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My Favorite Lazy Sunday

“Changing Winds” by Brooke Shaden

I love to create. This is no secret. I love taking pictures, editing pictures…heck I even like waking up at 4am to go on a 2 hour car drive to take a picture at sunrise. So today I wanted to show you what my favorite “Lazy Sunday” would be like. I went on a shoot in one of my favorite locations, shot a self-portrait, and got to connect with nature all the while (both while shooting and in the final product).


So, with every picture the question of WHY comes up. Why did I shoot this picture? That is the most important thing to me when conceptualizing. If I don’t know the WHY, I don’t even let myself get to the HOW. I love nature. I love transforming myself into a character through self-portraiture. In this new picture I experimented with both by creating a dress for myself out of leaves.

The idea is simple and timeless to me, but using visuals that I had not combined before. I love the idea of personifying Mother Nature, and that was my goal in this picture: to take a girl and create nature around her, on her, and within her. I wanted the swing of the hair to embody the movement of the leaves through the frame. I wanted the color to match the vibrancy of the leaves. I wanted the surroundings to be dark so that the subject was highlighted visually and conceptually.


I shot in a sewer…a strange place to shoot, yes, but a beautiful one. Just take a look at the video…you can get some pretty amazing light in there, and you can get that same light all the time, consistently, during all daylight hours. Now I’d call that a pretty amazing location. Because there is a lot of light outside, you can keep your ISO down and your shutter speed up. This is a plus for me, as I’m used to working in dark conditions. The lighting is soft, diffused, and indirect. This means that I don’t have to worry about uneven or splotchy light, and I can more easily manipulate the light later on in Photoshop.

Aside from the beautiful light, the sewer location provided a fantastic black backdrop that gives me a lot of room to play. I love a dark background, and in fact I’d say it is one of my favorite things to photograph, so this space is really quite perfect for me. Forget about the fact that it might smell bad, and that there might be onlookers giving weird looks. Trust me, it’s all worth it.


This photo shoot had a very typical workflow for me in terms of the types of pictures I am gathering for the final product. I posed first for my main shot to make sure that I had a solid pose that I could definitely use later in editing. When I shoot, I only have one image that I use for the finished image, so I have to make sure I get that shot early on to make the others worth it. After I got a picture of myself (or, the character) in the right pose, I started throwing leaves around. This allowed me to catch leaves in motion on the black backdrop, making it very easy to blend them in later. For my final images, I photographed individual leaves up close so that I could create a dress out of leaves.

Later on in Photoshop, I started with the main shot of me in the right pose and I began layering the leaves on one by one, duplicating some and making sure to place each one individually. There ended up being a few hundred leaves all together in order to make a believable dress (or at least I hope it is!).


Music by SongFreedom. So, to sum this all up, I recorded a video of my process that I really hope you’ll enjoy!

To learn how to shoot in a similar environment…a dark background, natural frontal light…you can tune into creativeLIVE on September 17th at 9AM Pacific for 2 back to back classes that I’ll be teaching :-D

{ 16 } Comments

  1. Sara Cunningham | September 3, 2013 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    You made my day! <3

  2. Analia Paino | September 3, 2013 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    The world is a better place with you in it Brooke. You are as always inspiring and your work an absolute joy. Thank you!

  3. Kathryn Murphy | September 3, 2013 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Love it!

  4. Mike Roberts | September 3, 2013 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Thank you sharing the process of the leaf dress photo, and for the quick-edit that followed, as well as the water shot/inspiration sequence.

  5. Natascha van Niekerk | September 3, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    so excited to see you on creativeLive again! thanx for sharing yourself and your art and inspiring us all! Beautiful image!

  6. Curtis Carder | September 3, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Brooke you completely made my day. thank you… I love the videos and my favorite quote from your text is ” If I don’t know the WHY, I don’t even let myself get to the HOW.” I struggle with this all the time. I often feel like I have 2/3 an idea, and I am missing my own point, but continue to shoot then am frustrated with the results… anyway thanks for the food for thought and continued inspiration.

  7. Faun Jackson | September 3, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I wanted to thank you for being such an incredible inspiration! I watched you on Creative Live and loved it.
    I took what I learned and did this! (Hopefully this link works!)

    So, thank you for giving me a new way of looking at the possibilities! You’re awesome!

    Faun Jackson
    Faund Images Photography

  8. Patricia Maffett | September 3, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Brooke for being you :) you are amazing and very sweet for showing us the process that you work with. I am waiting for a new lens and I hope to start my process of fine art photography. I have stayed awake many nights recently thinking of things I’d like to do. So, I think that it’s time my thoughts are now haunting me. Wish me Luck…

  9. Tristine | September 3, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    Amazingly beautiful.

  10. Suz | September 4, 2013 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    Amazing, love your work!!

  11. Curtis Carder | September 4, 2013 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    Hey Brooke sorry to write again in the same day, but after reading/ watching you videos today my mind was racing with ideas and I was able to finally put a complete thought out into print….

    I shot this today with my girlfriend… Thanks again for the lessons and positive attitude your strength inspires me often!

  12. Chad | September 4, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Awesome work!

  13. Brian C. Parks | September 5, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    You have an amazing sense of imagination and creativity, and I really enjoyed your part of the PSW keynote. It was really inspiring and the behind the scenes workflow video for this image was incredible.

  14. Sandy | September 14, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Saw your keynote at PSW13. Thought about your art all week. It’s magical Thank you for the inspiration. You create what I dream about.

  15. Tara Eveland | September 17, 2013 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Can I ask you why you do not just SHOOT in the forest instead of adding the forest in post processing? is there a reason for that? thank you

  16. Nick | October 10, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Hey Brooke, I just wanted to say that I love your work. I discovered you while I was searching for some inspiration for my latest shoot.

    I planned this one for a while now. The picture you made here helped me a lot (I was searching for a photoshop leave inspiration – check).

    I’m still busy with the artwork because I’m waiting on my new drawing tablet (mine doesn’t work).

    If the picture is done I’m glad to show it to you!?

    Thanks for sharing your work and the inspiration you give to many of us.

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