Self-Taught Photographer Lia Konrad Creates Epic Images Using Simple Tools

Self-Taught Photographer Lia Konrad Creates Epic Images Using Simple Tools

Not every photographer needs lavish resources and an army of helpers to create dramatic images that belie their basic production. Lia Konrad is a 23-year-old fine art photographer based in a small town in Germany, but she hasn’t let modest resources stop her from following her passion to create epic images inspired by her love of fairytales, myths, and fictional stories for her website Liancary

“As a Newbie in the whole photography business I didn’t have much gear and no contact with designers, but I wanted to create epic stuff anyway. For the first two years I shot my images with a Canon 550d and a basic 50mm 1.8 lens, bought some smoke bombs, dressed up the model in some fabric and edited the results in Photoshop. That was it,” she says.

From 'A Bizarre Heart' series. Photography and costume by Lia Konrad. Model and Make-up by Zany Insane. Assisted by Jennifer Haas.

“I love creating epic, magical photos, which make the viewers lose themselves in the photo. The photos can be described as unusual and unique but of course, I got a lot of inspiration from other photographers who are doing a similar or even the same kind of style. With every image, I want to tell a story. I’m not a fan of just taking pictures of pretty girls without a meaning behind it. I think every image is more powerful with a story. The same goes with humans. We attract people with the most interesting life stories.”

Her current work, "A Bizarre Heart" is a series of what she calls epic portraits of a silver-haired heroine started with a vision about the costume, but Konrad was initially stymied with a lack of costume or a location to stage the images which sprung from her imagination. "The vision to the project started with the vision of the costume. As a big Lord Of The Rings Fan I was always in love with the costumes in the movies, especially with the ones from the elves," she says. "The silver chest protector is inspired by the Dark Galadriel in the first movie and the skirt and the sleeves are inspired by the Rivendell elves." After growing impatient with her search for the right costume Konrad made the costume herself. “It all starts with a crazy idea,” she said. 

“I asked friends and designers but without success. So without prior knowledge, I crafted the corset with Worbla (thermoplastic modeling material) and hand-stitched the fabric parts.” Konrad labored for 36 hours on the costume but still lacked an epic location for her epic vision. “By a fortunate coincidence I saw on Facebook that a small creative meet-up would soon take place in a nature reserve which I had never heard of.” she recalled. “I immediately Googled ‘Geyersche Binge’ and was totally overwhelmed by the high rocks” of the Saxony nature reserve.

“I invited some friends to the event and two weeks later we all found ourselves driving together to the meet-up. I asked one friend to model for me and another one to assist. I shot all photos on my Canon 6d with a 24-105mm lens without reflector or flashes,” she says. “Since my work is known for its post-processing, I spent about two hours in Photoshop CC on each image. Besides the usual color corrections and retouching, I also added additional light effects to some images.” 

The work flow in "A Bizarre Heart" followed her established pattern, “At first I cleaned up some distracting details like branches and hair strands with the Healing Brush. Then I retouched the costume and skin a bit and filled the smoke up with additional smoke. In some images I added for some extra drama from a new light source with the Light Beam brushes and rounded everything in the end up with the curves tool.”

Konrad started in photography four years ago and was inspired by the work of Benjamin Von Wong whom she met at a photography event in 2014. She began organizing her own "epic fantasy" shoots soon after. She is not shy about sharing her process which involves the extensive use of Adobe Photoshop to bring her visions to life. “I only shoot with available light,” she says, “ so my original files are quite often boring. But knowing how to easily add light effects is very helpful. I use free lightbeam brushes from Jonas De Ro. They are actually brushes for digital paintings, but they work absolutely fine in photos too. Additionally I darken everything unimportant in the image and highlight the subject by the dodge and burn method.” Konrad says. 

From 'A Bizarre Heart' series. Photography and costume by Lia Konrad. Model and Make-up by Zany Insane. Assisted by Jennifer Haas.

Many of her images feature bursts of mist and fog to capture a dream-like mood, but she has learned over time that smoke or fog can be a difficult effect to control on location. “Everyone who has worked with smoke bombs before know how difficult it can be with a strong wind, so I found a nice solution,” she says. “There aren't many good smoke brushes on the web. I searched two years for the right ones, and I'm super happy with the Krist’s Smoke Brushes from Brusheezy.” which are available as a free download. “They'll still look fake if you apply them on a image without original smoke, but they work fine if you use them to fill the spaces where the wind has blown away the smoke.” Her final step is the color tone of her images. “I create the picture’s mood with the Curves tools in Photoshop. Mostly I go for a bluish tone, because I like the mystical mood,” she says. 

Konrad’s work is full of mystical moods, fairytale fantasies and lush scenes which were fueled with more imagination than production. She issues a challenge to all photographers to break from limitations to create their own dreams come to life. She says, “Stop looking for reasons why you can't do something. Find ways to make it possible for you, and luck will follow.”

Dan Howell's picture

Dan Howell has been a New York City area photographer specializing and fashion and portraits for catalogs and magazines for the past 20 years. He began photography with photojournalistic aspirations but found a more comfortable fit in the fashion and commercial world.

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Her work is beautiful, omg!

Wow, thank you Evan! Means a lot to me!

Excellent work, keep up the great work. If you're curious enough to spend some time learning it, download the free 3D app Blender3D. It has particle engines that will allow you to make smoke, fire, rain, sand, water, light beams, etc. that you can use in your composites. It's free and only costs you the time spent learning it which is admittedly steep at first. You can also use it to create dreamscapes of course. ;-)

I heard of it before! But didn't know that it also works for smoke, fire, rain etc, that's amazing ! Do I need good painting skills or something, for it? thanks for the tip!

No, Blender is a 3D modeling and animation program, it's an entirely different approach to creating images. Like most modelers, it allows you to synthesized pretty much anything, including entire scenes to drop your photo elements into. It will also render the images with alpha channels embedded, so they drop right into Photoshop ready to go.

That said, 3D modeling has an initial steep learning curve, regardless of program, but once you've gotten over the hump, the sky's the limit on what you can create. There are free tutorials on YouTube and around the web, as well as paid tutorials. Just scroll down this page on the link below to get an idea of it's capabilities, and click on the Demo Reels link there to see it in action. An awesome resource for the price of your personal time.

I enjoy seeing this kind of work on tight budget.....give me hope

Incredible work, very talented

Wow those are amazing!!! I'm amazed at some people's creativity!

This is so inspiring ! Thanks for sharing !