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Composite Sky Elements

Lesson 19 from: Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography

Renée Robyn

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Lesson Info

19. Composite Sky Elements


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Why You Should Sketch Your Composite


What to Look for in Your Background


Posing Your Model


Communicate with Your Team


Elements of Compositing


Learning from Failure & Criticism


On-Location Safety Tips


How to Nail the Right Perspective for Your Composite Photo


Gauging Light & Exposure On-Location


On-Location Posing


Cliff Shoot Location Final Thoughts


Tips for Culling Images


Culling Images Q&A


Preparing Your Image for Composite


Composite Image Cleanup


Adding Background Image to Composite


The Difference Between Flow & Opacity


Composite Sky Elements


Using Curves to Color Match


Adding Atmospheric Depth to Image


Using Color Efex Pro to Manipulate Color


Using the Liquify Tool


Color Theory & Monitor Calibration


Adding Smoke Layer to Image


Selective Sharpening


Crop Your Image


Goal Setting for Digital Artists


Review of Location Composite


Understand Angle & Height for Your Base Plate Image


Base Plate Focus Point


Base Plate Lighting Tips


How to Use a Stand-In for Base Plate Image


Capture On-Location Base Plate Image


Student Positioning Demo


Base Plate Sketching


On-Location Sky Capture


What to Look for in a Base Plate Model


Building Composite Model Lighting


Composite Model Test Shots for Angle Matching


Composite Model Shoot: The Art of Fabric Throwing


Composite Model Shoot: Working with Hair


Composite Model Shoot: Posing Techniques


Composite Test with Final Shot


Lighting Setup Overview


Culling Model Shoot Images


Adjusting Skintone Colors


Merging Background with Model


How to Mask Hair


Creating a Layer Mask with the Brush Tool


Creating Shadow Layers


Removing Visual Distractions with Stamp Tool


Replacing Sky with Layer Mask


Drawing Hair Strands and Atmospheric Depth


Creating Contrast in Your Composite


Adding Atmospheric Elements


Using Particle Shop


Selective Color Adjustments


Cropping, Sharpening, & Final Touches


Closing Thoughts


Lesson Info

Composite Sky Elements

Here's a question, I'm just gonna pull this up like this. Why would I not use this for a sky replacement in an image that looked like this? Perspective (laughs) Exactly. So the perspective here in this is all wrong. I shot the sky from straight up. I took the picture, I was like, boink click. Alright if I'm making a believable composite, if you go out in nature, you're not gonna see the sun coming through the clouds like that for an image that was shot on a horizon like this. So it's another thing when you're photographing your skies, you want to be aware of the angle that you're shooting it at and also the type of lens that you're using. So some images, I will shoot the clouds with a 135 L because it'll be, I'll use it in an image that like maybe I'm making a super hero styled image. And I'm just putting in two layers of clouds like one top, one bottom, going into infinity 'cause I'm not looking to represent reality at all. In that case it's gonna make sense because I'm probably g...

