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Compositing Backgrounds: Blending Modes

Lesson 25 from: Fine Art Compositing

Brooke Shaden

Compositing Backgrounds: Blending Modes

Lesson 25 from: Fine Art Compositing

Brooke Shaden

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Lesson Info

25. Compositing Backgrounds: Blending Modes


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction


Why Composite ?


Logic Checklist


What Not To Do When Compositing


Shooting for Composite


Changing Backgrounds and Light


Shoot: Simple Swaps Part 1


Lesson Info

Compositing Backgrounds: Blending Modes

what I'm going to do is open up a file that I brought with me um when I find it in here and that's going to b day to segment three there we go in here all right so the reason why I started looking at this quite a bit is because I started playing with this picture that I had so I have this red hair and it's curly and sauna black backdrop just like we did today and the light was coming in directly from the front hitting my subject and I had a really good situation here because her hair stood out a lot and it wasn't to pc so we didn't have lots of little tiny blurry strands of hair so this is going to be the difference in cutting hair out when it's not blurry and this is why I would really recommend trying to pump up your shutter speed a little bit that way you can get a little bit less motion blur cause that makes a really big difference and then of course the less pc the hair the better when I say pc I just mean being able to see in between the pieces so with this one let's pull up a di...

fferent background just just because we can going to open this thing where I've done this several times so whenever I need to test something now I opened up this background which has a lot of variation of light and shadow and I see how well something cuts out on the background so I was doing a test here and I have my layers sort of labelled here so if I undo these two you can see this image is done by doing refined edge so if I zoom in you can see what's going on there you can still see a little bit of a dark outline around her body just a bit it's not too bad just a little bit and you can see that it's actually cut out pretty well right along her hair here and around the edges I wouldn't sneeze at that about you but it's pretty good to me so I would be happy with refined edge in this case but then if I take that off this is using a blending mode which we have not yet talked about and we're about to sew this is using blending mode lytton to create this image all I did was to a big selection all around paste erinn change the blending mode so let me go ahead and change this blending mode from lightened back to normal so you can see what the image looked like before we applied that obviously it's not working obviously we're racing to much of her because she does have so many shadows happening in her hair and things like that but now we can start to play with blending modes so that's darken and that is getting rid of whatever's lightest in the picture problem because we need to get rid of whatever's darkest in the picture so we don't want to use darken and that's why I always get lytton and dark and confused because I wish the darkened would just take the dark things away but it doesn't so we're going to go from dark and then we can try multiply but again multiply is one of those those layer modes where it's really just going teo sort of blend everything instead of taking one color away more than another so I'm going to go to color burn and I'm just going through the list and this is how I try this for almost every picture that I try to blend so instead of a tediously cutting hair out I just think if I could just push a button and the blending mode does it than why not go with that so I'm going through and now I'm at lytton and that's where we see this sort of problem happening of her hair is just too dark how do we fix that we can fix that pretty simply depending on how much we want to change your image and so what I want to do is I actually want teo brighten her hair up just like we tried before so I want to select um you know I know I'm just going to even select just like this around my subject and I'm going to feather that so let me select a little bit more just in case I'm going to feather that with refine edge and now I'm going to take that feather up that way there's a smooth transition happening right on her dress here okay I think that's good and now I want to go ahead and brighten her hair so I want to make sure that her hair is staying light enough that it doesn't disappear when the blacks disappear and I can do that through image adjustments replaced color so I'm going in to replace color I'm going to choose mostly in the shadow area and you can see that the background was now being selected within our graph because it's turning gray so we might take that fuzziness slider down just a bit and say ok I can already see a problem in doing this so if I go back in teo image adjustments replace color you could see that her eyes are selected so suddenly her eyes are going to turn white that's bad unless for going for a walking dead thing so I want to make sure that that doesn't get selected so the reason why I'm canceling this is because I'm going to duplicate that layer so that I can then mask back in the eyes that were disappeared they were going in to replace color again same graph all the settings were there and now I'm just going to take the lightness of her hair fool enough up that far just a little bit maybe even the saturation to create a little bit more separation there okay on lightning that up now I can always darken it again a little bit if I need to I don't have to leave it that white but this is really really helpful for allowing the tool that we're using to do what it needs to dio so let's go from normal to lighten I have the same layer in the background so that wasn't working so that did the most mild change I could ever imagine so unfortunately it didn't work well enough for us in this case and so I'm probably not going to work with a blending mode here to blend this particular subject but the next thing we