Part of my business is made up of licensing images to various people, things like album art and book covers, and I absolutely love that part of it – I get to create what I love and then hope that someone else likes it enough to buy it. Sounds pretty simple, and in execution, it isn’t too hard. But of course, as with all things in the arts, it is about getting your work in front of the right people. Which I am distinctly not good at, because I do my best not to worry about hustling in that way.
Though miraculously sometimes my images do sell, and it’s always a thrill when that happens. Along with licensing already-made images, I also create new content for book covers, album art, posters, etc…when the time comes. In this case, I was approached by Penguin books and they liked an image I had done previously, but thought it was too dark for a young adult fiction novel. They asked if I could recreate the image but this time a little bit softer, adding some color into it and making the expression less pained.
I have a rule for myself that I will not shoot something if it is far outside of my vision. So if they had asked me to recreate the picture but with the girl smiling and wearing a rainbow hoodie, I would have had some serious reservations. But instead, I could envision this cover coming to life and could see that it really wouldn’t be very far outside of something I might create. Heck, I had already created it once! So I went to work.
I hired a model and two assistants to help (the model is Brittney Panda, and my assistants were Bryce Rankins and Devin Schiro). We got to the beach one evening to begin shooting, and it went rather smoothly! The water was frigid, but that was nothing new. We shot first in a calm body of water and then in the ocean for the real chop, which I ended up preferring.
Working with a company on an image requires a few changes in mindset. First thing to remember is that they hired me for a reason, therefore I should shoot what feels right…to a point. The other thing is that I also need to keep in mind some specifications since this is not, in the end, going to be my picture. This picture will represent a book that I did not write, so I need to keep the wishes of the author in mind, too. I bought several wardrobe options based on their suggestions and sent them pictures, at which time they all agreed on this purple shirt. I asked about hand positioning and facial expression, and did my best to pull those things out of the model when the time came.
I ended up sending in a few different edits, and we went back and forth on a few matters – adding more hair, taking away some hair, changing a hand – these types of things which I was happy to change until they were happy. It is a true honor to be asked to shoot for Penguin, who publishes books that are engrained in my childhood, and I feel very fortunate to be in this position. It doesn’t come along every day.
I teach all about image licensing at workshops if you are interested in learning more about the business. I’ll be posting new workshop updates in April.
laura - Nice work and pretty cool to realise what opportunites can come from creating images yofor yourself. Also good what kind of level of compromise is acceptable on such requests
I work for a publisher, love seeing creative book covers
brookeshaden - Yes I so agree! We all, at one point or another, tend to think that we must do something in a specific way to find success…but I believe that if you work hard enough on what makes you fulfilled, the rest will fall into place. Not all the time, and not in the ways we expect, but sometimes and eventually.
How neat working for a book publisher! That was a career I looked into once upon a time 🙂
Andrea - This is great Brooke!! Are the new workshops you are posting in April going to be the online workshops you have talked about? Either way can’t wait!
brookeshaden - Thanks Andrea! I’m still debating on the online workshop – lots of logistics to consider but I truly do hope so! At the very least, a retreat in London is on the menu 🙂
Andrea - 🙂
Margherita Introna - You did a great job Brooke! Love the model’s expression and the hair across the face. I remember you mentioning on a couple of occasions how dramatic the shoot was for your “House of Floods” image. No doubt you learnt a lot from that as it seems from your blog that this shoot went much smoother. It must have been fun to go out and shoot something over in this way 😉
brookeshaden - Thank you so much! Yes..that first shoot was quite an event! A bloody one at that! This one went much smoother and I handled the walls much better this time – I got smaller pieces of foam core, drilled handles into the backs of them, and my two assistants stood behind and held them together. Whew!
Kat Rosenfield - I’m the author of this book, and I just wanted to say that I’m so in love with the cover (and with your work, Brooke) that I can hardly stand it. It’s moody and surreal and such a perfect visual encapsulation of the story I wanted to tell.
I still remember the email my editor sent last year, telling me they’d found an artist, showing that first image and explaining that they’d like to build off of it; I was so excited, and even then, the finished product was beyond anything I could have imagined. It’s so cool now to read this perspective on the cover from the person who created it!
brookeshaden - Kat!! I am so, so happy to hear from you! How wonderful to be able to talk directly now. I feel like we’re already connected through this image, with me trying to figure out what is in your mind 🙂 Thank you for allowing me to be part of this beautiful process. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy and read cover to cover. Just let me know if ever you need anything else. Xoxoxo! Sending inspiration to you today!
