Styling a Fantasy Still Life Image
Bound in Time

Bound in Time

A simple model that I purchased on eBay, opens up the wonders of photographic possibilities.

This beautiful, raven haired warrior woman in my fantasy artwork, 'Bound in Time’, came equipped with the gnarly tree trunk that she sits on. The chain that is fastened to her leg, has always been there.

So upon receiving the model, I ask myself, how can I create a captivating fantasy, still life, image from this item?

A simple low key, black background, like how I shot the images, 'Octopus Underside’, 'From the Dark’ and 'Alone Again' might look nice, but because of the natural object that she sits on, I thought it would be more interesting to expand on the ‘nature’ aspect, by giving her a ‘living’ world to inhabit.

Amongst my plethora of props, are shells, pebbles, fairly large, fall from the studio table and hurt your foot if you're not careful rocks, and also fake snow, to add a bit of wintery atmosphere.

Toying with different ideas, I replace the shells with skulls, however, they are too large for the scene and they distract attention from the foreground.

I wanted sharpness throughout the scene so I shot at f/16, with a 90mm tilt shift, lens. Originally I was going to shoot in landscape, horizontal orientation, but the model is too large for the lens at minimum focusing distance and would force me to back up, thus rendering the model too small in the shot to create any impact.

So unusually, I create a landscape scene a vertical aspect, which actually works as it creates a tight and dynamic composition.

I position everything to compositional rules. The rule of thirds, I create a subtle leading line with the shells. Yet I am doing this because I felt it 'fits’ in the scene and looks aesthetically pleasing. I am not forcing the composition for the sake of ticking some compositional boxes.

Subtle leading line

Subtle leading line


I change out the small background rocks a number of times to find the right balance in height and width and I also work the large rock on the left, trying to get exactly the correct position for it. I then dress the scene in fake snow that I purchased online.

The lighting is a gridded strobe from camera right, plus white fill cards to fill in the shadows. I also attach a deep yellow gel onto a second gridded strobe and shine it on the translum backdrop, behind the scene, to create the illusion of the setting sun.

In order to get the warrior woman exactly in the right position in frame and get the most appealing aspects of the gothic trunk she sits on, I take two shots, where after taking the composition that you see, I lower the camera to shoot the bottom of the trunk (with the little skull) as this is out of frame. I then mold/blend the bottom of the trunk with the rest in Photoshop.

Also in Photoshop, I create a slight Gaussian blur on the stones in the background, to create depth. After toying with a colour photograph, I realise that the gradient that I captured with the deep yellow gel, attached to a gridded strobe, is too prominent and competes with the foreground elements, so I decide to choose a toned, black and white for the final image. I also add some clouds and then dust and grain adding an aged effect to the image.

I think it has a vintage, 1940’s Hollywood movie poster look to it or it could find its way into a fantasy novel.

So once again as with much of my work, I create the final image by way of experimentation rather than a specific design that I had in mind.