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The Difference Between Flow & Opacity


Creating Your Reality with Composite Photography


Lesson Info

The Difference Between Flow & Opacity

So who can tell me the difference between flow and opacity? Cool. So, flow and opacity work like this. 100% flow, 100% opacity. Let's deselect it Nothing's on crazy blending modes. There you go, all right. 100% flow, 100% opacity. We're getting a 100% of everything. If I go, and instead of 1% opacity, I will go 4%, so nice and low. This I draw once, we don't really see much of a difference. I draw again, I draw again, I draw again, I draw again. So now we're starting to see, see all this unevenness going on here, right? But the only way that we get more color, is if we click and drag again. So, for anybody who has any painting experience, this is kind of like painting with acrylic paint. You paint a layer of color you let it dry, you paint another layer of color, you let it dry. There's no blending, all right even if you're using a very low opacity. In this case here, we can see all the unevenness that's coming from using a low opacity. All right, so if we zoom this out. Let's say we g...

o 100% opacity and even just 4% flow. I am gonna paint, and this is gonna act like an airbrush. And our blending is very smooth and very soft. And our history is showing a lot less strokes. So that means that if you wanna go back, your computer isn't filling up your scratch disk as quickly because you're using less strokes over and over again. So, flow and opacity, I tend to leave my opacity at 100%. I don't really ever touch it. And then I just, I only adjust my flow. So, when I am working, in this case here, with this image. Open. So we're zoomed in nice and close. Brush. I am gonna make this nice and small. Depending on the type of surface I am working on, we'll just slowly... X to make that a little bit higher, so we can see what's up. Do you ever mix up right and left a lot? I am one of those people so there's a 50% chance of getting it right I will probably get the other one. (laughing) So now the case, I am just lightly bringing this along and I am using the smaller brush, and because I am using a lower flow if I happen to go over the edge a tiny little bit, it's not gonna be the end of the world. I can always just go Control + Z, Control + Z, whichever. (laughing) I get teased a lot for the Z and Z thing. We can just slide this in here a little bit. I would just go around the entire dress getting rid of that little tiny halo there. And I would go around her face and her hair and all that because when you do a quick selection, even when you're using channels, you're probably gonna have a little bit of this. So it's just spending the time, and whenever I feel like, oh, my God, I spent to much time on an image, I hang out with some of my painter friends, (chuckles) and I'm like never mind. (laughing) In the time that they do one painting, I have done six composites so I'm like eh. It's not so bad. So if you're ever feeling sorry for yourself because you spend too much time compositing, hang with a photorealistic painter or a sculptor. Or a musician, God, musicians they spend a month on a song only to have somebody tell them it sucks. So, really in the world of art, composite artists, we got it kind of good. So, yeah, that's generally the gist of this crap. Over, and over, and over. So you know we zoom out and we're like, yeah, we're at her waist. We're a quarter of the way there. (laughing) 1/4 of the way finished. All right, so we zoom in, and, you know, I might like draw in and fill in some of the hair. Or I might not, whatever. It doesn't really matter to me. So, that's kinda where I'm looking at this, and like: Okay, this is looking not too bad. Right? Like I said once again, I would probably go in and clean this up. If you're familiar with frequency separation, I'll probably cover this a little bit more in detail, but sometimes if I find that I have a haloing that I didn't notice earlier and I'm towards the end of my composite, I will do a technique that is very common in beauty retouching. Pardon me. The technique is very common in beauty retouching, which is frequency separation, where I separate the color from the texture of the image. So I can manipulate them separately. And so, if I find I have a little bit of halo going on, I will do frequency separation. I'll leave the texture alone, and I will pull the color in on that halo, and then if I have to manipulate the texture a little bit to blend it a little bit, I will. So, if you're not sure what frequency separation is, watch PROtique's video, (laughing) which has been really great for live course or you can go onto and they have an article called, The Ultimate Guide to Frequency Separation. And they're both really awesome. They're both great ways to learn. PROtique, of course, is an incredible instructor. You can apply that to composite images if you're trying to make mistakes that you didn't notice before and you want to be able to correct it without having to delete a bunch of layers and go back. So, that's another way that I'll, sometimes, get rid of those halos, if I'm not noticed. Especially if I am doing late night retouching. Sometimes I miss things. (laughing)

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