I consider Brooke Shaden a true master of conceptual portrait photography. I have only just begun exploring this area of photography, but have found her classes on CreativeLive to be inspirational and helpful. She is an artist that can create an evocative image with just items in her surroundings. As I learn more about this discipline, I find I follow three steps in putting together an image or series.
Step 1: Focus on a story, theme, narrative. The image should communicate more than just a person in an outfit in front of a background. In this series I am playing with the ideas of strength and beauty. When I am photographing harsh and rugged landscapes I work hard to see the beauty in them. Conversely when I photograph beautiful things I remind myself they have inherent strength to survive in the world
Step 2: Find an element of the concept that inspires you to start putting the pieces together. For me, it can either be a background, or an outfit. Other people start with a prop or something else that will help tell the story.
Tip 3: Apply post-processing to help refine the concept and tell the story. I find that I have had to learn compositing and color toning skills to help tell my story. In the image of the woman standing next to the trees, the dress was navy blue and ended at the ground exposing her athletic shoes. In the cover image, I composited a piece of the dress floating on top of the dress I was wearing to give the image movement, and copied that piece into the reflection in the water.