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How to Photograph Fairies

Tools of the Trade

One of the wonders of photography is that great images can be created with minimal outlay. There is no need for fancy or expensive equipment. Like all art, the magic lies with the vision of the artist, rather than in the tools that the artist uses.

Whether you work digitally or are a traditional film photographer is not important. Film can always be scanned into the computer, however if you are buying a digital camera, always go for the most mega pixels you can afford. Small images are harder to work with convincingly.

It is best to use a camera that allows for manual operation or has an aperture-priority mode setting. The depth-of-field is usually something you want to control to achieve selective focus. I usually shoot with an aperture of 5.6 to blur the background and make the faerie stand out. Your choice of lens will depend on the look you are trying to achieve. I use 2 lenses mostly a wide 28mm for a vast landscape shot, or a 75 - 300mm telephoto when I want to create a portrait-style composition.

For the digital manipulation you will require some photo editing software. There are countless programmes on the market today that can do the job of transforming humans into faeries. Price will vary greatly depending on your budget, but Photoshop is the industry standard software, while Paint Shop Pro is an inexpensive but very capable alternative.


The main ingredient to have when creating a fairy photo is to have a vision. I cannot stress this enough. Being able to pre-visualise the end result is critical. As a photographer, before embarking on a photo shoot you need to ask yourself some questions:

  • What mood or atmosphere am I trying to create?
  • Where am I going to take the photograph to achieve this look?
  • Which direction will the light be coming from?
  • What will my faerie be doing in the photo?
  • What will my faerie be wearing?

If you have visualized a dreamy image at twilight, you certainly would not want to be photographing in the harsh light of a midday sun. Photographing under the right conditions will go a long way to achieving the desired atmosphere, and ensuring the success of the image.

Lighting & Location

Faeries are not generally seen in stark daylight. Sunlight can kill the mystery of a photo. We tend to visualise faeries as being creatures of the night, bathed in soft moonbeams, so I always prefer to photograph either at sunrise or late in the afternoon when the light has softened. Great lighting can really make an image sing, and nothing is more effective than the halo of white light created by the dying sun behind your model.

In other instances, I prefer to have no direct light at all, but to photograph on a cloudy overcast day. These times are best for those images that require a very soft light or glow that is entirely created on the computer.

While I always shoot outdoors in natural lighting conditions some prefer the versatility and controlled conditions of studio lighting. The choice is a personal one.

Often in the fantasy genre there is no existing location to match the image you have visualized, and in cases such as this I prefer to shoot all the elements of the image separately, and build them into a digital collage on the computer. The technique is a simple one, but mastering the technique takes time and a good eye for lighting details. Often these "built" images can look like cut-outs because the photographer has forgotten to apply shadows and give depth to the lighting. For any constructed image to look credible, the lighting on all the elements must be uniform, and this has to be taken into account during capture.

Adding the Wings

Some photographers make their fairy wings out of wire and fabric, and these can achieve a very good result, but I have found that nothing quite surpasses the delicate and ethereal nature, or the amazing detail, of real dragonfly wings and butterfly wings. I have a library of insect wings, bird wings, bat wings, interesting leaf skeletons and other "found" objects that I can use for any given photo. Nature is all the more amazing when you look at it with an eye for the details start collecting any interesting objects you come across you will be amazed at how they can be used.

The Costume

A good fairy costume, like everything else I have mentioned here, need not cost anything! In fact, once your digital editing skills are honed even leaves or feathers you have photographed could be shaped into the perfect fairy-wear. But for those who prefer to make a costume out of fabric, remember that it only needs to look good on camera. It can be held together with paper clips if you like, in fact I have photographed a model in a costume held together with a peg! One neat and easy trick to making a fairy costume is simply to cut up strips of different fabrics and layer them together. You can visit the local charity store to buy an old negligee and use it as a base for your costume.

Creating a Dynamic Composition

The final ingredient in the success of your photo is the composition. When composing your image, think of what you are trying to achieve. Are you looking for a stillness that imparts a certain serenity to your image, or are you looking to create a dynamic image with implied movement and action? The answer will dictate the poses you employ. Be creative look at contemporary advertising to see how they use composition and posing, and compare it with Victorian art, for instance. How you frame your image can greatly add to that dynamism. A subject framed in the centre, for instance, will generally not be as dynamic as one that is off-centre.

Above all else, be creative in your thinking. Keep in mind at all times the atmosphere you are trying to create and you will be happy with the result.

Contributed by Margaret Dean ©2006 to Fairies World®

Other Fairy Photography Pages

» Fairy Photography - an overview

» Margaret Deans Biography

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