tutorial: compositing

AndyAndy BicameralNew YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
edited August 11, 2008 in Finishing School
okay guys, it's time for me to fess up on a particular photo that many of you liked very much

i'm aware that there are many purists out there that believe that a photo should be an exact replica of what the scene was like. and while for the most part, i'm in agreement - i also feel that as artists, we should feel free to
explore our creativity, and use the amazing tools that are available to us in the digital darkroom.

compositing is not something that i do very often, but i'm glad that i know how to do it. within six hours of finishing off this shot this morning, i had sold it three times, and one of those sales is in multiple quantity. all three buyers are "horse people."

and so, on to the "how to" part. this photo is a composite. let's take a look at how i made it.

4199944-L.jpg

let's first look at the background scene. i shot it in raw, and this is what the original file looks like.

4199942-L.jpg

okay, i can work with this..in photoshop camera raw i developed two exposures, one for the sky and one for the foreground. moments later i had this

4199941-L.jpg

and hey, this isn't too bad, not bad at all. but the problem is i have lots of scenes like this one, and in fact just a few days ago i got a lovely sunrise in the very same spot. so, i began thinking, okay..what can i do with this scene to jazz it up? i recalled the positive feedback i'd received a few days ago on this image:

4199946-L.jpg

and thought that maybe i could copy and paste the fog into my sunrise shot. the first step here was to make a selection of just the fog area (i used the polygonal lasso to do this) and then copy and paste into the background scene...where it becomes a new layer all by itself. the problem is, it doesn't fit. so, turn to our friend the "distort" funciton (edit>transform>distort) and
essentially what you do is grab the fog by the handles and stretch it to fit your scene. i had to stretch it horizontally and vertically, as the fog in the orig pic didn't cover enough area in the new background photo. that's okay, because i wanted the fog to be thinned out, almost like vapor.

4199945-L.jpg

at this point, we can see that the pic has improved somewhat, at least imo. the fog adds an element of mystery or such to this otherwise calm dawn scene.

4199943-L.jpg

okay but i'm thinking, i've added fog, what else can i do here? i'd like someting in the foreground for visual interest, to further engage the viewer in the full scene, rather than just being focused on the sunrise. i first thought about a tractor or wagon, and went looking in my archive for one. but i came to the horse pic, first, and thought "hey now!"

4199948-L.jpg

using the magnetic lasso, i made a selection of the horse. i copied him and pasted him into my background scene .psd file as a new layer. here's where it got very difficult, at least for me.

once the horse was in my working psd, i then had to clean him up from some stray elements that came along in the selection process. i used the eraser, starting big and working to smaller sizes. as i got smaller, i activated the "brushes settings" menu and selected "brush tip shape" and selected a hardness of 80 percent. why? this seems to give the most realistic edge to the horse. (i was taught this tip by a fellow dgrinner).

the important things to watch for when compositing is to think about orientation, perspective, size and lighting. there's probably more gotchas but these are the things i concerned myself with at this point.

first, the placement, sizing and perspective. use the edit>transform>scale and / or perspective functions to change these. play around, to get it right. size is also related to placement, so decide placement really before you size him.

lighting ... as you can see, the horse is well lit from the front, but my scene dictates that he should be backlit, or silhouetted even. i experimented with various blending modes in the layers pallete, different opacities, and even levels and curves, all on the horse layer only. i found that the best looking result came from a blending mode of "darken" and an opacity of around 40
percent. as i lowered the opacity, the horse became more transparent.

4199940-L.jpg

ok? all done? nope - the horse's hooves were a bit hinky, and he appeared like he was floating on top of the grass. not realistic at all... no problem, grab the clone stamper, set opacity to 40%, pixel size appropriately, and clone some grass & fog right over his hooves. there now, he looks quite content there, staring right back at me, eh?

4199944-L.jpg

i'd like to thank my photoshop mentor very much for his guidance, tips and encouragement.

enjoy (getting the most in post) photography :andy

Comments

  • tmshotstmshots Big grins Registered Users Posts: 59 Big grins
    edited May 13, 2004
    Well, at least I can honestly say that it is a really good photopshop job. It is an artistic piece of work that is worth the praise it received.
  • hutchmanhutchman Major grins Registered Users Posts: 255 Major grins
    edited May 14, 2004
    Beautiful Andy! Nice work.


