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Creative Composites Using Your Own Photo Stock

Lesson 2 of 12

Creative Ways To Photograph Elements

Karen Alsop

Creative Composites Using Your Own Photo Stock

Karen Alsop

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Lesson Info

2. Creative Ways To Photograph Elements
Karen shares creative examples with out-of-the-box approaches to photographing any element you need, within the confines of your home studio. Learn how to position, light and photograph elements for your composite.

Lesson Info

Creative Ways To Photograph Elements

let's start by taking a look at some of the elements that I used in my composite of homeless penguin. Now you can see there's a lot of elements in here and some of these are used and then took away. I wasn't happy with them, some of them I used and kept. So as we go through this class, there are a few aspects that I'm going to take you through physically, like how to photograph costumes. Um So you can see that I've got a mannequin in the studio that I dress quite often and you want to make sure that when you're photographing your costumes and things that you're putting onto your subjects, that you take a few different angles and you make sure that it's sort of going to fit as best as possible onto your subject. Now there are quite a few lanterns and various elements that I also photographed and these were on location at a what you would call a thrift store, an op shop, second hand shop. I highly recommend you connecting with people that run these shops because I've got some great relat...

ionships with local shop owners and I can go in and photograph at my leisure all the different things. And they've even got a room that I can take elements into. If I'd like to. Now I just photographed these elements in one shot, I could have focused at. Now I'm going to take you through focus stacking because if you look really closely at this lamp, for example, you'll find that the focus area is sort of in the middle and that anything a little bit closer and a little bit further back is slightly blurry. Now, when you're compositing you have the freedom to make a decision if that's going to make a difference. I knew these lanterns were going to be very, very small in the final piece and that you wouldn't be able to tell that these aspects will be able to focus because of how small they are. Now, if they were filling the frame that I would definitely focused at them because you would see that difference in depth of field. Now there are elements that I photographed in the studio that I did use, but then I took them away again. So um I thought that I wanted them in there and you can see I use a green screen and behind me, I've got a green screen. I love using green screen because it just makes things so much easier to cut out later. Now, let's take a look at the penguins that I used in this view here. You can see, I've got the original one, it's a DMG, it's a raw file, it's a cropped in fail. So this shot was a larger shot. So the file size Is not really very large. If we look at the dimensions, it's 203, x 2579. Now I needed to make that bigger to fit into my high resolution composite. So I used a new feature that is found in Photoshop and light room C. C. That's super sized it. Now, this is an iphone photo, I photographed it uh and I did have plans to come back with my real camera and photograph it again. But Melbourne got locked down And I was not able to return to this location, but I really, really wanted to use this boat in the peace and it wasn't very high resolution, it was only about megapixels. So I used the supersized function to enhance that, which I will be taking you through in more detail. Now you can see there's some other elements like the rain photo which is photographed in the studio using water spree. And I've used that in the image to create that rain atmosphere. But you will notice if you look really closely at the homeless penguin piece, it looks like the rain is coming down on an angle and that can be achieved with motion blur. So that is something else that I'll share with you when we get up to the bit about creating atmosphere. But for now, let's dig into how to photograph something in the studio, getting the correct lighting and making sure that it's at the right angle for your piece that you're creating. We're in my green screen studio. And one of the things I quite often use in my composite photography is this little mannequin here. Uh this is a child sized mannequin and it works really well for the most part when I'm creating pieces that are in that child like look and also for animals. Now, a human body or american does not replicate how an animal might be, you know, animals as such different shapes and sizes. I need to make sure that I kind of make the shape as close as possible to what the shape of the animal is. Now. In this case we're dressing penguins. They're kind of a little a little round and a little bit chubby around their bellies. So I actually use the life jacket that I photographed for the pink and as something that beefed out all of the other clothes as well. So this life jacket, you can tell it's actually quite fluorescent. It's it's quite a bit brighter than what it is in the scene. It's always very easy to change colors in Photoshop. If you've got something black and you want to change that to white, that's a little bit different. But something that's color definitely be changed to a different colored yellow. So I put the life jacket onto my mannequin. Yeah. And photographed this without the arms on this is a great thing about the mechanics. I can remove the limbs and I was able to then take a number of different photos, different angles. The key for, you know, compositing and being able to use the right images, you want to make sure that the angle and the height is correct. So at the moment where I'm looking at you where this camera is, it's a bit high. So I would need to adjust the camera to fit more with where that penguin is in the frame. So I'll show you that now and I'll take a photo. But this this is the way that I did it. So I just angled it until I had it the way that I wanted it. I'm going to bring this down so more level with the subject. Now in the photograph, in the penguin is just a little bit down below the horizon because it's the penguin that is right at the front. We have the american facing this way and it's done up and I photographed the mannequin at the angle that I knew would work for the penguin. It's leaning over a little bit in the boat. That's okay. Now I'm going to adjust my settings so you can see the settings that I'm going to use. I'm going to turn my eyes are on to manual so that I can lock it down exactly as I would need. I can make my shutter speed slower. I'm hand holding it. Nothing's moving so 100th of a second does work. I'll make my aperture Narrower at F nine. Now, the reason I want my aperture narrower is because I want to make sure that this is in focus from front to back. So if my aperture was on F 2.8, it might be in focus at one part of the life Jacket, but not the rest of it. All right now I've got this all set, I would then take a number of different photos and as I said, I'd probably take it off. Yeah, the tripod so that I can get that flexibility now that I've got my mannequin in place. I photograph it at the angle that I want. So I take a number of different photos with the camera that are on different angles slightly. So taking it off the tripod. So I've got that flexibility going down on my knees, photograph down low, a little bit higher and a little bit higher and coming around the side and around To the front. So taking about 10 different photos so that I've got that flexibility. Now, one of the things I realized after I photographed my penguin that I wanted to have more water droplets on the jacket, I am going to take you through away on capturing those water droplets and adding them on as a Photoshop pattern later on. So later in the class you learn how to do that. But as I've said before, it's always good to get as much as possible in camera. And I wanted the water to really kind of come out spraying the jacket just with water didn't really do that. So blistering is a really good little trick to spray or even add to water to create thicker water droplets that stay for a bit longer and create that water look now when you're looking at something on screen, you may not see it, but if you look at the print you look really close, you'll see all the fine detail of the water droplets on all the jackets and all the elements. Okay now this is just a spray bottle. This is glycerol, um glycerin, found it at the pharmacy or chemist or whatever it is that call it where you are Now, you could use a droplet applicator. I'm just going to pour a little bit into the water. It's quite thick And then I'm going to use this to spray onto the jacket to create those droplets. So now all you need to do is use the spray bottle and you can see as you spray, those droplets tend to bubble and they create that really look without needing too much water. But I also created a Photoshop pattern to create that same water droplets. So I could add that to any of my elements in Photoshop and do that later on. Now let's talk about adding clothing too animals. One of the things you want to remember, as I said before is that animals are different shape to humans. So one of the things I found with the penguins was that this life jacket helped pad at the shape. So I was then able to add the other pieces of clothing to fit. So I'm gonna address this mannequin now, I wanted to have it open so I could see a little bit of the penguin through it. And I tried a few different looks and with the hats and some without, so again, it's important to get a really good variety of shots. Um now penguins don't really have arms, so having this kind of hanging down like that doesn't really work. So what I did do for a lot of pieces of clothing was pull the slaves back in inside out. Yeah. Mhm. So I could later either add the penguins wings out the side or sort of have it looked like the penguin was underneath the costume. Again, did the same thing as with the other shot. Getting a whole lot of different angles so that I had a lot to play with the hat in different positions, uh and spraying it with the glittering to create that wet look. Now you're never gonna get it perfect. And putting costumes onto animals requires a little bit more work in Photoshop, which will take you through later on how to liquefy and use puppet walk, which is one of my favorite tools to make it fit around the penguin. Looking forward to showing you that

