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Organizing Your Inspiration

Lesson 5 from: Fine Art Conceptual Photography from Shoot through Post-Processing

Bella Kotak, Pratik Naik

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Lesson Info

5. Organizing Your Inspiration


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

Organizing Your Inspiration

I also look at illustrations. Illustrations, to me, are really beautiful as well. There's so many amazing artists as well. You can find them anywhere. Pinterest, Instagram, everywhere. But the reason why I put this up is because I noticed something the other day, and I thought this was really interesting. So, things that we are naturally drawn to and that we get inspired by, even though we don't know how, like over here, I love the, all of this. Its motion, there's her hair, there's a bit of her hair moving, her arms are really like, ooh, and, ooh, and this floral flowers or whatever it is, is just a life in her. I thought that was really cool. And I tucked it away in my brain. Obviously not on purpose, but the subconscious took it and put it in a little box or shelf somewhere. And the same with this one. And that happened, and I noticed it. I noticed it's only, I think, a month ago and I shared it on my Facebook. I was like, oh my god. So, when I saw this picture, it made me think of ...

that photo before it. Where the girl is like this, all these flowers are coming around her, and the mood, to me, felt the same. And that basically made me realize that art inspirations are hiding in there. Things that we're naturally attracted to, they're hiding in our subconscious. So when the time comes to actually create, you're making decisions based on things you've already seen and that you've locked away. That's really interesting, isn't it? So, like with this picture especially, this girl, these women are walking in the woods. The trees are tall, the colors are dark. There's a big, heavy, opulent ballgown. So, I shot this. I didn't think of that photo when I was shooting it. But then when I, didn't think of that illustration when I was shooting it, but when I saw this and I saw the illustration I was like, oh my god, there's the connection. Because when it came to shooting this dress, yeah, I was thinking the same thing. I was thinking ballgown in a woods, the dark, muted tones, even the way she's walking and the way those ladies were walking in the same direction. That's really interesting. So, you keep opening, keep your eyes and ears and your taste buds, all of them open to new experiences and they'll start filing away in your brain, and when it comes to creating, you'll have resources to pull from. You'll be like, oh, I had this idea, because you saw it awhile ago. So, that's that. Plus, it helps having your inspiration ready on hand and in clear view, more or less. So, for me, I find my inspiration on Pinterest sometimes, especially when it comes to making mood boards which, when I'm working with a team, and it's all in the mood board, and I just connect everyone to on Pinterest, so we can all add and see what the vibe of that shoot is gonna be like. Instagram is my new favorite place for inspiration, just because Instagram has a really interesting algorithm where if you like, if you follow one artist, then similar artists come up and they follow, then similar things come up and it's just useful, go into things like a pool of amazingness. Facebook, you can save posts in Facebook. So, did you know that? Yeah, so I save posts that I like. And especially pictures I like or things that people are doing that I like or if I see a cool video, I'm like, oh yeah, maybe that might make a cool picture one day. Like, that concept. So I'll just save that. Camera phone, so yeah. If I see something beautiful, I'll take a photo of it and everything's in there. And what I also have is a folder on my phone that says Inspo, yeah, it says Inspo, and everything's in there. So, I just put those photos into that album or that I've taken of things that I think are really cool and inspiring, and now and then, I'll just flick through it because it's full of cool things that clearly connected with me enough to take a photo. And then, my desktop background on my Mac, I have it changing every minute. And I have a folder on my Mac that, on my desktop, that basically has my absolute favorite images that I'm aspiring towards. And that's Tim Walker. He's one of my favorite photographers, right? He's like, hands up to Walker, but yeah. His images and some other ones as well that I'm naturally drawn to, or that I want to, not emulate but aspire towards, they're in that folder and they're changing in the background of my Mac every minute. And the reason why I do that as well is because I just want that, the absolute best to be sinking into my brain. I want that to be there, and I want it visually in front of me. So, mood boards and vision boards, I think, are very important. And I actually do vision boards as well, because have you guys watched or ever heard The Secret? Yeah, have you seen The Secret? You've read the book or watched the documentary? Okay, so this is something, if you haven't, Jessica, looking at you, if you haven't, and I think you would really enjoy it. So, there's a documentary on Netflix