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Elements of Compositing

Lesson 6 from: Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography

Renée Robyn

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Lesson Info

6. Elements of Compositing


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

Elements of Compositing

Okay, statistic composite images. So this is a visual aid of what we just talked about, because repetition is good, and this is also, it helps people who weren't able to, you know, in the chatroom who just logged on or were sleeping in like I wanted to this morning. Find your story. So, what is the story gonna be? So when you look at that, what's your story on that when you see it, when you're sitting there looking at this, and you kind of, people will write their own stories. I've presented this set of slides a few times, and I've had a bunch of people tell me totally different things. So, let's give it a second here. What would, what kind of story would you write with that? (Renee laughs) He just dumped a body. I have not had that one before. (Renee laughs) You get a gold star. But in either case, some people look at this, though, you know, you're making assumptions. You're making assumptions about the personality. You're making assumptions about whatever. In my mind, this is kind of...

like, you know, a little bit Mad Max-y, you know, but like, maybe band photo-y kind of thing, right, but it's still, you're making assumptions based on how things look, which is what we do all day long. You're walking down the street. You see people. You make assumptions about them as soon as you see them. We're not immune to that. It's just what we do. Safe, unsafe, with whatever. Your mind, apparently unsafe. (Renee laughs) Okay, so, best way that I like to find stories. Notebooks. Get a notebook. Write in it often. Write in it all the time. So one of the things I like to do, one of the exercises that we were talking about earlier, is I will go in, and I will write a whole bunch of random words around emotions, like happy, sad, red, blue, kittens, octopus, whatever, Germany, something. And I have pages and pages and pages and pages and pages of this. So, now what I try to do is at least once a month, bare minimum, I made myself a $10,000-a-day client. So the only time that I will break that booking of myself is I will say, if somebody offers me more than $10, for that day, I will book them. If anybody offers me $9,000, doesn't matter, because if I don't feed me, I don't have a career. All right, so, I go into the his notebook, I slide through it, I flip through it, I go, bananas, damn it. (Renee laughs) Okay, well, now I have to make an image on bananas, and it doesn't matter if it goes public or not, but the point is that it's practice and it's pushing what makes me uncomfortable, right? So then I sit there, and I'm just like, okay, well, I'm gonna do that, gonna do that. I find the worst thing that's happened in the age of the smart phone, which, there's been lots of good ones, but we don't daydream anymore. Notebooks are a really nice way to daydream. You can sit there, and you can write things that, you know, to make it easy, emotional reactions and triggers. What upsets you? What makes you happy? You're like, oh, well, I just love playing with puppies. And like, okay, how do I photograph playing with puppies in a dark way? (Renee laughs) I've recently been challenged with taking a photograph of a unicorn and bubbles and making it dark, so I don't know when that's gonna hit the internet, but at some point, there's gonna be some horrible hack job unicorn. But in either case, you know, it's all those little, tiny challenges, right, and that's why I keep these notebooks, to keep myself curious, to keep myself going, and I try to put my cell phone as much as possible. If I'm sitting there on the train going somewhere, I'm not scanning through my phone anymore. I'm gonna sit there. I'm gonna stare off into the window. I'm gonna let my mind do its thing. I'm gonna let it wander. And where it wanders too, I'm gonna write it down. And then, when I go back, where I'm like, I have no ideas, you're like, I have a whole book of ideas from when I had more ideas. And you flip through them, and you pick one, and you're like, that's really uninspiring, but you pretend that that's a $10,000 client. That $10,000 client's paying you 10 grand to photograph bananas and make it look cool. (Renee laughs) And so that's how it works for me, is I just sit there, like, okay, this is how this is gonna work, 'cause I mean, I think we've all had clients, if you work even semi-professionally, where they're like, I have this idea, and it's wonderful, and you're like, that sucks, but okay, we're gonna make this look as best as we can for you, 'cause that's what we do. We're a service provider. So, same thing, right? $10,000 photo of bananas. (Renee laughs) Next thing is looking at lots of photos, paintings, and drawings. So, what I think is funny is I look at the photos that I looked at, 'cause I still have them all saved, from when I was 15 and 16 years old when I was modeling still, and I was looking at the photos that I thought were amazing. And I look at them now, and I'm like, wow. (Renee laughs) They're really bad. So