BTS: Building an Outdoor Studio to Create a World Within a World Without Photoshop

For a recent project, Montreal-based photographer Benjamin Von Wong wanted to do something interesting: he wanted to create ‘world within a world’ style photographs WITHOUT using any Photoshop to achieve the final effect. It took some creativity and help from some very talented set designers, but in the end they pulled it off!

The problem with creating photographs like this without Photoshop is that it is basically a composite photo without the ability to… well… composite. There were a few levels to the shot that all needed to exist at the moment the shutter clicked.

First, the ballerina needed to seem as if she was a tiny person in a larger than life world. Then she was to be set within a scene that had her inside a room that, then, opened up to picturesque vistas behind her.

All of this screams Photoshop: The ‘larger than life’ objects she’s holding are easier blown up than created by hand, and those picturesque vistas behind her are easier to shoot separately and insert. But Von Wong did none of that, and yet he still got these results:




The giant props were the easy part, all they had to do was make them by hand. But in order to create a world within a world IRL, Von Wong enlisted the help of stylist/designer Yvan Castonguay and set designer Charlotte Grant to build a studio outdoors.

We won’t go into the DIY specifics or the challenges they had to overcome and how they did it — the video at the top takes care of that — but what they came up with was both creative and incredibly versatile… plus kind of fun to play in:


So check out the BTS look at the top, and if you want to see larger versions of the photos or a more detailed breakdown of how Von Wong, Castonguay and Grant took this idea from crude drawings to beautiful photo shoot, head over to Von Wong’s blog by clicking here.

Image credits: Photographs by Benjamin Von Wong and used with permission

  • MMielech

    Strange. Shows you how much “Photoshop” is part of the culture, when the point of this exercise is to somehow replicate the previous obviously “Photoshopped” images in his portfolio by building a …… set, and then lighting it nicely. Has anyone told him that this is the way images like this were created before …….. Photoshop?

  • Aaron Lee Kafton

    Seems like a waste of effort for such a washed out background.

  • Monteraz

    “Before” Photoshop??? You mean, Stone Age or so?

  • snapshot1

    Wait let me get this straight – the guy made a set and made some props to photograph a person and this is now a “craazzzyy” idea that has to be disclaimer with “not done in Photoshop” as some sort of cred? …and everyone wonders why photographers are not being taken as a serious professionals anymore?

  • Rob Elliott

    The lack of Photoshop is an emphasis placed Petepixel not by Von Wong. His blog says it in the title and the never again.

    if you looked at it yes you would assume a composite, which is the hook line to bring people to read more.

    Petapixel then choose to make that the focus of the article THEY wrote. Von Wong is known for using Photoshop, But also for practical effects, like his Fire shots.

  • MMielech

    Well, (A), I don’t assume a composite, because they don’t look like one, and (B) His Photoshop work is actually quite obvious, and, therefore, not very good.

  • Rob Elliott

    A lot of his work is stunning… and your opinion seems meaningless based on the manner and wording you have chosen for your comments.

  • Oj0

    I don’t get it. Those pictures look more like theater than Photoshop to me. If you were to show me those pictures without context, I would guess that little to no editing has been done. The title of the article had me expecting a lot more. Have things really progressed (progressed probably isn’t the correct word, more like regressed) to such an extent that we assume EVERYTHING is edited?

  • Oj0

    I think that from an artistic perspective it works really well, as it’s shows enough to about being a boring solid background without showing so much that it detects from the subject.