2b+photo: Delving into the unparalleled authenticity of set design


Photography, as an art form, is not merely about capturing moments; it can equally be about creating them as well. The ability to plan and create the designs within your mind is, ultimately, a gift: a profound ability for any creator – after all, a photographer is no less an artist than a painter, it is only the mediums which differ. Curating real life sets offers photographers an unmatched level of control over their visual narratives. This is something of great importance to fashion photographer Tobias Meier, otherwise known as 2b+photo.

Unlike digital additions crafted into an image at a later date, physical sets ensure a fully immersive experience while shooting. It creates a photoshoot in which the models can wholly interact with their surroundings. “Handcrafting set props also allows for a unique and personalized touch to the overall aesthetic of the photography.” Tobias explains. The act of designing and building his sets also provides Tobias with an unparallelled authenticity. Every element, from his choice of props and lighting to the arrangement of space and composition, can be meticulously tailored to suit the desired narrative and mood.

This isn’t to say, however, that Tobias doesn’t digitally tweak his images afterwards. Rather, he doesn’t need to rely on this part of the process in order to produce strong outcomes. Building many of the sets by hand, we see how his final images are the product of a genuine journey. But what, exactly, does this entail? And what sort of challenges can occur along the way? I delved into this voyage of creation with Tobias Meier to learn more about his approach to design and set creation.


Exclusive interview with Tobias Meier a.k.a. 2b+photo

Developing the story

Like many artists, Tobias’ relationship with creating started early on in life. He smiles: “My family likes to talks about one scenario where I saw someone presenting a hand crafted animal on TV – and the next second I sat down and crafted my version of it using the same materials and expanding it to a little zoo.” This youthful interest expanded as Tobias learned how to operate mechanical machinery, adding metalwork and woodwork to his roster of talents.

These days, Tobias appreciates shaping a project from the early conceptual drawings, continuously developing it further in order to reach a stage that feels intuitively like the “final completion”. Usually, three key images represent the story. This most often takes the form of sketches, some colour hues, and other reference images. From here, more shots are often worked out with a rough idea as to how it can all be actualized regarding location, set builds, and all other essential logistics. This process can be both fun and challenging, a puzzle within itself to move from theory to workable concept.

I have a drawer full of ideas in different development stages. Sometimes it can take years until I finally get the right opportunity to shoot a particular story. For example, one of the larger projects I am eager to shoot requires a significant number of large, voluminous dresses, a set build which will require several days to complete, and a few different models.

Tobias Meier, 2b+photo

With the solid foundation of design being a key tool in Tobias’ ethos, he always prepares and brings to each set an outline of the different scenes that he will shoot. Impressively, this will include information regarding each individual set build and set change, pre-planned light set ups, exact photo compositions, specific model poses, and information regarding hair, makeup, and wardrobe. This outline ensures the final photos taken are as close as possible to the exact concepts shown to clients (something of great importance to Tobias) while also helping the shoot day itself to run as smoothly as possible.

An insight into set building

What many people may not realise is that even a small set is enormous.

Tobias Meier, 2b+photo

Even though the process of handcrafting set props can be a labor-intensive and time-consuming task, it provides the ability to think outside the box and problem-solve creatively. It’s also fun to coordinate and manage the logistics of transportation, from truck loads of props for shoots such as ‘My Precious Terrarium’ and ‘Enchanted Forest’ to sometimes, just a simple taxi.” He explains.

“The ice cave for ‘Nomad’ was built in a studio. It required lengthy drying periods for the different layers and took over two weeks to complete. Several layers of paint were used, partly painted, and sprayed overhead where the paint started dripping.”


For his famous “Cherries” editorial, when designing the oversized cherries, the main objective was for the construction of each cherry to be light enough to be able to be moved by one person. At the same time, each cherry also had to be stable enough to support the model. As such, Tobias designed each cherry base to incorporate a wooden frame structure. Additional materials were layered onto each set piece, then carefully shaped into form before several coats of paint and varnish were added.

“The desired aesthetic was for them to not look too cartoonish or super realistic, but somewhere in between.” He muses. These props were then combined with a total of four solid colour backgrounds, each lit to achieve different gradient values.

This technique – and the subsequent various gradient values – provided more depth to each photo without the need for Tobias to repaint props or digitally manipulate the images so much afterwards.


One of the most satisfying parts of creating props, sets or set design itself is the sense of accomplishment and creative fulfillment that comes from bringing a vision to life.

Additionally, the opportunity to problem-solve, innovate, overcoming challenges, experimenting with different techniques, and finding creative solutions during the creation of set designs is satisfying and supports personal growth. 

Tobias Meier, 2b+photo

The intricate puzzle of ‘Pieces of Me’

We’ve all heard of filmmakers hauling set designs around the world, but in an age of digital photography, it can be rarer to come across a photographer who plans large and travels wide in a similar fashion. It’s a delight to see that photographers such as Tobias Meier are keeping the tactile, handmade nature of physical set design alive – and always finding intuitive ways to overcome potential problems. Tobias nods: “For ‘Pieces of Me’ each individual puzzle piece was hand-crafted and together they form an approximately 9 ft x 6 1/2 ft puzzle. For each scene the puzzle is rearranged, and the model interacts with the different puzzle arrangements.”

The parts for ‘Pieces of Me’ were built on the West Coast before being flown to the shooting location on the East Coast – quite a feat! In order to make transportation less bulky, Tobias designed flat puzzle pieces which would be able to be extended on location so that they could stand by themselves, as well as having the ability to carry the weight of multiple stacked puzzle pieces.

As the whole shoot had to be completed in one day, Tobias shot the model’s portraits – which would later go on the puzzle pieces – first, before shooting her posing with the different puzzle arrangements. He later digitally placed her portrait shots on the different puzzle arrangements to create the final images.


The road ahead

Perusing Tobias’ drawer full of ideas, it’s clear this Canadian-based photographer has ample ideas left with which to play. It’s always inspiring to see an individual breaking the often-perceived boundaries between mediums, and his hands-on approach continues to fulfil all the creative urges which have defined him since childhood. “I am happy that I’m able to do the creative build while executing my Photography and Creative Direction.” He says. “As mentioned, I see set design and set build as part of the process of conceptualizing an idea and transforming it to a final photo.

“As much as I like to do more or all myself, the nature of the work is still requires a team effort to create those kind of photos. As a Photographer, I do also enjoy working alongside fellow Creative Directors and Set Design teams.”

Whatever the future holds for 2b+photo, we can be sure that Tobias will still be pushing boundaries with his creative flair. Fashion photography has never been so playful!


2b+photo Social Media Accounts

2b+photo Website | Tobias Meier Website | Instagram | Artsy

About Author

Based in the UK, Natalia Joruk enjoys a life surrounded by art, nature, and curious trinkets. As Deputy Editor, she's worked closely with the Editor-in-Chief for over a decade, supporting with the design and growth of Beautiful Bizarre and the maintenance of the annual Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize. Natalia also oversees sponsor partnerships for the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, and distribution of the magazine, so drop her an email if you know someone who would like to sponsor or stock! She also writes for both the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine website and print publication. One of her favourite perks is getting to know artists, gallery owners and their teams personally, so feel free to email her if there is anything she can help you with – or just to connect.


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