Fantasy photography is a sub-genre of surreal photography. The images have a fictional feel and can incorporate the real world with imaginary scenarios.
Look below for the best examples of fantasy photography, and a few tips on how to get started.
What Is Fantasy Photography?
What makes these fantasy images is the choice of subjects and the reimagining of the setting. The idea is to add enough to the scene that it could represent a fictional world.
If you’re using human subjects, things like hair and makeup create a more believable scene. Processing is the larger area, where you can change colours to help emphasize the concept.
Unlike surreal or horror photography, fantasy can incorporate folklore. This can include elves, fairies, or other fictional characters.
How to Do Fantasy Photography
Fantasy photography relies on photographic editing or manipulation. Others use juxtapositioning to show scenes of a dream-like state. Most things can be the same as you see it, but with one or two elements reimagined.
Unless you know Photoshop well, I wouldn’t jump into intense post-production manipulation. Start with what you can do. Read fantasy books and watch fantasy films for inspiration.
Look at the settings you have access to and see what you can add to make it more interesting. The concept doesn’t need to be vast and all-encompassing, but you do need an idea.
How to Get Into Fantasy Photography
Fantasy photography doesn’t need any prior knowledge. Knowing how to command your camera is a big help. But, these types of images are born from ideas and concepts, not correct exposures.
Fantasy photography is a field where creativity and imagination are everything. These images serve as a voice or a state of mind. The camera is a medium to capture certain elements that you can use later.
Many images in this field are captured and then worked on during post-production. Photographers often spend the least amount of time shooting the subjects and settings. The computer and digital software are where the image sits the most.
You might find it hard to get into. Knowing how to manipulate images requires a lot of knowledge and training. But it isn’t needed. A simple concept, like some in our list, shows an everyday scene with slight changes.
The most important idea here is the concept. What do you want to say? Without this, you’ll find it hard to start.
Fantasy Photography Examples
25. Untitled by Pasraft
Many surreal or fantasy images are born from dream-like states. Others show moods or feelings that the photographer or artist feels. After all, photography is another medium that needs a commanding or a voice.
Here, Pasraft shows a person standing on a rock at a sea scene, where a bird is pulling himself free. Does this say something about the photographer’s mood? The realistic setting of the sea gives us words like ‘relaxation’. Yet there is tension from the fantasy element leaving the person.
Is he setting his soul free? Is he letting go of anxiety? An image like this has several meanings, based on who is viewing it.
24. Music Exists All Around Us by Anil Saxema
Fantasy photography encompasses many ideas, from creating new worlds, to changing everyday items. This is precisely what Anil Saxema has done in this image below.
We see wires that connect us through conversation. This fantasy photographer sees lines on sheet music, where musical notes should be.
23. Untitled by Platon Yurich
Things aren’t always as they seem. Here, a girl lifts the clouds, which shows they are not at all real. A simple idea such as this can convey a fantasy world, where we, the dreamers, are free to change things as we see fit.
The girl is part of the next generation, but while in this state, she is free to explore ideas through curiosity.
22. Untitled by Jairo Alvarez
Fantasy photography is open to a range of technical processes or poses by subjects. Many fantasy images get processed, to create a new world or exaggerate subjects.
Here, we see the opposite. The subject and the landscape is real, yet there is a fantasy element to it. The balloons hold up the woman’s t-shirt, hiding her identity. Her juxtaposition to the scene shows a dream-like state, where things never make sense.
21. The Hidden Door by Logan Zillmer
Doors play a huge role in the idea of fantasy. Every closed door can lead us to another world. Opening the door reveals it is, in fact, the pantry.
Yet, the idea exists. If you can’t see behind it, it could take you anywhere. Here, Logan Zillmer uses a door to another place. The fact that it isn’t on the ground adds a deeper fantasy meaning.
From looking at the doors’ placement, we also see that the background is, in fact, fake and painted on a wall.
20. World Press by Ross Brown
Some of the best fantasy photographic images are the simplest. We can use realistic environments, yet play around with the props in the scene. Here, a man is reading a newspaper where hands come out to hold his head.
