Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

 

Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

 

Lesson Info

Photograph The Rabbit Costume

So I shop at a place called Savers in Australia quite often, and Savers is a thrift store or an op shop. It's like a mega one that has all the aisles really well laid out and everything's easy to find. And this is where I get most of my costumes from. So I don't buy expensive costumes. I source all of my ideas through, as I said, Pinterest, illustrations, paintings, and then I go into Savers or go into different op shops, and I try and find things that will fit around that. So, we've got here an interesting jacket which I've added some buttons to to give it that more White Rabbit look that I found through a lot of the paintings and things. A pocket watch here, which the White Rabbit will be holding. So we're doing this, also, in a couple of different shots. I've got some fur down here. I've got some white fur. Now, the reason for the white fur down there is so I can blend it very easily with the White Rabbit. So, even at the end here, I sewed some extra fur onto the end of the jacket a...

nd that's going to do the same thing. So then we can very easily use a brush, a fur brush, to give it that look like it's all blended in together, makes it very easy. So what we need, first of all, looking at this and how I photographed the White Rabbit, you'll realize that I was above the White Rabbit and I shot down. So I need to actually stand on something here to get to that same angle. This is bigger than the Rabbit, but it doesn't matter because we'll shrink it down in Photoshop. So, we'll be warping it on, we'll be changing the shape to match the Rabbit. So the big thing in here is the angle here. So, I'm going to stand up like this. I'll do a test shot. I'll put it onto the Rabbit very quickly and make sure that that angle is right and the perspective is right. And then we'll need to photograph the hands and the pocket watch. So the first thing is making sure that the body and everything works. (digital chirping) (clicking) Lighting should be similar but also that might need to change. So, I'll bring up Lightroom. Now because our body costume is higher up off the ground, we're going to bring these lights up just a bit more, too. So matching the light as well as matching the perspective is also important. Also, when we bring our model in, our Alice, we'll need to match the lighting angle to her, as well. So bring those lights up, then we'll take another shot. The other thing to note is that now that the jacket is dark I will change my settings. So before, when I was photographing the White Rabbit, I was losing detail, so I pushed my aperture to nine, it was on F8, to bring back the detail. Now I'm losing detail in the dark, so I'm going to change my aperture to F8 so I get a bit more light onto the costume. (digital chirping) (clicking) The other thing I need to consider is the angle of the costume, is it matching the angle of the rabbit. The rabbit was quite front on so it should be. I might even change to F7. Now if I go too wide with my aperture I'm going to come out with problems. If I went down to F2.8 for example, the problem will be that my depth of field will drop off. So the front might be in focus and the back might be out of focus. So what's really important with all of these images is that all of our subject is in focus. Apart from that, it doesn't matter. It's not crucial in the particular F-stop that you use, as long as in focus from here to here. So I can probably safely change to F and it would still be fine. So, I'll take one more shot. (digital chirping) (clicking) The other thing to note is that I would probably normally shoot this with a green screen background 'cause it will be easier to cut out. But because we're set up with black, we're using black for this section, I can still cut this out with the rim light highlighting the jacket. Not as easily as the bunny, but it still will work. So, looking at this, I'm going to bring this into Photoshop again as a smart object. Bring that down. And again, it's just to check the perspective because we still need to add the hand and the pocket watch and everything else. I'll do, again, a quick cut around. This just helps me to make sure that it fits. Okay, dragging that onto my scene. Making it smaller. And because of the rabbit's stature, I will probably need to make the jacket a little bit shorter in the body. So, that's okay though. It's gonna be warped quite substantially. Okay. So looking at this I do feel I still need a bit more height. In terms of the angle and everything, that's okay. I can warp all that out. I can move so the neck fits and everything. It's the angle of the jacket. I feel its too straight on. So I think I need some more height here. So that it looks like I'm looking down further on that rabbit. The lighting still works quite well. It's still that soft rim light around the edge. Thank you. So we'll go back into Lightroom. (digital chirping) (clicking) Now we'll do a quick cut out again, make sure this angle works. If it does, that's