Spotlight Interview … Fine Art Photographer Brooke Shaden

James Robinson Photography Blog welcomes Fine Art Photographer Brooke Shaden to this segment. Thank you Brooke for sharing time with us.

Brooke Shaden: Thank you so much for the support!

JRP: Where do you call home Brooke?

Brooke Shaden: Right now I am living in Agoura Hills, California. It is about an hour north of Los Angeles. I am slowly moving as far away from the big city as I can because I’ve never been one for the hustle and bustle of it all. I like being more connected to nature.

JRP: What led you to photography? Do you have any formal training or assisting in your background?

Brooke Shaden: For me, photography came in a round-about kind of way. I always thought I would be a writer, but then discovered filmmaking in high school. I decided to pursue degrees in film and English, and when I graduated in 2008, I found myself with free time before jumping into the working scene. It was then that I was faced with my digital camera that had been gathering dust, and I decided to try my hand at still photography to finally bring the ideas I have always had in my head to life.

JRP: Who are some of the photographers that have inspired you and your approach to your craft?

Brooke Shaden: When I started I did not have a lot of outside influences, and still don’t have many. I have always been inspired by painters more than photographers, and especially have been drawn to the Pre-Raphaelite painters for their use of light, texture, and color. I love the work of Gregory Crewdson, who creates the most beautiful cinematic and dramatic images. I also look up to Tom Chambers and Jamie Baldridge a lot.

JRP: In your opinion how important are personal projects in the development of a photographer’s growth?

Brooke Shaden: I look at this question in a unique way because I have never done anything but personal projects. When I started photography it was so that I could finally live the worlds I have always dreamed of. I did not start because I enjoyed photography or creating for other people. I made myself a promise that I would always create for myself first and foremost, and so I only do personal work. I think that being true to who you are will always take you further than being true to someone else’s vision. Personal work shouldn’t be a chore, instead it should be something so natural to the artist that he/she can’t breathe without it. The most growth will come from being honest with yourself about what you want to create and what stories you want to tell.

JRP: What would we find in your equipment bag for a typical shoot?

Brooke Shaden: I keep my Canon 5d mkii in there, which I started using about 8 months ago, and a 50mm f/1.4 lens. I also have a 28mm in there, but only use that for under water shooting. I have a tripod that I use all the time, and a remote as well. That’s about it!

JRP: Your approach to lighting mentioned on your website / blog caught my attention. Could you touch upon that for our readers? Do you prefer artificial or available light? What are your most used light modifiers and why?

Brooke Shaden: I use all natural or practical light when I shoot. I am not a very technical person, so lights never intrigued me. But beyond that, I am always looking for a very mysterious, overcast vibe in my pictures. I shoot almost exclusively before the sun has come up or just after it has gone down: “magic hour.” I adjust anything that I need to about lighting later on in editing, though usually there is not much change in that regard from the original photo to the final image.

JRP: Describe your digital work flow and the software you use? Do you process your own files or employ a retoucher?

Brooke Shaden: For me the process of editing an image is central and integral to the creation process. I usually shoot about 5-10 images per photo shoot, so choosing which I want to edit is very simple. Afterwards, I take those pictures into Photoshop where I do my compositing. I put together the pictures that I need to create the desired effects. Next I will begin to change colors and contrast drastically, and finally I add texture. The process takes a minimum of 2 hours and the length after that is endless. I recently did a picture that took me almost 30 hours, though that is definitely on the long end.

JRP: What about custom white balances and color checks when you shoot?

Brooke Shaden: I almost always use auto white balance when I shoot. With the way my brain works, I find it easier to make the adjustment while editing than in-camera, especially because the most important part of transforming my pictures is through color and I know I will need the aid of extreme editing.

JRP: Image printing, is that something you handle or do you use an outside printer?

Brooke Shaden: I go to a printer here in Los Angeles who is sort of like a mentor figure! I met him two years ago when I printed my first show, and he took the time to teach me the ins and outs of photo printing. Not only that, he has been a constant source of advice about the art industry in general, and thanks to him I feel very educated regarding art and the way business is handled.

JRP: As you look through the viewfinder what would you say is the most critical moment in the capture of an image?

Brooke Shaden: I’d probably say that looking through the viewfinder is hardly even a part of my process at all. I often shoot with a remote whether or not I am shooting a self-portrait or a model because I like the control of being near the shot to tweak details or assist. The most important part is making sure everything is set up exactly as I saw it in my mind. I make sure every prop is in the spot where I want it, that the model is where I need him/her to be, and that the camera is set correctly (angle, settings, etc.). Once this is all how I envisioned, I click the shutter. There is no one element that is more important. If I start thinking of it that way, I might miss details and the entire piece might suffer.

JRP: What changes are driving the fine art market place today and how have you adjusted?

Brooke Shaden: I feel quite lucky in one way that I got into this when I did. I think that the internet is the fastest thing transforming the fine art market because more and more art is accessible online. By no means do I think that galleries are not useful, but there is a growing thirst for art to be sold and viewed online. The mass of artists on the internet is strong, which can be seen as a negative for emerging artists because it is more difficult to get your name out there. But the plus side is that it gives artists a platform to do just that: get your name out there!

JRP: What is the biggest obstacle to over-come in motivating yourself to begin new projects or workshops?

Brooke Shaden: I have always been a worrier my whole life, so when I plan a shoot or event, the first thing I think of is logistics: money and location. I often feel nervous at wondering how much money will have to be put down to create something, or if a location will pan out. But I have learned to stop worrying so much because as long as I put everything that I have into it, there is nothing more to think about.

JRP: If not photography how would you be occupying your time?

Brooke Shaden: I imagine I would be a filmmaker of sorts. I don’t know that I would have been a good filmmaker, but I certainly would have tried.

JRP: What has been the best advice given to you by another photographer?

Brooke Shaden: Follow your gut. Allow yourself to trust in your instincts and no one else’s.

JRP: What advice would you like to share with photographers who are starting out?

Brooke Shaden: Talk to yourself. Figure out what makes you tick. Ask yourself what you are most passionate about: what makes you happiest. The answers to these questions often results in a better understanding of what art you want to create and WHY you want to create it. After that, DO it! 🙂

JRP: Thank you Brooke for sharing your thoughts and images with JRP Blog. It has been a real pleasure. We wish you continued success.

Brooke Shaden: Thank you so much! I had a blast 🙂

JRP: To view more of Brooke Shaden’s photography please follow these links:


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