have here is the background eraser tool and that's this so in this skase the background a racer tool is just working best for everything and that seems to be my luck lately is background a racer tool has been working really really well for me and the only time when it doesn't is when I've made a shooting error is when I have accidentally just you know shot my hair on the wrong background or well that's pretty much it shot my hair on the wrong background so I've been trying to make that mistake less and less lately but it doesn't always go so well okay so the only other thing that I have here in terms of blending and cutting is birds and things like that objects that we might need to add into the photo and this is a pretty good one to talk about very quickly here because in this image we have birds that are quite dark and it's on something light and because of that we can start to blend the birds with blending modes and different methods like that so what's open this I had my friend running at some birds of the reflector one day and that was very effective in trying tio photograph these birds so I shot these birds I think they're pretty adorable and I'm going to let's say this one we'll copy that and oh no no no way don't want those here we go all right so let's say that we want this bird in the sky we'll paste him in only so little we'll paste him in well come up here and we'll take a look at what our options are in this case so first we can try our blending modes dissolve that's never done anything for me at all darken darken isn't such a bad idea here because we want to get rid of what's light in this picture because the bird is dark so if that's the case if we want to use a blending mode then remember that you can always make changes to your actual layer and try to make it work so if we go into curves and then I can always is make that bird darker and then that allows it to show through a little bit more which means that I can do that so so quickly for every single burdened that's gonna work out really nicely so I would probably end up blending like that and that's a good example of where a blending mode would work pretty well when you're trying to erase something or when something into an image now let's see if we take this off of curves and we just have our blending mode we can always go through the rest just to make sure that something else isn't working better but in this case I don't think anything is going to work better okay so let's go teo blending mode darken again and we're going teo play with those curves again okay I like that good and say okay so what we've done is we made the bird darker it blends okay but when I go back to normal I really want to focus on this really really blue edge so I can go into teo replace color again and choose that blue color and then I could take the lightness all the way up on that and by taking the lightness all the way up that's going to ensure that it's just going to disappear completely and you're not going to have any variation when you hit darkened that all that whites going to go away but our problem now is that we have parts of the bird that were white and if we're going to be printing this and looking at a big than we can't have parts of the bird disappearing which I've done once and I regret it will never do it again so I've learned my lesson so let's go ahead and fix that so we're going to take that blending mode back to normal and I can see exactly where I have the issue I can see that it's right through here and so I'm just going to select exactly where I want that to be fixed just through here and I'm just sectioning off the outside edge because I don't want to make that white space darker I just want to make the bird a little darker that way it's not disappearing so much so we'll select here hold shift and will select here and then maybe right through here where I want to make it darker so now when I refined ej im going to feather that just the slightest bit two pixels and now I can go into replace color so I use replaced color for a lot of things it's never just about changing the color of a dress or something like that it's about really making sure everything's blending together really really well someone take that fuzziness up say okay again like feathering a little too much cause that two pixels really gets me and I'm going to take that to darken so unfortunately that was not korean enough but if it's not quite enough and that's totally fine because we can go back to normal we can create a duplicate layer and then when we change this top layer to darken and what we can do is basically create a layer mask with the brush tool with opacity all the way up racing get rid of all of that and then just bring back just the little parts where it was a little bit lighter and you want to have those showing through on the bird so now switching x on my keyboard I can now bring back the parts of the bird that we're missing that we might want and so yes that's requiring a little bit of cutting but it's not too bad it's just going right along the edge of the bird where we think that there was a little bit too much light to bring that back so now the bird still looks like he's supposed to or roughly once I just my hardness it'll all come back oh we have a big problem okay his his beak is mostly fixed all right so that was aaa lot of different ways of blending but I I think that we can probably and that they're roughly or take a question or two that's perfect we definitely do have some questions coming in that was kind of surreal and weird washington but that was so much fun so awesome I love that you just went with what we got so great yeah um okay let's say I would love to ask a couple questions we've got a couple questions that people have asked a lot of people have voted on andi I think this is probably good a place to fit them in we have one percent in sixteen others wanted to know what is your typical print size for your images you keep mentioning large sizes you can talk about that and how you set up you're photoshopped canvas and all that to print large that would be a great thing to discuss right now so let's zoom out here and let's pretend that where we find it and we'll