that's because I've increased my taste. I've made my taste better. So as much as your work should grow, your taste should grow, right? So there's a friend of mine had a really good line, and he said, work your butt off until your icons are your coworkers. And it's like, oh, that's a good one. (Renee laughs) That's a very good one. So what I did was I kept increasing my taste higher and higher and higher, and when you saturate yourself with it, and you train your eye to that, your work is probably gonna always feel sub-par. It does for me, still. I still feel like my work is sub-par, because my taste is way out there. But that means that you're always gonna grow, and if you're always saturating your taste and you're always making it better and richer and more aware, then your work is going to reflect that. So, that's generally how I will find stories. Peachy? I'm gonna say that a lot, lots of peachy. Pre-vis sketching. Check out my stick figures. That's awesome. It's horrible. (Renee laughs) So, pre-vis sketching generally for me looks something like this. Sometimes I'll put it in notebooks. So I actually come from an illustration background, but since I've started doing photography, my illustration skills are like, explosion. It's terrible. But in either case, pre-vis sketching looks something like this. So, this image here, I was like, okay, you know, I'm kind of seeing this like, tall hair thing with like long braid. We have, we had a pink dress, so I knew that the dress thing was gonna be pink, but I was shooting it in the studio, and I was like, I don't know what's gonna look good with this. And so I started looking online, and it happened that a friend of mine had photographed this incredible landscape photo, and I just emailed him, 'cause I was like, I'm so inspired by this, and I think it'll work really, really nicely with this, with this thing that we're gonna be shooting. You know, do you mind if I use it? And that's a great way to get backgrounds, if you have landscape photographer friends, and they're like off doing cool stuff, and you're like, hey, do you have any B roll, the stuff that didn't turn out? Sometimes, people are down with it. And so in this case, he was like, yeah, for sure, go for it. So I pre-vis sketched it loosely, gave it to the team, and I was like, dear model, you're gonna be some kind of pose, something like this. We're gonna like, throw the fabric, and it'll do this kind of thing. Dear hairstylist, we want this thing to be like big and tall and long, so we gotta get extensions, which is cool. And then, you know, I knew the editing, I was gonna add, you know, some yellow on the ground and some green in the grass and probably dark, stormy sky, 'cause that's what I like to do. And the next one here was a photograph for a client, and, you know, we knew in this case, it was, the background needs to be really detailed, so there was gonna be lots of shadow-y figures in the background, lots of atmospheric stuff flying around. She was gonna have a megaphone, a horn coming out of her head, so that goes to the makeup artist, the SFX, special effects artist, right. I was like, hey, we have to have enough time in the day, in the studio. We need to schedule six hours for hair and makeup, because it's gonna take that long to do. So, six hours is nothing. The longest I've done hair and makeup prep for a shoot was 12. Yeah. Model was a champ. She was awesome. After 12 hours she was like, good to go, and I was like, tired. (Renee laughs) But in either case, so when I got into editing, though, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I had all the pieces, all the ingredients, and I put 'em all together. So it's like when you're baking, and you're like, halfway through baking, and you're like, oh, crap, I'm out of ginger, right. You don't want that to happen. You wanna get all your ingredients ahead of time. So in this case here, with the pre-vis sketch, I knew exactly what I needed, and I had all my ingredients handy, and then when I got to post-production, I sat down and I edited. Same thing with this one here. So in this case here, I had shot two military guys for a workshop in Houston, and these guys had never had their photo taken before. They have no idea. They don't do this kind of stuff. So I was like, okay, guys, I'm gonna have you doing, like, this thing in the front, and like this thing in the back, and they both looked at me like, what? What does that even mean? And so I was like, okay, cool. No worries. So I just went into Photoshop, I sketched this out quick, and I was like, that. And they were like, oh, I get it now. 