when we get on the pocket watch and the hands and add that in. Now you could do this with a real person dressed up. You don't need to have a mannequin in your studio. But that's one way of doing it if you're working solo and you wanna dress up a mannequin and dress your animals however you wanna do it. But you could have a real person dressed up, if they're willing. (laughing) Or yeah, you can do it in a number of different ways. And the good thing about this is, too, normally if you're dressing a rabbit, you would have to get the rabbit's size of clothes, which is very difficult to do. Whereas if you're dressing a full live, full-sized person, you can be very creative with the clothing that you get and then you just warp it down to that size. Okay, open as a smart object in Photoshop. Very quick cut out. And drag it over. And I've opened so many windows now that I probably have to close some to get there. I'll close this one. So many tabs open. Shrink that one down. Hide the other one. Just that one. Looking better. Definitely looking better in terms of the angle. I might brighten up the jacket by bringing in some more of the shadows here, and actually in, later on, I'm going to change the color of the jacket. So I couldn't find the color that I wanted in Savers and I know that I'm gonna change this jacket to more of a blue sort of color. So you can do that. You don't have to stick with the color that you see. You can change it very easily, especially if it's a mid-tone color. You're gonna have problems with black and white. But if it's a mid-tone color, then it's quite easy to change the hue of just the jacket. So it gives this a bit more details in the darks. But I think that that angle is working a whole lot better. Looking like we're looking down at the rabbit. So the next thing that we want to do is have our rabbit holding the pocket watch. And kinda doing something with its arms. We'll have Danielle over here, and the way we're going to do this, we actually have wire in the arms so that we can move the arms around. This arm here, I'll be shooting this in two parts, as well. So we'll do the pocket watch shot and then we'll do the other hand shot so that I can do two different things. I will keep the arms slightly out from the body and the reason for this is that when you use Puppet Warp, which I'll be showing you later, that means I've got full access to the arms and I can move the arms even more if I want to. If the arms are on the body and they're joined to the body, I don't have the ability to do that with Puppet Warp. So we'll keep the arms out, we'll have the pocket watch like the rabbit's sort of looking at it, but we want to see the pocket watch in the shot. And I'll keep this arm out here like that. (laughing) Excellent. So I'll blend this in so it looks like it's all one, and Danielle's wearing black so that's hidden in the background. We can put this one up in front of the body. So I probably won't warp this side of the rabbit too much. But we want to see, even holding the watch up like that, and I'll tuck this in. So I'll have to blend this top section here. If you have someone wearing it, it's going to be a bit easier with this part. We'll bring it down a bit so that's not lifted. The jacket's down. Cool, that looks good. So I need to be on the same level. It may be worthwhile shooting on a tripod for this sort of thing, as well, if you're wanting the static shots to blend really easily together, but if you shoot at the same spot, you should be able to get it quite close. We'll just bring that watch down a bit so that that jacket's not pulled. Yeah, that's it. (digital chirping) Okay, that's a good shot. (clicking) Now, one thing I wanna make sure of before I go on, we'll have a look at that shot because the hand's coming out further towards the front. I'm focusing on the body. I'm on F7. I wanna make sure that that watch is in focus. It's just a touch out, so we'll change my setting down to F8 and shoot again. I'll brighten it up in post. Okay, so just down a little bit, touch closer to the body. In this way more. Yeah, and in closer to the body. Yeah, that's it. (digital chirping) (clicking) (digital chirping) (clicking) We'll have a look at that. And zooming up on that watch. That's much better. Okay, so even in Lightroom, I can change the exposure first before I go into Photoshop and those settings will be held. Adding shadow, bringing the exposure up a touch because I did change my aperture. I could've adjusted the lights, but sometimes it's easier to change your aperture and then, yeah, you've got some latitude in your shots to bring in more shadows and highlights. You've got a few stops. Okay, so that's quite good. I'll bring that in. You okay there, Danielle? Bring that in and check in Photoshop again before I do the other arm. So edit in, open as smart object in Photoshop. And again, quick cut out. Okay, drag that into my scene. And resize. That's cool. I'll paint out the neck area and down here very quickly. All right, that's looking, getting there. It's getting there. So we've got a rabbit. Obviously the head still needs some work and a