When fantasy portraits come to mind, you might think of photo shoots that feature expensive lighting equipment, luxurious places, and unparalleled makeup/styling skills. Though many photographers’ shoots involve these things, not every fantasy-themed session has to feature items that are difficult to obtain.
Here are a few very simple items you can use to create surreal portraits that will make your portfolio stand out.
Neon lights are usually limited to giving out very few colors. Since most of us are used to seeing a variety of colors in our everyday lives, a limited color palette might seem outlandish, which makes it the perfect opportunity to create fantasy-inspired photos.
Have your model stand next to a neon sign. These can be found in stores, galleries, or studios. If you’re working with only one source of light, treat it like a window; make sure your model faces the light in a way that evens out their skin tones and doesn’t highlight any roughness.
To add more oomph to your work, hold a CD or phone in front of your lens so that it reflects the neon lights. This will create an effect similar to the one in the photo above. Abstract reflections like this will add even more interesting elements to your portraits.
Thrift stores are filled with unique gems like gowns, suitcases, crowns, and other items you wouldn’t be able to find in a normal clothing store. If your local thrift store doesn’t have items of this sort, try looking for vintage items on eBay. Even low-quality products can look stunning in photos. What one person finds boring might become the star of another person’s fantasy shoot!
Keep an eye out for different kinds of fabric (you can use this to create intricate shadows on sunny days), unusually large accessories, and antique items. The more unusual your thrift store finds are, the more fantastical your portraits will be.
Smoke bombs, or smoke grenades, can be bought online for as little as $10. These handy little objects are filled with colorful smoke that can be used to enhance even the simplest portraits.
If you’re completely out of ideas, use a smoke bomb to add texture, vibrancy, and a fantasy element to your portraits.
Car headlights usually give out very warm tones that are perfect for evening/nighttime shoots. As you can see in the image above, they light up the subjects from the side without making an appearance in the photos themselves.
If you can’t use a car, use a lamp, especially an antique one that will emphasize the surreal aspects of your photos. You can also use matchsticks, candles, and bonfires to create gorgeous compositions at night.
Glow-in-the-dark makeup is ideal for photographers who want to improve their nighttime photography skills without using artificial light. Your results will look like surreal, otherworldly works of art like the image above.
Don’t be afraid of experimenting with ISO numbers. Most modern cameras handle noise very gracefully, and most editing programs can easily remove unnecessary grain.
You’ve probably seen a lot of cool levitation photos by now. More often than not, photographers use chairs or stools to create the illusion of floating people.
If you want to create your own levitation photo, take two photos: the first photo should feature your model balancing on a stool and the second should be a photo of the same landscape without your model or the stool. Then, using your masking tool in Photoshop, you can remove the stool from your composition. And voilà! You now have a gorgeous levitation photo.
The beauty of portrait photography is that it can improve your gallery regardless of your budget. You can create fantasy-themed portraits whenever you want to with the help of these accessible and affordable items.