cause business is a huge issue for meReplyCancel

    • March 6, 2017 - 11:13 am

      brookeshaden - Awesome Kat!! I’d love to have you 😀 Will send details soon!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:15 am

    Marianne - Dear Brooke,
    I would love to join the free session! I am considering about earning money on the side from giving Sketchnote workshops. On that I need all the advice I can get.
    Big hug from Germany,

    • March 6, 2017 - 11:16 am

      brookeshaden - I would love to have you! I will send details soon 🙂ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:22 am

    Tiina Weckman - I would love to take part if there’s still space.ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:30 am

    Virginia Smith - After taking off a year to deal with the Lupus/Lyme thing I need to figure out to be more efficient in my business so I can keep doing the fun stuff!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:32 am

    Vivek Soni - Hello,
    I am a self learnt photographer and I am just setting myself up in toe professional field of photography. I would love to join your mentorship. I believe it would be very very helpful for me. Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Thank you! ^_^ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:32 am

    Vivek Dhakan - Hello,
    I am a self learnt photographer and I am just setting myself up in toe professional field of photography. I would love to join your mentorship. I believe it would be very very helpful for me. Looking forward to hearing from you.
    Thank you! ^_^ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:33 am

    Derick Tortorella - Hi Brooke!

    Would love to be included in this mentoring if space is still available!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:33 am

    kate hailey - Email, oh email, thou art evil! haha. I’m the same way you were with email, always putting it off. I’ve been more focused daily on making it happen, because I don’t want to miss out on opportunities.

    I’d love to be involved, if there’s still space. As a creative, business is a thing I have struggled with, for a variety of reasons. I’m starting to identify and move through.


  • March 6, 2017 - 11:42 am

    Bára Vávrová - Hello, I would like to join your mentoring session if there is still a place 🙂ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:44 am

    Alison Huntley - Yes, Please!!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:45 am

    Mati Gelman - Hi Brooke! I’d love to join!
    I hope there is still room <3ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:51 am

    Tamara Lentz - Oh how I would love to be included!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:54 am

    Yesim - I’m really bad at managing my time. Hanging out too much on social media is also a major problem (even though it’s mostly work related). I hope I can join your group on this topic .ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 11:55 am

    Ana silva - please Brooke, I’d love to be part of that group. thanks <3ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 12:03 pm

    Erin - Please include me! I’d love to learn more in this group <3ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 12:12 pm

    WendyBaker - Sounds fabulous. Count me in.ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 12:15 pm

    Monica Castells Fernandez - ohh Brooke I left the message on Facebook and didn’t realise I had to leave a comment here as well. I hope I can make it!!I would love to be part of the group!!!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 12:37 pm

    Rocio Villanueva - I would love to be part of it!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 12:37 pm

    Shawna Beck - I would love to be a part of your mentouring. This is something I desperately need in my business myself.ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 12:42 pm

    Sarah - Yes! I know things I do well but am also seeing areas where I need to improve! I can’t wait to hear more from each of you!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 12:43 pm

    Sara correia - I Would love to be included! Thank you so much Brooke! Lots of love ❤ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 1:08 pm

    Angel - I would love to be apart of this!
    I started my fine art but I haven’t been able to support myself solely on that. I’m kind of stuck doing these client shoots. You’re a big inspiration to me because, you have done The typical client shoots like family, senior pictures, etc. And I would love to learn how you got out of that and to make a living doing what you love, creating beautiful art and traveling. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. ❤️ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 1:12 pm

    Menna Hossam - PLEASE sign me up!! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 1:30 pm

    nadav - I really glad for you Brooke that you have so many people wanting to hear you on this topic and thank you, hearty, for making this happen, as you are a busy person 🙂
    I hope to have a chance and be in this talk, but there are more that want it, even much more then me, so I’ll gladly give my sit for another

    will you consider recording this session though? I dont mind even paying to hear you talking more on this subject, truly.

    much love to you all 🙂ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 1:33 pm

    Anca - Love all these ideas…I love that you are so daring all the time…would love to be part of the talk on this subjectReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 2:08 pm

    Sonia - Sign me up please! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 2:15 pm

    Louise - I definitely would love to be a part of this, Brooke! 😀ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 2:25 pm

    Michelle Walls - Yes please! I would like to be included. I have already learned so much from you via creative live.ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 3:34 pm

    Greg Gardner - Yes please, this has been my biggest struggle of late!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 4:17 pm