onna photograph my subject using a 135 L. Generally if I'm shooting waist up or 3/4 and up, I'm gonna try to shoot that on the longest lens possible. 'Cause I like the compression, it's a beautiful sharp lens. So that means that the background pieces that I wanna use, I don't wanna use a super wide angle background on am image that's quite compressed. Have I seen people do it that worked nicely, yeah but generally speaking I like to be able to use the same lens so once again, I'll be out there in the rain trying to like change lenses (laughs) without getting rain in all the things. So in this case, this cloud photo is totally not gonna work. But I took some other cloud photos and I believe, this is the right one. Yeah so this is shot on a horizon. Alright it's nice and overcast, looking at it. Doesn't look too bad. I'm not gonna add clarity or sharpness to this. I'm just gonna go open image. So one thing I haven't done with the other image, with the sky, the mountain shot, look for sensor dust. (laughs) So my camera lens generally has a boat load of sensor dust especially since Death Valley. It's in pretty rough shape. Oh there we go, there's some down there. It's unfortunate but it totally happens. And I'm doing a quick glance on this. I'm probably missing some. There's somebody on the chat room right now being like wow there's the sensor dust right there. But whatever. Ah that's good enough. So control A, select all. Control shift V, paste. And now in this case, I'm gonna wanna use as opposed to just throwing this on and masking everything out, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna change this blending mode. So I'm gonna take from normal, I'm gonna throw this is on to multiply. And then I'm gonna move this around so I'm gonna hit enter and then V for move. And let's just slide this guy to about here. That looks much better. So what are some of the problems that I'm gonna run into right now with my mountain range and my clouds that I haven't tackled yet, even before I get to the masking. One of the things that's gonna happen is that in reality, she was shot at like F13. So something that is this far away, if we look into Capture One again, and we look at this horizon line here, it's quite out of focus and there's not a lot of saturation. So even though this background here, right, it has quite a bit of saturation. I did increase the clarity a little bit and that's okay. But I'm gonna want to blur it just a tiny little bit and I'll probably do some saturation adjustments to it as well. Because things that are further away have less detail, less saturation. So I don't mind bringing in a little bit too much detail because I can still remove that. I mean if I wanted to, I could just paint all over it if I wanted to but I'm not gonna do that today. So I'm gonna zoom in nice and close. And I'm gonna compare and I'm looking at how sharp she is compared to how sharp the mountain is. Now when I photographed this mountain, I had photographed a point where I would put somebody. So technically, this is here, this is not as in focus as it would be if I had photographed for the mountain itself. I didn't put the focus point on the mountain but I still want it to be just a little bit softer. I want it to be just slightly more separated. Because I just wanna make adjustments so that people don't notice things. That's a great retouching in my mind. People shouldn't be able to tell what you did. Whether you're doing beauty retouching, whether you're doing whatever. So there's a lot of different ways to blur. The jury's out which one's right. It doesn't really matter in my opinion as long as you get what you're looking for. Gaussian blur is probably enough. 1.5 pixels is probably too much. One of the other reasons why I wanna make sure that I disconnect this is if I connect my mask and my mountain range, make a filter, blur, gaussian blur and let's make this super hard core. See what happens to our mask? Our mask gets blurry too. So I wanna make sure we disconnect that, unlink that mask. Go filter, blur, gaussian blur and probably like one pixel is enough. You know, I just don't want it to be obvious. I don't want people to be like oh my god nice blur job, man that's cool. Alright so you know maybe even 0.7 would be enough. It's just subtle. Alright i just want it to be a nice, nice soft difference. So we go from here, that was when it was in focus. To there, it's just slightly out of focus. It's just nice and soft and gentle. So looking like that right now and that's not too shabby. This is our cloud. We still have to do the asking on it but I'm probably gonna wanna do the exact same thing to it. I'm gonna add just a little bit of blur. I could if I was feeling really industrious, I could duplicate this layer and then like mask in like the blur gradient going all the way through, if I was feeling super hard core. I'm not gonna do that today. I'm just gonna go to my cloud layer and this filter and I'm gonna blur it the same amount. Once again, I don't want it to be obvious, I don't want to add crazy amounts of blur to this. Just nice and subtle. So I'm gonna create a layer mask and there's lots of different ways that we could mask out our mountains. We could do these quick mask selections here. But that always gives me halos which always stresses me out. I don't like halos. They really bother me. So here I have a soft round brush. Now I wanna use a soft round brush on something that has all the texture. So it's weird. It sucks. It looks strange. So I tend to like to use brushes that do not have soft round edges. So I'm gonna scan through these, all these brushes comes stocked with Photoshop. These are just your default brushes. So I'm gonna grab this guy here. And it kinda has a texture of rocks. I'm gonna paint with black. And we're just gonna noodle around here a little bit. We can get her face here. So we go alt click. I'm sorry control click. And we click back up on our mask here. See there's a problem here, we're gonna get it inverted. So control shift I is gonna invert the selections. Now I can mask up her face. Oh I can paint green on it too. Oh, click on the mask. Anybody who says they don't screw that up from time to time is a liar. (laughs) Or they're a robot. Either way, don't trust them. (laughs) So I have a little bit of a halo