called The Secret, and I think at this point in my life I was ready for change, and I watched it. And yeah, it goes on and on and on, but it goes on about the power of visualizing where you want to be, who you want to be, and basically believing it so much that you attract it into your life. It's all about the law of attraction. And I really think it works because one of the things that I started to do was start a board where I started pinning things that I wanted in my life. So, it's full of, okay at the moment, it's full of things like house, big houses. I'm like, I want a house with a pool. And that house looks cool. So it's full of that and interior shots that I really like, as well as photos that I really like and places I want to go, they're all on there. And that's my vision board. But I really feel like seeing that on my desk every day, it inspires me to and motivates me to make that day a really good day. And then I have a sketchbook and then some people have journals as well. And then I also have my study, which I just fill with all the things in the world. And I have things out in front of me because I'm a very visual person and yeah. Seeing things in front of me as well help me pick and choose how I want to create a character. So, I wouldn't recommend this to everybody. (laughs) If you've got a small space, I don't know. But if you're happy with it, go for it. It's your space. But yeah, for me, the decaying flowers are just so beautiful and the crowns and I'm like, oh yeah, I need to get another crown. It would just remind me. Do it. Because a girl can't have too many crowns, so. (laughs) Elements that bring your story to life. So we're gonna talk about breaking down an image. So, here is a photo, well, here are some photos of behind the scenes picture I created. So, these are rapeseed fields that we get in England, and I really wanted to create with them. But I wanted to do something different because everybody shares pictures of these rapeseed fields, and they should because they are so beautiful, but I wanted to have a different spin. Because that's what you should do as well. You're an artist. You have to find your own unique path and unique voice and you really have to try, even though it is, all the angles have been shot, but know you are one person and you can only see what you see. And I really try and remember that. I am the only one who can see what I see. And so should everybody else, because that helps us grow as an artist as well. So, I knew I wanted to connect blue in this shot because I have a blue, I had two blue smoke bombs. I was like, okay, awesome. I'm gonna set off blue against the yellow, and I think that would make a cool picture. That was my inspiration. And then, the hair and makeup was just going with that flow. I was like, okay, if we're gonna have a blue smoke bomb, I want blue eyes because if the smoke is behind her, then the blue from the smoke will connect to the blue with her eyes, and that's what I was thinking. So we had, I asked the makeup artist to just make it really feathery and full. And then, I added all the final details. So, that's when I made this crown, actually, that you see over here. This is a crown that I bought off Amazon, not Amazon, but this is a crown that I bought off an online retailer, and I put blue, what do you call it? Stones and crafty things that I bought off eBay. Like, literally two dollars. I bought them off eBay from a party pack. And I just spent one evening just super gluing them on. And yeah, I added that because why not? And some pearls because my pearl obsession. And yeah, this was the photo that I took. So, among many. And again, when you're working with smoke, it's gonna go every which way than the way it's supposed to go. So, when you're working with smoke, I always make sure that my camera is on a high shutter speed, I'm like-- (chattering) -because you have to grab all that smoke before it's gone. It takes 10 seconds and it's out of there. But the first photo, the first picture that I decided to work on, the base photo was this one. And the reason why I was drawn to it is because of her facial expression, her posing, her hands, because I thought they looked really delicate, and of course they did because I told her to do that. I was like, just be really gentle. So, the colors, I like them as well. And then, I've written down distracting elements because we're gonna talk about that just now. So, the things I did in this photo. So this was the base that I worked from. I thought this was way too distracting, by her eye. So I decided to tone it down. So, there was a little bit of clone stamping going on there, and a little bit of just subduing with the curves tool in Photoshop, just to subdue that. It was too distracting. Her skin tone was too red, so I had to correct that in post-production as well. Her hands and nails, she had a manicure, she had a fake manicure. A fake, no, a white manicure, white tip manicure done, and I was like, well, I don't know of any whimsical magical creature whose got a manicure in fairyland. So, we decided to clean that up later in post as well. So as you, you really have to go for it if you're gonna bring this character to life. And then the smoke pieces. So, grabbed them from different photographs and brought them into