Friday Inspiration: Brooke Shaden

Brooke Shaden

Often as a beginning photographer you will hear the admonishment, ‘get it right in camera’, this is good advice when your starting out. It provides a restriction, a box to work in, and edges to push up against. It forces you to think about what is the subject, how do you frame the subject so that everyone knows what the subject it, are there lines that you can use to lead the eye through the image and on an on. A multitude of decisions to make on the fly that with practice become second nature, an instinct and perhaps one of the reasons that it can be so hard for some to teach what they are clearly so capable of doing.

I find that I am increasingly less interested in getting it right in camera and more interested in making sure that I’ve captured enough of the scene in front of me to be able to recreate what I felt when I was there. I’ll shoot different shutter speeds to capture waves with just the right amount of blur, I’ll focus at different points in the image so that I can get good front to back depth of field and I’ll shoot a lot of frames. I’ve actually been doing this for a while and it’s taking some time for my post-processing skills to catch up with what I’d felt and imagined I would be able to create when I was stood in various places around the world blasting away.

In looking around at people who were pushing the envelope with regards to creating images Brooke Shaden’s work caught my eye early on, initially through her book ‘Inspiration in Photography: Training your mind to make great art a habit’ and through her CreativeLive Class ‘Fine Art Portraits‘.

Brooke creates worlds that ‘she wishes we could live in, where secrets float out in the open, where the impossible becomes possible’, often using herself as the model for the photograph. She is able to create these new worlds using relatively simple techniques in photoshop.

Looking at some of the behind the scenes videos on her You Tube channel made me realize how much you could do if you just understood just a few of the tools in photoshop deeply. Watch Brooke in action and hear her talk about her work and process in the videos below.


Friday Inspiration: Cig Harvey


I’m sure you, like me, have heard that a picture is worth a thousand words but I’m increasingly of the opinion that a picture and a few words are worth more than either alone. Words can not only serve as a starting point in the creation of images but also serve as a more accessible entry point for the viewer.

There are few people that I can think of that pair words and images better than Cig Harvey. As I was thinking about this topic I decided to revisit her website and see what she’s been up to since 2012’s ‘You Look At Me Like An Emergency’ and was pleasently surprised to see that she has a new body of work ‘Gardening at Night’ that will be released in book form in the spring.

Check out Cig talking about her process – I love this comment ‘Postcards provide answers, photography and art ask questions’ and there are many more – in the video below.

Friday Inspiration: Thomas Joshua Cooper

The people that I feature in these Friday Inspiration posts are artists whose work I enjoy looking at and so it’s natural that I follow what they doing. I particularly enjoy Thomas Joshua Cooper’s seascapes and was quite pleased to find a longer video of him talking about his atlantic basin project. Check it out below:

While I was looking for videos of Cooper talking about his work I found another video, a conversation facilitated by Roger Wilson between Chris Wainwright & Thomas Joshua Cooper about their work, the journeys that they take and what it is to be an artist. Well worth a look.

Looking at Photographs: A Way to Improve Your Photography


Getting basic techniques down and being able to replicate photographs that others have made is all well and good. But how do you advance beyond that to make photographs that are unique, that express your unique vision.

Many people use the struggles and creative processes of writers to help guide the photography path. Skeptical? Take a look at Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing‘ and change his mention of writing for photography and you’ll see what I mean.

My development as a photographer has paralleled the way I learned to play the guitar. I spent many hours learning how to play songs and even more time how to play blues riffs. At first this was following along with instructional books and CDs, as an aside David Hamburger and Dave Rubin produced some phenomenal instructional books and CDs, and then later working out riffs for myself from the CDs that I had. This let me build up a series of phrases that I could be dropped into either my own songs or the songs of others, in many ways like learning elements of photographic technique that will later be pieced together to make an image.

For both writing and learning to play the guitar there comes a point where progression comes from studying the work of others. Either reading more in the case of writing or listening more when it comes to learning an instrument. The same is true for photography. We’re surrounded by images but I suspect that few of us take the time to really look at them, to really see. When was the last time you went to an exhibition of photography or painting? When was the last time that you pulled one of your coffee table photography books down and spent 10 minutes looking at a single image?

If you’re like me, more engineer than artist, perhaps part of the reason is that you don’t have the language to describe what your seeing and you could argue if we could use words we’d be writers. The very act however of simply describing the image in front of you is enormously useful first step in becoming comfortable with describing photographs and identifying elements within them that you could use in your own photography. The more time you spend looking at other photographs the more photographs you’ll see when you have your camera in hand.

So how to start? Start with a very basic description: What is it a photograph of? Color or black & white? Shape of the frame? Where was it taken? When was it taken? How was it taken? Then go beyond the basics: Why was it taken? How does it make you feel?

I’d be interested in your feedback and comments if you run through this exercise with the image above.

Friday Inspiration: Joey L.

I recently came across a solid recommendation for Joey L.’s new book Photographing Shadow and Light: Inside the Dramatic Lighting Techniques and Creative Vision of Portrait Photographer Joey L. and decided to give Joey a second chance after writing him off based on his performance at the GPP 2010 photo shoot out. Check that out here.

I must say that I was glad that I did. His book covers both his personal and commercial work and gives what seems to me to be a pretty decent look behind the scenes at how he approaches shooting. Much more interesting to me were the videos that Cale Glendening produced of some of Joey’s trips to make the personal work. I was impressed with the time that Joey puts in to get to know his subjects and his willingness to go the extra mile to break down barriers and build relationships. Well worth a look. Look out for Cale getting a traditional Mentawai tattoo. Check out the videos below.