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Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography

Lesson 17 of 60

Adding Background Image to Composite


Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography

Lesson 17 of 60

Adding Background Image to Composite


Lesson Info

Adding Background Image to Composite

So, we're gonna create a curve, and I kinda live in this little half area here, little half circle, we're gonna click on that. I'm gonna go to curves. So what I'm doing is I'm creating contrast, so I'm going to increase the brights until we get pretty much white, and then I'm gonna increase the darks until we get pretty dark. So what I'm looking at is her hair especially, and these branches. So this might be a little bit much there, bring that back a bit. So everyone knows extracting hair sucks. If we photograph dark hair on a light background, then this is actually one of the nicest ways to do an extraction on hair because we're creating a curve, and then we're gonna do a channel mask, so that's fun. Actually, one of the attendees here had a great question, so if you're photographing in the studio, and we'll go through this tomorrow, but if you're photographing in the studio and you want the shadows on the ground, what about the hair? Well, you can totally hold up a little green scree...

n if you've got one of those five-in-one reflectors, and you have the green screen behind their head and just do a select by color range and nix that out. You can totally do that if you want to and if you have access to that, but if you don't, there's other ways that we can do extractions that are relatively quick. So we are going to go-- So here we've got Layers, Path, Adjustments, Channels. So if you don't have Channels on your window, you go up to the top bar here where it says File, Edit, Image, Layer, blah, blah, blah Window, scroll down and see the Channels and click it. So then your channels are going to show up in there. So right now if I click red, it's not too bad, Green. Blue. So in this case, blue has given me the most contrast and information for what I'm looking to extract. I'm going to hold Ctrl, which gives me this little square right here and I'm going to go click. So that's kind of cool. So what I'm going to to from here, Layers. Awesome. I'm going pull in my mountain range shot that I photographed that should be in here. Yes it is, there we go. Just as promised. This is a mountain range that I want to put into the background. I'm going to bump up the clarity just a tiny, tiny, tiny little bit because we've bumped up the clarity a little bit in the image that we're working on and maybe a little bit of the contrast. And that should be pretty good. So control A or command A which is select all. Control or command C, Copy. Control shift V, paste. Standard, nothing has changed, everyone does that. And we're going to just click on because we still have the selection, we should have the selection. Oh, we lost the selection, rats. Every now and then I slip that up. Channels, we're just going to repeat this. Channels, go down to the blue channel, hold the control or command click so you have the little dancing ants everywhere. Layers, turn on our mountain layer and then click on the mask. Now I'm going to turn off my curves and so we're starting to see a little bit of what's going on here. That this actually kind of works. And it's gonna get better. So if I want to make this mask better, I'm going to hold alt and click on this mask. So this is what this looks like. So there's a sweet tip I picked up on some random YouTube channel, I don't know. If I could remember the photographer or digital artist that put this tip out online, I would send them so much love mail, like this is amazing and the greatest thing ever. I can't remember who it is. So if they're watching, whoever you are, thank you. 'Cause this is incredible and totally made masking so much easier. So we are working on our mask right now which is black and white. We go right here to our doge and burn tool which is on the left hand side of the tool. So, here go dodge. Let's just hit the dodge tool. We're gonna make sure it's set to midtones, exposure, whatever. And we can dodge this out. Actually, let's try shadows and see what happens. No, I don't want to do it on shadows, midtones is better. Am I on dodge tool, yeah. So, what we can do here, is we can actually start to blend out some of these areas. Let's try highlights just for kicks and grins. Every time single time-- There we go highlights, this is what I wanted. Every single time I work on an image, I'll sit there and be like, "Oh right, what was that thing "that I was doing that made everything easier?" This, using the dodge tool on the highlight, so when you're working with stuff that's super contrasty, is pretty awesome for cutting things out. 