How To Create Photorealistic Images With Midjourney – A Prompt Guide

You’ve probably seen some of the mind-blowing, photorealistic images created using Midjourney floating around social media. If you’ve been wondering how to create your own, you’ve come to the right place!

While Midjourney can generate a wide range of images based on any text input, there are certain prompts and keywords that can help you achieve more photorealistic results.

In this article, we’ll go over how to create photorealistic images with Midjourney, and explain how to dial in your prompts to achieve stunning results with ease.

Getting Started with Midjourney

First of all to get started with the Midjourney AI image generator, you need a Discord account because you can only use it on the Discord server. Discord is free to register, but it requires a few steps to sign up and get Midjourney running.

If you haven’t set up a Discord account already, check out our step-by-step guide to setting up a Discord account to use Midjourney.

Once you’re all set up and logged into Discord, you simply click on the Midjourney icon on the left side menu that looks like a sailboat. This will take you to the Midjourney platform where you need to select a ‘newbies room’.

Once you’re in, to start creating images, you’ll find a prompt window at the bottom of the page. Type in: /imagine and hit the spacebar and a prompt window will come up.

This is where you will work your magic.

This is where a lot of people get stuck — not knowing what prompts to use.

Keep reading because not only are we going to give you some great tips for creating ultra photorealistic images, and also give you specific prompts and explain how they will affect the results.

How to Use Prompts for Photorealistic Images

First thing you need to understand is that the amazing images you’ve seen online are unlikely the result of the first attempt to get that image. It requires a lot of patience and a lot of trial and error to create the photorealistic image that you’re looking for.

So don’t despair if you don’t get your perfect image right off the bat. 

We’re going to start you off with a few general prompting tips before we get into the technical prompts.

1. Take Some Time to Just Observe

Once you’re on the Midjourney platform, one of the best ways to get some prompting ideas is just to grab yourself a cup of coffee and just sit and watch the images other people have created coming up on the scroll feed.

Although different Midjourney pricing plans offer the option to hide the prompts used to create an image (and pricing options to keep your images private), most of the images scrolling by will include the prompts used.

If you like an image you see, take note of the prompts that they’ve used to create it. You shouldn’t copy it exactly, of course. But even if you did, you wouldn’t get the exact same output the original user created.

2. Be Specific And Get Descriptive

One way to create more photorealistic images using Midjourney is to use more specific and descriptive prompts. Instead of using generic or broad descriptions of what you want in the image. Use more detailed and specific language.

photorealistic tropical landscape –ar 3:2

Rather than prompting “photorealistic tropical landscape”, describe the scene. What do you want to see in the image? What feeling do you want the image to convey? This is where you need to put on your creative writing cap.

Try prompting something more along the lines of…… “a dense jungle canopy filled with vibrant green foliage, towering above an unspoiled tropical beach, the crystal-clear water is warm and inviting, and you can see colorful fish swimming beneath the surface, In the distance, a series of jagged mountain peaks rise up, shrouded in mist, The sun is shining brightly overhead, casting dappled light across the landscape, a gentle breeze blowing, In the foreground, a hammock sways lazily in the breeze, beckoning you to unwind and soak up the peaceful beauty of this idyllic paradise –ar 3:2.”

a dense jungle canopy filled with vibrant green foliage, towering above an unspoiled tropical beach, the crystal-clear water is warm and inviting, and you can see colorful fish swimming beneath the surface, In the distance, a series of jagged mountain peaks rise up, shrouded in mist, The sun is shining brightly overhead, casting dappled light across the landscape, a gentle breeze blowing, In the foreground, a hammock sways lazily in the breeze, beckoning you to unwind and soak up the peaceful beauty of this idyllic paradise –ar 3:2.

Although you might wonder if it’s necessary to put in things like “is warm and inviting… beckoning you to unwind and soak up the peaceful beauty of this idyllic paradise.” It actually helps to convey a mood.