'Cause they're not visual that way. We're not all wired the same way. These guys are wired to like, you know, headshot at a thousand yards. (Renee laughs) They're not wired to like, take in pictures and make them, you know, something imaginary into reality, which is, there's nothing wrong with that. Very different skillsets. But, by having that, then I was able to produce the images that I needed and very quickly, 'cause I was like, okay, that pose thing that I was telling you like this, he's like, yeah, that makes sense now. Like, cool. Mood board. So, these things seem really random, and they don't really seem very connected. So, in this case here, if I was to do, this is a very quick mood board. Generally my mood boards have hundreds of images. But because this is CreativeLive, I had to ask permission to use the images, so, I created a mythical mood board. (Renee laughs) But generally, this is what it'll look like. So I'll be like, hey, dear makeup artist, I want something that looks like this, you know. Dear model, I want a pose maybe something like this. Dear hair stylist, I want hair kind of like this. And then maybe we can play a little bit with moving the hair around something like this. So, it's like, but they're totally unrelated, right? And then here, I'm sitting here for my digital art stuff, I'm like, I'm gonna add some atmospheric stuff like this. I can add like, things flapping around. And this final image might not look anything like any of those shots, at all. And that's not the point. It doesn't matter, right? The point is is that it's helping your team and helping your brain get all in the same direction. So, everyone's kind of loosely seeing what you're talking about. How many times have we read the same book, and then we watch the movie, and we're like, I did not envision the main character looking like that? (Renee laughs) So, even with a, like, super detailed book, we all picture different things, but it's still gonna keep everyone in the same direction. Compositional guidelines. I like to do this a lot. Sometimes I'll print them off. A lot of times, I'll just put them on the computer. And I will do exactly that. I will draw all over them. I'll be like, okay, so, if I have to explain to my team or an art director or whatever what's going on in my head, I'll print these up, and I stick them to windows so that they're backlit. So people are like, oh my God, that light box is really cool. I'm like, yeah, the sun's awesome. (Renee laughs) But in either case, so, if we're doing a story of images, a series of images, right, and then a lot of people need to see kind of what's going on in your head, Sharpie the crap out of some really horrible printouts, or just put them right on Photoshop, like, put them in Photoshop and just have a new blank layer over top and start drawing. Even if you're sitting there, and you're like, I'm feeling really uninspired today, I shot this awesome background, but I don't know what to do with it, just start drawing. Like, a lot of times in illustrators, illustrators are working on images, and they're like, they don't know what to draw today. And just a lot of them will start putting down color, and eventually, something's gonna come out of it. Eventually, it's like chipping. You're just gonna eventually, slowly get through it, piece by piece by piece. That make sense? Backgrounds. This goes into the potential of backgrounds. So I shot this when I was in the UK. I shot the model in Montreal. But in either case, I was sitting there looking at it, and I was photographing is, so I stitched this together into a panorama, and I would like, stretch some of the stuff and warped it, whatever else. But I was sitting there. As soon as I was at the location, I saw it instantly in my head, 'cause I photographed that model, like, six months before, and so I have like this entire backlog of like the thousands and thousands of images I've photographed just churning in my head, like a little Rolodex, I just kind of flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. And so, when I was at this location, I was like, oh my God, I don't have like a wide enough lens to photograph all this in one shot, but the distortion's too much anyway. So I'm gonna stitch these together, and then I'm gonna add this stuff in the background, and then I'm gonna have that person that I shot on the knees with the lighting, and it's all gonna work. And this is still incomplete. This, like, bottom image here is still incomplete. It hadn't been colorized yet. I was just, I posted it halfway down like that, but I knew I was gonna come back to it. So I was like, it doesn't, it doesn't feel right. You know when you're photographing stuff and you're snapping away, and you take that photo, and your insides do that thing before you even see the photo? You're like, oh, that was a good one? So that was what happened with this, is I was like, I'm not quite there, but I know that I'm getting there. And it took me another, like, year and a half to finish the image, because I was just Rolodexing it in my head, flipping around, being like, okay, cool. Eventually, this is gonna click, and it did. So, going into your location and not seeing everything for what it is but for what you can do with it, right. So when a hairstylist comes to you and you're like, do something different, guys, you probably don't know what you're talking about here, but girls. (Renee laughs) You're just like, it's long and straight. Do something with it. And so they're looking at your hair, looking at your face, going like, what's the potential we can do with that? Makeup artist, same thing. Retoucher, same thing. Retouchers, I guarantee you, they look at your face, and they're retouching your face while they're looking at you. They're like, oh, I just like dodge and burn a little here, get rid of those spots. I do it to people all the time. (Renee laughs) This is highly compulsive, because you edit so much. You just