going on around her here. So I will paint black on the low flow. And because we're playing with the blending mode, the edges are a little more forgiving. So we can just kinda do this and blend that in a little bit. Nice and soft. Doot doo doo. Okay tackle these mountains. Brush, so leave in the textured edge. We wanna paint with the other color. Doot doot doot doot doo doo. I'm gonna increase my flow 'cause this is gonna take forever otherwise. Ah, masking. Do you have any questions while I'm masking, 'cause this is kind of boring. Took that out of my, words out of my mouth. While you're doing that, one of the students wanted to know, do you have and special plugins that you use to help with your compositing techniques. So a lot of people ask my would I use Topaz. It's a great software for a lot of people if you're first getting into digital art. There are lots of compos, like tools and everything that can help you do cut outs. The more advanced you get, the more you're gonna realize that there's no replacing doing a really good job by hand. And, you'll just see. The more you do it, you mean it might work for you at first, but really, it's just gonna take time. (laughs) So I'm trying to do this quickly here guys. I'm sorry. But yeah I don't like using plugins for this kind of stuff. I mean their fine edge mask is not too shabby but we're dealing with things in color here that are so similar. Right so if I didn't even select my color range this mountain range with the sky here is the same, really. So it's kind of a pain (laughs) to deal with. But, if we use a low flow and we start playing with this a little bit, it'll get us pretty close. We do have a couple more questions I think you can answer while you work. Totally. Do you create your own brushes? Totally, oh my god, brushes are the greatest. Do you wanna fall down a deep dark rabbit hole. Make your own brushes. Tell me a little bit about that while you're working. I love making my own brushes because when I'm working with so many textures, so oftentimes when I teach, unless somebody shows up for like a personal workshop or something, I try to do the entire class on things that are available to everybody. So in this case, you know these brushes are default in Photoshop. I'm just gonna blend this a little bit here along the edge. Hold on. Ah, so yeah making your own brushes is great. 'Cause you can make brushes that are the texture of hair, that are the texture of trees, that are the texture of snow and sparkles and whatever else and I mean there's some plugins out there. One of them I'm actually gonna use today which is really fun, it's called ParticleShop by Corel. It's a good time. You know they create brushes and they behave in ways that Photoshop brushes don't behave very easily so, but custom brushes are pretty much the compositor's tool. It's the Arch of the Covenant of retouching. Once you get into it, it's really nice. I am going over the edge here a little bit. Part of the reason why I'm going over the edge here, is that I know that these clouds going further away are gonna have more atmospheric depth. See this has too much contrast between the two. So I'm getting this relatively close and then I'm gonna blend this out softer because this is way too dark for how much, for how little saturation and contrast is here. So, we're gonna try to get this as close as possible. Fun times, fun times. You can actually play with, you could do an entire Photoshop course on brushes. Actually I think there is one on Creative Live a few years ago, a number of years ago that was done on making brushes. I'm not sure who the name of the person was that did it but it was quite comprehensive. So... This is the life. (laughs) I was like I'll do mountains, those will be easier. Ha ha ha ha. (laughs) stupid. So see if we get this here. So you have any questions for anybody here in the audience or is everyone just like whew, brush it. (laughs) yeah, ugh there we go. I also have my pressure sensitivity turned on on my tablet so my brush size will get bigger and smaller depending on how hard I'm pressing. And I'll jump in and just say whenever we have you know, instructors doing this masking here, we always know it's not gonna be perfect, you know? Folks are getting the general gist but what you're doing is great. Tell me for something like this, how many hours do you really think, if you were gonna put into it would be an hour, would be five hours? Ah, it would probably be For your normal work. Well I edited this yesterday and I spent about about an hour and 1/2 during the masking. So it wasn't too bad in the world of masking, at least in my world, it wasn't too bad. But, I mean, yeah I definitely would like these little dark halos, this is that haloing I'm talking about so to fix that, I mean, I'd be in here like this just lightly coming around the edges here with a lower flow brush. You know, highlighting this out. So I don't wanna do that to everybody today but that's generally how I like to do it. Yes, there is other ways. They're like oh you can use your fine edge mask and stuff like that. But this sky is so similar to the colors of the mountains that in some ways, it's sometimes harder to get it totally perfect so I'm just gonna do the best we can do here today (laughs) with the amount of time that we have. 'cause remember our limitations are time. But I don't like using the quick selection tool. But we can we really... Sorry? Never. Never, I don't like using the quick selection tool and it's not really my thing. It's, you know other people use it with great success and they do awesome stuff with it. A lesson in lighting like Joel Grimes, with like super hard edge hard lighting, you know? I mean it works great for him and the stuff that he's doing. It's just not for the way that I choose to create my images and that's all there is to it. Like I said with all this stuff, in my opinion, there is no right or wrong way because there's enough proof out there that there are really high end artists doing this stuff with every single technique known to man. And you know, for some people it works and for some people it doesn't. So, I'm just trying to present this info today in a way that really if you give yourself enough time and enough practice and you know, maybe enough alcohol you can get through