    Jon Christian Ashby - Sign me up, I’d love to be part of this!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 4:40 pm
  • March 6, 2017 - 4:49 pm

    Beth Hopkins - Brooke this is such a thoughtful and helpful thing to do. I would be so incredibly grateful to be under your mentorship and learn from someone I gave so much admiration for. You should be so proud of the steps you’ve taken on this journey and I can’t wait to learn from it 🙂 xReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 5:06 pm

    Dale Ralph - Fantastic! Please include me.ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 5:35 pm

    Amanda - Thanks for sharing Brooke ! I’d love to be included 🙂ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 6:38 pm

    Jamie Kate - Thank you for sharing this! Would love to learn from you! ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 6:55 pm

    Ines - I will love be part of thisReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 7:14 pm

    Sam Kaczur - Sign me up Brooke!!!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 10:07 pm

    Jen Schultz - I want in!ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 10:53 pm

    Nadia Rdz - Yes please sign me up !❤ReplyCancel

  • March 6, 2017 - 10:56 pm

    Amani - I would love to join!ReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2017 - 12:24 am

    Deborah - Would love to be included in the group!ReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2017 - 12:48 am

    Melissa - Yes please this is exactly what I need I’m just starting out in the very early stages whilst studying and although my course is wonderful there’s no business side and the sheer thought of trying to do it all alone is terrifying me!ReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2017 - 4:41 am

    Rose Fredriken - I have 3 things I know I absolutely need to keep the energy and motivation up that most people underestimate.

    1. Sleep. I sleep more then most 9 hour
    2. Eating healthy good meals with out stress. Fully present enjoying the food.
    3. Meditating and spending time with people I love.

    But this is not business advice??? OR IS IT?? hehehehe.

    People overestimate what they can do in a year and understand what they can do in a decade! I am in for the long run, so for me it is important to look at this as a marathon and not like a sprint.

    Spending a lot of time working is not the same as being effective. Everything is going so fast this days that I at least feel that I am not working fast anuf. But if you are going to fast then you start getting sloppy, you push out work with out any substance.

    So if I am going to be happy, create work that is meaningful to me and connect with people I meet. I first of all need sleep, food and love.ReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2017 - 5:03 am

    Kristin Ferguson - Thank you for an inspirational read – from a serial procrastinator! Look forward to hearing more.ReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2017 - 6:54 am

    Eve - I am in my 50’s and still learning, sign me up!ReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2017 - 9:07 am

    Julia - Please sign me upReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2017 - 9:29 am

    Tori Kelner - I felt like I was reading about myself this whole post! I am in the same situation – 21 and hoping to start my own business soon; I’d love some tips on doing it as best as I can from the start. If there are open spots, count me in! Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2017 - 1:11 pm

    stacey A Jaynes - I would Love to be part of mentoring session. I look forward to learning new ways of doing things. I Love the Tardis on your desk, I have the same one 🙂

    Thank you,

    Stacey A Jaynes

    My website needs work 🙁ReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2017 - 2:17 pm

    Kristy - I am not in business “yet”, but these are great ideas and I will definitely keep them in mind for when I do take that plunge.ReplyCancel

  • March 7, 2017 - 4:22 pm

    Karen Lemoine - This sounds awesome!ReplyCancel

  • March 8, 2017 - 6:56 am

    Daniel - Really great post, i feel like you at 22 right now xD. I would love to be part of that skype session, for me photography has always been something really personal and is hard to start seeing it as work.ReplyCancel

  • March 8, 2017 - 12:35 pm

    brookeshaden - My darlings!!! I truly only expected a few people to want to do the mentorship. My brain works in mysterious ways. I will be in touch about this topic again really soon when I’ve figure out a way to offer a small class on the topic. I regret that I could only choose a handful of people for this particular opportunity, and to be fair have to go with first-come-first-serve. Lots of happiness, be in touch soon!ReplyCancel

  • March 8, 2017 - 1:15 pm

    Federica - I commented only in FB but I hope there is still space
    Thanks dearReplyCancel

