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News & Insight

Behind the Scenes of an Incredible ‘Maleficent’ Themed Photo Shoot

By Hanssie on May 30th 2014

The highly anticipated Disney fairy tale, ‘Maleficent’ was officially released in theaters across the nation today with a new twist on an old classic. Angelina Jolie plays the villainess from the 1959 animated film by Walt Disney, who curses Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora.

This new dark fantasy features the untold story of Maleficent and how she transformed from a pure-hearted woman to the revenge seeking iconic character. According to Disney, Maleficent is “driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king’s newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love and the human kingdom that holds her legacy. Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and is forced to take drastic actions that will change both worlds forever.


Maleficent by Josh Rossi Photography

Photographer Josh Rossi of Composite Planet sought to recreate this newly adapted version of a misunderstood villain. After seeing the trailer for the movie, he was inspired to create this Maleficent themed shoot. After scouting for 2 days for the perfect location for the shoot (“something very eerie and Halloween-like”) and using backgrounds from recent trips to Italy and Peru, Josh spent a day shooting 8 different locations knowing that he needed to be able to easily composite the models.


Casting the models wasn’t difficult. According to Josh he “literally watched the trailer 30 times and then went on the hunt.” Seeking the help of Facebook, he sifted through many inquiries until he came upon Amanda Larsen to portray Sleeping Beauty and Eve Keener as Maleficent.

"Bring her to me!"

“Bring her to me!”

"Drawn Away"

“Drawn Away”

Using a 3 light setup comprised of Einstein strobes the Sony A7R and DIY gels, Josh gelled his lights using $1 colored folders from Walmart to create the green and blue effects in some of the images. Josh made sure that the separate backgrounds were the same height as the models so he could match them up to the scene in post production. Each image took roughly 4 hours, some 6-8 hours to composite. A major challenge was trying to figure out how to make “the green power come from Maleficent’s hands and not make it look cheesy.”

And of course, the shoot would not be possible without the work of some very talented people: Costume Designer Shannon Cheek. Hair and makeup was done by Toni Zitting and Flavia Carolina.

Here are some before and after photos and below you’ll find a behind the scenes video of the shoot:


“Leaving the Castle”

Before "Leaving the castle"

“Leaving the castle” [Before]






“Possessed” [Before]


“Sleeping Beauty”

Before "Sleeping Beauty"

“Sleeping Beauty” [Before]


“Maleficent” [Before]

Before "Maleficent"

Behind the Scenes Video

Can’t get enough? Josh Rossi has promised to come out with a full tutorial on how to create realistic effects by manipulating an image in Photoshop to make your images come to life “exactly how you envisioned it in your mind.” Check out Composite Planet’s website for more information.


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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa


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  2. Greg Faulkner

    Amazing stuff

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  3. Media Unmasked

    The before and after shots are amazing – and to think he used $1 folders from Wal-Mart as gels, haha. That’s amazing! I really like the behind-the-scenes of this. Thanks for sharing.

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