    Hutch
  • ShakeyShakey Rule of Thirds?Phhhhhthh! Registered Users Posts: 1,004 Major grins
    edited May 14, 2004
    Having just loaded PS7 on to my system and feeling mired in its vastness I enjoy these tutorials very much.

    As for purity... Nothing wrong IMO to create an image ,especially if it puts bacon in the pan.




    Good work there



    Tim
  • lynnmalynnma Moddess Emeritus Homosassa, Florida (Paradise)Registered Users, Retired Mod Posts: 5,163
    edited May 14, 2004
    Shakey wrote:
    Having just loaded PS7 on to my system and feeling mired in its vastness I enjoy these tutorials very much.

    As for purity... Nothing wrong IMO to create an image ,especially if it puts bacon in the pan.




    Good work there



    Tim
    great work Andy! I love it...
  • wxwaxwxwax Immoderator Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited May 16, 2004
    Andy, I just have to say what a privilege it is to have you on this site, sharing your techniques. You really do make this place a better site. Thanks.
    Sid.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
    http://www.mcneel.com/users/jb/foghorn/ill_shut_up.au
  • wxwaxwxwax Immoderator Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited May 17, 2004
    Oh yeah, and how the deuce did you select the fog? How did you get rid of the background behind the fog? How much of the fog did you select from the fog shot? And why didn't it start pixelating when you stretched it like silly putty?

    I think that's it. :D
    Sid.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
    http://www.mcneel.com/users/jb/foghorn/ill_shut_up.au
  • BryanBryan Major grins Registered Users Posts: 153 Major grins
    edited May 18, 2004
    wxwax wrote:
    Oh yeah, and how the deuce did you select the fog? How did you get rid of the background behind the fog? How much of the fog did you select from the fog shot? And why didn't it start pixelating when you stretched it like silly putty?

    I think that's it. :D
    Now those are great questions... I must have looked 20 times between the original fog and the final shot to find elements of the original sceen in the horse shot... All I see is fog. I am awed by how well this was done.

    Thaks again to all of you that share your techniques. as a complete newbie, to digital photos and Photoshop, I really appreciate the time you put into them for us!
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited May 18, 2004
    wxwax wrote:
    Oh yeah, and how the deuce did you select the fog? How did you get rid of the background behind the fog? How much of the fog did you select from the fog shot? And why didn't it start pixelating when you stretched it like silly putty?

    I think that's it. :D

    well, i would tell you but then i'd have to kill you. hehe okay i'll write that up shortly ;-) i'm busy for a while but i promise to get to it.... thanks sid
  • lynnmalynnma Moddess Emeritus Homosassa, Florida (Paradise)Registered Users, Retired Mod Posts: 5,163
    edited May 18, 2004
    Andy wrote:
    well, i would tell you but then i'd have to kill you. hehe okay i'll write that up shortly ;-) i'm busy for a while but i promise to get to it.... thanks sid
    Yeah.. I wanna know about the fog too..deal.gif
  • lynnmalynnma Moddess Emeritus Homosassa, Florida (Paradise)Registered Users, Retired Mod Posts: 5,163
    edited May 18, 2004
    quick fog attempt amended to :pathetic quick fog attempt.:D
  • wxwaxwxwax Immoderator Registered Users Posts: 15,471 Major grins
    edited May 18, 2004
    No fair breathing on the glass, Lynn.... we demand real fog. naughty.gif
    Sid.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam
    http://www.mcneel.com/users/jb/foghorn/ill_shut_up.au
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited July 22, 2007
    PM wrote:
    How DID you select the fog?
    ?

    It was just a marquee selection, with a lot of feathering, nothing special really.
  • GJMPhotoGJMPhoto Gary Registered Users Posts: 372 Major grins
    edited July 22, 2007
    One thing....
    Andy...really nice photo and nice job compositing...

    One thing:

    Rather than using the eraser, put a mask on the copied layer and paint away the extra stuff on the mask in black that came with the horse...this way, you can always paint it back in in white if you get sloppy. It'll save you a ton of time!

    - Gary.
  • AndyAndy Bicameral New YorkRegistered Users Posts: 50,154 Major grins
    edited July 22, 2007
    GJMPhoto wrote:
    Andy...really nice photo and nice job compositing...

    One thing:

    Rather than using the eraser, put a mask on the copied layer and paint away the extra stuff on the mask in black that came with the horse...this way, you can always paint it back in in white if you get sloppy. It'll save you a ton of time!

