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Compositing Hair

Lesson 30 from: Fine Art Conceptual Photography from Shoot through Post-Processing

Bella Kotak, Pratik Naik

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Lesson Info

30. Compositing Hair

Next Lesson: Healing Brush Tool


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Artistic Vision and Inspiration


Personal Projects


Creative Motivation and Defining Your Story


Organizing Your Inspiration


Building A Character


Creating Wardrobe and Props


Location Scouting


Lesson Info

Compositing Hair

Okay, so which hair do you like? There's that one, that one, and that one. Let's have a look at the photo, again. Alright, I'm probably going to put it over here. We're going to see, yeah. We're going to see. That might work, that might work, or that might work. I think that's quite nice, because it's not like in your face. Uh-huh. I quite like that, it's subtle. Yeah. Okay, so let's export that and open that in Photoshop. Brilliant. Brilliant. Oops, wrong one. Yeah. So, if you export the original, what you're doing it just exporting the image before you've made all the changes. No, you're just shifting the RAW file. Oh, you're shifting the raw file, okay. Yeah, the original is not actually a PSD or TIF. You're just moving the RAW file from one location to another. Oh, great. We'll I learned something new. Exactly. Yeah, I'm always exporting variance. So, yeah the adjustments. Right, okay. So, here we're going to do it a different way. In the last image I se...