  • March 8, 2017 - 1:31 pm

    Maria - Hi Brooke, I would love to be part of this business mentoring program!
    My passion is imagery and using it to tell stories, or set moods to evoke a reaction. I shoot fine art creatives for me, and offer portrait / headshot and wedding services for hire at the moment. Been taking courses online for social media marketing via creative live, and other photographer blogs ( where a couple try to sell their ad campaign ideas for several hundred at the end..)
    Really looking to take the next step to reach the right people who will want to hire me based off my personal branding.
    There is the why. Now I must say, you have inspired me since I discovered you online several years ago. I love that your photography speaks of your imagination and truth, I always see something emitting from your artistic images!
    Storytelling and emotion. I appreciate that, and continue to follow your work, projects and creativity. Thank you for sharing your brilliance! ❤️ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2017 - 7:33 am

    Fit BMX - Wow this took off fast!!! LOL
    Right now I don’t have enough of anything to worry about business, but it is kind of you to offer something like this. 🙂
    I think I will also incorporate a lot of this into daily life, which reminds me, I have an email I need to reply to that has been waiting to long! LOLReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2017 - 1:42 pm

    Maria Hanley - Yes, I would love to be a part of your business mentoring program. I can relate so much to your overwhelm. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2017 - 3:01 am

    Wayne - Dear Brooke thank you for letting me join the group, “amazing” I’m getting on now but I’m still up for making my business better as I’m rubbish at that side of things lol. So I would love to learn more on this side of the fence x WayneReplyCancel

  • March 12, 2017 - 4:14 pm

    Dominica Fisher - Hi Brooke,
    I’d love to be part of your business mentorship, I am trying to tidy up my own business habits.
    Thank you for all of the inspiration you give to this world.

I’ll be turning 30 at the beginning of March, and I am excited the same that I am for every passing year. It is a celebration of still being alive. I never expect age to continue blessing me so each birthday is beautiful. For the first time in my life I feel like I am turning an age that I was meant to be. I always felt out of place as a teenager or “20-something”. I’ve never voluntarily gone to a party, never tasted alcohol, never disobeyed my parents (except for that one time, but it was for love!), never had a “wild side”, never wavered on my convictions, never felt a need to belong. I was born to be 30, or older, or oldest. I’m pretty sure 80 will be my sweet spot.

They say that your 20s are a time for exploration and your 30s are a time for settling down. I think I’ve always done both and will continue. I want to explore until my feet won’t move and my mind shuts down. Curiosity is the fuel of the human spirit.

Life is the grandest teacher, and I am a pupil who seeks to understand every gift. This is what I’ve gleaned.

30 Lessons From my 20s

  • 1. Choose carefully those who surround you.
  • 2. Being a good person is the best life and business advice, consistently.
  • 3. Organization and respect are essential for business.
  • 4. Sharing your authentic voice sets you apart.
  • 5. Age is irrelevant.
  • 6. Ask for help when you need it.
  • 7. Never put deadlines on your dreams.
  • 8. Seek to set yourself outside of the center of your universe.
  • 9. Create as honestly, unapologetically, and powerfully as you can.
  • 10. Find humility in your mistakes and pride in your successes.
  • 11. Smile when you’re crying.
  • 12. Jump in every cold body of water you see.
  • 13. You don’t have to be naturally good at something to master it.
  • 14. See small wins as massive successes.
  • 15. Never treat anyone like they are less important than someone else.
  • 16. You are never only one thing.
  • 17. Feed your inspiration or it will die.
  • 18. All of the things you wanted to do will fall away unless you actively pursue them.
  • 19. When you hug people, hug them so genuinely that you pass your joy to them.
  • 20. It doesn’t matter how great or weak you think you are, we are all equals.
  • 21. We all have a gift to give.
  • 22. The more you go your own way, the more you’ll inspire others to do the same.
  • 23. If you believe in something, speak your truth.
  • 24. Never put yourself above learning new things.
  • 25. Stop glorifying being busy, it is not attractive.
  • 26. If something is important to someone else, it is important.
  • 27. You can never fully know someone else’s situation, so act with compassion.
  • 28. If someone doesn’t like what you create, create more of it and know that your tribe is out there.
  • 29. Just because you aren’t good at some things doesn’t mean you’ll never be good at anything.
  • 30. Begin, or begin again.

Which do you connect with or what would you add?

As I’m sitting as my desk writing this, I keep pausing to think about the most important moments in the last decade. I remember times when there were awards or prestigious shows or accolades, but they are not the moments that bring me joy or that get me lost in the memories. These are the times that stand out….

Running through a corn maze with my family who all complained about going, but I made sure to infect them with my joy. By the end we were all laughing.

