Checklist for Composite Shooting
What I wanna talk about is exactly how we're going to know, think about how we're going to shoot our composite. Thank you. Okay, so what I'm thinking about here is first and foremost, what is going to allow me the easiest time in Photoshop? Do you guys love spending 10 hours in Photoshop? I certainly don't. I mean I can get into it and it's great but you know. There are times when it's just not fun and I believe that for me, compositing is one of those times where it's not that much fun because compositing is the thing that everyone can learn to do exactly the same and it doesn't matter. It's not like your style exactly because it's a technique that gets you to a different place. So you can use any method you want, but it's not so much the creative side of editing. So I try to get through it in the simplest way I can. And there are a few different things that I wanna think about that will allow me to composite better. So the first thing is perspective. For me, perspective is (sighs) th...
e thing that maybe ruins my composites more than anything else and what I mean by perspective, is this; so I've got my camera and let's say I'm gonna photograph this box and that's gonna be my first shot. Okay, the box is on the floor, I'm gonna go ahead and I'm gonna get down really low and I'm gonna shoot this box and okay. How are we gonna do it? Okay it's in focus. Okay, I've got a picture of the box. So what if then my subject comes up and I'm like, "Oh, you look so great. "Oh, you have such a long neck. "Okay I'm gonna get down like this and photograph you," and I'm down really low to photograph my subject. What you'll notice is that the picture of the box, I came down really low and I shot straight into that box so I can't then get down really low to photograph my subject who's standing up way taller than my box. It has to be shot from the same angle or the same perspective and I'm constantly thinking about that. How can I maintain perspective? So one thing that you might say is, "Whoa, what if you just are randomly inspired "and you wanna take a picture of a field "and then you wanna take a picture of a person?" There are two ways that you can approach this. One, is to have a general standard angle that you personally like to get for your images. So for example, I tend to shoot about waist height for most of my pictures, mostly because that's just how I like it better. I love images from this perspective where I'm crouched down a little bit and just looking slightly up at things, but the other reason why I do it is for compositing so that if everything is generally at this height, it's much more likely that everything will fit together, isn't it? If have rooms from that height and people from that height and clouds from that height and so on. Makes a lot more sense, right? The other thing you have to consider is how close the thing is to your camera, not for depth of field, we'll talk about that in a moment, but because angle changes more drastically, the closer something is. So if you can imagine, let's say you're photographing clouds way off in the distance, hundreds and hundreds of feet away from you, there are these beautiful clouds and if you go like this, and you're taking a picture of the clouds in the distance and then you go like this, are you gonna be able to tell the difference between those two pictures? No, you're gonna have to get a forklift to be able to tell the difference between your angle of the clouds that are in the distance, but if I am photographing this pen, right in front of me here and this is going to be my subject, there's gonna be a big difference it if I photograph from here or from right here. If this thing isn't moving and I'm moving, it's gonna be a drastic difference. So you really wanna pay attention to how close is this thing that I'm trying to photograph and how much will that affect my perspective on that object or whatever it is you're shooting. So I'm always thinking about perspective, over and over and over again. The next thing is lighting which is a little bit more obvious, but there are couple of sub genres of lighting that I think it's important to pay attention to. One, is the quality of light, how harsh is the light, how soft as the light, things like that. So if you're on a mountain on a beautiful overcast day, the light is going to be soft in general. Your shadows will look really soft and fuzzy. Everything will have sort of a glow to it. Nothing harsh, but if you're on that same mountaintop and it's noon and the sun is out, you're going to have very harsh light. So isn't something that is advanced for compositing but it is something that can mess people up ever so slightly when you're compositing images together. The softer your light, the softer your image will look and if you decide; you know what? This object, maybe you're photographing a goose because why not? So you're photographing a goose and you have this goose in this harsh mid-day light that you shot at a lake somewhere and you think maybe it'll fit even though it was different lighting. It probably won't unless you're really good at changing how light hits an object in your images, it's probably just not gonna work and it's not worth making work. So another sub genre of light aside from the quality of light would be the direction of light which is another sort of obvious thing but we don't always pay attention to it. I know that as photographers, our first reaction is to walk into a space and look at things and say, "Oh, how is the light hitting everything?" but how often do we do that for every single little aspect of what we're adding in and I totally admit that I fail at this frequently. I'm notorious for not paying enough attention to the direction of light or the quality of light and