talk we'll take this one this is our picture we're going to print this we think it's great so we are going to go to print and my printer specifically he requests tiff files and he likes them un compressed so I'm keeping that in mind when I'm saving the file but as far as printing goes I print anywhere from ten inches up to fifty inches so fifty inches is like almost the size of me well not that short but I'm sixty and just for the record and uh so it's pretty big at least for a short person and so if I were going to print this that big if somebody of client you know requested a really large size and then I would need to go into my image size and take a look at exactly what this is doing now I use three hundred as my resolution okay and so when I'm doing that then that means that I need to look at the pixels how many pixels it's giving me so on and so forth so when I am creating a print what I'm doing is looking at our that is the dp I or p p I I don't is there difference between the two there is is one just for printing and one's okay glad that got straightened out it was like just two little nods and I knew it okay so once once I have my resolution sent to three hundred peopie I because that's pixels per inch there once I have that set then I go ahead and I had just from pixels two inches and I would just set in fifty and see what what that looks like when I re size it now in most cases for my images I would say that the average pixel size from you know with the height is about six thousand or so like in that range six thousand by six thousand cause they're all squares so usually my prince heir naturally about twenty five inch print so if I were to just go straight to print exactly as my images is just as I opened it up it's about a twenty five inch print so in most cases my printer feels comfortable doubling that size going to fifty inches which is stretching and you could argue why would anybody buy a stretched print when it's a full resolution at a certain size but for my parents and I mean anybody's that I've really seen hanging anywhere you can tell that much of a difference when it's stretched to a certain point what I always do though is I always send in my file if I am unsure about something I sent him the original as the size as it is as I had an opening photo shop and I just say can I print this at this size and then he'll tell me if I confronted at that size will be really honest and that's kind of how I work with that so I would you know resize this image and then I would go ahead and oh this is gonna take a second now okay pretend like that's resized now it doesn't even wanna cancel and then I would just go teo nope see I lied teo I would first flatten my layers for the print right click and I would just do a simple flatten yep and then I would save so save as tiff right down there and then once you say ok it's going to ask you if you want image compression or not I say none because that's what I was told to do because I don't know much about this like I hardly even know this process so then I would say okay and save it just like that for my printer laura and eighteen other people wanted to know how you d noise your work sure let's do that right now because that's about a two minute process maybe thirty seconds you can time me all right so I'm gonna zoom in just so we can see the noise problem that we're having here so this is one hundred percent zoomed in and you can see that sky is a bit noisy and that's very typical with my work I'm a chronic under exposer I tend to have some issues with noise so when I am denoix zing my work I will always duplicate the layer first that I am about to de noise that way I have the preserved noisy layer underneath and then I'll go into filter noise reduced noise and when I go in there I have this tendency to use everything to the extreme because of my style so if I am looking to do more of a fairytale illustrative storybook look then I want everything to be really smoothed out I wanted to look really painterly and because I want that so much I am going to extreme so strength all the way up and I'm not preserving any details you can see what just happened to that sky I am going to reduce my color noise and I am not going to sharpen any details so I'm going extreme and then when I click you'll see what's happening noise no noise noise no noise now if we go over to our subject you'll see it even more the drastic change so that's with the noise that's without the noise and what I like about this is how smooth her skin looks and how everything blends together really nicely there's a bird on top of her I don't remember that bird being there but okay so s so we have everything sort of smoothing but the great thing is that it's not blurring what's not happening or the edges of her dress of her skin they're not actually blurring it's just softening everything in between so I really like that but what I don't like is how you kind of lose the clarity in the eyes and that's where your eye goes to when you're looking at an image so I'm going to say okay and this is why we have created this background copy layers so that we can now erase that effect off of wherever we might want it to appear sharper so I'm gonna zoom in here just to see her face a little bit better and if we want to give the illusion that the eyes are more in focus we can create a layer mask with our brush tool I was gonna take that size up a little bit and take the hardness down and now not at opacity one hundred percent but I would say about fifty percent I would then start to erase that off of the eyes that way the eyes start to stand out a little bit more and yes you're going to have more grain in that area but I haven't had a problem with that so much unless it's a really really grainy picture but that just gives the illusion now that the eyes are maurin focus all usually do it on the lips as well just to make them pop a little bit I really like that look there sometimes they do it on the eyebrows a little bit too just to really make the features of her face stand out a good bit so then we have the before and after so there's the no noise and there's with the noise or well the other way around you know what I mean

