Session Stories Fairy Magic: a special studio session with model Ari

One of my favorite magical creatures is the simply fairy. I've always wanted to do a studio session featuring a lovely yet delicate fae but the right model never seemed to materialize. A friend of mine asked me to shoot her daughter's senior pictures a couple of years ago and I saw in that session the look I had been seeking.

Ari from her senior portrait session.

I broached the subject of Ari modeling for me and found she had some interest as well. I brought in my favorite makeup artist, Nicole Werner and we did a three-concept session. The session went well, demonstrating that Ari was up to the task and could pull off a host of different looks. She turned out to be a little bit of an actress with a quiet yet attention-demanding presence.

Evening Ari
Ari's look from her Studio Session

As you can see she nailed a number of different looks - not bad for a first studio session! The amazing thing was how much rapport she and Nicole developed. I guess hours in hair and makeup forge bonds. In the behind the scenes photos I tried to grab every time Nicole stepped in, there was always some subtle interactivity at play.

Nicole steps into adjust the hair during Ari's session

In truth, it was Ari's amazing large magical fairy eyes that got me thinking that I needed to make this woman the subject of my fae yearnings.

Those Eyes!

I told Nicole that I wanted to do another shoot with Ari and this time I wanted her to be a fairy. Other than telling Nicole, I wanted her to have full hair as in the shot above, I wanted wings and pointed ears. Nicole did the rest. She came up with the concept that Ari would be a Garden Fairy. Nicole sourced ears, wings, and the dress. I came up with a wand, magical dust, pipe, harp and other props which we would use to create Ari's fairy persona. In addition, I ordered a 5x7 backdrop hoping it would hold my diminutive muse and her wings! We scheduled the shoot around our three schedules and all was well until we had a panic moment. The ears didn't arrive! I was resigned to shoot without the prosthetics but at the last minute, Nicole showed up with a freshly-delivered package containing two ears! The shoot was saved! Ari arrived and got in the chair. I set up the studio and the magic coalesced around us.

BTS: Prep - Background, Model, Ears, Flower Head Piece and finishing touches.

I have to tell you I was giddy with excitement as I watched Nicole assemble Ari magically before my eyes. Makeup, hair and accessories can take time and though I tried to appear patient, I was too excited to wait and wanted to shoot the entire time as they worked to get Ari camera ready.

Test Shot

Straight out of camera: A quick iPhone grab under the modeling lights.

We were ready and Ari really brought it. Nicole had done a superb job on the character creation and stood by to help wrangle errant wings, smooth back wayward strands, and touch up makeup from our rambunctious posing. Three hours and thirty-eight minutes later, Nicole was gone. I extricated Ari from her wings and I sent her on her way. As the images tumbled out of my memory cards into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, a big smile broke upon my face. My fairy shoot was in the can!

Strike that - our fairy shoot was in the can! Nicole and Ari brought so much to this shoot that I have to consider it a collaboration. This is our art and our gift to our viewers… credit where credit is due!

Now the work of ingesting, digesting, selecting and processing my favorites was underway. The images were all initially processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom™ with post production work being done in Adobe Photoshop™. Plugins from Alien Skin, AutoFX and Redfield were used in the augmentation of some of the finished product. The final images were printed on an Epson P600 printer at 17x22 inches

Finished Images

Edited on the iPad using Lightroom CC for mobile, Photoshop Mix and other apps

One of my first edits featuring Adobe's new Autorange Mask Tools.

The finished crop of the title image. The additional blue ring around the eye's limbal ring was chosen to make the eyes appear a little otherworldly.

The Vertical Format Finished Set

We started off slowly, playfully and had Ari chase some bubbles

From the Goblet set, we wanted a mischievous look and Ari, ever the actress delivered it perfectly.

I wanted this image of Ari and here subject the moon to be a little more sinister. We lit her from beneath to make it a ghost-story-round-the-campfire type of feel.

Blowing Smoke was something I thought about from the beginning. a Lord of the Rings prop and some digital smoke made for a nice imbibing fairy.

I call this image "With the sweep of here wand" and it is probably my favorite of the shoot.

Bored on the plane? No problem, open Lightroom CC for iOS and do some quick editing.

I guess I went off the deep end with the effects here but I was really pleased with the green-toned skin and the overall feel of the image.

The Obligitory BTS Blooper Shot

I always tell the models to keep face-aware as they move in the scene. Sometimes the distractions get too much and they go bubble-eyed...


The iPad grab from the model release app of Ari back from the magical realm and ready to head into the real world with only the remnant hairstyle and makeup.

I have to say the shoot exceeded my expectations in every way. Nicole brought it. Ari brought it and I didn't screw it up! That is a win in anyone's books! By and large we were able to keep her on the small background and had only minimal issues to fix when she drifted off the edges. The wings had a mind of their own but we found ways to embrace that and it became more a running joke than a minor annoyance.

I find myself looking for the next Ari-centric project. She will be back from school in a few months and I need to come up with something special!

Created By
Rikk Flohr


All Photos © Rikk Flohr

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