like, oh, what would I do to edit that? It's probably horrible. But, looking at everything for what you can do with it, right, and that's, I mean, I could totally get into a life philosophy thing on that, but I might save it for later. (Renee laughs) I don't shut up often enough. Lighting. Matching your lighting is great. So in this case here, you wanna make the decision, do I want this image to look like strobe lighting or environmental lighting? If I was to make this look like strobe lighting, so if I didn't add this rim light here, I didn't add this highlight here or the two fill lights, this is a five-light setup, then this wouldn't make any sense. Right? If I didn't have that, with all that environmental light coming through, it's gonna make no sense, right. It's gonna be inconsistent with the background. So in this case, you're gonna have to be very aware of what's going on with the lighting. So one of the ways I like to do this, and we'll cover this in the video, is if I'm photographing just backgrounds, I'll wait 'til somebody walks in, and I'll take a picture of them, so that I can study the lighting later. Which, sometimes, just make sure it doesn't show their face so that nobody freaks out, and they're like, oh my God, you took my photo. Just like sneak it, right? But, if you have somebody walking with you or adventuring with you or exploring with you, then do that. If you don't have that, just stick a camera bag out, whatever, right? So we're gonna, we're gonna go through this again, but. In either case, making the decision of what your lighting's gonna be and understanding light well enough to replicate it. So, in this case here, I had one rim light, which you can see right here, adding that little bit of highlight. I had another light. I had a second softbox, so one, two, here, so this one's brighter. This one here is to fill in those shadows a little bit. And I have three, four, and then I had another one low, just right here, to catch and fill in some of the shadows here on the dress and here, 'cause they would, they had gone really dark. So that's five lights to make natural light look realistic. (Renee laughs) But, that's because that's what that background called for. So, study it, look at it, and then go forward from there. How 'bout a question from the internet. Yeah, let's do it. On, on lighting. I know we're gonna talk a lot more about lighting. Oh, yeah. During this, you know, this two-day event. Lots of lighting. (Renee laughs) So I have two questions. Let's start with this first one. Like to know whether you, do you sketch out your lighting schematics before you go out to a place to shoot? Before I go out to a place to shoot? Yes. Generally, I'll sketch the lighting once I get into the studio. I don't usually sketch the lighting when I'm going on location, 'cause when I'm going on location, I'm at the mercy of Mother Nature, and sometimes, she's cranky. So, I wouldn't say going onto location, but into the studio, for sure, 'cause if I have photographed background pieces that have lots of directional light like this image did, then I'll look at the image in post-production and go, okay, what lighting do I need to match that? That's probably more the way that I would do it. And this came up earlier, but I just, I think, it felt like a good time to ask it now. Are you using a crop sensor or a full frame? So I am using a full-frame camera, but the beautiful thing about composite photography is you can shoot this with a point-and-shoot. You can create composites with your iPhone. You can create composites with a point-and-shoot camera, if you have the same megapixels going all the way through. Of course the more megapixels, the more detailed it's gonna be, the bigger you can blow it up, but the reality is, a sensor is a sensor. You know. There's like, little tiny differences of course, but if all you have is a point-and-shoot camera and you wanna do composites, you can do it. I actually am planning on doing one with like my old point-and-shoot and making a composite with it, so, just to prove the point. (Renee laughs) So, yeah. I shoot with a extremely beat-up 5D Mark II that I bought used. You know, people say that DSLRs can be expensive, but man, the reality is that they're getting cheaper and cheaper and cheaper. You can get a 5D original, those things are tanks, by the way. The original 5D from the Canon, it's still running. (Renee laughs) It's still fine. The thing is bomb-proof. (Renee laughs) But, I mean, you can get those cheap. You can get them super cheap, but you do, like, send them in for maintenance, and you have a totally operating camera again. So, you know, it's, the technology is out there. I mean, we all have phones. There's that. There's actually a guy, oh, my goodness. Why can't I remember his name? He runs Mextures. What's his name? Anyways, look at the Mextures Collective on Instagram. They have basically all of these composite artists, but they all use their iPhone, for even the editing. They're like, on their phone like this. And like, I thought what I did was bad, and they're like, on their phone doing this, and they're amazing. So literally, if you have a camera that's digital, even film, if you scanned it in, but eventually, it has to be digital, you can make a