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Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography

Lesson 35 of 60

Student Positioning Demo


Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography

Lesson 35 of 60

Student Positioning Demo


Lesson Info

Student Positioning Demo

Do you ever use multiple subjects, and how do you... what's your best practices for using multiple subjects? Multiple subjects can be a total pain. (laughter) Especially if you're stitching them together. So what I like to do in that case, and this is gonna get so overcomplicated. In fact, I might open up Photoshop for this. Slide this up here. So if I'm shooting multiple subjects, I will often, in that case, that requires some pre-visualization drawing, 'cause you have to measure where everyone's at. You have to know the distance, you have to know how far away they are. So remember yesterday, we did, c'mon, load, good morning! Yesterday we did, we showed that image, where there was the black dress and the dude being floated away by magic, right? So in that case there, we kept the distance between the two people accurate to what would happen in real life if we were to shoot them on location. So if you're photographing multiple subjects, I don't photograph them so that they have all t...

he detail in the world, so that I can make them smaller, because that doesn't make any sense. Things that are further away have less detail, less saturation, less contrast, even when you're shooting in the studio. And if you don't believe me, photograph a bunch of people in a studio, and you'll notice that the people who are closer have more detail than the ones that are further away. So I don't like photographing my subjects really big, with as much information as possible to make them smaller, because it's gonna be completely inconsistent with what's going on in the scene. So then what I'm gonna do, actually, I've got like, let's get one, two, three. I'll get you guys to stand up, sorry, moving. So we'll get you here, we'll put you in the back. Just keep going, keep going, keep going. And we'll get you to come here. So if we were to photograph this scene, right here, like this, right? We are gonna see that she's bigger, she's the tallest one, she has the most contrast. I can see the most detail on her face. Our cameras are going to replicate this. It's gonna be the exact same thing. He's gonna be furthest away. I can see the least amount of details on his face. So in his case, I can't see all the details on his skin, whereas with her, I can see far more detail in her skin. In this case here, we have a slightly different perspective. So I can see a little bit more of this side of her body than I can see the far side of her body. So remember, when you're stitching together a bunch of people, it's not shooting them all as close, like straight, front-on with like this, and then, you know, just moving them around, because it's not gonna make any sense. It doesn't work that way. This works with matching perspective and everything like that. So if you're going to make a composite, and you have to photograph everybody separately, it's a lot of work. (laughter) If you can do it in the same studio, that's best. That's by far best, because then what you can do is you can go, okay, camera on tripod is here. This is an example of where I would prefer to shoot this on a tripod. I have shot it freehand; it's a lot more work. But if you're photographing everybody separate, throw the camera on a tripod and then measure how far you want every single person to be. Don't just guesstimate. Pre-draw it out and say, okay, we're gonna have this many people, and we're gonna put little tape X's on the floor. We're gonna measure how far each person is gonna be. So you can have it as accurate as possible once you go into post-production. Then, when you're shooting your background, whether you do it before or after, figure out which person you wanna focus on, 'cause not every single person is gonna be in focus. That's gonna look weird. You're gonna have to lock your focus on whichever subject you want to focus on, right? 'Cause we are all gonna do that. You take a photo of a wedding group, right? You're gonna focus on one person in that crowd. You're not gonna focus on everybody. At least, my technology, my camera's not that good yet. So you're gonna take that focus, that one person, and then if you're gonna photograph everybody else, you're gonna make sure that when you're photographing everyone else, that focus stays in the same spot. So even if you have to, you gotta throw your camera on a tripod, have a remote, run over; I'm gonna get in your space, is that cool? Cool. You're gonna run over here and be like, okay, we're gonna take a picture from here, right? And so you're gonna focus the camera on this area. You're gonna stick up a light stand or whatever so that your focus is exactly the same so that you can go forward. Assuming now the other option is that you have everybody. So everybody is all available. You have one crowd, and then you have to fit the background in. So when you're out shooting that background, you