    - Gary.
    Oh I do that now, I've learned so many more cool tricks since this tute was first made thumb.gif
  • GJMPhotoGJMPhoto Gary Registered Users Posts: 372 Major grins
    edited July 23, 2007
    I've got to look at the dates
    Andy wrote:
    Oh I do that now, I've learned so many more cool tricks since this tute was first made thumb.gif

    You know, I always forget to look at the post dates...when threads get revived, I get fooled!

    - Gary.
  • ivarivar I'd be happy with a cookie Registered Users Posts: 8,395 Major grins
    edited July 23, 2007
    This has got to be some sort of a record though, 3+ years eek7.gif
  • GJMPhotoGJMPhoto Gary Registered Users Posts: 372 Major grins
    edited July 23, 2007
    Not all my fault
    ivar wrote:
    This has got to be some sort of a record though, 3+ years eek7.gif

    Hey ...check the record deal.gif ...Andy was the one who revived the thread on 7/22/THIS year!!! I merely responded to a "new" post...ne_nau.gif

    :D Gary.
  • I SimoniusI Simonius WeatherSealedPhotographer Registered Users Posts: 1,034 Major grins
    edited July 23, 2007
    Andy wrote:
    okay guys, it's time for me to fess up on a particular photo that many of you liked very much
    great pic and tut Andy, now what I REALLY wnat to know is ( and this prolly isn't the right place to post this but where is?) - HOW did you sell it? I mean did you phone someone up, did you show it to your agent?

    I'd like to get into selling pics but don't know howne_nau.gif
    Veni-Vidi-Snappii
    ...pics..
  • ErikErik Beginner grinner Registered Users Posts: 6 Beginner grinner
    edited August 5, 2007
    Very nice!
  • kwcrowkwcrow Birdman Registered Users Posts: 132 Major grins
    edited October 25, 2007
    Andy wrote:
    well, i would tell you but then i'd have to kill you. hehe okay i'll write that up shortly ;-) i'm busy for a while but i promise to get to it.... thanks sid

    Great Job on this photo Andy. I have to laughrolleyes1.gif about the 3+ years it took you to refine and hone your explaination of how you did it. Gathering experience and knowledge so that you could be brief and to the point with your statements.

    Andy
    "It was just a marquee selection, with a lot of feathering, nothing special really." deal.gif
    I will look for your well thought out response in November of 2010.:D

    Just kidding Andy. You do a great job monitoring all of the threads that you do!!!
  • vietnam_dgrinervietnam_dgriner I'm Vietnamese Registered Users Posts: 81 Big grins
    edited August 3, 2008
    wxwax wrote:
    Oh yeah, and how the deuce did you select the fog? How did you get rid of the background behind the fog? How much of the fog did you select from the fog shot? And why didn't it start pixelating when you stretched it like silly putty?

    I think that's it. :D

    i have same question and really want to know how to do that!
    follow me on Instagram Nhanleig

    My photos
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter western IndianaSuper Moderators Posts: 14,542 moderator
    edited August 3, 2008
    Even easier than a marquee selection is to use the quick mask. Hit the 'q' key to go into Quick Mask Mode. Hit the 'd' key to have black ink in the foreground for your brush tool. Hit the 'b' key to bring up the brush tool. Use a very soft large brush at 100%.

    Paint over the area you want to select - eg: the fog in this image. Once you have painted over the area desired ( it will turn pink in the default mode ) - hit the 'q' key again to drop out of Quick Mask mode. You will see your selection outlined by the dancing ants dotted white line.

    You can add to this selection with any of the typical selection tools, or you can use the Quick Mask mode to add to a selection already chosen with the selection tools.

    Now you can do a Curve or whatever desired to the selected area. CTRL-D deselects the area when you are done.

    Easy Peasy!
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • glennchanglennchan Big grins Registered Users Posts: 24 Big grins
    edited August 11, 2008
    What if you had two layers of fog, so that the fog is less thick in front of the horse?

    2- Speaking of heavily retouched photography, one of my favorites is Dave Hill:
    http://www.davehillphoto.com/
    Still not quite sure how he does it!


    (Sorry about the late post btw. I don't mean to zombify this thread.)
    My blog on color correction. | My freeware Photoshop plugins (they also work in Paint Shop Pro X2, Elements, and IrfanView).
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