The Photography Junkies interview with Brooke Shaden

This month i have tracked down Brooke Shaden and managed to pin her down for an interview and ask her some things that i wanted to know.
Hi Brooke and thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.  This year in the photography junkie each month i am interviewing people who i find inspirational or have shaped who i am as an artist and as it is march and spring time and your love for the subject rebirth who better than you for this month.  
2013 seemed to have been a massive year for you.  
You go from doing your own thing to being catapulted into the limelight what was that like for you?
Aww! Oh gosh I think I am beat-red in the face. I'm not so sure I'd say that, but I have felt very fortunate this year with the opportunities I've been given. Each one is truly a gift that I will never stop saying thank you for. Every day, no matter what is happening, I feel a sense of joy knowing that I can wake up and do what I love. I know that sentiment is all too uncommon and I can only hope that in being given a voice that someone might listen to, I can promote passion as much as possible.
So lets take it back to the start.  Born March 1987 and grew up near Amish Country what was that like?
Amazing! I love nature and the simple things in life. I grew up near farms and forests and rivers. My dad spent a lot of time searching for arrowheads and my parents really promoted playing with the great outdoors and a good imagination. I am still most inspired by those same things, and I think that is evident in the locations I choose for my photographs.
How do you think living near a culture which is quite far removed from modern day luxuries influenced the way you see the world?
I think, in retrospect, the town I grew up in was quite normal, but these things get clouded once a Walmart plants it's roots! It wasn't so much where I lived, but who my parents were. They are artistic and wanted us to be as well, and being around people who saw more beauty in freedom of expression than traditional education shaped how I see the world.
At what age did you find you were creative in your nature or was it something that you have always been?
I think I've always known that I was creative, mostly because creativity was nourished in my house. I never had to listen to lectures about becoming a lawyer or doing something I didn't want to do. And that's not to say it was all free-spirited either, but from a young age I would write a lot and was always praised for that. Sometimes the simplest things like that can leave the biggest impact.
What would you say was your parents reaction to your creativity was it supported and nourished or did they try to steer you towards a normal job?
Oh yes, always supportive. There would be times when they would question how I'd make it on my own, but when the day came that I went to college and studied filmmaking, no one said anything negative. It was always assumed it would just work. My mom especially is the type of person who makes things happen no matter what, and she instilled a sense of duty in me that I am so grateful for.
You come across as very calm and happy-go-lucky which is refreshing in this day and age have you always been like this or have you gone through a rebel stage? 
Hehe! I have never in my life, in any way shape or form, been a rebel…unless you can call doing what you love being a rebel, because I find that is so rare these days. My parents always joke that having me was like giving birth to an adult. I am always lecturing them!
Would you say that you are so relaxed because you put your darkness into your work and leave none for yourself?
Absolutely. I am inspired by darkness because it does not come naturally to me. I appreciate it because I have distance from it. I have always been a very happy person, and I feel fortunate for that because I am most inspired when I am calm and at peace. I'm not always that way (I can get pretty stressed) but in general, one of my biggest goals is to live a happy life. I believe that meaningful imagery will come naturally then.
So originally you studied film is that right?
Indeed. I am very inspired by cinema and all of the conventions that go with it.
What did that entail?
I took classes on screenwriting and cinematography mostly, and some about film history though I retained none of it (shame on me!). I was very interested in lighting for the screen and really focused on that towards the end, though of course apply very little of it to photography!
What caused the shift to photography?
I had just graduated from college (December 2008) and found myself with some down time before I was moving to Los Angeles (from Philadelphia). I decided that since I didn't have access anymore to the equipment at school, I would pick up a still camera and see if I could create the same stories in one / one hundredth of a second.
You're a published author how many books are you up to now?
Oh yes! My biggest dream EVER come true! I self published a book in 2010 and I released my first professionally published book in October this year. So thrilling! I can't believe there is someone out there to believe in it! I was just so excited.
So you get your deal to write a book then you start it is that right? or is it a case of you write it then find a publisher? 
I wrote the book and then found a publisher. Actually, the story is quite interesting. I had met the publisher a year before and had a chat, but thought he forgot about me. In the meantime I was writing the book of my dreams, all about inspiration, when I got an email from him. He was asking me to write a book, but on a subject I wasn't passionate about. So I wrote back and declined, but decided to send along the book I had been working on all year. He read the treatment and liked it enough to publish!
What would you say is your process for bringing a book together? 
I like to be as organized as possible, and then write freestyle. I write a table of contents so that I know what the flow will be like, and then I begin writing each chapter in order, but in a very sincere way.
So what does a typical day involve for you?