lot of it still needs some work. But we've got the basics there. Now we just need the other hand and I'm kinda thinking arm out. We'll try a few things here. So we can drop that one now. We'll stretch this out so it's out of the way 'cause we'll actually mask that whole side out and just use the arm here. I don't know whether he's got his, or she, it was a she rabbit, I'll have to remember it was female. Something like that. Madly running away from Alice. Getting Alice to follow her. Yep, we'll try a few different hand actions, so I'll take a few different shots so then I can choose which one I want. I do wanna see quite a bit of that hand, so we may need to either bend it back or over this way even. Yep. I'll turn this on to Lightroom so you can see the shots coming through. (digital chirping) Probably not quite as much. (digital chirping) I'd say bring the arm down and in just a bit. And then. Yeah. (digital chirping) Ah, clench, rounded more. Yep, that's better. (digital chirping) (clicking) (digital chirping) Try and squish that piece of fur against the wrist as much as you can. We'll save the blending later, yeah. (digital chirping) (clicking) (digital chirping) Okay, try a few different hand actions. (clicking) (digital chirping) (clicking) (digital chirping) (clicking) Okay, great. Have a look at that. Thank you. See which one I like best and then we'll bring that in and do a quick check. Perhaps that one? There's a bit of a point to it. So again, I'm gonna adjust the shadows. So what I'm doing here is just pulling up the shadow slider so that those darker areas are lighter and there's more detail in the shadows. I'll crop that down. And open it in Photoshop as a smart object. And for this bit, I actually only want the hand, so I will use the lasso tool. And it was feathered, so I don't want that feathered. Change that to zero. When I don't have my keyboard plugged in I have to go into this section. Nope, didn't change it. That's okay. I'm just gonna drag that in. Again, too many windows open, so we'll close a few. I don't need to save those because I haven't done anything with them, those other images that I opened, so I'm just closing them. I've actually got them in here anyway. Okay, so I'm going to change my brush to more of a hard-edged brush, about 80%, and quickly cut around this way, as well. So if I wasn't wanting to use my quick selection tool, just to get an idea of if this works, I can very quickly paint out and mask the area. I'm not trying to be precise here, I'm just trying to make sure that everything I've got will work so that I can later put it all together. I'll mask out the other arm behind our rabbit. And the other thing that I will do here, I think it's, now that layer, I want to cut some of the distraction away from around the bunny's head. What's this one here? So at this point in time, he's still looking a little bit strange. The jacket needs warping, 'cause at the moment, the jacket is fitting our mannequin and not the bunny. But we'll be using Puppet Warp to warp, and different tools to warp around the waist so that it fits. Going in and refining it a whole lot. Adding shadows and highlights to match the scene, as well. But this is just a very quick cut out to make sure that we've got all the pieces that we need to fit together. I feel like I'm pretty happy with that. Were there any questions? Yeah, let's take some questions. I believe we sent the bunny home already. That's all right, that's all right. The bunny was actually quite amazing how quickly you were able to get the bunny photographed. This is the perfectionist in me going oh, that was good, but oh, could I do it better? But I'm fine with what we've got. And thank you to our bunnies. Yes, thank you, bunnies. I also loved the fact that you said you had never photographed a rabbit before. Doing it live on air. So if you guys have any questions, grab a mic, raise your hand. Let's go to the Internet, though, first. Question from Burgess T. You shoot at the same angle to match the perspective, but do you also keep the same focal length? That's a good question. I don't mind changing. I did once, a little while ago, I did a Cinderella image, and my challenge to myself was to make it as complex as possible and use lots of different focal lengths and different lenses, but still make it work together. The thing that I need to keep in mind is if it's a wide-angle shot, it needs to look wide. The actual image of the background plate here is wide angle, but here the rabbit is, he's not needing to be distorted at all. I wouldn't shoot the rabbit with a long 200 mil lens because that would throw it out and look different, but I think I'm shooting on about 40 or 50 mil. I've got my zoom on, so I'm not quite sure. But as long as it's not too far away from what you're matching, it can work. So with my Cinderella image, I even shot on a 200 mil lens to get the horses, and they needed to fit into a wide-angle scene, but I was able to warp that in post to match. So, yeah, you can change it. It does help. I think it does help. If you're not quite sure if it's gonna work, it does help to shoot all