Depending on the image you want to create, try adding things like “with a sense of mystery and intrigue” or “candid, capturing a genuine moment of joy and happiness,” or “with a dreamy romantic feel.” The more descriptive the better.

a family having a bountiful picnic in a verdant field, dappled golden light, summer haze, lush and beautiful, classic, with a dreamy romantic feel –ar 3:2

3. Use A Chat Bot for Inspiration

If you’re worried that maybe creative writing is not your thing, don’t worry, the AI tools that have come out recently along with the image generators, like Midjourney, can help you!

I used the AI chat bot (totally free!) for that descriptive text above just as a demonstration. The Chatbots are super easy to use. You just type in what you’re looking for. I’d asked for “a descriptive prompt for a tropical landscape” and that’s what it came out with.

If the description is not exactly what you wanted, you can ask the bot to try again and refine your input about what you want taken out and what you want to add.

Or you can just simply edit the description until it ‘paints’ the picture of the image you want to see. It makes a great starting point if you’re not sure how to get the ball rolling.

There are more advanced chat bots out there, like ChatGPT, Claude 2, and Perplexity.AI, that are capable of much more advanced functions than the one I used. But if you are just looking for some descriptive text, any of the AI chatbots can help you out with that. 

4. Use Midjourney Version 5.x or Version 6

Midjourney continuously updates its version catalog, and different versions produce different results. While it makes sense that the highest, most up-to-date version produces the best quality images, many people feel that older versions are better for certain types of images (e.g. character illustrations are often better in version 4).

So if you are going for a super realistic looking image that looks like a photograph, use Version 6 (the latest version). Just keep in mind that while Version 6 has the most powerful image engine, it doesn’t offer some features like zoom, vary region, etc. If you want more control, stick with version 5.2 or 5.1.

To use the newest version of Midjourney, type in /settings and choose the latest version. Depending on what kind of image you are trying to create (e.g. animated Pixar-style characters or images for a children’s book), you may also want to experiment using –v 4 and see how the images compare. And for anime, use the –niji prompt.

5. Think Like A Photographer

a beautiful woman with copper hair wearing a miniskirt, high-heeled boots, and a detailed necklace, fashion photo, editorial, street scene, medium angle, low depth of field, –ar 2:3

If you want to make a realistic image that looks like a photograph, you need to think like a photographer. Think about the lighting, the angle, shutter speed, focus, and depth of field. Adding in specific prompts for these considerations can help you fine tune your image to make it look exactly how you want.

Don’t worry, we’ll get into some of the specific technical photography prompts below, and explain how they will affect your image, so keep reading!

6. Use A Reference Image

One of the best ways to achieve photorealistic results using Midjourney is to use actual photographic references! You can insert a URL link of a real photo to make the generated image more realistic.

For example, if you want to generate a photorealistic image of a beach, find a reference image of a real beach. Insert the URL link of the image in the prompt window, then write your descriptive text.

If you’re using a personal photo or an image saved in your computer, you’ll have to upload it to Discord. Click the Plus sign next to where messages are typed. Select Upload a File, select an image, and send the message.

To add this image to a prompt, drag the image file into the prompt box to add the image’s URL.

Alternatively, right-click the image, select Copy Link, and then paste the link into the prompt box.

To show what reference images can do, heres’s an example. I uploaded this photo from Unsplash to Midjourney:

And here’s a Midjourney image set using the above image as a reference image:

[image reference] a tall Japanese temple in a forest, with mountains and a waterfall, balanced, zen, peaceful, golden hour –ar 2:3

Midjourney Prompts for Photorealism

Okay now we’re going to get into the technical prompts.

Midjourney 5 defaults to more realistic images than version 4, but regardless of the version you’re using, you’ll need to tell it that you want your rendering to look like a photorealistic image. If not, you may get more results that look like paintings, drawings or digital art, especially if you are trying out prompts on previous versions.

