5 Tips for Photo Composites

by Lucas Westcoat December. 07, 2017 645 views
A composite of 5 images taken in different places and at different times, merged into one surreal image.

A composite of 5 images taken in different places and at different times, merged into one surreal image.

I've spent some time exploring photo composites; seamlessly stitching together multiple photos to create one surreal (yet believable) image. I previously wrote about one of my first experiences with this process. It can be a little painstaking, and when you see what some of the masters (like Brooke Shaden) create, it can be humbling.

Since my initial experiments with these techniques, I've tried a few more. The challenge is to assemble something fantastical that still looks fairly realistic to the eye (i.e. shadows match the direction of the light, proportions make sense, etc.). It is in the spirit of community, that I share some learnings with you.

Some people like to debate whether or not this is photography or graphic art. Personally, I don't care. The raw materials are photographs, the tool is Photoshop, and the result is at least as artistic as anything created out of camera. I take pictures because I enjoy it. It serves as a creative outlet for me. I always post-process, because it's equally enjoyable to me. Some photos get more treatment than others. This kind of work is something totally different, yet still scratches that creativity itch for me.

Seven different images composited together

Seven different images composited together

5 Tips for photo composites:

  1. Make sure your perspectives match: You don't want your subject shot from above places into a backdrop like the one above, shot from straight ahead. Your subject won't look like it belongs.
  2. Shadows: Using the lasso tool and feathering the selection, you can create convincing shadows.
  3. Textures: Adding subtle textures can tie your images together in a cohesive way. In my experience, you should do this toward the end of your processing, so that you can tune the other details more easily.
  4. Masking: Adjust the hardness of your brush according to the sharpness of the portion of the image you're masking. Out of focus areas should be masked with a soft brush. Sharp section, a harder brush.
  5. Curves, Curves, Curves: Using adjustment layers, play with curves to match the tones of your images, or add highlights and shadows where they should exist within the scene. Take advantage of the feature that clips the adjustments just to the layer on which you're working.

Give it a try, and please let me know how you do. I'd be interested in seeing what you come up with. Happy to answer questions, if I can. Here's a couple more.

six different images used to create this scene

six different images used to create this scene

five images comprise this scene

five images comprise this scene

six photos here as well, despite how simple it appears.

six photos here as well, despite how simple it appears.

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There are 3 comments , add yours!
Laurie Madsen 1 year, 8 months ago

FUN!

1 year, 8 months ago Edited
George C 2 years, 11 months ago

Not so much fan of this process but great wprk though.+1

2 years, 11 months ago Edited
George C Replied to George C 2 years, 11 months ago

"work" sorry.

2 years, 11 months ago Edited
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