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Harry Potter portraits at home! How to shoot spellbinding photographs

Harry Potter home photography
(Image credit: Katie Forshaw)

Lockdown may have meant that my studio had to close, but it has not meant that my imagination needed to shut down too. I am essentially a portrait and family photographer from the UK but, because of lockdown, families have not been allowed in my studio, so I have had to focus more on digital creations. 

I have run an Etsy shop since 2018, selling digital backgrounds to other photographers for their creative story book composite sessions. I base my ideas on books, favorite children’s characters, places I have been, and my own imagination. 

• Read more: Best backdrops for photography

Recently I have teamed up with a local prop hire business to create new digital backgrounds, using actual props in combination with digital stock elements in my work. My daughter has been helping me model, when she is in the mood, although she has started to charge me now!  She was excited to help with this set, though, as she just loves Harry Potter. 

My dog, Leo, enjoyed playing a role too. By creating a space in my garage to shoot in, it has been so much easier to do my composite work. Using a paper roll has made things easier to cut out. Grey or a neutral color can be better than green, in my opinion, as you don’t get a color cast on the subject. 

I can also consider and control my lighting a lot better, rather than shooting outside which can’t be as easily controlled. I can also have all the props to hand and tether to my laptop to make sure I have the shot I need. 

(Image credit: Katie Forshaw)

5 top tips for shooting Harry Potter portraits

(Image credit: Katie Forshaw)

01 Creating outfits

For each backdrop that I create, I need to have a sample image of a subject on the backdrop to show people how the final image could look once someone is composited in. I like to match the outfits to the scene, so I ordered a Harry Potter costume for my daughter to wear for these.

(Image credit: Katie Forshaw)

02 Sourcing props

When I first started my Etsy shop, I used to make my backdrops solely using digital stock. I built my studio in 2019, so now I have room to photograph my own stock. I use Full to Bursting Prop Hire for my props in the studio on a long-term basis.

(Image credit: Katie Forshaw)

03 Setting up your studio space

I always use a paper roll for my composite work, as it's easy to apply textures or extra digital stock using a dark plain backdrop.  I normally use grey but for these I wanted peat brown, for the set to be in the style of a wizard’s school room with a fine art feel.

(Image credit: Katie Forshaw)

04 Working together as a team

This is my daughter, Lily. She is the face for a lot of my photography and digital backdrops, especially since lockdown.  She helps throw ideas my way and comes up with new themes for props and sets. She now charges me £2 a shoot. God help me when she gets older!

(Image credit: Katie Forshaw)

05 Lighting

I wanted my scenes here to remain quite dark. I shot with a Godox QTii strobe with 110cm octabox with grid to focus the light on her and the surrounding props, and less on the backdrop to get a darker brown. I like to shoot a couple of stops underexposed and then bring things back in post.

You can see more of Katie's work on Instagram, and you can check out her digital backdrops at her Etsy store.

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