We know from our own experiences that news is almost always in a negative sense. The arms jump out to comfort the man, letting him know that the world isn’t all bad. The idea and meaning of the scene become deepened with the addition to a fantastical element.
19. Untitled by Katerina Plotnikova
Fantasy photography images can come from anywhere. They can be born from an original idea, or based on books, or other segments of what we experience.
A wardrobe used in a fantasy realm will always signify The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Here, children entered a fantasy world by climbing through their wardrobe.
The fantasy element comes from the use of furniture in an unusual place, for example, the forest. The clothing and the mystic light adds to the drama.
18. Orbit a Rose by Luisa Azevedo
Some of my favourite fantasy photographs are ones where everyday items are reimagined. Here, we see a rose flower in front of a natural landscape scene. Tethered to the rose are two astronauts, orbiting the flower.
Are they taking care of it? The juxtaposition comes from the size, but there might be another concept at play. She could signify that we spend too much time looking at the stars when our natural state on our planet is at risk.
17. Untitled by Kylli Sparrek
Kylli Sparrek is a fantasy photographer who is very much influenced by dancing. Her settings show a fantasy environment. The subjects find themselves in poses that would relate to dance moves.
The background here is a wall of broken pianos, and she interacts by holding on to one of them. Is she in a dream-like state, fearful of letting go of her past?
16. Universal by Federico Chiesa
This series of work is a commission by Universal to promote their film involvement. It meant that the concept had to be cinematic, yet a little outside the box.
The photographer used a setting juxtaposition. The subject is taking a bath in the sink rather than the empty bathtub. Does it show a particular fear? The neon light outside gives us two letters, which could come from the word ‘Hotel’.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho takes place in a hotel shower. This theme would signify that the subject has seen too many films. A simple concept, but made stronger through our previous, visual experiences.
15. Untitled by Natacha Einat
Natacha Einat is a digital photographer who uses manipulation to create fantasy photography. Here, it seems that her soul or very being has a connection to an animal. In this case, a large eagle represents her soul.
An image like this brings around ideas of not only who we are but what we want to be. It would be great to be able to soar above the clouds, which isn’t exactly possible from our mortal, human bodies.
14. Cuenta Personal by Julian Majin
This image by Julian Majin is reminiscent of the last scenes in the film Interstellar. There we see a curved space that allows for much more space to occupy. A step away from reality into a more fantasy styled setting.
Here, a woman and dog sit on a rocky ledge, purveying the scenery in front of them. They are not startled by it – it is their reality. Perhaps it is a dream and one created with a little digital manipulation.
13. Low Tide by Baden Bowen
The Low Tide image is a dream-like fantasy photograph. Juxtaposition plays a large part. These boats are usually moored to the rocky ground. But what happens when the tide disappears?
Here, he shows that the boats don’t leave their position, and the ropes stop them from floating away into the sky. A real setting with a slight shift can change the entire concept and everything we know.
12. Torn by Tommy Ingberg
Tommy Ingberg is yet another fantasy photographer who uses people in dream-like situations. Here, the subject is torn between floating away and keeping his roots on the ground.
This concept shows that there are differences between our ideas and thoughts. There are always at least two avenues for us to choose. When do we give in to floating away?
11. Sleep Elevations VI by Maia Flore
Maia Flore is no stranger to conceptual or fantasy photography. Here, she shows a girl in sailor attire, hovering above a sandy-dune setting. Her back arches with her floating pose and reveals sails from a boat.
This scene shows some dream-sequence where the girl acts as a vessel, yet not on the water. The sky is her environment, where juxtaposition runs rampant.
10. Birmingham Ballet by Bella Kotak
The Birmingham Ballet commissioned this piece for one of their theatre shows. There needed to be a fantasy photo to represent this staged entertainment.
She used a library setting in an old building to convey this former time. There is a connection between the subjects, exemplified by the distance between them.
What makes this fantasy are the touches of overtaking nature. Vines and flowers spread around the girl. This scene could say something about her role in the ballet performance.