Note that the Midjourney docs themselves are an unparalleled resource for prompt guidance, but they’re not super user-friendly.

Realism Prompts

a landscape of the sahara desert, an oasis in the distance, wide angle, golden hour, national geographic, award winning, shot on fujifilm –ar 3:2

Here are a few prompts to try that can help to let Midjourney know you’re looking for a realistic looking image.

  • Photorealistic
  • Highly detailed
  • Intricate detail
  • Hyperrealistic
  • Sharp focus
  • Fashion photography
  • Editorial
  • 8K
  • High definition
  • National Geographic
  • Award winning photograph
  • Anthropomorphic – meaning to give something human-like traits. This is a good prompt if you are trying to create a life-like image of, say, an animal doing something that humans do, like a dog playing poker.

Lighting Prompts

a beautiful woman dancing at a rave, dramatic pose, rim lighting, editorial, psychedelic colors, –ar 3:2

Lighting can make all the difference in the world as to how an image makes you feel when you look at it. Here is a list of some of the different lighting prompts you may want to experiment with to see how it changes your photo:

  • Cinematic lighting – This simply refers to the use of various lights on a set or location to give a scene a particular appearance once it is captured on film. This is actually a very broad term, but it can garnish you some interestingly epic results.
  • Rim lighting – This refers to a light source placed behind a subject that exposes the outline or ‘rim’ of the subject with light. This lighting highlights the contours of a subject and creates a dramatic and mysterious effect. Try experimenting with “backlighting” to see if it gives you different results.
  • Soft lighting – Soft light is diffused light that avoids casting harsh shadows on its subject. Instead of hard-edged shadows, the division between light and dark becomes gradual and even.
  • Volumetric lighting – sometimes referred to as “God rays”, volumetric lighting is a beam (or beams) of light that maybe comes through a window or the opening in a forest canopy.
  • Golden hour – the period of time just after sunrise or just before sunset when the light is infused with red and gold tones.
  • Blue hour – the period of time just before sunrise or just after sunset when the sun casts a diffuse light from below the horizon and the sky takes on a vivid blue tone.
  • Ellipsoidal Lighting – this is basically just a spotlight effect that is generally in a vertical elliptical shape. 
  • Dappled light – Dappled light is produced when sunlight is filtered through the leaves of trees creating patches of light and dark shadow areas.
  • Studio Lighting – this is a pretty broad term that refers to the different lighting effects that can be created with studio lighting equipment. Used on its own will create an image that looks like it was shot in a studio, meaning that It will be generally well-lit. But if you want a specific effect, you will have to add another prompt, like:
  • Dramatic lighting – or High contrast lighting – this will generate an image with high contrast areas of dark shadows and bright highlights.

Photography Prompts

a hipster baker working in a crowded french bakery full of baked goods, blue hour, shot on lecia m10, long shot, shutter speed: 1/30 second, aperture f/2.8 –ar 3:2

We’d mentioned earlier that if you are trying to create an image that looks like a real photograph, you need to think like a photographer. Here are some photography prompts that will help you get the image you’re looking for.

Camera Type Prompts

Obviously it’s not a photograph and there are no cameras involved in the creation of an AI image, but specifying a camera type lets the AI model know that you are looking for a photorealistic image. Prompts for different cameras will also render slightly different images.

Here are some of the more popular camera type prompts:

  • Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 400
  • Ilford XP2 400
  • Fomapan 400
  • Sony a7R IV camera
  • Shot on 28 mm kodak camera – for more vintage pics
  • Polaroid photo – this will render you an image that looks like an old-school instant Polaroid photo with the white border.
  • Alpa 11si — a classic camera from the 1960s
  • Lecia M10 — another classic camera

If you’re not a photographer, then it will just be a matter of trying out the different camera types with the same prompt to see which renders the image closest to what you want. Also be sure to see what other camera type prompts people are using.

Camera Angle

Where do you want the image seen from – above, below, close up?