Melanie - I love this. I’ve been wondering myself about this side of the business due to a comment a friend made about one of my images being on the cover of a novel. This would be an interesting topic to learn about.
I’d love to attend one of your workshops some day. If ever you’re in the Spokane, WA area I’ll be the first on your sign-up list!
brookeshaden - Hi Melanie! I’d love to have you at a workshop!! That would be super 🙂 I’ll let you know if I’m in that area or if an online workshop comes available.
Mary-Claire - Congratulations! How awesome that you were able to learn from your first shoot (handles in the back-brilliant!) and recreate something that has your flair for a book cover.
brookeshaden - Totally! I was so glad that I had already failed at this once so that I didn’t have to do it with a client on the line! 😀 Live and learn!
Kimberly A Edwards - Brooke,
Ever since I took your course on creativeLIVE I’ve been in love with your art. I love how you post here and do the videos. I never knew you existed before then.
I’m so happy I found out about you.
On another note: I sent you an email last month and I’m wondering if it went to your spam folder? I’ve not gotten any response back at all. Just curious is all.
Thanks again! 🙂
brookeshaden - Hi Kimberly! Oh gosh I don’t see it in my inbox – shall we chat here or should I email you? If you send me your email I can send you one 🙂 You are so lovely!
Izzy - Thank you for sharing this. Congratulations to you! The picture is wonderful! I apologize if this comment wavers a bit from the topic of this blog post, but I felt the need to share it with you. I am so incredibly inspired by all of your work as a young photographer. I often notice that I am limiting myself for whatever reason — whether it is a lack of resources or access to locations, and I understand now that I may be looking for reasons to avoid shooting. Maybe I don’t want to try new things, because what I have done before always has been met with good feedback. Your surreal photos take my breath away. Your editing process is really quite incredible and you’re ability to be in touch with yourself is more than admirable. While I don’t want to solely depend on photoshop to create my photos for me (and I am in no way suggesting that this is what you do), I have realized that photoshop can create wonderful things — it allows your imagination to run wild and the possibilities of visual composition to be endless — if you don’t have the dress you need, you can take a photo and paste it in. If the background isn’t as you want it to be, you can adjust it.
We do have to be careful though I believe, and ensure that the usage of photoshop is still your work, your photography. If we depend on it to much, we can become reliant on it, and lazy, thinking that if we need something we can just paste it in.
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us and I wish you the best.
brookeshaden - Izzy, I have to tell you how much this comment means to me. I identify with you so much – so often, when I think I don’t have the resources that I need, I am making an excuse not to fail…when in fact not creating is the only failure there is. I absolutely love that you are pushing past that feeling and trying new things. Power to you!
Amani - That is incredible! You told us about this but I’m still so happy for you!! It’s a beautiful picture (though I have to say I prefer the original). And I know Brittney Panda! I’ve been following her on instagram for a while, she’s amazing!
brookeshaden - Yay awesome!
meredith lynn - hi brooke!
I remember being there for this shoot and finding it so incredibly inspiring. my first time witnessing how conceptual fine art comes together. ever since then I have been so inspired and continuing to work towards my goal. no fears. this cover turned out beautifully and can’t wait to read the book too!
brookeshaden - Meredith, you are so amazing!!!
Mary Angelini - Congrats Brooke, that is fantastic and such a validation of what you do! Excellent image…makes me want to read the book! 🙂
brookeshaden - Fantastic! That’s what a cover is meant to do so I’m super happy to hear that! 😀
thomas miles - love this, well done! 🙂 I’ve started printing my photos now, and am struggling with save TIFF files and giving them to the printers, do you have any advise on how to adjust and improve my files in order to make better prints?
David Charles - Brooke,
This is so awesome, I’ve been a fan of yours and I had the pleasure of shooting some portraits of Kat – the author – last December. I was excited to see a connection when I saw your blog post. We’re only two degrees separated – or two Kevin Bacons. Is that how that works?
Anyway – thanks for the behind the scenes as well. I love reading about stuff like that. Keep up the great posts!