Photoshop, and just made the composition work in a way that I found aesthetically pleasing. So again, it doesn't have to be right. You just have to find it beautiful. So, I would say another photographer might do this differently, and that's okay. But I find this beautiful. And so, that's my picture. So, this is the final photograph. And you can see all of those elements. Her nails have been tidied up, her hair, I kind of used the liquefy tool to maybe make that wisp a little bit more wispy, and then it worked out perfectly in that the smoke was behind her. Obviously we know in real life it wasn't. It was everywhere but where it should've been. But Photoshop, I had enough knowledge in Photoshop, and we're gonna be teaching you guys that. So, I'm gonna be teaching you guys how I do this later on, because having that power to know what I can do later in post-production helped me make the decisions that I made while I was shooting. Because I was like, okay, I know I can bring this together. I believed in myself that I could do it. And luckily, it worked out okay. And do you know what? Even if it didn't, that's okay too. There's a lot of elements in your pictures that the scenery, the location, the costuming, the model. Do you find yourself starting with one of those and building upon it, or do you feel that you more are free flowing as you're taking the photos? For example, do you have a feeling that you want to express, or do you start with a picture in your head? How do you develop it that way? Okay, that's actually a really good question. Sometimes it's a combination of all of those different things. So, for me, I usually find inspiration through the styling. So, if I have a beautiful dress, for example, that'll be like, okay, I love this dress. How can I make this an amazing photograph? And then I'll start bringing my feelings into it afterwards. And like, okay. We shoot by this bush or whatever, and then I start getting very excited about the character I'm gonna create. So, it is just that. I get inspired by all of them, to be honest with you. When it comes to, sometimes if there's a particular feeling that I really want to channel, then I'll just bring that picture to life. So, it really is that. I think, for me, I want to be able to be shooting consistently because I want to be able to share consistently and grow my social media, as well as grow any job opportunity that come from this project, and all that happens together. So, that pressure of shooting regularly makes me feel that, makes me realize that all my motivation comes from different angles. It really has to. So, I can't be feeling things all, I'm not somebody who feels things all the time that I have to shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot. There's a different feeling for each shoot. Basically, for some shoots, I'll have a feeling that there's something that I'm feeling at the moment. Maybe it's sad and I want to create a darker tone photo, so I'll do that. And then other times, a dress will come into my life or a designer sends it to me and I'm like, oh my god, I'll make a picture with that dress. And then I'll make that dress work. Or maybe I'll come across a location and be like, like you saw, I'm like, that bush. And then I shoot against that bush. So, it's like that. It's not one avenue always. It's different avenues, and I think that's okay because it keeps it interesting. Yeah, yeah. And even when I'm trying to channel my voice as well, I know that my love of flowers and florals tie all my work together, even though it's coming from different, even though I'm coming at it from different angles. But it ties it together because of the love I have for the setting that I'm creating it in, yeah. Jessica. Hi. Is your, do you always go out knowing you're going to build from composites, or do you ever try to get a full image for any particular reason? Okay so, I am open. Yeah, I keep myself open. So if I need a composite, I know I can. And if I see a picture stunning in front of me exactly the way it is, then that's just a bonus because all that means I need to do is color tone. And that doesn't happen often. But now I'm making sure that my portraits are like that. But I quite like composing, and I like giving myself options for it. So, for example, I know I'm only gonna be in that moment in time that one time. I'm not gonna be able to recreate that particular moment. I might be able to recreate the photo later and maybe it'll be better, but while I'm in there in that shoot, in that moment, this is happening one time, and so, while I'm there, I'm gonna give myself options. So, I'll make sure I get the elements in a photograph that I really like, which are I'll toss the hair, I'll make sure the hands are right, I'll make sure her face is being moved from side to side so I've got the expression. I'll try and pull that emotion of whatever I'm seeing out of her and try to communicate that. And if the final photo happens to be a photo where I don't use those elements, that's okay. But if I need it to, I got them. So, I just keep myself very open and give myself choices because I like choices. So, even though at the same time I don't because then you're like, it's too much choice. But I like being open to it.

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