'Cause what we're doing is we're not screwing with any of the shadows from that horrible mess of branches that's right there. So, it's pretty rad. And this is why I like to shoot my backgrounds overexposed. Or at least brighter. It makes cutting out way easier. So yeah, whoever you are on the internet, if you happen to be watching, thank you so much for that video. If I could give you proper credit, I totally would (laughs). So, now we zoom in here. I'm gonna do the opposite. I am going to burn her face. We could actually probably just use a plain brush here. So I just switched over to my regular brush, 'cause I'm not worried about the edge there, but some of the areas around her hair and everything else will be a lot easier if I just used the burn tool. Like, her shirt for example, right. Just burn through that and this dress. And it'll get us like 90 percent of the way there relatively quickly. Yeah, I'd love to be able to give proper credit to the person who found this one out. It's like, "That's amazing." So, when working with a mask like this, we actually can see all the little malfunctions. And it's not to say that we're not gonna have to go in and do a little bit of fine tune cleanup, 'cause we totally might have to, but this'll sure get us close. Tomorrow's masking will probably not go this fast, so we'll be doing boat loads of questions while I draw out hair strands. Don't think we'll be so lucky. Do you have any questions? Let me take a peak. Um, I'm not sure 100 percent what this in reference to, but can you explain why that background works and others don't. Um, the mountains? Yeah. Mostly because it was shot and I'll go into it in more detail in a few minutes, but mostly because it was shot far away with the same aperture, similar focal range. So on and so forth. I'll go into that in a few minutes here, I just gotta clean up this mask first. Cool. So, yeah. I swear it will be in more detail in a moment. So I'll start moving things around, but I want to get the mask nice and clean first. And I'm just using the space bar and clicking as I move around the screen. Aha, see, when you zoom in nice and close, you can totally see what you've missed. I am not gonna bother scanning around through the entire image. When I'm doing this by myself, I will just make a grid pattern of the entire image and start cleaning the shiny stuff up. Okay, nevermind, I'm a total liar, I can't not do it. Go faster. I could probably just select fill all too, but, I find if I spend the time in this and I get to know every single edge and corner really well, I am a lot more aware of what's going on in the shot itself and maybe things that I want to change going forward. So. Get that nice and close. Fix that. And so we can see here that her hair extraction's actually not too bad. It's looking pretty good. Okay, not right. Whoops. Brush. Yeah, this is why most people don't like doing compositing, 'cause it's f'ing boring. Kind of sucks (laughs). So I'm adjusting the hardness and softness of the brush. We have little bit mixed up here so I might try grabbing the burn tool and bringing some of that back. There we go. Alrighty, we have a mask. Rats, missed a spot. That happens a lot (laughs). So, alt click, and we see now we have our background. It's not looking too bad. And in relatively short time, so I can see here down at the bottom here, I've made a mistake. Alright, so I can go into here. I can probably hit the dodge tool. Bring some of that back. Or I can go in and just micro do it by hand too which is generally what I prefer to do. 'Cause see here we have this little tiny halo, if I print this up really big at like 60 by 90, that halo's gonna show up. So, I will neurotically usually go in around here and just like clean up those edges. You can see that I've done it. I probably am not gonna do it today. I don't feel like dealing with you either, so I'm gonna cut you out. Yeah, all these little halos that you see around the trees and everything, or the little piece of grass, I will just go in bit by bit and get rid of all of it. But, that's just because that's a choice I make. It's the images that I like to make, so that I can see all that stuff's gonna disappear. So, all in all, relatively quickly, we're looking pretty good. I'm gonna see here, I'm gonna move this background piece around a little bit. So, see where there's this chain link between the mask and the mountain range, I'm gonna turn that off. So, if I leave that on and I hit the move tool, which in my case is the V. It's gonna move the mask too. Alright, I don't want to move the mask. If I unlink it, I can move the background independent or I can move the mask independent. So, that's something that's kind of-- So, I might look at this and just kind of shove this around a little bit. 