composite. So, yeah. Great, thank you. Ducky? Fabulous. All right. (Renee laughs) Subjects. This goes onto, this was a question a lot of people asked, was like, oh my God, where do you get your subjects? I'm like, there's a lot of weird people out there. (Renee laughs) And they're awesome, and they're wonderful. This is a friend of mine. His name is Rex. He and I have been photographing together for years. And how this came about was he was like, dude, I just made an order for some stilts. And I was like, cool, you got stilts. That's awesome. He was like, they have hooves. I was like, they have hooves. (Renee laughs) I was like, that is awesome. So he drove up from Calgary to Edmonton, and he got into the studio, and I was like, okay, we have hooves. (Renee laughs) What are we gonna do? And so these things, they're extremely hard to stand in. You know, he's not a trained stuntman or anything like that. But it's like, okay, we had like one person just outside the frame, like, balancing him, and I'd be like, one, two, three, go, and then catch him again. (Renee laughs) You know? But the photo looked awesome. And so I was sitting there in post-production with this image, and I was like, what am I gonna do with it? And so then I just like, I had these bed sheet photos that I'd taken, and I was like, I'm gonna give 'em to Cape, and then I'm gonna do stuff to it. And so this is what came out of it. But I mean, there's so many people. We are in the contact of the entire internet right now. So, if you just wanted to composite something cool, but you didn't wanna take the photo, you can probably reach out to some cosplayers who have tons of photos that people have taken of them at conventions or self-portraits or whatever, and be like, hey, man, can I just practice with some of your images? DeviantArt is full of like free resource images that you can just play with. You know, as long as you're not selling it commercially, people don't care. They're like, yeah, that'd be awesome. Just share it with me. That's really cool. So, cosplay groups are awesome. There's lots of like, special interest groups, like people who do reenactments. There are people who are in special effects worlds, you know, and it can get like as advanced as you want or as beginner as you want. It's out there. It's all available, you know, so once again, like, because we are so connected, it just takes time, you know, and sometimes, if there's somebody that you really, really, really wanna work with, and they keep saying no, well maybe it's just that they want to see you do better work, which is fair. There's nothing wrong with that. So it just means, you're like, okay, I'm gonna go practice, and then I'm gonna, you know, maybe in a year or so, I'll send another email and be like, hey, how's it going? I'm been working really hard. (Renee laughs) 'Cause I had people who told me no. I had people who told me no for like, two, three years, and they were like, you know, I'm just really busy right now, and I was like, I get it. I'm like, work kinda sucks right now. Got it. Okay, so I'm gonna work harder. I'm gonna get, work better and smarter, and then eventually, my work will get good enough that you can't ignore me. (Renee laughs) And so that's what happens, and it's cool. You know, and then sometimes people just say no 'cause they don't wanna work with people because, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter why they don't wanna work with you. But you can go forward. There's also the internet, man. There's so much Google-y stuff. Perspective matching. This is fun. This was a joint image created between myself and Adrian Sommeling. If you're into composite artwork and you don't know his name, you should probably Google search him. He's very good and very awesome, and that's a friend of mine, Richard Turborg, from Amsterdam. And so, we were doing this thing, and I was like, basically, what we did was Adrian had photographed it and then we each retouched our own version of the image. So on my blog, there's like a whole article on it that was really fun, but this is a great example of perspective matching. So what this is is that we have photographed the library from a low angle, tipped up, with a wide-angle lens. And so that means that when we photographed the two of us, we were gonna have to have camera low angle, and we're gonna have the distance the same. So we didn't photograph me really close up and then make me smaller. We put me roughly the same size and distance of where it was gonna be in the room itself, and then we photographed it. And we photographed it separately. We weren't photographed at the same time. But at the same time, we kept everything locked in. So we were like, okay, so Renee is gonna be like, here. Richard's gonna be here-ish, right, whatever, so, we're gonna, sorry, camera guys are like, stop moving. (Renee laughs) But, in either case, we're gonna have like, you know, one person here, one person here, and camera's gonna be way down here, right, and with the wide angle lens, it's gonna have that kind of effect, where one person's gonna be like way bigger than the other. That's your perspective matching. So you're gonna photograph a background from a low angle and then somebody from a tall angle and put them together, it's gonna look really