Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography


Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography


Lesson Info

Culling Images Q&A

Do we have any questions right now? Yes, I have a couple of questions. Fabulous. One I'd love to find out is some photographers when they cull their images start with everything's in, and some start with everything's out and then bring them in. What's your process? I just slide through until I'm like that one's good, that one's good. (laughter) That one's awful. I'm pretty surgical and I'm really, really harsh on how I select my images. Most of us are our own worst critic so I'll sit there and I'll do the first pass but usually the one that stands out right away is the one that stood out when I was photographing. It's not very often I'm surprised when I get into post production of like oh how did I miss that? Does that happen sometimes? Of course it happens sometimes right. But for the most part because I'm so specific in the posing and getting everything right I'm very aware of what's going on so but I've definitely been surprised sometimes when letting a model just do somet...

hing random. There's actually a video going around the internet right now that's great to watch. It's Coco Rocha. She's doing this wicked pose series. And I mean it's the perfect combination of like professional photographer, professional model, perfect lighting all coming together for one 'cause that photographer never misses a single pose that she does. But they're just like click, click, click, it's amazing to watch. So all those poses are stuff that I would never think to do but it's another example of you know having professionals do their thing and do what they know really well and then creating these incredible poses from that so that would be a situation where I would say okay I got what I need here's the reigns, do whatever you feel like and you know we might find something that's really awesome. It might be better than what we had. So I've also had to shoot sometimes where the first image we took was the best image we took all day and we spent like six hours in hair and makeup and we're like well, we're done. And the model's like uh okay. And then you feel kinda bad 'cause they sat there in a chair for so long and everyone's working and you're like, well we can shoot some more if you want. (laughing) And then you shoot for another 20 minutes and everyone's just like yeah no we're done. So yeah what's up? So after you finish culling and you finish your project what I mean, 'cause after a while you get tons and tons of pictures, do you keep everything or do you get rid of? I generally will keep it because sometimes what can happen is so this skirt for example. The fabric could be useful for something else. So I could cut this fabric up and turn it into a cape. So I could use it for filler on another shot if I use the same skirt on somebody else. Right with similar lighting right and you know maybe there's just like a piece of it that's missing I'd totally savaged things form other images and other shoots all the time. You know same thing if sometimes what'll happen is if I have a model who did this amazing pose but there's something wrong with her hand I will go through other images of models who have similar skin tone that were shot with similar lighting and I might just like take a hand from that so like my images are my parts shop. Yes. Yeah another question from over here, what I'd like to know opposed to the perfect shot on the first one, how often do you chop up the model and use like her dress for one, and do you ever chop up the model and use different exposures of the model for in compositing? Yeah I do that sometimes but I try to do that as little as possible because it's so time consuming. So basically that for me is a last resort kind of thing because it's so much work so if I have a team of people together. So if I've got, I mean I say team like it's a professional thing, sometimes it's just my friends or my sister or my mom you know like hey let's go play in a field. Right but you have a group of people coming together to make something and so it's much nicer if we can get it all in one frame. But totally if that's not available to you or you're using stock photography and you're like I got this model here and I got like these hands here and I got this fabric here and you're stitching it all together then absolutely. I think it's actually a really great skill and it's good practice if you can go out and start doing that. I've actually started experimenting with making meowls. So they're owls with cat heads and it's so much fun. (laughing) And I like because I like to be able to shoot the cat and shoot the owl so a friend of mine has some owls so I photograph the owls but now I have to photograph a cat with similar color pattern to the owl 'cause I went and got a stock photography can head but the lens and the quality of the photography was way worse than what I had photographed the owl with so now I gotta go find a cat. But I think stitching stuff together especially people or animals or whatever is great practice. I think it's amazing and it's a lot of work to make it believable but all of the sudden you'll get back into the studio and you're like background swapping, tch. Easy. (laughing) So it's good practice. I mean another thing that's fun to, I mean you see this a lot with fashion photographers you know where they're stitching together hair where they're like flipping the hair everywhere and then they're like piecing together a whole bunch of hair shots into one portrait you know that's another thing that can be a really great experience and good practice for you is doing that when I was first teaching myself Photoshop with hair work I took a photo of a model and then I replaced her hair from a stock photo shot so I just like cut out the hair and I was like boink! And I put it on her face I tried to make it look believable and at the time it was the best I could do but it was actually great practice. I was like you know how do you replace hair of a model that is blonde and we want to have this like brunette striped hair going everywhere kind of thing so the extraction process was great practice. So if you're wanting to get better at compositing do stuff that's really hard and then you get back to the stuff you were doing before and you're like oh