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What Not To Do When Compositing

Lesson 4 from: Fine Art Compositing

Brooke Shaden

What Not To Do When Compositing

Lesson 4 from: Fine Art Compositing

Brooke Shaden

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Lesson Info

4. What Not To Do When Compositing


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

What Not To Do When Compositing

we're going to talk about what not to do when compositing strictly I do not ever want you to do this okay now I feel a lot and I take a lot of pride in my failures I think that it's a great thing to do I think that the more you shoot them or you're going to fail and then the more you're going to learn so I try to do it a lot hence my episode in the forest with my body painted white and my light's failing and and that was a good experience despite having to take four showers to get the paint out of my hair but I did that anyways and these are two examples of images that are wrong they're just wrong and I don't like looking at them yet here we are so I have this picture over here with the two girls and the red dress and this picture is wrong for many reasons so let's see who can point out the first thing that's wrong with this picture the lighting so that's the obvious thing it's coming from right there how I mean I didn't have a reflector underneath my body therefore it's obvious that I...

just rotated my body that's what I'm talking about you can't do that I mean you could do it and you could just say well I made up my own rules in this picture and it's my own laws of physics well you could do that but people won't generally accept that as an answer so that's wrong but then there's something else very wrong with this picture does anybody know what it is it's driving me nuts well that is an issue too we'll talk about it later so for me it's the sky in the background I shot that sky looking up like this and then I put it shoot right behind them so that's not actually realistic because the proportions of these clouds are all the same there's no gradual fading this cloud is not smaller than this cloud it's very very much like I took it from the wrong angle and then dropped it in and that's why when I shoot clouds I try to shoot a horizon line in in the shot that way I know exactly where to match it up and where it would naturally go with the horizon so we'll talk a lot more about that later when we talk more about dropping clouds in and how to choose clouds and how to shoot clouds and things like that but then we have this picture so does anybody know what's wrong with this image the direction of white so what happened was I shot her the white was coming in from the front and then we have this big white flare in the background and yet she is not back with at all so that's the big problem here so let's dissect these images this was how it was shot this was what feels like ages ago now in two thousand eleven and I was shooting this in it's just like this just a cz you see it I started building from there I took a picture of myself jumping and there is where you see that white hitting my stomach now if I had just listened to my own logic then I would have shot ten minutes later and there wouldn't have been any light maybe we would have gotten away with it but we again what's going on so you got the light on my belly and then I rotated my body that was bad and then we have some movement in the dress which now I wish that we hadn't talked about what's wrong with this picture and I started compositing them together so it started like this I just added on that fabric to the dress and then we have this image where I've now attached to the other body and then we have those clouds popping in they're not good the final image so this image really didn't come together so swell it doesn't really make a lot of sense with the shadows they're really they're just kind of words pop together and it's kind of plastered on there I don't like that I wish that there was more shading in here maybe through here this is my neck is really bright why because I wasn't there to block the light so these are all things that I learned from aa lot and you know there are things that I should have just listened to my husband probably when he said this stuff makes sense and then I was like yes it does I like this picture put it on flicker but I shouldn't have so s o I learned from that and it was a really good learning experience because now I know I can't rotate people I know that I have to pay more attention to the white I have to create shadows all good things to learn so the light is really bad and the shadows were really bad and angle of the clouds was not correct yeah so I'm just kind of curious when you have something like this on image that you really like but you're going back to me like okay I see where there's these issues do you ever go back and fix them or do you just move on shooting stuff I fix him I try to fix them if we're being honest I fixed fifty percent of them um and and sometimes I'll just keep trying and photo shop to see if I can fix it in a photo shop because I mean I don't want to have to drive all the way back out there and do it all over again especially like it bored easily so if I'm doing the same shoot again that I'm like you arry up do it teo but but I do try to reshoot things and on dh sometimes I'll shoot things if I can at home then like so I don't to go right back out to the location and that's if I can match the angle in the light and stuff like that and that's the good thing about shooting and overcast light it can always match the white you know even if it's two pm so that's a good thing but um but yes sometimes they just have to go back and do it again so if I went back to do this again I would bring a stool I would prop myself up on that stool and get the right angle of my body and all of that I would make sure that that was good on dh then I now I know a lot more about shadows so that would be really helpful all right so now we have this image which was actually shot like this it was kind of funny I wanted everything to be in focus in this picture just trying something new and so I shot the background and then I told my subjects a very very still while I now focus on you so then after this shot so when a headline put her and focus so that it was just a shifting of focus with the background in the foreground and I composited those two together now you can see already in this image that we do have clouds in the background the light is very nondescript it's not like it's coming from one side or the other it's very very soft but the point of real issue here is her arm so we've got light here and shadow here that doesn't work I mean it for the final image as we lit it so because we have that variation in light and shadow that means that we're going to have a really big problem then with adding light somewhere else unless I fix that backlighting so I went ahead I just expanded that frame out we'll talk about that a little bit later I made the frame bigger still we have clouds back there still those clouds are not the ones that I put in so then I started changing the clouds I put these clouds and I really loved the light back through here on the ground I loved that there was some white now coming from a direction because they added a lot of interest to the image and I wasn't thinking about my subject yet I wasn't thinking oh that doesn't make sense now that's how you really honestly what happened in this picture stubbornness happened in this picture got to a certain point where emerged my layers and then I said you know what gosh darn it I'm going to make it work no matter what even though I already merged all my layers together I could have just flipped this sky and that would have been a lot more motivated light still not perfect but it would have made a lot more sense but I didn't added these bees in okay so we've got the bees and that's that's all well and good that's why I had her pose with her mouth open she doesn't just have her jaw hanging open all the time but and then I went and enhance a white even more so what's going on then we have the back light that's already not good and then we have the front light hitting my subject which makes her face look beautiful but just doesn't work for this image there's no rim light on her hair that is a big problem for me she has pretty dark hair so it's believable that you wouldn't see it as much but then you get down to the arm and you're like no something is not right here in this picture so there's a shadow on the arm but I did add back right buddy I don't know why I mean good good that I did that but but not making a lot of sense here so what I did was I selected just the outside rim of this be right over here and I brighten it up a lot giving the illusion that there was some back light hitting that bumble bee there was not it was overcast lighting but I didn't do that for my subject and I regret not doing that so I want to take a look at those images because these are all things that if you're not going through the checklist as you're shooting then this is what might happen or you just don't merge your layers in your fine so whatever your your cases

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 (

Student Work