You are in a queue at the grocery store. You browse through your social media. Suddenly, your attention is caught by a picture that resembles a human face melting into a building. You know for a fact that this cannot be true, but it just looks too real. This is what we call photo compositing. The best digital composite image is the one that looks real.
Composite images are used every day in advertisements, websites, and even news. Composite photography, aka compositing, has infinite uses. Different kinds of photographers use photo compositing for different purposes. Let's have a look at how digital image compositing is applied to create digital composite images. Let us bring your imagination into reality using photo compositing. If you want to learn about deep image compositing and compositing in animation, then stay tuned!
What Exactly is Photo Compositing?
Photo compositing is the creative art that combines dissimilar images to create a single composite picture. It gives us the impression that all elements are a part of the same scene. So, make sure you choose the best images for compositing. Most photo composites are created by layering all the images on top of each other and masking off any unnecessary elements. You can also choose to blend all the layers. Digital image compositing has made the process of photo compositing quite easier. We shall talk more about this later in this article.
Photo compositing has become a very popular way to create real and surreal images. You can use your photographs or stock images that you have purchased online or combine them. Be creative in creating the digital composite image because there is no wrong or right way here. Although, the only drawback in composite photography is that they are time-consuming.
Why Use Photo Compositing?
If used correctly, photo compositing is quite an effective tool to illustrate on products, blogs, websites, or any other art project. Since composite images are very compelling, they can prove to be emotionally satisfying as well. Many times, it becomes difficult to capture still shots of landscapes/cityscapes and set them in a single frame. Photo compositing combines different objects or living things in unlikely and impossible combinations to create an eye-catching yet technically unattainable picture. Some of the most popular composite photography ideas are -
The Creative Composite
Below are a few sets of examples that depict the use of retouching and composite imagery. Many photographers mask out parts of the image to create levitating photographs, wherein a person or object looks like they are floating mid-air. To try this at home, place a person/object on a chair. Then, use the same image as a background and mask out the chair. It is as simple as that!
One of the most extensively used composite photography ideas is creating clones. To do this, you have to create multiple occurrences of the same person/object. Firstly, set up your camera in one spot. Make sure to take different stances as much as possible within the same scene while the lighting is still the same. Also, ensure that you do not move or disturb the main elements in the scene. You can use composite photography to represent various emotional states/sides of the clone in the subject. This type of retouching and composite imagery works well to depict various emotional sides of the subject such as being funny or dramatic.
Watching Time Pass By
You can use photo compositing to show the passage of time. One of the most common uses of this technique is to create a "day to night" photograph. To get this effect, take a picture every couple of minutes/hours from the same spot. Then, layer all the photos together to show the same scene at different periods within the same day. You can also use this type of photo compositing to illustrate all the seasons.
We Are the Only Ones Here
Begin by setting up your camera in a secure spot. Use the timer in your camera to take as many shots as possible. Then, remove any unwanted photobombers, tourists, or pedestrians from your photographs by masking them out.
Bring your imagination into reality using photo compositing. This is the type of photo compositing that inspires creativity and imagination. To achieve this, combine impossible elements and mix different images to create an outfit that seems to be made from a fabric of a physical landscape, show a pig that can fly, or create a magical dreamscape. Choose the best images for compositing to make them seem surreal and magical.
The Technical Composite
Besides the creative/artistic implementation, photo compositing is also used for modification purposes. Some examples of retouching and composite imagery are.
Since the camera sensor is restricted in range, photographing a landscape can become quite difficult. The most common solution is to use a graduated filter on the lens. Here, the filter will darken the sky enough for the whole scene to be exposed correctly. Or you can also use two different photos by using deep image compositing to create the final composite image. To do this, set your camera on the tripod and take a sky shot, and a ground shot. Later in post-production, layer these images on top of each other and mask out the unwanted pieces.
Photo compositing is used by scientists and space hobbyists to see beyond into space. The only setback here is the visual noise that infiltrates into the long exposure images of the sky at night. To do away with this problem, use the stacking technique and layer multiple images on top of each other. This way, you can eliminate all the visual noise and reveal all the beautiful elements in space by using composite photography.