another sub genre of light would be color temperature of the light which is easy enough to change in Photoshop, but you just have to be aware of it and we're not very aware of it very frequently. So color temperature, direction of light and quality of light, I would say are the three big things that we wanna pay attention to. Perhaps the thing that gets me most often than not, is having a scene or a person that has some back-lighting to it and not that you can't work with that like any other type of lighting, but how many times have you photographed the sky? Maybe this is just me, I'm obsessed with photographing clouds, it's like it's my thing. So I have all these beautiful clouds where there is light bursting from the back and they're all these rays of light spilling everywhere and I'm like, "Oh, I can't wait to use this," and then I get into Photoshop and I'm like, "Oh." I have no pictures of people that are backlit at all, ever because I'm not lighting my subjects. So it's really unusual that I have a backlit subject that would fit in with a sky that has lighting from the back. So this is my personal issue that I just want everyone to be aware of when you're going to composite is, that the lighting truly matches from one scene to the next. I was actually practicing with some compositing yesterday and I almost finished the whole picture and then I realized that there's one thing that I stuck in there with compositing in the very beginning had light coming from this way and everything else had light coming from this way and it's amazing. I have been compositing for almost nine years and I still cannot seem to wrap my head around these little tiny details which might be a personal problem but whatever. So we have perspective in lighting as two of the biggest things that you to consider when you're compositing but there are a number of other smaller things. Can you guys think of anything that you might wanna consider when you're trying to add different images in together, anything that pops into your mind like, "Oh, definitely pay attention to this thing." Because lighting and perspective are definitely the biggest ones in my opinion, but what else?
If something's moving?
If something's moving? Yeah, totally so in terms of motion blur and things like that, absolutely. So we'll add that to the list. Blur. Huge one because so... I say it's a huge one, it's one that maybe you won't run into a lot because a lot of people tend to shoot in the same way so maybe you tend to shoot with a really high shutter speed, for example, I don't though, so if I've got this gorgeous model in this thing and maybe this veil is like moving that direction, it's completely blurred because I'm shooting in a really dark situation. It's probably not gonna look right if there's a bird flying overhead in your stock image and it totally crisp. It just doesn't make sense. So that the really awesome one that often gets overlooked, thank you, yeah.
Focus. Thank you. That is our other huge thing here so I'm gonna write focus or depth of field and focus is the one that... Gosh, I would say that messes me up more than anything else in terms of trying to find images that fit together. Have you guys ever gone on your computer and you're like, "Oh man, I love this model that I photographed "but I'm just gonna try to see what I have "to see what matches this," and so you look through your little library of images or you go on a stock site? This is for me, what stops my edits 50% of the time if I'm trying to to make something work which is already bad if you're like, "I'm just gonna try "to make this work," and you have to use those words then probably something is a little off anyways but when I'm trying to make something work, depth of field always gets me and this is going to be a big problem today and that's why I wanted to work through a miniature scene, here because we've got this box and what's going to happen with this box when I try to photograph it, is that I'm going to be looking into the box and I'm gonna be pretty close to the box because if I'm super far away, the box is gonna be really tiny and it'll look like a box so I've to frame this so that you just see the inside of the box which means I have to be fairly close to the box. How many times can I say, "Box," do you think in a row? Feels like a lot. So when I'm photographing it, I have to be really close and what happens when you get really close to an object, it turns into a macro situation, right? Like lots of greater, shallow depth of field so you might have an insect that you're trying to photograph and then the background is super blurry. Just a normal part of photography, macro photography, which is essentially what we're doing with this scene. So then what happens if I then photograph somebody with this long flowing dress and everything is sharp and then I try to put them in that scene where you maybe only have literally this much of a focal plane inside that box. You're going to have to either manually blur your subject or shoot your subject in such a way where they have a really shallow depth of field. So this brings me to another issue which is not just focus but how you're going to... How I should this in like a really concise, easy to write word? Well, you know what, I'm just gonna make a sub genre and say, background and subject. Yeah. It's easier that way. So background versus subject. So let's say that you have a field, I composite a lot of people into fields so that's what I always think of. So let's say, you have a field and you're just out with your camera, you're having fun one day, your like, "Oh, that's a beautiful field," so you take a quick picture of it and then you put it in your little stock library and then you try to put somebody in that field. Did you really think properly