Always creating. I spend time every day taking a picture or editing a picture, because if I don't nourish that side of my creativity I get too boxed in and feel like I need a release. I am always working on different blog posts and lesson plans and things like that, because teaching is another passion of mine that I've had since I was a child. I spent time responding on social media, and I love writing business proposals as well…they are so creative! I also make sure to chill out for at least 30 minutes before bed. I love meditating (sort of…) in my own way that I simply call daydreaming, and I try to do that for just 10 minutes a day…thinking of a scenario that brings me inspiration and creating a story around it in my mind.
You have a husband what role does he play in your world beyond supporting? do you keep the 2 worlds separate or does he play an active part?
It's a bit of both I'd say! He is everything to me and has been for a very long time. We met young and have been together for 10 years now. I am always running pictures by him, asking for advice, and taking him on shoots. I don't even need help…it's just nice to have him there to carry me back to the car when I've accidentally had my bare feet in the frozen mud for too long. He is also a computer programmer, so he makes my website and helps me with all of the internet stuff that I can't figure out.
You have been known to do book covers from a personal point of view its something i would love to do and i know there is a portion of my readers that would love to as well.
So what advice would you give to someone on how to put your work in front of the right people?
Book covers are very much fun because it is all about trying to tell an entire story in one image. I get so excited by that. Book covers came about for me very organically. I would do them for very inexpensive or free because I knew it was a direction I'd love to go in, and word started to spread. I think that if you're interested in book covers, it is great to start with a stock agency that treats their artists with respect (look for a smaller company that represents fewer artists so that you might stand out) and then see what comes of it. That can be a great way to get your foot in the door, and a good way for publishing houses to see your work.
How does the licensing of your artwork when it comes to books? 
I license my images for books and albums and the process is quite similar. The images in my website are all up for grabs, and if someone wants one for their project we go through a process of negotiating price (depending on a number of things, like exclusivity and print run) and filling out contracts that are specific to the project (like what changes can be made to the image, etc.).
How you come up with your concepts by having lists of words in  categories such as girl, woods, sad etc is that your normal way of coming up with a concept?
That is definitely a big exercise for me in terms of finding an idea out of thin air. I love knowing that an image is just a few words away. When you think about it, most pictures can be broken down into location, emotion, wardrobe, props, etc…), and once you have decided on a very simple and concrete word per category, you automatically have a picture!
Have you ever thought of having the Brooke Shaden Inspiration App developed?
 where there's all these words in there in their categories and you press a button and you get a random selection to create your concept?  . i typed that initially as something to make you laugh but hey it could work!
It is in development right now!!! Haha! Too funny 😀
Lets face it you love dirt and getting muddy where do you think this comes from?
I do I do!! Much to my husband's dismay. We are so opposite there. I think that the earth is beautiful, and we are meant to be part of it. I think that it feels natural to walk barefoot in the forest and to feel the earth on my skin. I know that sounds ultra-hippie but truly, I feel connected to it. I am most inspired when I am in nature.
How many tripods have you lost now from throwing them aside?
Oh gosh…too many. You know what is absolutely ridiculous? I have 7 tripod plates but no tripods to go with them. Who in the world loses the actual tripod and not the plate?!
Money is a dirty subject to most and the natural assumption is that anyone who has put themselves out there in the world must be rolling in it but this isn't the case always would you agree?
Oh absolutely! I believe that the most innovative people are brought to the forefront because money is not their focus, the idea is. And where there is a good idea, money usually follows.
So how do you pay your bills? what would you say would be the main source of your income?
It is a pretty even split between selling in galleries, teaching, and image licensing right now.
I ask this to everyone is professional photography Dying?
If someone wants to claim that professional photography is dying, then I would simply change my title to professional creator. Creating can never die, and photography is a part of that.
Where do you think photography as a whole is headed?
More accessible, perhaps more misunderstood because of that, but always changing which is just what we need.
Whats next for Brooke? what does the future hold do you see your style evolving?
Charity work. When I think about the future I feel like I am crumbling inside because I'm not doing enough for others. I want to inspire and help and grow with everyone. I am co-founding a school in India for survivors of human trafficking, and that is going to be a big focus in the next year for me. I'm also working on a documentary about inspiration, teaching all the time, and of course, always, working on bringing my dreams to life through photographs.
How did you know you had made your dream come true? How did you know that you  HAD made it? How was the transition from being not known to well known? How exactly did it happen? Can you tell us about that moment in your  life?
I have always felt as though my dreams were coming true, no matter what I was doing or how much traditional success I was having. I believe that if you are doing what you love, you are succeeding. My dreams have always been coming true, and it is just the most amazing thing when others take the time to listen and look and latch on to your dream with you. I am so grateful sometimes it hurts. I don't know if there was one single moment, but more like a collection of passionate people who buoyed me up and made me believe it could happen.
Thank you again for the interview it's been a true honour
You can follow Brooke by visiting