lected the whole image, and I just copied and pasted the whole image in. Here, we're just going to select the hair. And, to do that I'm going to use the Marquee Tool over here. Yep. And, just select the part of the image that I want. I'll be a bit friendly with how much I give myself. Uh-huh. Because you never know. And, then while it's selected, I'll just press "Command" and "C" to copy whatever is in that Marquee Tool. And, I'll go back to the image that I'm working on, and press "Command" "V" to paste it in. It pastes it into new layer. And, this is a great way to also keep your file a bit small. Because, if you keep adding the whole picture from different photographs, your file size is going to grow quite quickly. So, I just bring in the pieces that I want. Uh-huh. Yeah, okay. I'm going to move that into approximately where I think it would be, and I'm going to open up a Layer Mask. And, here, I'm going to zoom in. Alright. I'm going to use a Brush Tool and I'm going to make sure it's on black. And, I'm going to hide what I want. So, I'm going to, brush over, what I want to keep. There we go. Now, you might get a bit confused, but it's not... Wait, so, you started with the piece, and why are you masking it away? Well, that's because, I'm going to inverse the mask. And, the mask is selected, I'm going to press "Command" "I", and I invert that mask. Oh! So, now everything that I hid is shown, and everything that was shown I hid. And, it's just a really quick way to mask the area, to show the area that you want. So, basically instead of trying to mask out everything else first. I mask out what I want. I see. And, then I bring it back, flip it. Gotcha. Yeah, it's very time-saving. We're just going to say "OK" here. No, capture one. Okay. There we go. Right. Okay, so I'm just going to place it roughly where I think it would go, and it doesn't matter because I can always move it as I go, as well. So, Brush Tool, making sure that I am brushing things back in. I'm going to drop the flow to "9" so that it is a very gradual. There we go, great! Okay, we can see a bit of the dress peeking through here, so I'm going to move that down. And, let's carry on brushing. See what happens. Okay, so, here face is coming in here. And this is fine, this is okay. (both chuckle) So, we would take that away. You just want to go back and forth, and that's why using a layer mask is super helpful. Because, again, you can't really go wrong with it, you just adjust it as you go. So, I think what I need to do over here, I can put this here, and brush around it; but, I think I quite like the idea of making it a little bit bigger. So, I'm going to press "Command" and "T". So, that's "Command" and "T". I'm going to zoom out, and I'm going to take this edge, hold down "Shift" and just drag it so it's just a little bit bigger. There we go. And, I'm controlling the size of that hair flip, and where I want it to be. I quite like it there. I think it works really beautifully there. So, we are going to continue and just tidy it up now. Okay. So, brushing lightly, and I'm changing, if you notice, the black and white colors in the bottom over there, on the bottom left. That's me using the "X" key in Photoshop. That's my short cut, "X". So, that flips between black and white colors. So, black, takes away; white brings it back. And, having my flow low, means that I'm really creating a soft, gradual transition, between the hair. Yeah, between the hair. Uh- huh. The two hairs, the new hair and the old hair. (man chuckles) There we go, I quite like that coming over her shoulder, as well. I think that's quite a nice, like it feels natural to me. And, just going by how I feel. (man chuckles) More feeling based. I think that's okay. It is, yeah. And, you know we always, have differences in how people do things, but effectively you have to like what you end up creating. Yeah, and just remind yourself everyday you're an artist, and if you like it, then it's okay. At the end of the day, there's no right or wrong way in art. Okay. Right, and again, I keep turning this layer mask on and off, because, as we can see over here, things are a little bit messy. So, just gonna, bring some of that back. I can bring it back, I can take it away, whatever I feel works best. And, you just have to play. There's no other way of knowing. No. Yeah, and because I'm quite happy with how her hair looks, I'm just going to tidy up a little bit. See, this flower is getting a little bit hidden, so I'm going to bring it back just a tad. Alright. I like how everything you do goes back to being very painter, like you can really see artistic influence. Yeah, because see the bit of hair peeking through over here, a bit of dress peeking through here? I can easily have gotten rid of it, but I quite like it. It looks nice. Uh-huh. Yeah. And, as always very conscious of the focus, as well. And, the color shifts. Because there's some lightness slipping into the darkness, here. And, that's also a great thing for a Dodge and Burn, is that, we can easily then fix any light shifts that happen, without being overly concerned about the minute details right now. No. You separate the process. So, it's not necessary to be 100 percent perfect, at this moment. Yeah. Yeah, this is a very forgiving background actually. But, even if it wasn't, the process is exactly the same. Uh-huh. So, even if it wasn't, I would change my brush and get right in there. Yeah. I have a quick question, from Seb online, who said, "How much could you enlarge a composited part, like the hair, for example. Can you go 120, 150 percent to where it's not really going to look similar, or it destroys the pixels? Do you have, in your experience, a general sense of that? Well, I guess it really depends. So, I wouldn't go crazy with it. Because, of course it would destroy the pixels and also the quality of that file wouldn't be the same as the quality of the file you're working on. So, I would just extend to a little bit, to where I thought was appropriate. And that looked very naturalistic. Yeah. Yeah. You can visually tell. You can. When you do enlarge these pieces, if you see things falling apart, that's when you know you've gone too far. I find that usually it's 150 percent of the original image you can go up to, and be fine. Sometimes 200. Also, sharpening helps, noise-reduction helps, and depends on the element. We are using hair flicks. So, what happens is that the hair flick is already blurry anyway. Yeah. And, so it actually get away with it! It does, yeah. Also, if you wanted to add more, then you could always just shoot that piece of hair closer. So, then you can make it even bigger in post-production. So, thinking about, "Oh, I've only got this bit of hair, but I want to make it look really long in Photoshop." Then, you're thinking ahead, aren't you? So, you'd probably get a closer-up shot of it. Then you've got more to play with in Photoshop in terms of having that image quality. Thank you. So, what I'm already looking at as a Retoucher, is noticing that the background flowers were also a little bit brighter. Yeah. And, that's not a problem for me, because I'm going to lessen that to match the surrounding elements when we do our next process. Should we do a before and after? Sure. What do you think? Okay, let's zoom out here. Yep, zoom out. So, I'm going to hit "Option" and click on the background layer, to show you kind of what we're going for. What we've done so far. And, this