in the same focal length, but once you've kinda got the hang of it and you know what you're looking for, you can go outside of that. Sort of further on that, earlier when you were photographing the angles of the jacket, and after the first one, you said, oh, I can see that the angle isn't quite right. Can you tell us what exactly you were looking at sort of in detail, because it is so subtle? It is subtle. It's so important, all these details. It is, absolutely. When I was looking at the jacket in the image, where I shot it, it was too straight on. So when I was looking at the jacket, it looked like I was shooting straight on, and the rabbit I was shooting from a higher angle. So I might need to go back into that, 'cause I hid that. That one. I think it's this one, here. It's very subtle. But I think if I zoom up, you can probably see the difference. It does come with, I guess with practice in seeing it. But that subtlety, it makes a difference in the reality afterwards. So, yeah, it was one step. It wasn't much of a difference, but it was enough that I could see that it would look more realistic and fit better if I was up a touch higher. What are some of the other common mistakes over the years that you were doing this with perspectives or lighting or such that you've experienced that could help the folks at home? Well, when I first started, I didn't think I even had any concept of matching light. I've looked back at some of the images where I was trying things out and I thought they looked great. I had these grand ideas of integrating these magical scenes with my wedding clients and I plopped them into a scene with a castle in the background. Looking at it now, I can see the lighting was totally off. When you first start, you don't realize that that lighting is so important. If the light's coming from this direction on your clients and then the light's coming from the other direction in your scene, it just does not work. But it's something that takes time to look for so one thing that I found that actually really, really helped me in growth was being willing to get constructive criticism. So posting in particular groups that allow other people to give back feedback. Some times you're gonna get feedback that maybe isn't even quite right, or maybe hurts a little bit, but it's helped me so much just to be able to put my work out there, be willing to take the criticism and then take it up a step. Every time that I shoot, I try an increase my knowledge. You never stop learning. Last night, I learnt something new about Puppet Warp, which I'm gonna share with you later. There's so much to learn and you never stop learning so being willing to put your work out there, have people give feedback and then grow from that is probably the biggest thing that's helped me. Where would you recommend that people actually seek out that type of feedback? Is it formal portfolio reviews? Is it friends and family? Who's sort of the most valuable people to look for? Sure. For me, I'm in a couple of groups on Facebook. One's actually called Photoshop and Lightroom. It's a really good group that gives you great feedback. I also have a Story Art members group. So people can join as members and see a lot of my tutorials but the other thing that I provide there is that I have a private Facebook group where people can safely put up images and get constructive criticism. I think being safe and feeling safe is really important. My husband is awesome at picking up things, and he's a photographer. He doesn't do the compositing, but he has a good eye for it, so I'm always asking him what is it do I need to change? What's not looking quite right? So having someone that you trust that you can ask for that criticism is great. And also, if you're entering competitions, I've found that to be really helpful. I enter competitions in Australia as well as say AIPP and WPPI, and there's the chance that you can go to have, it's like a portfolio review. You put your images up, and they give you feedback. So things like that are great, but you also need to have, you need to be strong, because it can be tough. (laughing) You've spent so long working on an image, and you've put your heart and soul into it, and you think it's fantastic, so for someone to come in and say well, it doesn't quite look right, can hurt. But it's the way to grow. So, yeah. Absolutely. I think it's a great reminder of that. (laughing) So coming back to some of the gear that you're using for this type of composite work, the question was, "I notice that you're using a camera that has "something like 50 megapixel sensor," but have you previously used cameras that have lower megapixels? Does it matter? And does it matter in terms of matching megapixels and megapixel in the composites? So I'm using a Canon EOS 5Ds R, and that is 50 megapixels. My other camera that I've got that I quite often use is the Canon 5D 3. Now that's about half of the megapixels that this one has. So if I was to be creating an image from both of those cameras, I would be working generally with the size that's the smallest size. The benefit of the high megapixel camera