A 3 Year Photography Project: What I learned

A Photography Project: 3 years of shooting Royals, Knights & Shieldmaidens.

How making childhood daydreams come true turned into my business. Here are 6 things I have learned from it.

There it is: I have officially decided to end my longest running series called “Arcadia” after shooting three years for it. Not only was “Arcadia” a childhood dream come true, in a full platinum 100% achieved vibe but it also kind of launched my entire business actually. It has brought me a lot of traffic, clients worldwide decided to book me for it and I started working on a freelance base for the company where I bought my armor for the first time - this summer in august I’m in Germany for two days to shoot for their catalogue and I’m stoked!

But what does one learn from working on a series for the next three years? I thought I would share some of my insights with all of you because this “Arcadia” series pretty much changed my entire life:

***

1. Follow your dreams

So this is something that’s said often but in this case it really was: ever since I was a little kid I was obsessed with anything armor, swords and weapons. I was never really allowed to have any (we used to make them though, with nails through sticks, inspired by the game Age of Empire). It took me a long, long time and a really big impulsive purchase when I decided to buy a set of armor from Mytholon and asked Mara to model it for me in the studio. I was around 26 and just a few weeks into being a full-time artist and photographer in my own studio.

2. Make that crazy purchase if necessary, even if you’re being hold back
(but first, make sure you got that rent covered)

Back then, chasing that dream was an expensive purchase I kept quiet about as I néver did anything like it and I valued my life a bit, since my parents where (rightfully) protecting me from making financial mistakes. I did accidentally spill the news when we where driving to the sea for a weekend. I never saw my mom turn around and look at me with that intense stare only moms have … and turn back after a long silence with a face of “you know, let’s just Laura do her thing” . So there was that. I survived that.

Did I regret it? Yeah. Way before I spilled the news and way after too. But did it feel kind of badass? Hell yeah: I had a SET OF ARMOR. Childhood dreamgoal completed.

3. Give it your everything

Kind of like number 2, but when I had the armor and I shot THE shoot that became “Supremacy” - one of my most iconic shoots up to this date - I knew it was something new. Something that was “me” and I wanted to create, something that would change. I decided right there and then on set this would become a series. We would see how I would finance that you know. Problems for later. It felt awesome. I edited it to it’s finest details. I posted it online and it became kind of history there immediately. I set up new shoots immediately and channeled all these ideas I had cropped up inside. I was always kind of super obsessed with the Arthurian tales, the book “Mists of Avalon”, Celtic mythology and warriors. Combine that with a lifelong gaming obsession and there you where: inspiration and visuals collided into one.

4. You néver know how a ball will roll

The key to this is: credit. I always credit everyone. Even if I have purchased a piece. Partially because I don’t really hold secrets on my sources of wardrobe and clothing. A lot also has to do with me working with independent designers and I don’t lie awake of giving them some traffic through my work on my own channels (I do not let them use my work for free though on their channels but thats another topic). But also you may néver know how “a ball will roll” as my dad likes to say: Mytholon, the company I bought my armor from, found my work after I credited them in my work. I’m going to Germany in August to shoot the 3rd catalogue commission for them and there have been various other projects and they licensed work of mine for their business.

5. Trademark turned into jobs

Also unintentionally, but awesome in a way: it became a trademark style of mine. One that I got booked for plenty of times. Clients from literally all over the world came to my studio to channel their inner warrior queens and kings as the series so deeply reasonated with them. Also mentioned in number 4, it also brought various commissions, licensing and opportunities. Directly by the company I bought from but also from other companies and independent businesseso out there. Basically a niche turned profiteable!

6. Practice makes perfection

Since it’s such a distinctive style and genre: I had a great amount of fun but also challenge with this because I was forced in a way to stay within my genre, reinventing myself using the same techniques, costumes, props, post-processing techniques and additions like fire sparks, smoke and snow. It learned me to work cohesive, even thought the entire project was three years - and learned me to put an end to it because my aesthetics had changed too much eventually, helping me understand my own aesthetics and style. The good side of this is that I have an amazing collection of images that originally took me various hours to finish and I can do now between 20 to 45 minutes. I understand the process behind my work and can more easily recreate within this genre, if the commission ever arises, delivering a great final product my clients will enjoy.

“Supremacy” - the first “Arcadia” and up to date, one of my most iconic shots. Also the shoot that kicked off this project. I use this image for a variety of projects and promotion as it’s “commercial” enough to be used in a public setting while being a great introduction for anything more “out of the ordinary” . There is also a huge source of interest for this in light of recent trends and honestly: Mara (the model) has that face you simply don’t ever get tired from. Living muse this one for me.

“Supremacy” - the first “Arcadia” and up to date, one of my most iconic shots. Also the shoot that kicked off this project. I use this image for a variety of projects and promotion as it’s “commercial” enough to be used in a public setting while being a great introduction for anything more “out of the ordinary” . There is also a huge source of interest for this in light of recent trends and honestly: Mara (the model) has that face you simply don’t ever get tired from. Living muse this one for me.