weird. I actually did an image one time, if anybody knows The Retouching Academy group on Facebook, there's some really great retouchers in there. And so I made this image, and I was like, I'm gonna see who gets this. It was like, basically, I was like quietly testing the group. So I took an image of a girl that I shot from like, relatively far away, but from a low angle. I took a background that I'd photographed from the top-down, and then I put them together, and I hid it as best as I could with my skills. I was like, you know what, this is, this looks pretty good, but only people who like, really know what's going on are going to be able to see this. First comment was like, your perspective's wrong. Damn it. (Renee laughs) So it matters. It matters. Your perspective is going to matter. Even the tilt of your camera, if you're using a wide-angle lens, a tilt is gonna matter. If you haven't seen this, photograph somebody, so get your friend of whatever, and photograph them from low, and then tip the camera. So take three shots from low, so, tip the camera down, medium and high, and then medium, tip it down, medium, and high, and then high, high, medium, low, and you're gonna see that there's a, especially with wide-angle lenses, there's gonna be kind of like a distortion thing that happens. Our head's gonna get bigger or smaller or whatever, right? So that's gonna happen. It matters when you're doing composites to match your perspective. So if you're out shooting backgrounds, take notes, if you really need to. Take notes. Take pictures of the notes or whatever. Like, scroll something on your iPhone, and be like, click, we photographed this at this height, so these next images were photographed at this height so it actually is in your, like, in your database, so you don't have to like, you know, sticky notes to your hard drive. It's just like in your .jpegs. So, all of that stuff is extremely important. Masking is pretty much the bane of the existence of every composite artist I know. I haven't met too many composite artists that are like, yes, masking, this is great, like, the best time ever. There are so many different techniques to cut out a subject, so many. So we're gonna go through a couple today, but it's about finding the one that works for you. So some people love using the pen tool. Actually our host here is like, pen tool master, level expert, right? I hate the pen tool. even after doing the car thing, the pen tool and I were not really buddies. (Renee laughs) We're kind of like, you know, the two chicks in class that hate each other but have to get along 'cause they get put in the same class, like, the same work groups, so you're like, okay, we'll tolerate each other. It's like that. (Renee laughs) That's me and the pen tool. My favorite way to mask is by hand, or using channels, and so we'll go through both of that. But masking is so important, to pay attention to what's going on so you can get little glowy lines and stuff like that. And once you start seeing it, you can't unsee it. You know when you buy a Subaru, and then, all of the sudden, all you see everywhere is Subarus? You're like, where did, I never saw Subarus before. Same thing is gonna happen once you get really good at your masking, 'cause then you're gonna see all the masking mistakes everywhere, and are like, oh my God, everyone has halos. Oh, my God. All the work that I used to think was so awesome, it's glowing, it's got halos, right. So like, you're gonna see this stuff. And so once you start building that out of your work and you start getting finer and finer work, then it's gonna be better. This image is actually printed up really big on a floor at SmugMug Headquarters, and I was so stressed (Renee laughs) when I was setting it up, 'cause I was like, oh, God, this is getting printed really big, and I was really nervous, 'cause it's like, ah, if there's a mistake, everyone's gonna see it, 'cause it's blown up. And so when I went to headquarters there I like instantly dropped down on my knees, and I was like crawling around on the floor, and I was like, yes, I got it. (Renee laughs) I couldn't find any mistakes. So that meant that, you know, the five and a half hours I did masking all of those little tiny hair strands paid off. But, this is the caveat. If you're making composites only for Facebook, and they're not getting blown up anywhere, don't spend five hours masking unless you want practice. If it's only going on Facebook, you're good, but if it's going to be blown up big on a print, so far, my biggest composite print has been 60 by 90 inches, which is huge, and so it's like, up on this huge wall, and I was like, oh, no, once again, because I knew that it was gonna go blow up big, I spent tons of time on the detail, and it actually looks legitimate. So, so far, I haven't been able to have anybody tell me like, oh, nice composite. I'm like, yes. So that's, as a composite artist, as we all know, that's like our ultimate compliment. People are like, oh, my God. How'd you get to that location? You're like, magic. (Renee laughs) We flew. I've had some people tell me when they see that image, they're like, oh, my God, how did you get that shot? I'm like, we just threw her once. (audience laughs) And then they gave me this look, and I'm