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Resourcing a Team

Lesson 9 from: Fine Art Conceptual Photography from Shoot through Post-Processing

Bella Kotak, Pratik Naik

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Lesson Info

9. Resourcing a Team

Next Lesson: Working with Talent


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Artistic Vision and Inspiration


Personal Projects


Creative Motivation and Defining Your Story


Organizing Your Inspiration


Building A Character


Creating Wardrobe and Props


Location Scouting


Lesson Info

Resourcing a Team

Resourcing a team. So, how do you find a team? How do you find a team? You know, it's funny you mentioned that. Speaking of teams. (laughs) As a retoucher, it's really vital that we have the best team possible. A biggest mistake that I see happen is whenever you find a makeup artist, you may even like this makeup artist a lot, but their work may be awful. It's not personal, it's just business. Sometimes, if their work is great, or I mean, sorry, if they're great people but their work isn't very good, it's okay to keep on looking. Have that in mind first. Don't be attracted to someone just for their personality. Make sure their work also matches. Yeah, but do you know what? I think personality's really important. It is. Yeah. Like, your vibe attracts your tribe and I really feel if the vibe is good-- Where'd you learn that from? I wonder where. But seriously, it's true. Who you are attracts the people that you bring into your life, so. And especially what you put out will at...

tract those people interested as well. And so, yeah. My friends are people who are very into the same kind of things that I am. Not all of them, admittedly, but the ones that I work with when it comes to teamwork. For example, Vanessa, who I shot the dress with in LA, the one that we shot by the cliff instead of the water, and then Jessica, who's a model, they've all become friends and they're all creative and they've now become a team that I reach out to all the time whenever I'm on the West Coast. I also look to Facebook groups, Instagram, and ask for recommendations as well from other people. I've put it up, ask online as a status. Hey, I'm looking for a model. Hey, I'm looking for a makeup artist. Does anybody know of any? Also, what really helps is to be friends with other photographers. Now, I know that, I think we're better now than maybe before. Photographers are really good at being friends with each other. I think now community has become so important. Community's become stronger. As we all are here, right? I mean, like a platform like this. Yeah, and really start reaching out to other photographers in your area. If they don't reach back to you, that's fine. If they do, you've made a connection. And they'll have their own makeup artists or hair artists that they can recommend for you, and you will have for them. It just makes it better for everybody. So, I actually actively add photographers as friends on Facebook so that when I need help, I just ask a question and people help. And I help others as well. If they're asking questions, I'm there as well as a resource. Yeah, and we always focus on people who are sometimes really negative. But we latch onto them, but we sometimes forget about the 100 people who are positive. And in reality, I feel like there's more positive influence photography than the negative. Unfollow the negative people. You can control your world. And I don't have room for negativity in mine. So, yeah. Create a spreadsheet of your creative contacts. So this is something that I started doing a year ago, and it is so useful. So, I'm a giant stalker. That's how she met me, by the way. That's definitely not how we met. Do not try that, it's not true. But I am a giant stalker. So, I will look at who you've worked with, and then see where they're located, and if I like, check out their work, see where they're located, and then I will put them on a list of creatives in that place. So I have a spreadsheet on Google Drive and it basically is a list of hair and makeup artists, models, it's not of the photographers, sorry, but it lists a team, and this will split up by country, so, and city in that country. It's not as extensive as it is. Basically like, London, New York, LA, Houston, Bali, which is where I was as well for a little bit of time. And so, I've got people that I can reach out, and at the moment, Australia. So, I've got people that I can reach out to in those countries that I've come across over the Internet. Because you can't remember everybody. So I keep everyone on a spreadsheet. And when it comes to finding those people, I look on Instagram, because those of the photographers that I follow share their team, especially on Instagram, and their contact details. So, me being me will go through. If I like their work, I like their vibe, I think we'd work well together, I just save them and put them on that spreadsheet. What I will also do is reach out to them and say hi. I'll be like, hi, I just came across you and your work's amazing. And it's surprising