A few weeks ago I said I would do a Question and Answer video blog as part of my Promoting Passion series, and here it is! Well, part one, anyway. I decided to leave out the more technical questions for this version, but will be posting a part two eventually. I tried to pick out the most frequently asked questions and the ones I found to be really interesting, too.
What’s your biggest regret in your photography?
Worrying too much about people copying my work to realize that if we all help one another, everyone can be elevated. I try to correct that way of thinking every day.
When you started with artistic photography, what motivated you and what made you keep going at the beginning when you had few skills with photoshop or with your camera?
There is one simple thought that has motivated me more than any other, and it is understanding that everyone starts with nothing. It is the one thing that can connect us all. We all begin with an imagination, and the tools we use to express that imagination are the building blocks to our future. I used to get frustrated and still do when it comes to technique, but I always come back to that valuable reminder that even the best started with nothing, and I can persevere.
Very few people see my pics and I don’t want to be annoying. Any advice on how to spread them or get more likes on Facebook?
I hear that! I struggle with the same thing, as I think most people do who are trying to put their passion into the world. My Facebook advice is this: Post pictures directly to FB as they are more likely to engage an audience. Respond to people when you can in a personal manner. And post valuable information either about your images or about your philosophies and opinions.
How does one make a living off fine art? Is it all about trying to get gallery shows and sales through galleries? Is is a constant marketing issue? Do you market to galleries or someone else?
There are a lot of ways to make a living as a fine art photographer, especially since “fine art” simply refers to someone who creates for him or herself first and foremost and then sells the resulting product for money. I personally sell through galleries and that is how I do a lot of my marketing. I allow the galleries to place ads in magazines and take my work to art fairs which is how the majority of the sales are made. I also license my images online for album art and book covers, and do an occasional commissioned portrait. I also host artist retreats to feed my creative soul. I “market” on social media, so I spend most of my energy writing blog posts that will be relevant and entertaining to my specific audience while posting on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve never done any in-person marketing, aside from submitting to magazines and galleries.
I have a Canon 1000D, not best out there, and I’m always intimidated by photographers with better equipment. Do you have any advice on how to be more confident in your work?
I used to be intimidated too. Just a couple months ago I was at a photography convention and someone asked me to help them set up lights for a class they were teaching. I absolutely froze and then spouted out how I had no idea how to set up lights. A soft box? Oh no…I felt completely inadequate, just the same as I felt when I had no idea how to work my Nikon D80. But the most important thing to remember is that art can be created with anything at all. A point and shoot, a pinhole camera, the highest-end DSLR or my old Nikon D80. It doesn’t matter what is capturing the image as long as your imagination is at work. The equipment and technique will come, and a better quality product can result, but never believe that your equipment is letting you down.
I will never forget once when I did an interview and the question was: What is your favorite tool in Photoshop? I answered by saying “the erasure tool”, and the magazine wrote back asking me to choose something else because hardly anyone uses that tool. I refused, because in my opinion it is not the technique that makes the art, it is the individual.
When did you decide that you should submit to galleries? I have been thinking about submitting for a while, but I’m scared and I’m not sure if my work is “worthy”. Did you feel the same way or am I just doubting my work?
I still feel that way ALL THE TIME! There is not a gallery that I’ve submitted to where I haven’t felt inadequate in some way. The mere feeling of inadequacy, however, should not be what is stopping you from submitting. In my opinion, an artist should have a solid body of work before submitting. I believe that should be at least 10 images that you feel are strong and can back up with good information either about how it was created, why you created it, and so on. Further, you should have a website, even if it is a template or blog, that cohesively shows your work in an easy-to-digest manner. The last tip I have is to understand, at least roughly, how you want to size, edition and price your work. From there, you’re good to submit as long as you are smart about who you are submitting to!
How do you manage to keep on shining as bright as you do? How do you manage to keep going against all odds? I’m pretty confident in my work & who I am as an artist but at times I feel overwhelmed with the negativity I receive from it. I’m not one to apologize for my work but at times it does get me down. Especially when it’s from local “established” photographers from my area. I know there is no right or wrong when it comes to how you express yourself with your art & imagination, but they do not seem to know that.