Want to see more?

Find the entire “Arcadia” series here.

Want to own a Fine Art piece of this series?

Some of them have been listed in my store .
Can’t find the one you want? Just send me a request and I will see what I can do!

Want to learn how I made these images yourself from start to finish?

I’ve made a(n online) class specifically for this genre and trademark style I do. You can book yours now by contacting me on the 1-on-1 class page (form below) or directly by mailing me at contact@sheridansart.com

Need new content for your business?

Are you looking for work similar to this for your next book or music cover? Or you have a LARP business in need of some eye-catching badass promo images? Or you want to license an existing one?
Just get in touch and we will work something out!


This one has been in my weekly top images on Pinterest, racking up thousands of views every week and traffic to my website.

This one has been in my weekly top images on Pinterest, racking up thousands of views every week and traffic to my website.

“Eye Of The Storm” has been one of my most well-know pieces out of this series: it’s been licensed but also has been used a source of inspiration for private fine art portraiture sessions by clients worldwide.

“Eye Of The Storm” has been one of my most well-know pieces out of this series: it’s been licensed but also has been used a source of inspiration for private fine art portraiture sessions by clients worldwide.

This image was licensed for a bookcover, after being found on Pinterest after looking for a potential image. He decided my work was the best fit for it and left it like it is.

This image was licensed for a bookcover, after being found on Pinterest after looking for a potential image. He decided my work was the best fit for it and left it like it is.


Battle Fairies: Aelesia the Harbinger

Battle Fairies: Aelesia The Harbinger
- Behind The Scenes -

Can you organise a kick-ass shoot in less in just a few hours for the day after? I had this situation many times by now but every single time it’s like a little gamble, even though the worst that can happen is that you don’t have the results you where hoping for but still had a good time just hanging out with likeminded, crazy creative people … It may also result in some of those “this is it” moments. For me, this is one of those.

I came from a meeting for the spring shoot for Historische Huizen Gent when I passed by the park where I saw these gorgeous trees with the blossoms in full bloom. And as my brain works, I realised in that split second I needed to shoot something cool there. I immediately went to my Riddersquad group on Facebook (an inside joke that became a thing, it’s basically where I post all my calls for my regular team members when I got a random idea) and asked who was down getting dresed up in armor, wings and pretty dresses.

My first response was Lady Louiza and Saartje Van Den Haute who where both free for the afternoon - followed by My Fragility who coincidentally was at the hairdressers to get her hair dyed pink. If that isn’t the universe doing it’s magick, I don’t know what is …

Since I know My Fragility is one of my badass chicks, I decided to give her one of my long-term ideas which I lovingly call my “Battle Fairies” as in my head it just sounded pretty damn awesome. As usual I had 0 ideas how it would turn out for real on set … but in all it’s unfunctional glory - it turned out pretty damn awesome. There is something cool about the delicate nature of the flowers and a flowy white dress worn by this petite pink haired model with fairy wings & this upper body set of armor.

The set-up of our first set. We started shooting in the later afternoon, just before the golden hour.

Credits

Model - My Fragility
Makeup - My Fragility & Saartje Van Den Haute
Assistance - Lady Louiza & Saartje
Dress - Vintage
Armor - Mytholon
Wings - Hellofaerie

Gear

Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 50mm 1.4
broncolor siros 800
Softbox 60x100
an Ikea chair.

Our second set-up. We shot in the later afternoon, with the golden hour slowly setting in.

Our second set-up. We shot in the later afternoon, with the golden hour slowly setting in.

For the sets I decided to bring one of my broncolor lamps, which is the siros 800 and a regular softbox (60x100 cm) - because it’s such an easy and functional piece I knew I could more easily practice and see what would happen. Working with artificial light is still fairly new to me but I really feel I’m getting the hang of it: it’s a pretty awesome and versatile way of working, which also works incredibly well in my style of photography because it feels much more cinematographic. Maybe it is because I’ve been doing almost only studio for 3 or 4 years up until now - I just feel it “clicks” together. Especially because I wanted a lot of color: I decided to use a teal colorgel for the first set: this would complement the pink flowers and her hair and give some colorful depth to my images. I knew the wings (who are more towards a pink/red/black shade) where also pretty reflective so that helped to really bring everything together.

For the second set I wanted a more monochrome color theme, so I switched to a pink gel (which I also used for the b/w set). It’s a different approach and my heart lies most with the colorgasms that the first set is - but I can definitely see a lot of potential in this approach and I really want to try out more of this.

Some more practical stuff is: because I always try to avoid any disturbances to my location and set I’m working on and at the same time, also want to avoid any composing and/or altering my work; I had to diy and wing it a bit. I have a deep love and respect for any composite artists out there - but it’s just not my thing at all. So I brought one of my posing chairs and asked my model to stand on it (usually where there was a gap between the branches), bringing her high up in the flowers without any alterations to my location. It also allowed for some gorgeous angles from my side, which was an extra plus.