Artistic Portrait Photography - Course Information & Personal Review

Final demo image from the  Artistic Portrait Photography  course

Final demo image from the Artistic Portrait Photography course

Hey guys, it's been a while since my last blog post. A number of you have written in to ask for more details regarding the course I am teaching at Learn Squared. With a new mentorship class coming up, I thought it would be a good time as any to give a rundown and answer some of your most frequently asked questions. Hope those who are considering signing up will find this helpful! :D

Course Scope

There are 8 lessons in this course. I will cover a wide range of topics from the basics of photography, to putting a shoot together, photoshoot day, and my retouching process when doing one of my fine art portrait photos.

I focus a lot on the fundamentals and essentials that I find important to my photography. The idea is that after this course you will have a structured way of putting a shoot together, that you can do anything you wish to and it doesn’t have to apply to fine art portraits only.

Difficulty Level

I’d say photographers of all levels can learn from this course including those who have never touched a camera. However, I think the most beneficial audience would likely be beginners and intermediate-level photographers.

Beginner: I created this course with a straightforward and easy-to-understand mentality in mind. It’s fine if you are completely new to photography. I go over the camera and lighting basics which would help you get started. When it comes to Photoshop and retouching/editing, I may go over some basic functions rather quickly for some. But if you have any questions you can always post in the Learn Squared forums or chats, there are usually other students or staff around who are happy to answer.

Intermediate/Hobbyist: The course is probably most beneficial for those that find themselves falling within this bracket. I go over a lot of essential fundamentals that I find important in my own photography workflow. So if you have already played around with a camera, Photoshop, and have some vague idea on what you want to do, but don’t really know how to get started, or want to know if you are doing things the right way—this course will help you. My way should not be the be-all end-all, but it’s one I’ve distilled over the years and found to work really well for myself. The process can teach you learn how to structure, put a shoot together, and polish your final images.

Advanced/Professional: For advanced/professional photographers, I think the course is a good benchmark to check against for your own personal workflow. In general, my offline workshops are attended by professionals new and experienced, but as there is no time limit for this online course, I've made it more detailed than my offline content and covered more basics which I don’t usually teach in regular advanced classes.

Content Overview

The Learn Squared website used to sell the course as separated content, but now it’s been consolidated into a single purchase option.

The content includes over 5 hours of instructional/lecture video and access to the private student community on Learn Squared, and 14 hours of bonus content in homework review my course’s apprentice, Maciej Kuciara, as well as recordings with past mentorship students on their homework reviews and Q&As. 

Lesson Breakdown

1. Photography Basics

Lesson 1 - Photography Basics

We begin with fundamentals which spans across 2 lessons. In lesson 1, I cover equipment basics, camera basics, as well as key points of photography that I believe are the foundation to creating good photography and artwork.

Students are assigned to create images around design elements and principles:

Gilchan Oh,  Lesson 1 Homework

Gilchan Oh, Lesson 1 Homework

Alena Kazakevich,  Lesson 1 Homework

Alena Kazakevich, Lesson 1 Homework

Alex Chua,  Lesson 1 Homework

2. Equipment and Lighting

In lesson 2, I discuss a list of all the basic studio tools and lighting equipment that I use.

Lighting examples are also given for various modifiers, environments, ambient lighting, etc, in how they create different types of lights and moods:

Example of using different lighting modifiers, in Lesson 2 demo.

Example of using different lighting modifiers, in Lesson 2 demo.

Student homework was to execute on what was covered in the lesson, and experiment with various lighting modifiers:

Melvin Wong, Lesson 2 Homework

Melvin Wong,Lesson 2 Homework

Zanelli Caldas,  Lesson 2 Homework

Zanelli Caldas, Lesson 2 Homework

Henrik Bengtsson, Lesson 2 Homework

Henrik Bengtsson,Lesson 2 Homework

3. Concepts and Casting

In the next two lessons, I cover the production process on how to come up with a concept and execute it. I decided to teach this by doing a walkthrough of how I produce an actual fine art portrait photoshoot myself. So two parts happen concurrently in these lessons: 1) the general framework and steps I follow when I put a shoot together, and 2) the details of how I apply all of it in practice depending on the situation.

For this lesson, I cover the initial concept creation process as well as how to cast and search for models. Students are taught how to put a concept board together and things to watch out for in casting:

Melvin Wong, Lesson 3 Homework

Melvin Wong,Lesson 3 Homework

4. Team Building and Planning

How to build a team and plan a photoshoot

How to build a team and plan a photoshoot

Lesson 4 - Team Building and Planning

In part two of production, I talk about team-building and shoot planning.