is if you start with that and you're shooting all of your images on that, you can create a massive image. I've had one of my pieces blown up to three meters by two meters on a huge wall, and you can get up really close to it. So, when I created that, I had to make sure that I was actually blending a number of different images together to have the resolution that I needed. Had I just shot that on one, had I shot the background plate as one image and then stretched it to that big, and people got close to it, they would've seen all the pixels. It would've been all pixelated and horrible. So I made sure when I was creating that, 'cause I knew it was for that size, that I was bringing lots of images together for my background plate, almost like a panorama, but it was a creations much like the one that I showed you before, so that it was big enough. So, considering your resolution is important, but if you're working with lots of different-sized files, it's better to stick with the smaller one so that you're not enlarging an image and putting in, I like to say, fake pixels, 'cause that's when you start to see all the problems arise. Yeah, there's ways around it, but yeah, that's what I can tell you about that. So, yeah. And speaking of sort of these quality things, Down Rivered had asked, "What about the original ISO "when you're shooting? "Does that matter in terms of matching that?" Yeah, it's important to try and be as close as you can in terms of ISO. I think I'm on 200 or 160 ISO, so I'm not getting any noise, really, in these shots. And the scene that I shot was probably on around 200 ISO from memory, I'd need to check. But it was a bright enough day that I wouldn't have any issues. But if you have to shoot on a high ISO and you've got a lot of noise, there are ways to blend it. So, at the end of my process, I actually do add some grain. I do do some noise reduction in Lightroom. So that's one of the things when I get to the very end and I take my image into Lightroom, I've got a few tricks that help to bring it all together. So if the images are shot on different ISOs, it helps to blend them all together to look like it was all shot in the same. And a question for Olderish. Are you shooting raw? I am, yes, absolutely. And is that important? It's very important. Especially for this, very important. I was a jpeg shooter up until probably about eight years ago and I thought it was fine to shoot on jpeg. I was shooting weddings, I was getting my exposure right. Was getting everything pretty good in camera. And I had a friend from San Diego come over and help me shoot weddings in Australia, and he was like you have to shoot on raw. And I thought, well, the files are bigger. I'm gonna take up more space. I'm not gonna have enough hard drive space. But I switched, and I don't care if I have to buy a million hard drives, having the capability of raw and being able to change all of the exposure, your shadows, your white balance, everything, the power of those raw images is crucial. And when you're compositing, you need all that detail. You saw me bring up the shadows in that jacket. If I was shooting jpeg, I don't have all that detail. I can't bring up those details in jpeg. So definitely shoot on raw. And I'm not taking many shots here. I'm trying to nail the particular images that I want. So in that regard, your hard drive space isn't as much of an issue. And is that typically the case in this type of work? 'Cause obviously, it was very deliberate photographing. You're not just out there shooting a ton of images and hoping something works? For me. I know that different compositors work in many, many different ways. Some people even do the subjects first, and then they find a background later. But for me, yeah, it's very planned. It's part of my process. It's what works for me. So I think just finding a way that works for you is the important thing. You might find that doing it the other way is better. So, yeah.

Class Description


Karen Alsop is known for creating beautiful fantasy worlds through her unique compositing techniques in Lightroom™ and Photoshop™. Whether you're a wedding, portrait, landscape or commercial photographer, this class will show you how to create beautiful and distinctive images you can offer your clients to expand your business.  

Join us for this class, and you’ll learn how to: 

  • Shoot with your composite in mind: lighting, posing and angles.
  • Choose background and subject images that will work best in the composite.
  • Learn Lightroom® and Photoshop® techniques to create a fantastical atmosphere.

Karen’s emphasis on creativity and imagination in her process has helped her to make a product that competitors have a hard time recreating. Karen’s beautiful, intricate work is not simply the result of vast technical skill, but rather is the careful integration of a number of elements. She puts subjects at ease and inspires them with artful direction; incorporates them into fantasy landscapes using Lightroom® and  Photoshop®; and then effectively prices and markets the final product.  


Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.1.2