and now for a couple questions from my readers 🙂
What do you  think about the explosion of images being produced in your style since her time on creative live. And whether you  believe it makes it harder to create images which stand out and have impact?

I think that everyone learns in different ways, and it can be really good to try specific techniques like the ones I taught on creativeLIVE. I think it is awesome to see people growing in any way possible, and I truly believe that if an artist sticks with what they love long enough, a true style will emerge.

When first getting your images out there besides your own website, what are 3 of her favorite sites for people looking for fine art other than just other photographers? I am looking for ways to reach authors and music artists and not sure how and where they find people like us.

I was on Flickr when I started, so I know that to be a great tool. Bluecanvas is another great magazine/website that features a whole host of different artists. And as for writing, I would try contacting popular blogs that you enjoy and asking to write a guest blog post for them, I think that would work really well! I wish I had more info though for things outside of photography, but I'm not too familiar.

"for having such a shy personality, but being in the "spotlight" of photography, how do you manage it all... the social networks, the questions, the compliments... how do you prioritize it all so you feel connected to everyone that follows you?"

I think that I've really come out of my shell in a lot of ways, in that I love public speaking now and I can talk about my passion for days. However, I think that being able to connect on social media helps tremendously with that. It shows me that I am not alone, that we are all trying and struggling and finding success in our own time, and that give me confidence. I feel wildly connected to anyone who does me the great service of interacting online. To me, it's not just a bunch of people but individuals who have taken time out of their busy days to do something kind, and I don't know how anyone could overlook that.

Do you pay your models or give them royalties? If so what sort of profit split do you work to?

I pay my models when I get paid upfront. So, if I know that I am going to be paid for a project, I pay my model for the shoot. I don't do royalties though, because I'd be tracking down a ton of models until they die, or I do, and that sounds hugely difficult. So I have them sign a model release explaining the terms and leave it at that. But for example, if I am hosting a workshop, absolutely they get paid. If I know that an image is going to a galley show, they get paid (and so on).

You are always teaching and instructing others but how do you educate your self to improve your skills?

Where or who do you  turn to, to further your own education and training?

I am huge on experimenting. I absolutely love trying new things. To learn new things I try to teach myself. I love clicking new buttons in Photoshop or trying something new in camera. I experiment mostly with new ways of shooting in terms of location and props, which is more challenging than one might think.

I have a great friend and mentor in a photographer named Dave Junion, and we often challenge each other to be better and learn new things. He just recently sent me a light, and we are having a sort of challenge to see who can create the best light with it 😀

How did you know you had made your dream come true? How did you know that you  HAD made it? How was the transition from being not known to well known? How exactly did it happen? Can you tell us about that moment in your  life?

Answered before, I believe 🙂

Just how much do you love Dr Who?

MORE THAN YOU KNOW!! I am completely obsessive. I have Dalek and TARDIS keychains, an Adipose stuffed animal, and I make yearly trips to Cardiff to go to the Doctor Who Experience. I even got to go inside the actual TARDIS on set. Yeah...that obsessed 😉