I discuss what to do when things go wrong, break down the roles and what is expected of each member on a photoshoot crew, and how to plan your shoot day, schedule, and send out a call sheet. I also go into more details on a photographer's roles and responsibilities, so that you will be well-equipped and understand the expectations for your shoot day.

For this class, students are tasked with finding their crew, revising their concept board, doing a light test, and finalizing shoot details.

5. Photoshoot

Lesson 5 - Photoshoot

In this lesson, I cover the full process of a photoshoot day from beginning to end.

I start with the various workstation setups, both for the hair and makeup artists and for the photographer. Then, I cover the process in working with the model and team. This lesson goes into detail on each point because every factor is important.

6. Post-production

Beginning of the post-production process: editing and color processing in Lightroom

Beginning of the post-production process: editing and color processing in Lightroom

Lesson 6 - Post Production

The post-production process spans across the next two lessons. This first session is focused on workstation setups, image selection and color processing. It may be a bit dry compared to other lessons, especially after the big shoot, but this part of the process is one of the most vital and determining factors in producing a good final image.

Youssra Fawzy, Lesson 6 Homework

Youssra Fawzy,Lesson 6 Homework

7. Retouching

Full retouching process in Photoshop, Lesson 7

Full retouching process in Photoshop, Lesson 7

Lesson 7 - Retouching

In part two of post-production I go over retouching. Here, I explain some essential tools and functions in Photoshop for those who are new to the program. I will also teach a basic and simplistic approach that I take to retouching without using filters, presets, and complicated plug-ins.

"Germaine III" , retouched image from course demo.

"Germaine III", retouched image from course demo.

8. Branding and Marketing

Walkthrough on some of the important points for building a successful photography brand in the age of social media.

Walkthrough on some of the important points for building a successful photography brand in the age of social media.

Lesson 8 - Marketing and Branding

Whether you take the course as enrichment for your existing photo career or as a hobby, I think every individual will benefit from having an awareness for building a strong personal brand. I decided to do a fine art course because I felt that to have a successful creative career, you have to focus on the fundamentals and your individual artistic vision to set you apart.

So while this course is more abstract than specific subjects such as fashion or beauty, I wanted to cover some avenues to follow up on what you have done. In this lesson, I go over some of the key points in branding and marketing, and I hope that you guys will find it useful.

Student Homework

Below are some images from students who have shared their final work:

Germaine Persinger, Final Work

Germaine Persinger,Final Work

Victoria Chan , Mentorship Student

Victoria Chan, Mentorship Student

Peter Phung, Final Work

Peter Phung,Final Work

Samantha Ong , Mentorship Student

Samantha Ong, Mentorship Student

Melvin Wong, Final Work

Melvin Wong,Final Work

Alex Chua , Mentorship Student

Alex Chua, Mentorship Student

Shadow Wong, Final Work

Shadow Wong,Final Work

Student Experiences

". . . incredibly inspiring. I’ve made so many adjustments based on what you’ve shared and I will keep refining my process until I internalize at least a small portion of the effort and quality that you infuse all your work with. Thank you!" - Volen CK, Learn Squared Term 2 – Big Notes and Insights

"I really enjoyed this course by Jingna . . . This course helped me to refine my approach to artistic portrait photography." - Peter Phung, Lesson 7 Homework

"Thanks so much for sharing your workflow . . . watching the video on how you use photoshop tools and how it is being applied is very useful and broadened my knowledge on the functions." - Zantz Han, Lesson 7 Homework

Blog entry from my apprentice, Maciej Kuciara, on his experience doing his very first photoshoot:


This is going to sound trite, but one of the most rewarding part of doing this course has been watching everyone's progress. Even though I spent an average of over 40 hours putting each lesson together, I'll be the first to say that I don't think the pacing for the course is perfect—some parts may have been too advanced for beginners, and some parts may have been too basic for professionals—but being able to see a wide range of work from students of all levels, that's been incredibly inspiring and humbling. So to everyone who took the course despite these shortcomings, and especially to those who took the time to share some of the results of what they have done, thank you all so much. 

Check out Artistic Portrait Photography on Learn Squared. You can also subscribe to my Patreon, where I create exclusive new content on a monthly basis.