how many opportunities you get that way, just by saying hello. Yes. So, the initial contact is a friendly one, rather than one just for work. And if they're interested, they'll get back to you and then the relationship begins quite naturally. And if they don't respond back, it's not a big deal as well. I just know that if I need to, I can reach out to them for work. So, you know. Be honest about your expectations and payment, and I think this is really important as well because I hate people not knowing where they stand. I don't like not knowing where I stand. I need to know that if, I need to know that you know what's happening in this situation. If we're shooting trade for print, I will be honest and be like, hey. We're gonna be shooting trade for print. Are you okay with prints? From this photo shoot, you're probably gonna get one to two pictures. Is that okay? And then we'll go from there. So, at least that way I know that I'm managing their expectations as well as mine, and another thing to also do is, well, you don't have to, but I do this, which is undersell but over-deliver. So, I am an over-deliverer and I hate over-delivering in the pitch and then bringing so much pressure on myself for meeting that expectation. Yeah, always agree to terms so you know your limits. But when your limits are set, you can easily go above that line. Yes, so I'll be like, you're gonna get one or two pictures. But actually, she might go home with five or six. Especially if they're really nice. Then they get more, right? They get more, yeah. Yeah, they usually do. Especially if they were great and loving and they stay a little bit extra and put in that extra work, I was like, yeah, you're gonna get more. So, undersell, over-deliver and it will make you feel better too. And then the last point is building your reputation. And that's kind of the same thing because, like you said, everything comes back to you. When you're a nice person and you put the quality of work that you say you're gonna do, everyone remembers that and they talk. Most of my business comes from word of mouth. I don't even market myself that much anymore because of the fact that, as an industry, we're actually quite small. And we all share connections, whether we believe it or not. We're all gossips. Right, Gossip Girl, that's what we do. We're all Gossip Girl. No, but it's true. You'll quickly notice, and I'm sure you guys have as well. Everyone begins to know each other and people talk. So, if you're gonna be somebody who is a diva or somebody who behaved badly or yeah, somebody will probably-- You get a time out. You get a time out. Somebody will say something and just be like, no, we don't want to, don't work with her because she was a bit funny on that shoot. I've had that happen to me where I've had people message me about a hair artist or a stylist and just be like, hey Bella, just reaching out to you. I know you've been chatting on Facebook with this girl but I worked with her and I didn't have a good experience. It was really bad, I lost some money. I'm just gonna let you know. You can still work with her, but I'm just gonna let you know so that you don't make the same mistake I did. People talk. And it saved a lot of heartache later. Yeah, it did. Because then I'm like, oh my god, thank you because I don't need that. So I'll find somebody else. So, reputation is really key. Okay. So, I mentioned this earlier but I'll go over it again. When it comes to styling, if you're starting out, honestly, eBay, Etsy, thrift stores are your best friends. They're so easy. You can find some awesome stuff in there. Even if you're doing fashion photography, beauty photography, you'll be surprised what you can find at a thrift store. Right, everything. And speaking of which, even doing it yourself, like crafting, because over your own creative life, they have a lot of craft shows as well, which comes into play what we're kind of doing, which is perfect. Yeah, so there you go. Rental houses and theater companies. So say, for example, you are somebody who wants to build up your fine art portfolio. How do you go about doing that? If you can't sew. Like me. So, reaching out to theater companies, because they often have costumes on standby, right? In their boxes and their warehouses. They might be willing to lend you some if you ask nicely. But you have to ask. Rental companies as well. You can just ask them and maybe rent for a day or two. Designers, connecting on social media. So then, this is what I do as well. I look up designers on social media, Facebook, Facebook Groups, Instagram. You guys, Instagram's your friend. How many of you guys are predominantly more on Instagram than Facebook at the moment? Yeah, Instagram. And who's on Facebook? Oh my god, not that many, yeah. Yeah, it's amazing how times have changed. Yeah, it is amazing. We did mention that because a lot of people are having a hard time switching over, but it is really important to have presence on both, especially nowadays. Yeah. And I feel like you can network more on Instagram now because of you can direct message people. It