'Cause this far, this up too high like that, I don't really like. So, I kind of want to bring this down a little bit, just because then, see this line, that's gonna kind of flow with the direction of her hips. So, one thing that I forgot to do, that I sometimes, like to do, is I like to do a bit of liquefy work. And not a lot, in this case, I might fill out her hair a tiny little bit or something like that. I didn't do it before I did the mask, so that means that I'm gonna do it later on in the image. And with the way that everything is positioned right now, even if I add in a different sky, it'll be fine. Because I can create two layers, I can do the liquefy work and then mask back in the areas that were modified and I'll show you guys how I would do that. So, in any case, I'm just moving this down a little bit here. I have a little bit of problem here with that mountain range because it's coming out of the frame. So, I can use my marquee tool. I can highlight this and I can just see-- I'm not gonna see if I can stretch the trees. I'm gonna hold, highlight that, control T or command T and just grab this top bit and see if I can stretch it and keep it looking realistic. Which in this case, I can. It looks fine to me, so, if we want to make sure if you're stretching things, you don't want to stretch it too far 'cause you can get massive pixel damage, right. And it's gonna look extremely strange. But, pulling that up just a little bit, it's nice and out of the frame again, we have this nice line and it's actually going nicely with her hips and we're following this nice little compositional guideline here, which I'm kind of digging. I don't know, everybody here is like falling asleep, you're just like, "Yeah, well, you know, "it's not too bad, it's okay, whatever." (laughing) So, that's how I like to do a lot of this stuff here. And it's the fastest way. That's why I'm saying, when you're photographing this stuff you're gonna photograph it for retouching. So, in this case, I photograph this for retouching. I photographed her a little bit... I photographed the image a little bit overexposed. Although the clouds came in and brought it back to almost a perfect exposure. But I try to photograph the sky so it's a little overexposed so that we have this really nice, you know, easy way to cut out hair. So some people are like, "What if I want to shoot a blonde in light background?" I'm like, "Well go ahead, it's just gonna be harder." That's all there is to it, you know. If you're gonna photograph a blonde, you know, hold up a dark card behind her head or something like that. Far enough away that you're not gonna cast a shadow on her, but someway that you're gonna be able to differentiate the hair if you want it to be moving around. Or you can spend a bunch of time going in at four or 500 percent with a brush going strand by strand by strand. Whatever you want to do, it doesn't matter, compositing has so many different ways to do whatever it is that you want. There's some digital artists who swear by the eraser tool. The eraser tool makes me want to take up smoking. (laughing) It's not the way I choose to create 'cause I like to change my mind. But, if that's what works for you, that's awesome. Right, so don't let somebody sit there and tell you what's right and what's wrong. So, from here, the next thing that I'm gonna want to do is I'm gonna pull in a few different cloud ranges. I'm just gonna see what's up with this. So, the reason why I chose this background... Actually before I do that, I just remembered another thing. The reason why I chose this background is that I had photographed it from a similar angle, right. Similar camera lens, well same camera lens. And it's actually shot a very similar white balance. So, it is a little bit different here, you can see that she's a little bit more tungsten, there's a little bit more magenta in here. Right, you can see slight differences and the more you train your eye, the more you'll be able to see it. I remember the first time somebody was telling me, "Oh your model has more daylight than your background." I was like, "What?" How do you-- What, how do you even see that? But, now of course, I see it. The same thing with beauty retouchers, I sent an image off for critique to a beauty retoucher and I was like, "Hey, how do you think it's going?" And she was like, "Oh it's really good, "but there's some slight bluish around the skin." And I was like, "Where? (laughing) "How do you see that?" But it's the same thing, it's like, once you train your eye, then you start to see it then you look at all your old work and cry a little bit and you're like, "Okay, the mistakes of the past "will not be the mistakes of the future." But, whatever. So, yeah. Yes, absolutely, what's up? Can I ask a question before you move on? What is your, like, when you get in to work on really in close to get out any halo, what is your flow and opacity and hardness of your brush? 'Cause when you get in there-- Yeah, so we can do some of that right now 'cause we're actually, if I give you guys the psd, I'm probably gonna wanna go in and fix it all. So, if we zoom in really close, we'll do one less from that, so we can see here where it was fixed and where it was not fixed. Brush. So, right now, I've got opacity 100 percent, flow 41 percent. But that will change a lot going back and forth. Actually I should ask the first question, who here, I'm sure... There is a difference between flow and opacity and somebody here has been in the audience who's been to one of my workshops before, she can't answer this question, 'cause she knows the answer. (laughing) And if she forgot, bad.