My favourite style of fantasy images are when flairs of the unnatural peek through and reveal something unobvious.
9. Time is Fleeting by Joel Robison
Joel Robison is one of my favourite surreal or fantasy photographers. Here, the setting is a window, in a cafe, or a more homely environment. An alarm clock represents time, which signifies the end of the dream-state.
There is a pocket watch coming out, along with a hand trying to grasp at the idea of time. Everything was balancing on what we can imagine was a house of cards. Everything about this image screams that time for the photographer is disappearing.
8. Untitled by Sarolta Ban
This image by Sarolta Ban is one that plays with the idea of walking the dog. Here, the dog house or kennel is bing pulled, suggest that the dog is too lazy is walk.
Due to the darker and moody tones, it is possible the dog no longer exists. This forces the man to pull the last remaining connection he had with his pet.
Either way, the atmosphere created from the processing helps to swing our views a certain way.
7. Flying Houses 14 by Laurent Chehere
The Flying Houses project is one of my favourites as he takes very usual pieces and places them in the sky. It begs the question, what are they doing? Are they acting like balloons? Or getting whisked away like a Wizard of Oz scene?
It isn’t hard to understand the connection with the Disney Film UP! where a house floats away from its location. I love the juxtaposition of these usually grounded subjects floating above us. What I love more is there was no attempt to clean the properties up, making them look clean.
Each piece is how it was. Only the background changes. A perfect mix of realism and slight fantasy.
6. Moon Sailing by Herri Susanto
The moon is one of the subjects that crop up many times in fantasy photography. This celestial being features in our culture and folklore. The moon helps signify night time and the time to enter that dream-like state.
Earth’s only natural satellite is something we often see attributed to Sci-Fi. This concept is pushed through by a complete over-exaggeration of the size of the moon in the clouds.
It is a breathtaking scene, made stronger by the fact the two men are actually on the boat on the lake. A scene of realism with a hint of over-the-top.
5. It Only Rains When I Go Sailing by Kevin Conor Keller
This dream-like image is one of my favourites in the fantasy photography genre. We see a boy sailing a boat in a puddle with a rain cloud overhead. It shows the innocence of the child. The imagination from the entire scene takes place on the top of a jar lid.
It is a small, localised scene that feels very dream-like. The photographer may be looking to get back some of the time spent as a child.
4. Moon Wrangler by Gabe Tomoiaga
Some fantasy photography images look at completely overturning what we accept as reality. Others aim to add a little flair of surreal into an otherwise realistic setting.
One of the reasons we see children crop up in these images is down to their innocence and imagination. This image is no different, as we witness a boy pulling the moon into a room.
3. Sleep Paralysis Photography 4 by Nicolas Bruno
Fantasy photography can cover all sorts of strange, dream-like situations. Fantasy is something that someone wants to happen. Yet, dream-like scenes are a mix of real settings with an interpretation of thoughts and experiences.
Some of these ideas are unexplainable, yet, at the same time, you could explain them in many different ways. This image by Nicolas Bruno seems precisely that. The title Sleep Paralysis Photography suggests a dream state, but one where you can’t move.
The little boy is cowering in one half of a dollhouse, where the other half burns. He can’t escape the danger but tried to hide as much as he can.
2. Untitled by Louis Kellner
This image is very edited, and a collection of at least four different pictures. It does have a realistic touch to it, down to the concept and digital manipulation of Louis Kellner.
This fantasy world shows a man above the clouds, watching hot air balloons float past a castle on a hill. This image isn’t the most out-there on our list. But it is subtle enough to make you think about what you are seeing.
1. Leap of Faith by Erik Johansson
Our number one spot is by Erik Johansson, which won’t come as a surprise. This conceptual artist has created many fantasy images. A few pictures went viral, causing an internet sensation.
Here, we see a dream-like situation where a man is walking off a diving board into a clouded mountainous area. What makes this image a great source of inspiration is it feels very realistic.
If you pull back and think about the setting, there isn’t a place on earth where this would exist. The stitched-together images don’t at all look separate from each other. Erik is a genius behind the computer screen.