go, okay, dear brain, I have this crowd of people to photograph, where is my focus point gonna be? And so if you've already shot your subjects, you're gonna have to photograph that background so that that focus point stays the same, right? And you're gonna have to match that height from the ground to the height of the camera and the tip of your lens is the other side of it. So you have to make sure this stuff is measured if you're gonna make it as accurate as possible. I did a job for Intel, where we had a model, we had one model, and we needed two models, but we had one. So you had one model, went out on location. We didn't shoot her on location; we shot her in the studio later. So I had one girl, okay? You can sit down; I'm gonna use you two. You two are good. (laughter) So, Jess, I'm gonna put you here, and I'm gonna put you here. So I had to shoot one model, but I needed two girls, and it was like, okay, this is a composite, so we went out, and we photographed this incredible forest scene, and at this point, I knew I needed two people, so going forward, I was like, okay, my focus point is gonna be on the subject, the closest one to me, and the second subject is gonna be the one that's out of focus. So I just, like, I didn't have tons of gear with me; like I said, I'm kinda gibbled. So I sat down on the ground, and I propped my elbows up, and I was like, okay, and I had an assistant, and she stood here. We photographed her, and then I photographed her again, where I thought the other subject would go in the frame. I didn't move, and then we measured the distance from the camera to the ground, right? And I just propped it with my elbows. It was like, you know, it's within an inch tolerance, right, of how much it's gonna move, and that tolerance is allowable. Then I went into the studio, and then I lit it for the environment with a little bit of kick on the strobe, because I like the look of strobe lighting, so it looked like it was nice and side-lit. And then we had the one model here; I photographed her, we changed her hair and makeup, we left the camera on the tripod. We actually measured the distance from here to where the subject was. And then as I was photographing, every single frame, I brought it in to Photoshop, and I checked the size of the model compared to my assistant in the frame, and made sure that it was totally perfect. And we actually micro-moved her, like an inch around until we had it exactly lined up. So if you're going to be doing that kind of stuff, then it just becomes more mathematical. But I haven't had anybody yet be able to tell me that it was a composite, and Intel was thrilled. So that's how, you know, taking that, like, one step further. So if you wanna make this super complicated for yourself, you can. You totally can; it can be done. But groups make it hard. (laughter) You guys can sit down. Thank you so much. Awesome. Good morning. Does that answer that? That was a very long and involved answer. That was good. I love the long and involved answer. And we had our cam-op right behind you, so we were able to see that. So those perspectives were really great. So I'm gonna ask another question about what you're doing here. Do you ever, you know, we talked a little bit about, you know, how you move your camera around for bracketing, for being able to create, a bigger image. How about with exposure bracketing? How often do you do that? I almost never do exposure bracketing, because I'm never trying to get my sky the same exposure as anything else. I'm always replacing the sky. Even if there's an awesome sky, like there was when we were photographing these background pieces, I'm just like, nah, I might wanna change it later, so I usually photograph it so that my texture, which is like the foliage or the building or whatever, is gonna be exposed as close as possible. The other nice side, though, is that I started using Capture One, and that program brings out a lot of detail in the shadows that I couldn't get before. And in the highlights, so, I mean, the need to take a whole bunch of multiple exposures is really getting less and less and less, and I just don't want to take that many exposures of the same thing if I don't need to, 'cause I'm already taking so many photos that if I don't have to store all that extra space, I'm not going to. And how often are you reviewing your histogram when you're out on the field? The only time I'm reviewing it is if I'm really in question of what I'm shooting. So if it's like a really, really bright, sunny day, I have my camera set up on the back so that it tells me when it's blown out, so it blinks black and white. That, I find, is the most useful thing, because the rest of it, if I can see that it's not pure dark, you know, I know I have enough information to work with. So I just basically have my overexposure setting turned on; I forget the actual name of it. I said it once and I forgot about it. (laughter) In any case, your camera probably has a setting on it somewhere that will tell you when something's extremely overexposed, or you can check your histogram.

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. :)