Magazine Article


All Things Beautiful

Lisa Jane Murphy Captures the Magic of Childhood with Off the Wall Sets

Unicorns and fairies traverse the landscape… girls become prima ballerinas and boys sail away on rafts. Lisa Jane Murphy has turned fantasies into realities for more than 20 years, at her Houston, Texas-based Eden Studio.

This celebrated children's portraitist creates more than beautiful photos. Each of her enchanted images "captures the essence of childhood that lies within each child before he or she disappears into adulthood," relates Murphy. "I like to think of these portraits as windows to their souls, wherein live all things beautiful, innocent, and magical."

For eight years, Off the Wall Production studio sets have played a major role in helping Murphy capture her enchanted images. She points to a recent shoot with the newest Off the Wall set, Luminesque, to show the set's diversity.

"Two little girls came in for a session. The mother wanted fantasy portraits, but the father wanted something more traditional," recalls Murphy. To compromise, she first created a castle with a drawbridge on the set, and dressed the girls as princesses. Then the girls changed into Victorian dresses, while she made some minor changes to the set, creating a more traditional feel.

"It's a lot easier to create a magical forest when you have a set of life-size mushrooms to work with, and I can add a drawbridge and water in Photoshop, to the set and create an instant royal castle for any little princesses or princes," notes Murphy.

The ease with which the Luminesque set can be transformed into other scenes makes it a boon to productivity, as well as creativity. "I love how real they look and how lightweight and easy they are to move," says Murphy. She can photograph all day long, an hour at a clip, each session lasting one hour, with 15 minutes allotted for each subject's hair, makeup, and wardrobe changes. Since it takes two to three hours to create most of her sets, she leaves them up for a few days.

"Most of our Off the Wall sets are under eight feet tall and fit in our camera room. The Luminesque is just under nine feet tall, so we can only photograph it outdoors," explains Murphy. "My studio is on three acres of land, so I have plenty of room to keep them."

Indeed, she has quite a collection of sets, and adds to her eclectic selection of fanciful props annually. To create an even greater range of looks, she mixes and matches different pieces from various sets, usually adding something of significance to the family in each set. Murphy prides herself on never creating the same set twice. That's why she schedules special days for her fantasy sittings, creating an elaborate set and shooting it for two or three days before changing it.

Real Fantasies

"Because we create so many different sets, we have parents who prefer to come in before the session for a consultation. When they first call, we direct them to the website gallery,, to see what's most appealing to them," she explains.

"Creating an appropriate environment is essential for children to be comfortable. When we dress a child in a magical costume, complete with sparkly wings and matching crown, place them in an enchanted forest, and a beautiful unicorn walks out of the smoke, they really believe they are fairies, and all I have to do is capture the moment," says Murphy.

In a few months, Murphy will be taking her photographic magic on the road, to present a live photo shoot at the PhotoImaging & Design Expo, which comes to San Diego April 19 to 21. Her pre-conference workshop will be held on April 18.

"I have a lot of clients who fly in from California for shoots, including the Little Miss California competition. They will model for me. As for equipment, I'll bring my Canon EOS 20D, Canon 28-135 IS lens, tripod, and 1GB card. Off The Wall will provide the rest," she notes.

Until then, watch for Murphy to become "really inspired with fresh creative ideas for set designs and costumes."

To register for Lisa Jane Murphy's PIDE pre-conference workshop in San Diego, CA, on April 18, 2005, visit for details. See you there!