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Magical Images of Ethereal Photography

Updated on June 7, 2015
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

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CC BY 2.0 | Source

"Ethereal literally means something light or tenuous, but when we think about the word in terms of photographs, it indicates images that feel magical, timeless, and otherworldly" inspirationhut.net

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CC BY 2.0 | Source

With today's digital technology and the many photo manipulation software programs there is nothing that cannot be done with a photograph.

With a little creativity, some digital work and an open mind you can turn any image into an ethereal picture.

Basically your goal is to create images that seem out of this world, not really possible and magical at the same time.

The images should be able to open someone's mind to the possibilities and think of surreal and fantasy realms while allowing you to think of what may come next or what else is possible.

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Willing to try this?

See results

The easiest way would be to photograph a model and manipulate the scene to add other elements which in turn make the entire picture acquire the ethereal elements that make the photo seem magical, surreal, come from a fantasy world and so on.

Once you have the main part of the picture, i.e the model, you can now start to add digital backgrounds, other pictures like the Moon, stars, birds, flora and other fauna as well as fog, rain, scenes from a stormy night and the list goes on.

You do need to be very capable and handy with a digital program like Photoshop or Gimp, but once you get the hang of it, there is basically nothing that you cannot accomplish.

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Digitally edited to comply with TOS. You may see original by following link. CC BY-SA 2.0
Digitally edited to comply with TOS. You may see original by following link. CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

If you feel uncomfortable working with Photoshop, Gimp or nay other such program then by simply adding a digital backdrop, the same effects can basically be achieved.

You have to cut out the model from the original photo and place it onto the digital background. This is not that difficult to do and it is the easiest way to achieve the desired ethereal effect but it does limit your creativity.

This is often referred top as layering Layering images over one another is a great way to give a photo a new background, juxtapose unlikely images, or fake a photo-op with your favorite celebrity.

One of the best ways that I have seen is to change the background into white and then ad the new image, i.e the digital backdrop.

This is not that unusual as many pros do this to spice up their stock photographs and make it more appealing to possible clientele.


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Although you can have one main photo of a person or animal,or flower or whatever your main subject is and ad other non photography digital elements like graphics, in keeping with the idea of a photographic composition you should capture two or more images and then blend them into one main photo.

Everything in your final image should be made of subjects you have photographed yourself.

This in turn makes you think at all times about what you are capturing an image of since you will only use a digital program to bring them together and not rely on digital products only.

If you want to try your hand at this but do not want to use any digital manipulation program or simply do have one, then you can create seemingly ethereal images by using long shutter speeds.

These are basically shots that feature moving subjects photographed with a long shutter speed. Nighttime scenes work very well for this technique.

The lights will appear as if one continuous streak and so will any moving subject. When placed in the same plane as a still subject like a building or other still subject, it gives the impression of impossibility and this is basically what ethereal photography is.

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© 2015 Luis E Gonzalez

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    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      3 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Greensleeves Hubs: Thank you. Although I am not a big fan of manipulating images I can see some of the benefits.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      3 years ago from Essex, UK

      Creative, fantasy photography of this kind does produce memorable images, Luis, and although it takes time and skill to achieve professional standard results with the more complex photo manipulation techniques, it is well worth attempting.

      Certainly the idea of long exposure shots is very simple, and a good starting point for anyone who wants to create ethereal, mystical images. Thanks.

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