Class Description

With the right Adobe® Photoshop® know-how and studio shoot experience, you can merge fact and fiction into a reality that lives up to your imagination. Renee Robyn has made a career of turning everyday photos from her travels into eye-catching images. Robyn will teach you how to add people and other elements to your existing landscape photos using ethereal custom effects.

In this class you’ll learn:

  • How to choose or set up a shoot for your background image
  • How to direct posing during a shoot, and work with directional light in-studio to make your subject fit into the background image
  • How to composite your subject into your image using Photoshop

Photo compositing allows you to breathe interesting ideas into your photos. Open your hard drive, walk into your memory, and turn past experiences into fantastic new realities.


  1. Class Introduction
  2. Why You Should Sketch Your Composite
  3. What to Look for in Your Background
  4. Posing Your Model
  5. Communicate with Your Team
  6. Elements of Compositing
  7. Learning from Failure & Criticism
  8. On-Location Safety Tips
  9. How to Nail the Right Perspective for Your Composite Photo
  10. Gauging Light & Exposure On-Location
  11. On-Location Posing
  12. Cliff Shoot Location Final Thoughts
  13. Tips for Culling Images
  14. Culling Images Q&A
  15. Preparing Your Image for Composite
  16. Composite Image Cleanup
  17. Adding Background Image to Composite
  18. The Difference Between Flow & Opacity
  19. Composite Sky Elements
  20. Using Curves to Color Match
  21. Adding Atmospheric Depth to Image
  22. Using Color Efex Pro to Manipulate Color
  23. Using the Liquify Tool
  24. Color Theory & Monitor Calibration
  25. Adding Smoke Layer to Image
  26. Selective Sharpening
  27. Crop Your Image
  28. Goal Setting for Digital Artists
  29. Review of Location Composite
  30. Understand Angle & Height for Your Base Plate Image
  31. Base Plate Focus Point
  32. Base Plate Lighting Tips
  33. How to Use a Stand-In for Base Plate Image
  34. Capture On-Location Base Plate Image
  35. Student Positioning Demo
  36. Base Plate Sketching
  37. On-Location Sky Capture
  38. What to Look for in a Base Plate Model
  39. Building Composite Model Lighting
  40. Composite Model Test Shots for Angle Matching
  41. Composite Model Shoot: The Art of Fabric Throwing
  42. Composite Model Shoot: Working with Hair
  43. Composite Model Shoot: Posing Techniques
  44. Composite Test with Final Shot
  45. Lighting Setup Overview
  46. Culling Model Shoot Images
  47. Adjusting Skintone Colors
  48. Merging Background with Model
  49. How to Mask Hair
  50. Creating a Layer Mask with the Brush Tool
  51. Creating Shadow Layers
  52. Removing Visual Distractions with Stamp Tool
  53. Replacing Sky with Layer Mask
  54. Drawing Hair Strands and Atmospheric Depth
  55. Creating Contrast in Your Composite
  56. Adding Atmospheric Elements
  57. Using Particle Shop
  58. Selective Color Adjustments
  59. Cropping, Sharpening, & Final Touches
  60. Closing Thoughts


Dino Maez

i have to say, the class was AMAZING! in every way from the tricks and technique's of mastering this art form to the personalized attention given by Renee. through the class you are able to learn information that would normally take the average person years of trial and error. Renee gives you the gift of benefitting from her her experiences and what she has learned THE HARD WAY! Renee is an outstanding instructor full of passion for what she does, and with a strong desire to not only improve the art, but more importantly, pay it forward, by sharing her knowledge with others. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the event in person, truly a once in a lifetime experience for me, the staff at creative live were THE BEST! they are helpful in every way and really made this event something special, i can't say enough about the experience i had and would highly recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to go down for a class, it will be an experience that you will never forget. but the best part of creative live is that wether you are there in person or wether you are watching from the comfort of your own home, you are involved in the class in REAL TIME, you have the ear and attention of the skilled artist giving the instruction, being there myself i can tell you that Renee was regularly given questions and comments from the viewers via the creative live staff and she would respond to them as they came, in that way you are very much apart of the class you are never left without getting that personalized attention of an amazing artist or that specific question you have answered, and even better you have the option to purchase the class and have it as a constant resource in your tool kit that you can refer back to at any point that you need a refresher or want to recall that special technique that was demonstrated. thank you thank you to renee and all the staff at creative live you have a life long member in me. and i would recomend that everyone take advantage of this valuable resource dino maez

stephen lenman

I have completed many creative courses. This is by far the best so far. Quite the most amazing and inspiring presenter with a true passion for their craft. The core information is excellent, but the thing i liked most were her subtle tangents, dropping incredible information completely on the fly. A complete real world honest view of business and practical side of the industry. Especially her advice on how she started to her business. Saving up enough in her day job so she could pay the rent, and do photography for 3-6 months.

Sheldon Carvalho

Awesome class. I've been following Renee for a very long time. I love her work and to finally see her work and get an image done from start to finish was quite something.. I love the way she sees things and the way she treats her work and all fellow creative. I would recommend this to everyone interested in getting into composting. Looking forward to creating and making my own art work. But it now :) Have fun creating. :)