Being pushed down the street in the dark in a shopping cart when I accidentally went miles away on a photo shoot with my friends and only after they left realized I had the car keys but no car. My husband started walking toward me and I toward him and we met in the middle where we packed all of my stuff, myself included, into a discarded shopping cart and he wheeled me all the way home.

Realizing that the people I’ve looked up to my whole life are fallible and human, and the mess of emotions that come with that realization.

Sleeping in my car at the beach overlooking the Pacific ocean the first night I drove out to Los Angeles to live. Our apartment was in such a scary neighborhood and it was half the size we were expecting (only one room) and had cockroaches all over the place, so we drove until I couldn’t stay awake and fell asleep looking at the ocean.

Creating a self-portrait while standing waist deep in the glacier lagoon in Iceland.

Writing my first novel.

Sand dunes.

Creating portraits with my sister on a beach in Australia.

Using my hair to express myself.

Countless strange things for photo shoots.

Teaching self-expression to survivors of human trafficking and starting a photo school in India.

…Memories I hope I will never forget.

If I had to sum up my 20s in a few words, I would say:

Embracing my weirdness
Cultivating community
Becoming a leader
Finding my compassion
Being an unwavering optimist.

I feel like I lived so much. Since I was 20 years old I…

Married my best friend
Started taking photos
Started a photo business
Wrote 3 photo books and a novel
Taught workshops all over the world
Gave motivational speeches to huge crowds
Visited 18 countries 
Bought my first house
Exhibited my art

Started my own convention
Met the cast of Doctor Who…

…and so much more. This life is a beautiful one – not without hardship, but I did mention my unwavering optimism? The bad stuff has no place in this blog post. If I could go back and tell my 20-year-old self what lies ahead, I wouldn’t dare. “Spoilers”. It was an incredible decade.

What lies ahead? For me a sign that I am doing what I love is wishing the future will hold more of what I’m already doing. I hope for more travel, more intimate time with my family (this year I’m traveling to Brazil with my dad and the UK with my mom, sister and aunt), more photo opportunities and platforms to express myself, more community…

But I also have big dreams. 

To publish my novel.
To make a documentary.
To create a more personal art series.
To be a represented motivational speaker.
To write more poetry.
To expand my charity.
To know myself.

I vow to always, always be open to becoming whomever I feel I should be, even if that person doesn’t align with who I thought I would be.

On to the unknowable, incredible future,
where though heartache waits
in the echo-chamber that I dare not dwell,
so too, and more so, the piano plays my sweet dark song
that beckons me on through the mysteries.

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”
– Walt Whitman

  • February 20, 2017 - 7:47 am

    Paulo Carvalho - Wonderful post! You are beautiful and a huge and lovely person! Brazil! If you want to learn a few words in Portuguese, you know who to ask! Have a good week!:)ReplyCancel

    • February 20, 2017 - 12:23 pm

      brookeshaden - Ah yes I will have to ask! Like “no butter, milk, eggs or meat” – that’s always a toughy but most important! 😀 Thank you for your kindness!ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2017 - 8:34 am

    Elou Carroll - I think this post was exactly what I needed to see today, so thank you for that. Thank you for continuing to inspire.

    If you’re planning your first trip to England, I would recommend you make sure you go to at least one incredibly old place. There’s no inspiration quite like the old, ruined places over here. They’re also all incredibly beautiful. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • February 20, 2017 - 12:24 pm

      brookeshaden - Aww thank you Elou! Ah this will be about my 5th or 6th trip I believe, but I agree with that recommendation 100%! My favorite parts of England are the oldies 🙂ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2017 - 8:57 am

    Colman Love - When you are feeling low/alone/self pity, go serve someone else…ReplyCancel

    • February 20, 2017 - 12:24 pm

      brookeshaden - I LOVE that. So true in so many ways.ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2017 - 11:13 am

    Linda Drake - You are wise beyond your years and have one of the most beautiful souls I have ever come across. Happy Birthday!! Your 20’s have produced some of the most captivating images. I am curious to see what your 30’s will bring!ReplyCancel

    • February 20, 2017 - 12:24 pm

      brookeshaden - Aww thank you Linda!! That is TOO nice of you! I can’t wait to see what it brings as well 🙂 Hugs!ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2017 - 11:45 am

