There’s no “one way” to make your photos ethereal or “fairytale-like.” If there’s one thing that I’ve learned as a photographer it’s to be adaptable, and use techniques that work for that particular photo/photo shoot or wedding. While it’s great to be consistent with your work, using the exact same technique/preset/Photoshop for everything can become pretty boring and predictable after a while. (And isn’t that the exact opposite of fairytale-like?) You can go with the light and airy look, or create something epic and dramatic. Here are a few tips on how to create fairytale-like photos.
Tip 1: Expose for the Shadows. When you first learn photography, you’re taught to not “blow out” highlights. While you don’t want to lose all the details in your photos, blowing out highlights (like in the above photo), can give a bright and airy look to your photos. This tip works best when you’re back-lighting your subject. (P.S. Shoot in Raw so that you can adjust the highlights as needed)
Tip 2: Think Epic. Whether you’re doing a styled shoot, or a real wedding, find ways to get that “hero” shot. (Shot from below the subject.) In this case, a lower angle, combined with the cathedral-length veil, create a photo that is both epic, and tells a story.
Tip 3: Shoot at a Low F-stop, Use Back-button Focusing, and Manually Focus. This works best in shadowy areas, where your subject is closer to you. Focus on a single point, and let the rest fall back out of focus. This will create a soft, dreamy look.
Tip 4: Composite. I love movement in my photos, but it’s not always possible to create one single photo the exact way that I want it. So, I take multiples and stitch them together! In this photo, I had the bride throw back her gown for one shot, and then put her arms around her groom for the next shot. The result? A fairytale-like moment that looks like she just ran into his arms.
Tip 5: Create a Focal Point. When you’re editing in Lightroom/Photoshop, create a focal point in the photo by darkening and lightening certain areas. In this photo, I darkened the sides of the photo using the brush tool at a low opacity, and slowly added layers of color until I achieved the desired effect. Then, I brightened the area near the model to draw your eye in that direction.
Tip 6: Add Light in Post-production. You’re not always going to get that amazing light that you want during a photoshoot/wedding, but you can get the next-best thing. Using the brush tool in Photoshop, (Using the Screen Mode, and using a low-opacity), paint over the area that you want to be your point-of-light. I recommend creating a separate layer in the file for this, so you can add or correct where you need and not affect the actual photo until you get it right.
Tip 7: Shoot Through Things. A lot of photographers will shoot through flowers/natural surroundings/etc to add dimension, but in this case, I actually attached a ripped plastic bag to my lens, and shot through it. Be careful to leave the part of your lens uncovered where your focus point is at ( otherwise, your lens won’t focus correctly!)
Tip 8: Add Drama with Smoke: This can be achieved in a few ways. You can use actual smoke balls for the photoshoot or the newest thing- Atmosphere Aerosol, which you can spray around your subject. However, if you don’t have access to either of those, you can create this look in Photoshop. Here’s how:
Create a new layer in your file
Fill the layer with the color White
Go to Filters: Render: Clouds (Make sure your foreground and background colors are Black & White in the toolbar)
Duplicate the layer.
Change one layer mode to Screen and change the other to Overlay.
Add a layer mask to both layers, and using the black brush tool at a low-opacity, brush out what you don’t want to be covered in smoke. ?