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Logic Checklist
Must Have Shots
Favorite Photoshop Tools
Lighting Effects
Practice Files - Cutting out Hair from Background
Practice Files - Building a Dress
Practice Files - Swapping Hand
Practice Files - Levitation
Adorama Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Logan Fox

I'm so thrilled to have come across this course and to have been introduced to Brooke Shaden. As a bit of background I do photography as a hobby, and always had an appetite to composite my work. It's only after watching this course that I can finally put a name to a craft that I love, that being 'fine art photography'. Through my own personal journey I've read various books, followed online tutorials both paid and free. When I came across this course I did hesitate. I wondered 'is it going to teach me anything new'... 'would the standard of the course be up to scratch'. Well, I can honestly say with hand on heart that this is by far is one of the best courses I've come across to date. As a solo photographer myself I've found it difficult at times to be both photographer and subject at the same time. From the outset what became clear was that Brooke is just like me in this respect which made the course so 'relevant' to what I do. Brooke shows throughout the course what can be achieved with a little planning and some creative approaches to situations that can be difficult to pull off when on your own. She is such a joy to watch and listen to, I loved her sense of humor and great how the audience were involved in some of the shoots. All I can say is, if you're in to photography and interested in compositing your work, you should give this a go, you wont regret it!


I'd like to show my gratitude and gratefulness to Ms Shaden and other wonderful people at CreativeLIVE for sharing your vast knowledge without making a fuss. Not everybody has a super computer and a top-notch camera, not everyone has a studio to work in and not everyone needs to know everything as perfectly as some instructors and professionals do. I, for one, have gained so much insight and have been intrigued by Ms Shaden's present and past lessons, she makes the most difficult and surreal subjects unfold so easily and effortlessly. Ms Shaden has made me believe no matter where I be and no matter what i have, as long as i have a good story to tell, and the right vision, I should be able to handle it with a working camera and any version of Photoshop. Unlike many other instructors who kill us every 5 minutes to buy their flashes or gear and support this or that company and agency, Ms Shaden has spent the whole time teaching and teaching and teaching and I am sorry I cannot be there to thank you in person, but you, Ms Shaden, are awesome and nobody can unawesome you :)


I have been a huge fan of Brooke's work since the beginning of the flickr days. I'm so excited to see her in her element on CL. So many years ago i was so very interested in learning and creating and CL makes this possible now. A lot of my work has been inspired by Brooke's dark yet beautiful work style and i am super inspired to create some using her advice. I cannot wait to delve deeper into this world i have been waiting so long to indulge in it and now i will even more so than i have the last 3 years. Thank you Brooke and CL ! =) Sarina Gito Photography (

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