this. (laughs) So it'll be good. Silly question over here from Starbuck, wants to know if you listen to music when you composite. Oh I listen to so much music when I composite. Actually music is one of my huge inspirations and it's one that, I sometimes forget to mention and not intentionally. When I'm working on an image like this, I will actually, whenever I'm retouching, I will pick the music to match the theme of what I'm working on. So, if I'm making something that's like soft and ethereal then I might listen to some chill stab or something that's a little bit more calm, a little bit more whatever 'cause we are like, we are sensory element, you know, things we are response, we wow holy crap my mouth's just lost it's mind there. (laughs) We respond to sound. It's what we do. We are hard wired that way. So, I will absolutely listen to music all the time. I started listening to music that's actually just for the brain as well, so it's like oscillating sounds. It'll go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And it kinda gets your brain firing in a different way. It's not like binaural beats. It's different from that. But it's very interesting and how it affects the way I create. So sometimes I listen to you know, thrash metal. Sometimes I listen to classical music. Sometimes its' EDM but yeah, it definitely is always gonna be in line with what I'm working on 'cause there's nothing more confusing than, you know, trying to edit something that's like soft and emotional and pretty and then you've got Slayer in your ears, you know? It's just kind of weird. (laughs) so, there's actually some groups on Facebook that are you know, they're specifically for people who are retouching and we all share playlists from time to time. I think one of them's like epic remixes for digital artists or whatever but I mean, those are all over the internet. You can find them where people are just sharing music and they're like yeah man this is what I was listening to. And you're like oh that's awesome when you discover new stuff and it's exciting. We're getting closer with the least amount of time spent possible. Sorry guys. Yup do you have a microphone. Did you ever, with something like this, use a selection. Some kind of a selection tool and then finish it up what you're doing? Eh, I just don't mind doing it this way. I guess I just, I'm used to it. it is kind of therapeutic but I'm just wondering if you, you know, if sometimes... Well the thing is with the selection tool, even with this, I'm gonna have to go in and fix it. Well, yeah you would. So with selection tool, I'm still gonna be stuck with zooming in. So, you know, maybe if I was to get like a majority of it but in this case here, it's so similar. This color range here right? So, we might be able to get a quick mask selection. And catch most of that but it's still gonna bleed into the snow, it's still gonna bleed in. So I'm still going in at 400%. So might as well just pony up (laughs) and just get into it. So, it depends though. How much time have I got to spend on it. How big is it gonna get blown up, et cetera et cetera. So let's look at these trees here. Another brush I like to use and I used this before, is this 59 brush. So this work quite nicely for trees. I'm gonna use a low flow 'cause I'm just gonna blend this. 'Cause I used a blending mode so I can probably BS a lot of this. And I know that I'm gonna blend a little bit of this too. So I'm just clicking. And trying to get that as close as possible. So I'm just gonna click this here. Alt click. And see, I missed a bunch of stuff over here. So this is my disastrous trees. And that's how awful my trees look. (laughs) But I'm going to definitely look after this here. I'm not gonna, I would normally clean up all that shady stuff there but I'm not gonna do that to you guys today. You guys understand masking at this point. (laughs) I think we got it. So alt click. They have no lines. So now what I'm gonna do with my mask, is I'm gonna take a brush, a soft brush. I'm gonna make it nice and big. Because I'm gonna try to match, this sky has too much contrast. It's way too dark. It's not gonna work. So I'm gonna take a nice soft brush and I'm going to lightly blend this off into the horizon lines so that it looks like it makes more sense. And then from there, I'm gonna turn down this a little tiny bit. So I'm just trying to make that slightly more believable. This little bit of contrasting line up here that would have been in real life if you were to photograph this stuff. If you're ever not sure of what nature looks like, go out to nature and photograph nature. (laughs) Set your cameras to auto and photograph it as it is and then study it. I study natural light photography all the time. I'm always studying it because I'm curious to how I can replicate it when I'm in the studio or on location. I wanna know how to duplicate it so I'm always paying attention. I'm always looking at, you know, if I'm driving and I'll see the sky. Driving somewhere safe (laughs) not in rush hour traffic. But if I'm driving somewhere I wanna be able to look at it and go, oh okay. You know, that reflection kinda makes sense here. Or this contrast difference makes sense here. So if you have a storm coming in and have this bright trees, right? Well, you know that would work if you were having that kind of a storm scenario. But in this case here, the way that this mountain range here looks if I didn't fade this off naturally then it would look very very strange. Is that clear as mud? (laughs) So one of the things that I wanted also do here is I'm gonna play with, so the color balance and it's a little bit hard to see on the laptop here with a bright room. Generally I edit in a completely dark room. I generally have the lights off so that my eyeballs are just getting burned by the radiation coming off my screen. But then I can see really what's going on with the colors and contrast. So in here, in this scenario, it's gonna be a little hard to get it exactly perfect but I'll show you the techniques of how I do that.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Texture Sample Pack
Layered Beach PSD Composite
Layered Cliff PSD Composite

Ratings and Reviews

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. :)

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