about exactly where your focus was when you shot that field? And this is where I run into issues, is I'll be out and I'm not thinking and I'm with my friends and we're just being silly and so I go like this and I take a quick picture and I don't even think about it, and then where does my focus land? Sometimes in the very very back of that image because you're set to infinity and that's just what happens when you take a quick picture of a landscape. Maybe you're like me and you're always on a manual focus lens so sometimes I don't even remember to focus which is also a bad thing to admit but I'll just sort of click real quick and then maybe my focus is like in some random spot on the field and that's your only choice. You can't change that. You can't unblur an image, right? Or maybe you can. Has Photoshop like discovered this? One day, Photoshop is gonna be like, "You know what? "Don't even worry, I'm just gonna unblur "that picture for you," and then photography will just like totally transform but for now we're stuck with whatever sort of depth of field we have. Can anyone think of anything else that you might wanna think of? We've got focus, blur, lighting, perspective. Focus was the really big one here and, I should say that with perspective and another sub genre which I'll write down here is lens choice which really goes with perspective in a lot of ways, but let me just make a point here. I've got a 50 millimeter lens on my camera right now and this 50 millimeter lens is my standard lens. It's what I almost always shoot everything with from my subjects to my backgrounds, everything. So what happens when I switch to my 25 millimeter lens? Well, the perspective shifts. That's what lenses are for, right? So I've got this really wide lens or for me, a really wide lens. I know some of you guys probably have 10 millimeter lenses and things like that but 25 is my widest lens and as it were, 50 is my tightest lens because I only own two lenses and those are my options. So the difference between 25 and 50 is pretty drastic. You're gonna be able to, for example, easily get a whole room in a shot with a 25, not so much for the 50 and what happens is that a tighter lens like my 50, is going to compress the background more so I'm going to have my subject looking like they're smooshed, that's my new word, smooshed up against the background versus a 25 where everything will stand out from each other and be elongated and there you have distortion on the sides of your images that you shoot, things like that, not so much with the 25 but pretty much anything going under that you might notice some distortion on your angles on the sides. So if I shoot my stock images from all different lenses, then naturally, you're going to have a little bit of variation between how your subject looks compared to their background and how the background looks compared to a subject, you might've shot on a different lens. In my experience, it's not a dealbreaker. It's not so bad between my 50 and my 25 that I absolutely can't use as an image that I shot on my 25, generally speaking, but where I do see that the problem more than anything else is when I shoot a subject on a wide lens and I shoot, let's say, a room on a tight lens because the subject, depending on your angle to them, is going to look slightly distorted whereas the room will look totally normal, and it's probably not the sort of thing where you'll look at it as you know an objective person looking at this composite and say, "Oh yeah. "Like obviously you used different lenses." It's not gonna be a really obvious thing like, oh, obviously lighting is coming from different directions, but something will simply feel off about it and that's just one of those nearly indescribable off feelings that I tend to run into personally when I'm compositing. Okay, so we have lens choice, focus, blur, lighting, perspective. It's a pretty comprehensive list. Anything else to add that you're thinking of right now?
I'm kind of thinking noise.
Noise. That's a really good one. And I've actually not considered that before, much to my downfall, so noise, perfect. Literally anything that could change from one image to the next should be a consideration. So for example, we could add exposure to this list and these are things largely that can be changed; color temperature, exposure, saturation of an image, things like that are all things that you could get into Photoshop and from one image to the next change them so that they match. So I would say, if exposure for example, is something that you notice is totally off between two images, that's fixable. Noise however, is not so fixable so I'm glad that you said that because I've never personally considered it and I wish that I had so let's consider it now. So if you have one image that's super noisy, how do you fix that? If all the rest of the images that you're adding into the space are super clean, really well lit, everything was good about it and then you've got this really noisy background, you have two choices. One, you can add noise to everything else and make it fit which Photoshop will let you do but how do you de-noise an image? Have you guys ever de-noised something? And it doesn't just take the noise away magically, it softens everything in the image. It creates like a soft painterly look to the image. So if you do that, then you're gonna have these really crisp images going into a very painterly looking picture and that's probably not gonna work. So all in all, these are the things that I am worried about, the things that I'm thinking about, not constantly because then my images will be way better but if I was, then they'd be way better so that's what we're going to think about now. So I'm just gonna roll off and we're gonna keep this in mind as we go here.