    Dave - A few things I’ve learned: 1) Everyone on the planet has some crazy part of their thinking or life. We’re all screwed up in some dimension or another. It’s ok. We can work through and adapt. 2)Don’t say anything to yourself you wouldn’t say to your best friend. No, you’re not fat/a loser and always will be/stupid/you didn’t deserve it/ugly or whatever else. Certainly don’t be listening to yourself saying it over and over in your own head! 3) You only need permission from yourself. If you want to do something, make it happen. No one will stop you unless you let them. 4) Turn off the TV and social media. Your peace of mind depends on it.ReplyCancel

    • February 20, 2017 - 12:25 pm

      brookeshaden - Those points are so well taken. Especially being kind to yourself. It makes me incredibly sad when I see that point falling apart for some people. It takes practice. Thank you Dave, for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2017 - 4:39 pm

    Fit BMX - Beautiful post! (Huge!)
    I love your list of 30, it is great and dead on. I turned 29 a month ago, and I feel like it took me 28 of those years to get an idea, so I am hoping this year is the best yet. 🙂
    I have also never tasted alcohol, smoked, and have never been to a party. I avoided them all like the plague!
    Thanks for the hair color photos, I have always wondered what your natural hair color was! LOL
    You look tired, but very cute in that shopping cart! 😉ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2017 - 7:35 pm

    Lisa R. - What a beautiful post and full life you’ve already lived. I am excited for you and the amazing things to come. Many blessings to you in all that you do!

    P.S. The shopping cart – priceless! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2017 - 7:52 pm

    Yuliana - You are an inspiration for me! Thank you for this post, I hope all your personal and professional life goes well!

    Greetings from Venezuela 🙂ReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2017 - 8:09 pm

    Katie - Thank you for your amazing spirit and openness- needed these little reminders badly!! Keep that flame roaringReplyCancel

  • February 20, 2017 - 11:02 pm

    David Limrite - You are amazing and I am thrilled and lucky to have crossed your path. Thank you for this post. Happy Birthday. Your 30s are going to be fantastic. Enjoy every moment.ReplyCancel

  • February 21, 2017 - 1:25 am

    Maria Paz Fernandez Garcia - Thank you so much Brooke, for another great inspiring post. I am twice your age, and I have learnt that when you get past a certain age, you need to start undoing the age barriers even more! I look forward to seeing you in Madrid next month! If you need any advice about my birthplace do let me know! Feliz cumpleaños! Happy birthday! xReplyCancel

  • February 21, 2017 - 8:14 am

    Alice Solantania Saga - you are SUCH an inspiration to me brooke. THANKS FOR BEING SO WONDERFULLY BEST! i will share your wisdom in my next blog post. i need to take them all to heart. all 30 of them. happy birthday to you (in advance). i am in the midst of your challenge, and i am loving it. i do take my time though since all has to take its own time once in a while. much love to you. aliceReplyCancel

  • February 21, 2017 - 10:21 am

    Amani - I love you so much Brooke <3 Happy birthday in advance. I'm sending you the BIGGEST hug!ReplyCancel

  • February 24, 2017 - 9:56 am

    Sandy - An amazing read Brooke and some wonderful Take a ways. Number 9 and 19 resonate with me! Thanks for sharing with us!ReplyCancel

  • February 27, 2017 - 8:27 pm

    Betania Mia - I really enjoyed this blog entry in particular. You seem to have such a love for life and passion for learning and selfacceptance. I have read several of your blog entries and must say I enjoy them all. Thank you for sharing your heart with us all.ReplyCancel

  • March 8, 2017 - 7:07 am

    Daniel - This is beautiful, reading this made me smile 🙂 thank youuu!!ReplyCancel

I waited 14 months to share my “Fourth Wall” series with you, and longer if you count the time conceiving of it. It was difficult for me. Up until this point in my career I have released every image I’ve created instantly. “Instantly” isn’t the right word, but I never had anything holding me back. I would wait a day or two, or maybe a week, and then share what I had made. It felt natural to create and share because that is the reward system that social media has put in place. I create something and then I share it, naturally, for feedback. The more positive the feedback, the more we want to share, and more frequently.

Therefore it was a step in a totally new direction for me to create without sharing. And it felt amazing. There were images I wasn’t so sure of and was happy to keep them to myself, and other images that proved to be a true lesson in self-control.

May I interject here and say that I am proud of the work I created. I wish more people would come out and say that they are proud of themselves. We should love the work we do. We should be proud of the work we do. If we aren’t, how can we expect anyone else to be? During all of 2016 when I was creating Fourth Wall, I wanted to share because I was proud of what I was doing and you are my community. It felt great though to let that part of me slip away. To acknowledge my happiness within the work I was doing and to let that be enough.