does seem a bit friendly. I'm surprisingly using it. Me too. A lot, so. I use it. When people DM me, I actually see it. Yeah, so I reach out to designers on Instagram a lot as well. And also because they want to meet others on social media. So, it's a bit of both. So, on the subject of styling, I was gonna talk about something that I had available to me in using what I had. So, very quickly, I had a huge flower haul last year. Oh, I know it. You were there. I got to experience the whole thing, I know. Oh yeah, you didn't see. You weren't there when I bought them, but they kept coming into the house with bags of flowers. And then the whole family started going away because there was no space for anybody left. It was overcrowded. So basically, it was Mother's Day the day before, and then the day after, these flowers were expiring. I don't know why, but they were. And the local garage was selling them at half price. So, I walked in and seeing them, obviously getting very excited, decided to haggle a little bit. And I was like, I'll buy all of them for 20 pounds. And then they were like, no, 50. I was like, no, 30. And so, I got it for 35. And decided to add them to a dress that I had bought on eBay. It was somebody's old wedding dress. And I hadn't actually used it for a photo shoot. So I decided to add the flowers to the dress. And I enlisted the help of Scarlett, my model who was gonna model this dress. And I think she liked it too because she was a part of the creative process and we were doing it together. It was very, yeah, it was like a moment. So, we stuck the flowers onto the dress. Actually, we didn't. We stuck the flowers onto a fabric, and this is where watching crafting videos really comes into play. So I actually bought the same color tulle of fabric from a fabric store, cut them into strips, and then stuck the flowers on those strips, and then I pinned that to the dress, so that I wasn't abusing the dress itself. I was just doing it on the fabric and I could pin it off and pin it on. And this is what the final piece looked like. And the next day, we took it on location and I captured this photograph. So, it was a very DIY job. Dress from eBay. These flowers were actually from a craft store, and then this was a flower haul I had that inspired me to add more to it, and then I shot it on location, just actually, there was a motorway and it was off a motorway on a main road, down a little lane, and suddenly, there was moss covered grass and yeah, complete shot out there. And then what timeframe do you have once the flowers are on the dress? Not a lot, yeah. Because once you cut the flower from the stem, it's gonna, they were already, this was the next day and they were looking a bit wilted. But I kind of liked it, because it was like that dead flower look, and you know, it just felt-- You're really dark, you know that? (laughing) I was like, don't know, I kind of liked it. I thought it was just really interesting. And yeah, all the styling I did myself as well. And I think all of us have that power to do that within us as well. We all have a sense of what's beautiful and what's not and you just bring it onboard. So in this case, I just added a few of the flowers onto her face. I wanted to get the feeling that she's coming from the earth, or she was a part of it and asleep in it, embedded within it. I don't know. I don't know what I was feeling that day either. So sometimes you work with designers, and I want to share how I got this photo and the clothes for this photo. So this designer is a woman called Agnieszka Osipa and she's based in Poland, and she actually rents her pieces out. So if you wanted to work with these pieces, you can actually rent them from her because she has a rental shop. So, she reached out to me because she found me through other photographers, because our network is quite small in our fantasy fairytale world, but also, Instagram as well because everyone's connected. So, she found me, she connected to contact me and she said, hey, I want to send you some pieces. Can you create with them? And you have to have a conversation with a designer. So, I asked her if she wanted me to, if she minded if I used those pieces mixed with other pieces from other designers, because I had some from other designers at the time, and she said no. She would prefer it if it was just her pieces in that photograph. And I think that communication is really important. So if you do work with a designer, always ask if they mind you mixing the pieces up, because some designers don't like it. Because if they go to share it on their social media, I think they want to be able to share just their pieces in that photograph. That's a good point because-- But some don't mind. You can actually rent pieces if you don't want to make your own. You don't have to feel like you have to make everything. Yeah. And then, yeah, and then after that, it's all just you, however you want to interpret it. So, this dress has been shot so many times by loads of different photographers, but I had to, I wanted to add my own spin. Therefore, I brought my