Compositing in Animation
This is a new style of composite photography. To create this striking mix of static and moving visual elements, use the finest footage of the scene. Keep certain elements in the video still, while keeping some in motion. This type of digital image compositing is a whole new approach to video storytelling. Image compositing in Photoshop has become very easy Photoshop.
Tips for Shooting Photographs
Remember to keep a constant light throughout the images. Let's say, you have a cat's indoor photograph taken in dim lighting. In contrast, you have a duck's photograph taken outside in bright daylight. It would be difficult to merge/blend these images. Make certain that the light settings for all the images match up.
Avoid a low contrast or a busy background. Because it complicates the cut-out process in the post-production stage. Your best option is to use a green screen.
Locations are a very important aspect of photo compositing. Depending on the location, it can be easier or difficult to cut out or blend the elements. For example, working on fast-moving waves in an ocean picture is surely hard. And to keep it consistent among all the multiple photos is yet another task. However, it is easier to work upon a flat desert. Thus, be cautious while choosing the location.
You don't need to have expensive camera equipment for photo compositing. You can even work with your smartphone and shoot the pictures for composite photography. A tripod works just as fine and is very helpful. Or use readily available and inexpensive phone attachments. Create photo composting with the help of professional editing software like Photoshop or Corel.
A Basic Guide for Photo Compositing
You have now seen all the different types of composite photography ideas in detail. We have also known the various uses of composite photography. Let us now try image compositing in Photoshop.
Choosing the Concept
Be creative, get inspired. Brainstorm different ideas. Try and test these ideas. Sketch out various designs. Bring your imagination into reality using photo compositing.
Assembling the Images
Do not limit your imagination. Have fun with it! You can purchase stock images or download them from various stock image galleries.
Photograph the Subject/Model
After conceptualizing your design and assembling all the images you require for your composite photography. It is now time to shoot a picture of your subject/model. However, this is not an obligation. If you do not have a subject/model, you can use separate elements and create a photo composite in your creative way. After this, begin with the cutout.
Remove the Background
This is an optional step and is only required if you have images that have any unwanted background elements. If something has been masked off by mistake and you wish to undo it. Simply, change the color in the foreground to white and paint over that area. It is totally fine if your selection is not 100% accurate.
You can use the Gaussian blur tool in Photoshop to manipulate the image. To do this,
- Duplicate the layer using Command/Ctrl + J.
- Apply the Gaussian Blur filter to the copy of the image.
- Merge the layers and duplicate the background again. (Experiment with curves for a lighter or darker feel for minor adjustments).
Combine the Images into a Rough Composite
Just like a puzzle, combine all the cut-out images in a rough composite. Layer all the cut-out images on top of the background and adjust as required. To avoid the negative space as much as possible, assemble them all in the center of the background. After putting all the images in position. A few other popular ways to create shadows are by using the dodge and curves tools.
Enhance the Details
This can be tricky and depends completely on the images that you are working with. Below is the detailed process -
- Start by stacking all the layers.
- Choose the Gaussian blur filter to adjust the image.
- Merge both the shadow layer and the gaussian blur layer.
- Merge the original layer with the shadow layer.
- Select the blur tool
- Adjust the brush with the desired levels of percentage.
- Blur the outlined edges.
- Finally, merge all these layers.
Final Composite Image
The last step of image compositing in Photoshop is to add your creative touch! Feel free to brighten the subject and darken the surroundings to create more focus on the subject. You can also enhance the light source in the composite. This gives out a rather semi-vignette texture to the final composite photo.
A few tips to keep in mind -
- Watch a lot of video tutorials for more inspiration.
- Use the smudge tool if things don't go so well as you planned.
- Make distinct folders/subfolders for each composite image. This will be helpful to access all the files easily and quickly. Learn more about deep image compositing by clicking here.
Photo compositing is a creative way to enhance the narrative on your blog, website, or your social media. It can impart a sense of humor in minds of your viewers. Keep learning new approaches to blend images. This will help you to come up with more creative concepts. This will in turn improve your technique and composition in photography along the way.
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