I found that the longer I waited the more I could go back and tweak them – and sometimes overhaul them. I would re-shoot an image if I knew I could do better, and time – months – gave me that gift of understanding. I started to realize the layers that I wanted to go into each piece and I was able to digest that and then create it. Time is such an arbitrary thing. We push and press ourselves into the future so quickly that we forget to see the present. We set deadlines for ourselves that mean nothing in the grand scheme of life and if we don’t meet them, we believe we have failed. It is a terrible thing that we do to our creativity when we put a timestamp on it. Letting these images breath was like giving them life.

It took me a whole year of creating to fully understand why I wanted to create this series. There were three main reasons.

One was for a new creative direction. I had never built anything before and had always failed when trying, and I needed to know that I could do it.

Another was to go in a different business direction to attract a New York City gallery.

And the third was powered by my love of theme and a desire to portray ideas that we keep hidden yet all connect with.

Those three motivations made for a great way to actually get me to create. I have had a photo business for seven years now, and this is the first time where I have followed through in creating a series that I would package and sell as such. It was a really interesting direction to go in and one that I enjoyed immensely.

One of the most common comments I got on the series was “Why didn’t you just Photoshop it?”. For the key image, I did. It was a financial necessity for me. However, the rest were done in camera as much as possible. There was certainly still post processing on all of them, but not to the extent I had done in my previous work. The reason is simple. I wanted to be there, in that space, spending time with the idea as much as the material that created the idea. I wanted to spend hours upon hours gluing yarn to the floor. I wanted to feel what it felt like to really be trapped in a flooded room. It was important to me to be there.

That made the series ephemeral as well. The sets I was creating were temporary and would not be duplicated. Each image has a timeless quality to it that I associate with building something in the space, physically.

The big reason why I laid off of Photoshop and did the series at all is: CHANGE.

It is so easy to forget that change is part of the human experience. What we will all do, inevitably, is change or perish. I would rather change willingly instead of by surprise. I want to be in control of my creativity, my self. I want to explore my depths, knowing that they are infinitely long and I will never reach the bottom. I want to go as deep as I can while I still breathe on this Earth.

Is that not the true soul of an artist? To desire to work. To never be finished. To seek to know oneself intimately so that we may create meaningfully? That is my why. Do you echo that?

At the end of the creating process, and while I was preparing for the gallery debut, I decided to submit to some awards. I am not the type that does this usually but I wanted to prove to myself that I was proud of the work I did, so I submitted. To my astonishment the series has placed in a couple of those awards so far. It recently got 2nd place in the International Photographer of the Year awards for Fine Art: Conceptual. It got 1st place at the ND Awards for Fine Art Series and won the grand prize in those awards as well.

I don’t share that to brag. If you know me you know I’d rather fall into a flaming pit of hot lava (a totally normal scenario) than believe that what I do is “better” or “more deserving” than another persons. I tell you this so that you believe in yourself. Learn from my journey. Belief in yourself shouldn’t be waited for. It is here for the taking no matter if you’ve never won an award. It is here if you feel so far behind everyone else. It is here if you feel that you’ll never create your best work.

I called my mom a few days ago to tell her that the series had placed in these awards, and she said something to me that I had been thinking: If only I had known earlier. She said that if only I had known in high school that I would succeed in something.

She said it so lovingly, though it might sound weird to you. I grew up loving to write and, I felt, being fairly good at it. But when it came to things that all the other kids my age were doing, I just couldn’t compete no matter how hard I tried. And trust me, I tried harder than everyone I knew. My grades were below average, I consistently made the “B” soccer team, and I had a hard time with most new things I tried. Nothing ever came easily. I am so glad for that. It taught me that talent or not, we can build our dreams if we choose to work at them. It might take countless tries and a lot of years and heart-tugging failures. It might mean that we have to continuously re-define what is important and how we will see a desire through. Eventually though, we make it. “It” may not be the place you always thought it would be. “It”, that elusive “successful place” that we all so desire, is nothing more than a mindset.

It is taking pride in what we do. It is not the awards we win or the circus that is social media telling us that we should love what we do. It is a genuine and irreplaceable bliss that we feel so fully when we engage in something that shares our soul with the world. What a beautiful “it” to find.