like, I'm kidding, I'm kidding, I'm kidding. (Renee laughs) We did it twice. (Renee laughs) Matching contrast. So as I was mentioning earlier, matching contrast is also very important, because atmospheric depth matters. Oftentimes, if you're shooting something in studio, and you're shooting stuff on location, the contrast is not gonna match up. So, if your contrast doesn't match up, once again, looks like a composite. Looks fake. Also, remember, things that are close up have more saturation, more contrast, more detail than things that are further away. When there's lots of stuff flying around everywhere, right, we're gonna be adding in lots of different layers. You're not gonna have the same amount of smoke and debris going over the person closest to you as the person further away. If you ever stand out in the snow or the rain, not that people in Seattle ever see snow, but if you're in the rain, right, and you can look at stuff, and so basically, if you hate your friends, be like, hey, question for you. Can I get six of you to stand out there in the rain for me, you know, every five feet, and take a picture of it with or without a strobe, and then see how much stuff is in between each one. So if you have the same amount all the way through, it's just gonna look like you have a really short friend. (Renee laughs) So this stuff here, this guy here had the same amount of detail as this guy here, he's just gonna look like a midget. And if that's what I was going for, great. But that wasn't what I was going for. So being aware of matching your contrast, using things like clipping masks and someone was like, we're gonna go through all that, but clipping masks are important. It will help make all of that stuff make sense. Studying lots of art will help with that. Shadows. I actually am terrified of spiders, so on the topic of things that you do that scares you, I was like, okay, I'm gonna do a composite of spiders. So, I zoomed it in to like 400%, and I put on Super Troopers. (Renee laughs) It was the only way that I could do this. I was like, it's just hair from somebody's head. It's not horrible leg hair. But in either case, the shadows and highlights are extremely important in this. So where are they gonna go? So if you look here at his feet, which is kind of hard to see here. You have to like, come up closer. I can see your face. You're just like, nope, spiders. I'm not looking. (Renee laughs) But in either case, having this little glow of highlight here from the glowing sword is important. I screwed up a little bit on the hand, but that's okay. But, having the shadows here makes sense, right? If you have really great shadows, then your composite is a way to make sense. So, people who know nothing about Photoshop whatsoever, they think Photoshop is just like a button that you push that makes everything awesome, right, if the shadows are bad, people who know nothing about Photoshop can be like, oh, that's a composite, because that shadow's pretty awful, and you're like, oh, yeah, that's pretty bad, you're right. So, it's hard to draw shadows accurately. The only people I've seen who can paint shadows really well are photographers who became photorealistic painters. So, Adrian Sommeling is a great example of that. There's another guy named Draco Rubio. Both of them are incredible with their shadows. For some reason, they're both Dutch. I don't know what's in the water over there. But in either case, though, they have these incredible shadows in their images because they're extremely aware of how light behaves. So if you wanna get better at your shadows, take a painting class. Take like a six-week, one night a week, oil painting class or whatever class or something, and you're gonna learn so much more about shadows than you never knew existed. So those are another thing that are gonna totally jack with your composite if you don't have it set up right. Color balance. Another thing that makes sense is color balance. So, if we have a background image, say we have four or five background pieces stitched together and then our subject, we wanna make sure that they're in color harmony. So if we have daylight, tungsten, daylight, tungsten, daylight, tungsten, for our background pieces, it looks weird. It looks super weird. Or if we have, say we want to do environmental lighting, so the woman standing in the church, right? So, with the white hair? So let's say that we want to do that. So, we wanna make sure that the color harmony is very, very, very similar there, because the background light is not gonna be more, more daylight, really. It's all gonna be one temperature, 'cause it's supposedly natural light, right? So, if I shoot her in the studio, she's generally gonna be more blue, even if I adjust my white balance. And then my backgrounds, I photograph them generally warm, because I like the color. So that means I'm gonna have to match the color of her to the background, so once again, we're gonna use clipping mask using curves. I'll explain some of that when we go forward, 'cause we have to. (Renee laughs) But, to touch on it, we're gonna use clipping masks using curves to get a little bit more of those yellow tones into her so that the color harmony makes sense.

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. :)

Student Work