white, delicate flowers. I knew we were gonna be shooting against a dark, muted background. And I knew that I was gonna turn these leaves a little bit gold because I wanted them to match the dress as well. And for me, that's my way of connecting the model to the background, and I do this with all of my photo shoots. There's always a connection between the subject and the background. Are there specific colors you can't use in a scene like that? Bright pink. Oh yeah, so brighter colors. So many, so many. Yeah, because a palette, you want to keep it on the same kind of palette. So even with this, it's all in a very muted palette. If I suddenly had a bright pop of red on her lips, that's not my style. It might work for somebody else if that was their style, but it's not mine. I wanted to keep a very painterly look, and a very painterly look means having a cohesive palette. So, in this case there's lots of muted tones of deeper reds, oranges, yellows and greens and gold as well. And I made this piece my own, again, by adding a floral touch, and for me again, it was the same kind of vibe where she's coming from the earth. So I had the pieces I shoved down her dress as if she's blossoming from within or something. I noticed something. A lot of pieces have people that are either sleeping or in center focus. Is there a reason or is it just your own personal purpose? Yes okay, so composition is another way to set your styling or sense of style apart from other people. So, we've talked a lot about color toning and how color toning can set you apart from another person. Your choice of model. We've talked about your choice of styling as well. You've seen my sense of styling and that might be different to yours and that's okay. But how you composite and frame a shot is also very indicative to your style as a photographer. It can easily make somebody look at a picture and be like, that looks really similar to Bella's. Oh, it is Bella's. You know, like that. So for me, I've recently learnt that I love the bird's eye view. Shooting from above. And then, the lying down I guess is just come by really naturally. It just so happened that I like girls lying down. I don't know. I just felt this worked really beautifully. Just, the shape of the face when the head is tilted, I thought was lovely, and the forms as they were merged together like that, I felt was really lovely as well. As well as restrictions that we had when we were on location as well. So all of these things come into play, but I move. So, there's a, I think there's a quote but I can't remember it. But essentially, the gist of it is, when it comes to photo shoot, it's like a dance between you and the model. And you're constantly moving around, and you're trying, you're both working in a weird dance where you're trying to find the shot. And it could be from any angle. So I never restrict myself to shooting just from here. I'll make sure I'm moving and I, that's how I exercise. My lunges and squats happen at photo shoots. It's like those poses you see photographers do at odd angles. Photographer yoga. That's me, yeah. I'll squat and there'll be a shot, maybe from below or I'll shoot from above or shoot from the side. I'm diving into the foliage and shooting from below and trying to see what happens there. But I do give myself options, and then build up the final picture from that. And all of that actually happens during the test shoot. So the test shoot is when I'm moving and when I'm actually shooting, I've figured out what I want to create and now it's a sense of just capturing that picture. Yeah, and the test shoots are always important because you can see what to fix. Because if you take those photos, you go home and half the time, oh, I was out of focus. Make sure you zoom into those details in there. Make sure they're intact.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Practice PSD File - Sleeping Beauty
Pratik Naik Retouching Actions
The Royal Collection - Fine Art Actions
Practice PSD File - Location Shoot (~700mb)
Practice PSD File - In Studio Shoot (~1.3gb)

Ratings and Reviews


Great class and great instructors. Genuine and informative. Practical tips to create stunning images. Seeing them work through the process from shoot to finished image was great and I loved that they shared the thought processes behind the creative decisions. Definitely recommended!


Truly a remarkable duo. Bella is so down-to-earth and humble for a photographer with such a strong beautiful and ethereal voice. Her explanations of her process really inspired me--I was sketching concepts throughout the class. Pratik's process really opened my eyes to "smart" retouching--understanding what can be done in fewer brush strokes and slimmer PS files. All in all a really unique and inspiring class that makes me excited to realize my next conceptual shoot. They're also adorable together!

Mai Her

I've gained sooooo much from this I can't even contain my appreciation and excitement! So much inspiration and so much generous advice and tips to help me! Thank you so much Bella and Pratik and Creative Live!

Student Work