There were many images that I ended up not using in the final series. Here are a couple of them that I never quite finished, but simply knew that they didn’t belong. In the past I never had to curate my work. I simply released it and put it in galleries when asked and it was simple. But for this series I wanted to be absolutely certain that the images in the show truly reflected my intention in every aspect – visually, conceptually, and how it was created as well. I debated with these images extensively. The cobweb photo was my husband’s favorite. But I knew instinctively that it wouldn’t make the cut. We simply wrestled too long together.

Other images that I created but didn’t make it in…

I wanted one to look like a girl was frozen underwater. This is a picture I have wanted to create for a very long time. I bought a giant piece of plexiglass and cracked it, and then put my model underneath. It was difficult to stop getting glare while having enough light, and in the end it wasn’t the right time.

For another I put hundreds of pounds of dirt on the floor and planted flours. I thought it was going to be great. It turned out that I couldn’t quite get enough flowers in there to look vibrant enough and the dirt looked too much like mulch. By the time I had realized my errors the passion for the image was gone and I never reshot it.

One of the most difficult things about scrapping an image is the loss of money and time. It might sound arbitrary, but I don’t have a lot of money to spend on creative endeavors. In fact, I have spent the first many years of my career creating with no budget. It was hard to let something go that cost me so much, but in the end it wouldn’t have been true to my purpose if I had kept them in.

I have published over 700 pictures in the eight years I have been shooting. These nine images rank above my favorite for so many reasons, not least of which being the effort and the love in each one. I hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look at creating some of the images from the series. It was a wild and beautiful ride.

Thank you for your support and encouragement, and for your ever evolving kindness that gives me the courage to create something new despite previously earned acceptance. It is a freeing thing, to be able to create anew without fear of rejection. Though it will come, and does, there is solidarity in our community.

If you are interested in obtaining a print from this collection, please email the JoAnne Artman Gallery for details.

42×42 inches, Edition of 2
8×8 inches, Edition of 3

Printed on Elegance Velvet Fine Art Paper, archival certified, signed with certificate of authenticity.

  • February 15, 2017 - 11:46 pm

    Natasha - So lovely! Thank you for sharing the photos that didn’t make it, too.

    Our society is full of conflicting messages, especially for women: be pretty, but not too pretty; be smart, but not too smart; be successful, but not too successful. I think that mentality leaves a lot of us feeling like it isn’t okay to be proud of our accomplishments, but that’s silly. Thank you, also, for being vulnerable and proverbially standing up to say you’re proud of your creation!ReplyCancel

    • February 16, 2017 - 7:39 am

      brookeshaden - Oh Natasha, thank you so much for this comment for so many reasons. Yes, we must be proud! It is important that we love what we do – is that not the dream? I can’t say I always creating something I’m happy with, but that is the journey and beauty of it. You are so lovely.ReplyCancel

  • February 16, 2017 - 3:42 am

    Delphine - Oh Brooke! This post makes me smile so much and be so proud of you.

    Yes change is very difficult, and especially when you have an “audience”, people who know you for a certain type of pictures. But you took the risk, to try something different. And at the end, like everything we create it’s different but it’s still you. No matter what you do, if you do it with your heart, it will still be you.

    <3 <3 <3ReplyCancel

    • February 16, 2017 - 7:39 am

      brookeshaden - Delphine, I love you. That is so true – what we do with our hearts is truly who we are. A beautiful statement. I miss you and hope to see you soon!ReplyCancel

  • February 16, 2017 - 7:50 am

    Heather - This is amazing, Brooke!
    The whole series turned out beautifully and you should be proud of what you have built with your own two hands.
    Thank you also for showing us some of the behind the scenes photos of the ones that didn’t make the cut. When we set out to create something we never really know if it is going to work or not, and when it doesn’t work, we can sometimes feel like we have failed. It’s nice to be reminded that sometimes even the people we’d call our heroes have photos that do not work out, but they plug away anyway to success.ReplyCancel

    • February 16, 2017 - 8:03 am

      brookeshaden - Hi Heather! Thank you for your kindness, it means so much to me! I love the not knowing process in creating, though it is annoying at the time, it is so illuminating. XOXO!ReplyCancel

