Utah Photographer specializing in Families, Newborns & Children.

Every session tells a story Recent Tales

Making Magic with Fairy Tale Portraits

I often get asked, “Why fairy tale portraits?” What is it that makes these sessions some of my absolute favorite?

I read books to my 7 and 4 year old every night. We read about unicorns with horns that can heal, sailing far away to where the wild things are, princesses that go on daring adventures, dancing mice, tiny fairies, cats that surf and magical snowmen that play at night.

Their eyes light up as we sit by the soft yellow glow of their lamp and the words on the pages invite them into enchanted lands where the impossible becomes possible and animals become their best friends.

Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Hedgehog and Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith

The wild imaginations and daydreams of kids have captured my interest so much that I chose to specialize in fairy tale portraits for children. It’s one thing to read about otherworldly adventures, it’s quite another to have your own.

Little Girl as Mermaid in Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith

So what makes a fairy tale portrait magical? What do I have to consider when creating a childhood fantasy in an image? Every detail needs to come together to tell the story – the location, the wardrobe, the props and the special effects added in with PhotoShop.

Unicorns and Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Whimsical Unicorn Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
  1. LOCATION – this is perhaps the most important detail, the scenery must match the story that you’re trying to tell. I spend hours doing what is called “location scouting”. I always have my eyes peeled for new, gorgeous locations that fit a specific theme. I’m an avid hiker, so I have familiarized myself with Utah’s beautiful Wasatch front, and I’ve spent time on the phone, calling for permission to shoot at private locations. I’m not only assessing the “look” of potential locations, but I’m also accounting for –
  • shooting space (can I create a pullback image and include tons of scenery?)
  • colors of the location (do they harmonize with my theme?)
  • foreground and background (such as the unicorn photo above – pretty white flowery growth in the foreground, thick trees in the background)
  • lighting (can I get even or dramatic light? What is the best time of day to shoot at this location?)
  • accessibility (can we park close to the location, will it be easy for clients to find, will we have cell phone service there in case my clients get lost and need to contact me?)

2. WARDROBE – dressing up is perhaps the best part of the whole experience and an essential part to telling the story in a fairy tale portrait. You can derive so much information about what’s being told by what the subject is wearing. I work closely with my clients to help put together the wardrobe for their session. In many cases, I’m providing the outfits, and in other cases, I am communicating with clients through picture texts and emails.

  • Are we going for a soft, forest princess vibe? I have a large collection of dresses ranging in sizes from 1 year to 16 years. I also have matching floral crowns.
  • Are we creating a pirate/shipwrecked scene? Cutoff pants and bare feet are a must!
  • Do we want the portrait to express a different time period? Make sure the clothes match. Pinterest is a wonderful place to start understanding wardrobe customs of that era.
  • Do the colors of the wardrobe go well with the colors of the scenery, and if multiple children are being photographed, do the outfits look good side by side?
  • Don’t forget the little things! Footwear, headpieces, jewelry, etc.
Girl's Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Whimsical Studio Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Baby's Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith

3. PROPS – Make sure the props add to the story and don’t distract from the person being photographed. They shouldn’t seem out of place or thrown in just to fill space. They have to be a part of the scene. Props can be as effective as wardrobe when it comes to storytelling.

  • One of my favorite props is a lantern because you can really play around with the lighting of the photo and adding in a glow in PhotoShop makes a fairy tale portrait so dreamy.
  • Starfish for an underwater scene. Flowers for a forest scene. A sword for a Lord of the Rings-esque shoot. A fishing pole and bucket for a dock scene. Vintage, antique and homemade items tend to work best when it comes to props.
Magical Girl's Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Fairy Tale Portraits with a camel with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith

4. SPECIAL EFFECTS – This is where the fairy tale portraits really come together in the end. When the magic becomes visible and a portrait turns really whimsical. Adding too many special effects can really bog down an image, so I usually suggest keeping it at one special effect, and no more than two. Some examples include:

  • Rainbows in the background and magic on a unicorn’s horn.
  • Light on a lantern.
  • Magic sparkles springing out of a Christmas box.
  • Fireflies.
  • Light rays.
  • Fairy dust.
Christmas Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Studio Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Marshmallow the Unicorn Fairy Tale Portraits with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith

What story do you want to tell? Does your child have a favorite book that he would love to star in? Does she want to meet an mystical animal friend? Does he dream of looking for dragons, does she talk about being a mermaid? What wonderful adventure can you create for your little dreamer?

Fairy Tale Portrait Album with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Girl Reading Fairy Tale Portrait Album with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith
Fairy Tale Portrait Story with Utah Children's Photographer Loni Smith

Contact me with your fanciful idea and lets make magic with fairy tale portraits, with your children as the stars!

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