Whew trust me I hear that. I have been torn down quite a few times about what I do, why I do it, and I’ve listened to opinions about if I should be doing the work that I do. There are two points that I want to make about this. Just because you hear negativity doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there who feel just the opposite. If you don’t hear it, it may be that you aren’t sharing your work in the right places. Join groups that cater to your style or your vision or opinions. Join a meetup where other creatives who are more open-minded can be a support group for you. I have my own support group that I rely on all the time. If someone says something that hurts me, I tell my husband. We always work through it. My next point is to realize that you have no idea, most of the time, why someone is saying what they are saying. If someone spreads negativity, keep in mind that you don’t know them and they don’t know you. It is good to spark debate, but it doesn’t always feel good to be the target of hate. Be respectful of people even if you don’t feel it is deserved. You never know how your kindness can change the life of someone in need. Hate is very often a cry for help.
What is the funniest or craziest story from a shoot?
There was that one time I filled my car with maggots from the elk spine I picked up in the forest…
That other time when a park ranger found me halfway in the creek with my model half-undressed as I was shooting underwater, and we got wayyyy kicked out of that park.
Then the other time when I ironically got kicked out of another park while shooting underneath a SHERIFF sign.
There was that time when I tried to sink a wooden bed in a pool, and 6 hours later decided to just take a nap on it while floating in the water.
There was also that time in Scotland when I was trying to climb a fence to get into some old ruins and got scared right at the top, got my butt hooked on some barbed wire, got seen from the road, and then, 10 minutes later, realized the door was open the whole time.
I have a current list of about 25-30 scenes I would love to shoot. The inspiration comes easy to me, it’s the applying it/getting it done is the hard part. My questions are, how do I go about getting a model for them when I have $0 for them and I am by no means photo material myself.
Whenever I am organizing a shoot, I try to be as transparent as possible about the process. I will send sketches, a description of the photo that I hope to achieve, and my terms in very plain words. If I can’t pay, I let them know that. I also let them know exactly what I can give – maybe I pay for transportation or dinner. Maybe I offer a small print in return, or a high-res file. Maybe it is simply about the collaborative process. Maybe I offer them a blog post dedicated to the shoot. I look on model mayhem and ask around on Facebook, and I always try to make the first time I work with a model a shoot that will result in at least one image for them, while also not being a shoot that is very important. I try to build up trust with a model before we collaborate on something that I need to work.
I am working on 52 week self portrait and last week I shot the first one outside. I always shoot inside my home because I’m too nervous about what people will think and even some times I worry about publishing my photos online. A couple of times people have asked questions like, “what are you even trying to do with taking pictures of yourself”? How do you overcome this?
I did the same thing when I started – I always shot indoors because I was too nervous of people judging me should I shoot outside. I did self-portraits for ease because I was too nervous to ask anyone to model…so I identify with you completely. However, I have learned something so powerful, I think everyone should adopt it as their mantra: No stranger cares that much about me. Seriously though…am I right?! No one does. If you were to see someone that you don’t know doing something strange in public, what would you think? Chances are it would be a funny story to share with your friends and that’s it. It would be entertaining. So if you are that person doing something a bit weird, does it really matter? No one cares! I started thinking that way and have overcome so much in terms of my shyness and insecurities. I photograph myself all the time now wherever I am inspired, because I know that at worst someone will laugh at me, and at best I will inspire someone else to pursue their passion.
Those who create self-portraits do so for personal reasons – we all have our reasons. Mine personally though is to put myself in the worlds that I wish I lived in. And if someone doesn’t like that, they don’t have to look. Stand up for what you believe in and do so kindly, and the rest will fall into place.
daniel - Your are just as awesome as always, I have created a few images inspired by your work, your passion and your overall up lifting spirit.
Rather than questions, I have grattitude for you.
Amani - Your stories made me laugh! They all sound like so much fun.
And your answers definitely help. I’m still struggling with Facebook and trying to get people to interact with what I post, but I think it’s slowly getting better.