  • February 16, 2017 - 9:05 am

    Surekha Shrestha - Wow I’m so happy I came across this post. I’m currently a senior in high school feeling the same intense passion and drive for the artwork that I do & have yet to do. I agree with you completely on the subject of taking your time to create meaningful pieces without a set deadline to pressure the creative process. Around summer of 2016, I started a 365 day project whete I posted a work of art a day. However, when school started I was having less time to create which hindered the quality of work. I can see & feel the focus, concentration, love, & time you put into your pieces. It inspires me to continue to do the same, to never give up on a vision. To also have a conceptual idea for the point you want to get across in each piece, and to not be afraid to feel fulfilled at the final piece without needing only external validation. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • February 16, 2017 - 10:29 am

      brookeshaden - I am so happy to hear from you! How inspiring that you are wanting to push past your constraints and create. I can’t wait to see where life takes you! Keep me posted!ReplyCancel

  • February 16, 2017 - 10:17 am

    Fit BMX - It is really a incredible series, and the write up has been just as good!
    So what’s next? Maybe a series to go in a high end gallery in Paris??? I got a big show in New York, so this seems like the next logical step. 😀
    It has been truly great reading all of the behind the scenes stuff.
    Can’t wait for your book to come out, I am looking forward to that. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • February 16, 2017 - 10:30 am

      brookeshaden - Aww thank you!! I’ve so enjoyed creating/releasing this series. As for what is next – more creativity! I certainly hope 🙂ReplyCancel

  • February 16, 2017 - 3:13 pm

    Paulo Carvalho - OMG! I loved watching this BTS! I thrilled myself! So awesome Brooke! Congratulations! Very proud of you.ReplyCancel

    • February 16, 2017 - 3:56 pm

      brookeshaden - Thank you Paulo!!ReplyCancel

  • February 16, 2017 - 5:39 pm

    Nath - Gracias por permitirnos ver el -detras de- ha sido una experiencia maravillosa apreciar el trabajo que lleva realizar tu obra.
    Exito y salud
    México/España =)ReplyCancel

    • February 17, 2017 - 8:10 am

      brookeshaden - Gracias!ReplyCancel

  • February 17, 2017 - 8:06 am

    Alejandro Molina - Thank you for “you”.ReplyCancel

    • February 17, 2017 - 8:09 am

      brookeshaden - Very much the same to you, Alex <3ReplyCancel

  • February 17, 2017 - 8:08 am

    Dave - There’s going to be a book, right? :}ReplyCancel

    • February 17, 2017 - 8:09 am

      brookeshaden - XOXO 😀ReplyCancel

  • February 17, 2017 - 8:18 am

    Su Hall - Brooke, this series is absolutely the coolest I have ever seen! I mean that in that we got to see how it came together, how you envisioned it and the results, as well as, the fails. On top[ of that, we get a glimpse of your emotional journey, to an extent, through the process. I admire you so much for going after your dream, for putting your all into one shot!
    You inspire me!

  • February 17, 2017 - 9:14 am

    Anne Parsons - Brooke: your visual writing offers such a fierce impact on the emotions. With female characters that are incredibly alive, even when distorted, they brilliantly capture one’s deepest desires and fears. Not only that, they appear to represent a reality that we hide, especially behind our social construct. I applaud how you explore the complexity of being human, and our evolvement in life’s odyssey. More importantly, when you share your gifts, and inspire each one of us, you create your best work. Namaste!ReplyCancel

  • February 17, 2017 - 11:07 am

    Pam Sogge - Incredible series Brooke. Thank you for waiting! I am sure it was periodically painful not to share your progress. Seeing it all together allows us to have such a fuller experience – the pieces as a collection, the images of pouring wax and sand, gluing all that yarn!

    It is fascinating to consider how your physical connection to creating the space effects the final image.

    I love your quote “Is that not the true soul of an artist? To desire to work. To never be finished. To seek to know oneself intimately so that we may create meaningfully? That is my why.” It’s so brave.ReplyCancel

  • February 17, 2017 - 12:25 pm

    Ronne Pierce - Brooke I can’t tell you how much the behind the scenes video means to me. I knew that these took a tremendous of amount of effort and care but seeing you in the process of bringing an idea to fruition is just so inspiring and moving. My nearly 8yo (going on 40) daughter just watched it with me and she was blown away. I love her seeing someone putting forth so much effort to make what they envision. She understood that it was “worth it”. Thank you for sharing this so I can share it with her <3 And she wants me to ask you, "How in the world you all get the wax out of the model's hair?" 🙂ReplyCancel