From our earliest days, fairytales have excited and ignited our imaginations. They begin as our bedtime stories but become our favorite books and films as we grow. The wondrous characters and magical places remain in our memories.
Fairytale photography can bring these stories to life. Using creative techniques, a photographer can make their imagination a reality. They can tell stories and take us on a journey from a fantasy realm.
How to Create Captivating Fairytale Photography
In this article, we’ve got the best examples of fairytale photography by the finest fantasy photographers. We’ll give you some tips for bringing your own fairytale photography to life using their amazing examples.
Build Characters with Costumes
The characters form the heart and soul of every fairytale. We follow the heroines and heroes as the forces of darkness test them. It’s their story, which is why the character is the perfect place to start with fairytale photography.
To build strong characters in fairytale photography, you need to use strong visual imagery. Unlike literature or film, you can’t use words for exposition. The visuals need to show the audience who the characters are. They need to know who is good and who is evil.
Kirsty Mitchell is a fantasy photographer who has mastered the art of character building. She uses elaborate and intricate costumes that give her subject a strong identity. Looking at her portraits, we can see the association and connotations of her design work.
Set the Scene with Props
Once you’ve established the characters, we need to know their location. This adds more to the character and starts to form the fairytale’s narrative. Like Rapunzel in the tower, their location plays a vital role in the story.
The location can be a keep in the tallest tower of a castle. Or it can be a dungeon or a retro kitchen or bedroom. But the imagery has to tell the viewer this is a magical world, not just a kitchen in Stoke-on-Trent.
Props and set dressings play an essential role in fairytale photography. They create visual cues that transport the viewer into the fairytale world. They can be physical or digitally created. And you can use different types of photography, like portraits or fashion style photos.
Jovana Rikalo shows us how to set a scene in fairytale photography. She’s an expert with the camera, but she also knows how to dress a set. In the image below, we have an ornate bed in a garden. The subject is in a huge flowing dress, surrounded by plants and flowers. The imagery is gorgeous, but we’re left wanting to know more about the tale.
Jovana is one of our fantastic collaborators. You have to see her Fairytale Portraits course if you love fantasy photography.
Create Magical Worlds
Beyond the confines of a single scene, you have the dream world of your fairytale. Building a landscape for your characters brings the fairytale to life. It’s a series of connected locations where the moments of your story take place.
Photographer Lizzy Gad does exactly that. She combines landscape and portrait to create stunning images that engage the viewer. Her subjects explore the landscape, leading the viewer through the magical world with them. It’s a powerful narrative technique that grounds the story in a physical environment.
Use Movement to Progress the Narrative
Few fairytales take place in one location. The princes and princesses always need to move from one situation to another. Showing this movement adds energy and a sense of narrative to your fairytale photography.
If it’s a race against time, you can show the hero on horseback galloping to save the fair maiden. Or perhaps the journey is more leisurely. You can incorporate portrait and landscape photography, like Lizzy Gad. Or you can add a surreal touch for a magical journey.
Joel Robison is a fantasy self-portrait photographer with a whimsical narrative style. He often shrinks himself down. This transforms our world into a surreal and wonderful place. His small stature allows him to travel across the landscape in novel ways. He often uses bees and bugs as transportation.
Showing movement in your fairytale photos moves the narrative forward. And it also quickens the pace. The viewers want to know where the character is going and why. If you make the style of travel more unique, the viewers will be even more interested.
Joel is another wonderful Expert Photography collaborator. His Fantastic Photo Adventure course is exactly what you need if you want to tell stories with your images.
Use Portals to Connect Worlds
Magic portals are a common feature in fairytales. From the wardrobe in the Narnia tales to the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, storytellers use passages to bridge worlds. That makes them an excellent subject for fairytale photography.
You can have your characters interact with the portal. They can go through, climb out, or dive into the portal. It’s another device that adds magic and strengthens the narrative in the images. It builds tension and heightens the viewer’s interest in the tale.
Rosie Hardy provides us with the perfect example. Her images are full of narrative, and portals are devices she often uses. She uses two juxtaposed environments. We have a warm home and a dark forest. And a hole in the wall creates the portal for her subject to explore.
Use the Power of Magic
Magic plays a part in every fairytale in some form or another. And thanks to digital photo manipulation techniques, you can bring the magic to life. It means anything is possible in your fairytale photography.
Image software like Photoshop allows you to make the impossible possible. You can use this to give your character powers of their own. They can control the snow and ice, as seen in Frozen. Or they can cast spells of love or eternal sleep, like Sleeping Beauty or Snow White.
We can see Anya Anti explore similar ideas in her photography. She uses modern techniques to capture classical fairytale themes in her images. In this example, we see a princess pulling the moon in chains. There’s a strong message that she has control over the moon.
It’s a surreal work of photography. Anya uses magic to build her strong female character, and surreal imagery creates a story we want to follow. And the use of the moon is also symbolic as it has many mystical connotations.
It was a pleasure working with Anya Anti to create her Creative Portrait Concepts ebook. You’ll see beyond the magic so you can cast your own visual spells.
Introduce Mythical Creatures
Fairytales aren’t just stories about men and women. They also involve creatures that don’t exist in our reality. You’ll find mermaids, dragons, and griffins. Or perhaps you’ll come across trolls or elves, and you can’t forget fairies.
They can have leading roles or bit-parts in your fairytale photography, but no fairytale is complete without them. These creatures add another element of imagination and magic.
Bella Kotak has a strong visual style. And her mythical characters take center stage in her photos. Her fairy in the image below is strongly linked with the forest, which is their traditional home. And the costume and the props are floral and natural.
If you’re a fan of stories filled with magic, fairytale photography is the perfect way to bring your imagination to life. You can remake the stories you loved when you were a child.
With props and costumes, you can build characters and set scenes. Using camera and editing techniques, you can capture the magic of your favorite wild and whimsical stories.
We’ve shown you some of the best examples of fairytale photography from our favorite fantasy photographers. Now it’s your turn to tell a story with fairytale photography.