  • From below – the image will be looking up at your subject
  • Worm’s eye view – this is also shot from below, but it’s more like the difference between getting down on one knee to take a photo and lying on the ground.
  • From above – the image will be looking down at your subject
  • Drone shot – this will result in an image that is taken from high above, looking down, as if shot from a drone camera.
  • Long Shot – Contains the entire subject or person’s entire body in the frame.
  • Medium Shot – framed from the knees or waist up.
  • Close Up – the subject occupies most of the frame. In the case of a person, it will usually be the face unless you specify otherwise.
  • Macro – this is an extreme close up image of something that is very small, to show detail. Great for things like showing a bee and its compound eyes and the grains of pollen that have stuck to the hairs on its legs, for example.

Shutter Speed

Now obviously there are also no shutters involved in creating an AI image! But you can get the same effects by prompting different shutter speeds, as you would get using different shutter speeds when using a real camera.

The shutter speed refers to the length of time the shutter is open and how long the film or digital sensor inside the camera is exposed to light when taking a photograph. The faster the shutter speed, the less light is let in and the darker your image. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second.

The shutter speed also affects the clarity of the image if there is movement. For example, if you want an image of a person standing in the rain in on a dark city street with cars going by, the person will be in focus, but you’ll get light streams from the car lights moving in the background and the rain will look more like streaming rain, rather than drops of rain, if you use a slow shutter speed prompt. If you want that effect, experiment with slow shutter speeds until you get the effect you are going for. Try Shutter speed: 1/60 second and work your way up (or down) from there.

On the other hand, if you want an image of a blue marlin jumping and want to capture every drop of water spraying in the air in clear detail, you’ll need to use a much faster shutter speed. You may want to try a shutter speed prompt of Shutter speed: 1/750 second and then adjust accordingly.

Focus and Depth of Field

We mentioned how shutter speed can affect the focus of things in motion, but if you want to have focus only on one part of the image when there is no movement happening in the rest of the image, you can adjust the depth of field.

The Aperture is the opening in the camera lens that lets light pass through to the film/sensor. Think of it as the pupil in your eye. It dilates to let more light in, and contracts to restrict light when it is bright.

Depth of field is the distance between the closest and farthest objects in a photo that appears acceptably sharp.

Large apertures, which correlate to small f-stop numbers, produce a very shallow depth of field, which will make your focal point in focus, but have a much quicker transition to out of focus on the rest of the image. Using a shallow depth of field makes a focal point more prominent.

On the other hand, small apertures, or large f-stop numbers, produce images with a longer depth of field. This means that more of the image will be in focus and there’s not so much of an emphasis on a specific focal point.

When using an aperture prompt to adjust your depth of field for an image, you can type in the f-stop number of the aperture you want to use, like aperture: f/2.8.

Lens length is measured in mm. A shorter lens is better for landscapes or a general scene in which you want more of the image to be in focus. Using a longer lens prompt, such as 85mm lens, 100mm lens or 200mm lens, will isolate focal points and create a shallow depth of field. This will have your subject in high focus with a more blurred background, making the subject stand out more.

Now if you’re not a photographer and are having trouble remembering the shutter speeds and aperture numbers and lens lengths, and which does what, you don’t need to specifically use the photographic prompts.

Instead, you can make it part of the prompt description and specify where you want the focus. Ex: “…taken with a low shutter speed and a shallow depth of field, blur the background.” If you can describe how you want it to look, that can work just as well.

Final Thoughts

Midjourney is a revolutionary tool that can generate some outstanding photorealistic images. To get the most out of Midjourney, be descriptive and specific with your prompts. Don’t forget to mention you want a photorealistic looking image and use the “–v 5” prompt to use the latest version. Add lighting, angle and photographic prompts or descriptions. And above all, have some patience.

It may take a while of trying out different prompts until you get the image you’re looking for. But by following the tips above, and with a little bit of practice and persistence, you’re sure to create amazing photorealistic images that will blow people’s minds!