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers. 


  • Photograph textures, atmosphere and elements that you can use in composites.
  • Easily manage your own photo stock library.
  • Shoot miniatures and focus stack.
  • Supersize phone photos and use them in your composites.
  • Create photoshop patterns and brushes.
  • Photograph costumes and dress your subjects in Photoshop.
  • Find creative ways to make anything possible.


There is nothing like the feeling of creating art from your own images. Purchased stock can be a valuable resource, but it shouldn’t be the first solution when you are working on a creative composite.

Learn how to creatively photograph elements that become other elements in a composite. Turn miniatures into life sized elements. Photograph incredible costumes and dress your subjects in Photoshop. Create brushes, textures and patterns from photos that you can use over and over again. Be resourceful and creative in your hunt for elements, and take your compositing to the next level.

These techniques will open up a world of possibilities for your image creation, where anything is possible.


  • Composite Photographers who would like to expand their creativity
  • Photographers that would like to take a leap into the compositing world
  • Anyone that is looking for fresh and unique ways to bring their imaginations to life


Adobe Photoshop 2021 (22.5.0)
Lightroom CC (4.4)
Adobe Bridge 2021


Karen Alsop is an internationally acclaimed Melbourne, Australia-based photographic digital artist. Expanding on two decades of photographic and graphic design experience, Karen brings photography and art together to create stunning artworks that tell a story and take the viewer into another world.

Specializing in Portrait Art, her digital portraiture captures the personality and character of her subjects by placing them within a visual story highlighting their interests. Karen uses the power of Photoshop to composite multiple captures together, making the impossible possible within her art.

Karen's latest project sees her using her compositing skills to give children with severe disabilities the wings to fly. The Heart Project, a joint partnership between Story Art and The Sebastian Foundation is bringing hope worldwide to children and families through the power of photography.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Story Art Education Offer

Actions and Brushes

Camera Files


Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Charlene Mitchell

WOW! I'm not familiar with Karen's work so this was a wonderful surprise! Loved the detail she included in her instruction and her passion shows through in every topic! So many tips and tricks to help 'sell' the finished piece as believable - details I wouldn't have thought of. Going to check out her other class on CL and also her website!

Melissa Helland

Can’t tell you how much I appreciate all I’ve learned from this teacher. Wonderful classes here on Creative Live and her site has even more learning opportunities. Worth every penny of my Creative Live membership just for this class alone!

Cristina Menor

Karen is an excellent teacher. Her lessons are always very well explained and very easy to understand and to follow. You will learn lots of valuable tips. I absolutely recommend this class if you want to learn how to create incredible compositions very near to reality.