man this is like way easier so perspective. Um we have one really great question. Actually there same question asked twice from two different folks. Could you talk to us a little bit about your sort of overall concept of you know this particular photo shoot and where were you at with the previsualization and did the concept come from the client you know which in this case is Creative Live, or is this something that you know you tackle? So this is the fun part. The inspiration for this image is definitely last minute panic. Which happens sometimes. Sometimes when you know so little going in, so we actually I had no idea what the location was gonna be that we were gonna be photographing this on until the day before we filmed the video. So I had no concept of what was going to be happening. So it was essentially a whole bunch of me building a ton of different options in my head and going like okay if it's this it's this, if it's this it's this, if it's this it's this. 'Cause some of the other locations that we had picked out weren't quite what I was looking for and I was like well this is either gonna be way too hard or way too easy or way too whatever. They weren't what I was looking for so we literally went to discovery park and just like ran around the park for a few hours and just you know parked the car, squirrel around and be like okay this could, this could not work, this could work, this could not work. Worst case scenario we can do this, if the weather does this we can do this. So it was making mental notes and physical notes of all the locations we had in mind and what we could do with them. So I was sitting there and even on the computer afterwards after we had shot this I was like browsing through the backgrounds and the first two background choices that I wanted to use weren't gonna work. So fortunately in this case I had time to be able to pick the stock piece that I photographed for the background to make it work so it was like two hours of me sitting on the computer being like nope, nope, nope, yep, nope, nope, nope. And like hacking things apart so sometimes when you're going in and you know so little about the location it can kind of make things a little bit stressful. So last minute panic was definitely the inspiration for this one just because there was so little information that was concrete going in before this. Which happens. It totally happens and that's reality and that's real life. Sometimes everything's totally perfectly planned out ahead of time and sometimes it's not. So in this case like the sun came out just as, literally as soon as we turn on the cameras. The sun was like hi! And I was like ahh! Go away! You know and this whole week in Seattle it's been like sunny and hot and everyone told me how it was gonna be cold and raining so I've got sweaters so I'm sweating. But that's just kind of what happens right, and so you roll with it. But once you know the sun disappeared and then all of the sudden it was like oh okay well this could work and this could work and this could work and then it was getting on the computer and realizing okay this is awesome, this is not so awesome. What's up? How are you cataloging your images? As in do you end up using like a skirt from this image for another purpose altogether like how to you go back to work and getting stuff from other. I for some reason have a massive mental image database in my head of what was shot at certain locations so I have like a folder of workshop shoots. Right so in this case this would categorize the workshop shoot. So the workshops are often times are where the really fun costumes come out 'cause of course client work I can't steal from client work right but from workshop shoots and personal work that's where all the fun stuff is so I sit there and I go like okay so you know I did this thing in Toronto and I've got this guy and this blonde hair Viking looking dude and we already used the photo that I really liked but I shot some stuff afterwards that was really cool and I was sitting there going like oh well you know what if I did this and then this idea starts turning around right so it's, I don't really catalog a lot specifically of keywords or anything. I'm sure some ways that would make it easier. But I like the idea of scrolling through the images 'cause then it refreshes my mind of what's there and so it's not just like oh I'm just gonna search like cloudy day skies it's like okay well no what was the cloudy day like in Montana, what was the cloudy day like in Hawaii, what was the cloudy day like in Northern Alberta. Right and so 'cause they're gonna be different colors, the clouds are gonna be different textures right and so then I'll just go through that location, scan through it and be like oh yeah I forgot about that that's really awesome. So it's just once again like refreshing everything, memorizing and going forward so I'm sure cataloging would make it easier but windows explorer all the way. So inquiring minds want to know what are you going to do with this photo when we get back after our break? It could epically blow up as sometimes composites do but what's gonna happen after the break it's gonna be secret squirrel status so you're gonna have to show up. But no I definitely chose a background piece from Northern Alberta it's a mountain range called Moraine Lake. I think it was no Medicine Lake, Medicine lake is where it is so it's this really awesome mountain range and there's like the right amount of sunlight coming in and it's cool. We're gonna actually if I cut out all these crappy little leaves, I actually didn't just like cut it all the way across so we'll see if I can do that live 'cause when you're doing stuff live you kind of forget some things 'cause you're thinking of all the other things. So it's kind of like when you're doing dishes and you know you're just doing dishes and you're thinking about doing dishes and all of the sudden your spouse is yelling at you and the cat crawls up your leg and then you're like distracted and not thinking about the one thing. So this afternoon we will see if I can pull it off. Alright.

Class Description

With the right 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.

Join us for “Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography” and 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.


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