Have a great day Brooke <3 hugs!
Tina - Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for sharing. What really resonated with me was the part about equipment. I have been shooting about four years now and a couple of months ago I assisted with a wedding. The girl I was shooting with asked me to go over and turn on her off camera flash and trigger. I had NO idea what to do and felt so stupid! During the reception it was so dim that my less expensive camera couldn’t focus. I left that wedding feeling so defeated. I just love your approach and your positive attitude. Also, loved the story of you going over the fence 🙂 Every time I look at your work I get so inspired to try something new. Have an awesome day!
Rand Huneidi - Hello Brooke:)
Thank you so much for this video and for always being an inspiration…I’m trying to send you an email about your upcoming retreats but it doesn’t seem to work!
all the best,
Marlene Chabot - WOW – Brooke, you just inspire me like crazy! You are such a beautiful person and your art is beyond magnificent!! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences. You are by far, my favourite photographer, and I am so grateful to you for all you give to the photography community.
moodphototeija - thank you again for the great video post! those always gives me inspiration and strength to trying stay in my own path <3
Have a great day and weekend and waiting for new images!
Jishnu - Thank you so much Brooke .!!Thanks a lot for answering my questions. Its fascinating to know an artist like you who is willing to share their knowledge and passion to other creatives . You are amazing . You are a big pool of inspiration. . Have a great day .
Denise McGill - More gushing, sorry. I agree with everyone. Each week I look forward to getting inspired and encouraged to try new things through your videos. I know what you mean about all the answers. One time I sat in the parking lot in front of a gallery with my art work beside me positively paralized. I know I have work with merit but I just sat there arguing with myself and eventually after an hour and half, gave up the argument and drove home. It is awesome to meet someone so authentic with their own trials and triumphs. Thanks for being humble enough to be real.
Paulo Alexandre Carvalho - Another great video, Brooke. Great questions! All of them relevant. And your answers were also great and with extreme simplicity, as you are. And the most beautiful, is that we all go through all these phases and questions. But in the end, what matters, and how you sayest well, is our ability to imagine. Thanks and best regards.
Jen Sulak - great blog! ….and as i’m reading, i can totally hear u talking in your voice LOL!!!!!
Ailene - Thank you for my inspiration of the week Brooke! I love your quote about your reasons for making self-portraits: “Mine personally though is to put myself in the worlds that I wish I lived in.” I can definitely identify with that. (And your funny shoot stories made me laugh!)
natascha van niekerk - Brooke, thank you! Your process and growth as an artist and your willingness to share it with us in such honesty and sincerity is a bright star in the artist community! Always enlightening, encouraging and inspiring! 😀
natalie - THANK YOU! <3
I appreciate very much what you do, and I think it's special just because you talk about your experiences how they really happened. You show us the REAL side of the situation and how you really felt about it …And there is nothing better than to hear the truth and to realize that we all come from the same place.. <3
Sherina - Dear Brooke-
I wake up and think—-let me go see what Brooke has posted. :). You are an amazing person and photographer. Your parents did one Hell of a job. I love how you are using your talent to change the world.
I love this video….and grateful to the people who sent in those questions. My favorite is—–No one cares what you are doing!!! I love it. I stop myself from posting what I create because I think someone cares! Lol. (Metaphorically speaking) You just gave me the permission to speed and not worry about getting a ticket- because NO one cares! I am about to enjoy feeling my hair blow in the wind. Thank You Brooke!!! My greatest gift to myself will be to attend one of your workshops one day! Thank you again! And do not stop:))
What is fine art photography?The Wild Boar Gallery - […] of Fine Art that I’d read earlier in the week, by Brooke Shaden, that really struck a chord. She said that fine art was the creative pursuit that you do just for yourself, “fine art” simply refers […]
Promoting Passion Week 40: Q&A Part 2 | Promoting Passion - […] Missed the first Q&A? Here it is! […]
Carlos - thanks for been such an inspiration for all of us. If somebody here from the Tampa bay area who would like to connect that will be awesome