is just the base, because now when you combine this with all your color-toning work and the fine-detailing it really starts coming together. So, you know basically when you think about it technically, you're shooting through a lens and there's something obstructing it. It's causing this glare. It's so much easier to just simply select that color and paint with a low flow again. That's right. And, I'm going to change that to Current and Below. Okay. Five by five average and select the color. Okay. Yep. [Woman in Audience] When you're extending the canvas, are you thinking about the size of the image? Do I want it to be, like a print size? Or, do I want it to be, you know, like what are the dimensions of it? Is that important? Or, are you just thinking, whatever looks the best for this picture? That's right, yeah. I'm thinking whatever looks best for this picture, because at the end of the day, it's all about the composition of it. So, yeah I am not really thinking, forward, ahead to whatever would work best in the gallery. Because that would be meeting their expectations, rather than my own. And, when it comes to better work, I'm very like, nope, I have to like how it looks. So, I send it however I want. So, that's the thinking I have, yeah. We've left that there, we're just going to crop this a little bit more, as well. To get it a nice finished crop. Okay, so select the color. Right. Right? Okay. Let's do it. Now, select your Brush Tool. Yeah, it's selected. Making my flow low, a little bit. Just going to build that up so that it looks a little bit more natural. So, now this is where your artistic side comes through. Yeah. Just to - well there was a bit of a... Transition? Transition - you know, it felt a bit harsh, didn't it? Like, bright here and not so bright down there, which is where to composite that in. So, on a layer above all of the ones that we worked on, just using the brush tool. Just brushing the color that I selected in, lightly. And, I'll just select another color, and just color that in, as well. There we go. Since you're just painting, aren't you? Yeah. Use that exact same color, and just lightly, lightly painting whatever you feel looks right. And, if you've gone too much, you can always change that opacity, as well. And, how are you using the color picker while your using your brush? The color picker is over here. But, while you're brushing? Oh, while I'm brushing I use the shortcut "I". Option? Yeah, oh yeah, in option. You can use the shortcut "I" and that can be your color picker. Or you can use option and select the color while you brush, as well. Can you demonstrate? Yeah, it's so natural to me I don't even think about it! Yeah. Yeah, duh. I'm holding down "Option" and then selecting, and then soon the Brush Tool, and I just brush. Uh-huh. I hold in options, so like from another place, and I brush. There you go. Yeah, great. How do you think that looks now? I love it. Great, woo hoo! Alright. (Pratik laughs) And you could effectively do the same thing at any part of the image, too. So, that's basically, pretty much how I composite. We saw how I composited using a whole photo, bringing that in using a layer mask. And, we saw how to use part of a photo, bringing that in, and using a layer mask. And then also, inverting that layer mask, as well. So, I'm going to crop this image now. Whenever I'm happy with how it's looking, that's when I will crop. Once, I finish extending, that's when I would crop. So, I'm going to just go from the top over here. And, I want this to be a square crop. So, I'm going to hold down "Shift" and just drag that to where I'm happy, which is like over here. I'm going to see how I feel about her in the scene. Before you hit "Enter", Yes. Always make sure that Delete Cropped Pixels is unchecked. This one here. Okay, it'll make the file size a little bit larger, but it saves you from losing that information when you save. That way, if you so chose to expand again, you'll have that data available in the future for other crops. Yeah. I'll be honest, cropping does take a little bit of time sometimes, because you want to find the balance in the photo. So, actually I prefer not to delete my cropped pixels, in case I decide to change the crop later. Exactly. I still have that information. Okay, great. So, I'm going to move that a little bit, like, here. I think I'm quite happy with that. Because that means her body is more or less centered; and there we go, Enter. Okay, but I know if I don't like how that looks later I can come back. Alright, pretty much done with that. Alright, what's the next step? That's beautiful. So, usually when you're doing composites, are there any other things you normally composite? Or, usually is this what the direction you go for like, hair flicks and extend frame? No, no, no, no it really depends. It's all up to your imagination. It really is, of composite in skies, clouds, if I have loads of extra flowers, if I needed to. So, for example, here. The flowers on her hands. If I wanted to add more, I would just grab some from different places and bring them in. Exactly the same thing, where I would just use the Marquee Tool and make that a new layer. Oops, wrong layer. (man laughs) Let's have a look, to the one, there's the one. (man laughs) "Command" "J" that, to make that a new layer. Just move it. Like I did with the hair flick, I would use the Transform Tool, "Command" "T", and manipulate that to how I want. Whatever works for the lighting condition, as well. Because that might give it away, as well. But, a little shift here and there, I think it's quite forgiving. Again, use a layer mask, and layer mask. In this case, because it's quite small, I would just layer mask around it. There you go. And it's done. So, pretty much anything, but the method and the methodology is the same. That's amazing. And, I would leave some of this shadow in as well. For example, because that makes it look natural and real. Where as if I go a bit too tidy with it, it won't feel real. Exactly. And having this soft brush, as well, gives it a bit of a forgiving, I don't know, it just makes the transition a little bit forgiving. Perfect. Yeah.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Practice PSD File - Sleeping Beauty
Pratik Naik Retouching Actions
The Royal Collection - Fine Art Actions
Practice PSD File - Location Shoot (~700mb)
Practice PSD File - In Studio Shoot (~1.3gb)

Ratings and Reviews


Great class and great instructors. Genuine and informative. Practical tips to create stunning images. Seeing them work through the process from shoot to finished image was great and I loved that they shared the thought processes behind the creative decisions. Definitely recommended!


Truly a remarkable duo. Bella is so down-to-earth and humble for a photographer with such a strong beautiful and ethereal voice. Her explanations of her process really inspired me--I was sketching concepts throughout the class. Pratik's process really opened my eyes to "smart" retouching--understanding what can be done in fewer brush strokes and slimmer PS files. All in all a really unique and inspiring class that makes me excited to realize my next conceptual shoot. They're also adorable together!

Mai Her

I've gained sooooo much from this I can't even contain my appreciation and excitement! So much inspiration and so much generous advice and tips to help me! Thank you so much Bella and Pratik and Creative Live!

Student Work