This week we’ll stray away from the basics and do something fun, something many might not be ready for yet but hopefully it will motivate you to learn the basics so you can have fun producing your own composites! 

I’ll often have students or clients show me certain photographs and ask “how did they do that?”  Sometimes the lighting seems very complex, the image quality (colors, contrast, noise) too high for a night shot, or other features they’ve tried to duplicate on their own and failed.  They want to learn “how the pro’s do it” so they can make their own such images.  Images like the one below for instance, a fun image that includes a portrait, a colorful night background, and a strangely present iguana.  The purpose of this image was to catch the attention of a shopper and make them more closely examine the product it’s on.

 Final photograph

Looking at the picture it becomes hard to imagine how the image quality could be so high, how all the color is so saturated, and how all the elements appear to be perfectly exposed making for an impossible shot.  The secret is:  It is an impossible shot!  This is actually a composite of three different images carefully masked, layered, and prepared in Photoshop.  We won’t get into the Photoshop techniques in this learning topic, only the overall concept.  Lets look at each of the three images separately and discuss how the were taken.

Original picture

This is the photo as taken on the porch of a dark bar at night.  I used a portable strobe for directional hard lighting just like you’d find in the finished image.  Perhaps a porch light would be lighting a passerby, a motorsai light, or some other source of hard light.  Its important to match the light temp, hardness, and direction properly if you want the finished image to be believable.

Original background

This next image is obviously of the soi we used as a main background.  We cropped it in to give the appearance the model was right in front of us and adjusted the levels and colors for effect.  This was shot a kilometer or so from the bar we obtained the first picture at.  It was shot at sunset during a five minute span of natural light when the sky would be the right brightness and color and would match the brightness of the artificially lit colorful lanterns hanging across the soi.  This image by itself is a major challenge, the same technique of timing and matching the different light sources can be very effective for compelling portraiture.

Original prop

A friend I was preparing this to share with at joked about having an iguana in the background.  I remember back about ten years I was at the floating market and had snapped some picture of some life like wooden carvings with my trusty 2mp point and shoot.  I dug those images out and found one I could use.

 Another final product

By carefully adjusting each individual image for light, color, perspective, skew, and scale.. and then carefully masking each and placing in adjustable layers in the right order, I was then able to adjust the opacity of each layer and create a mostly believable image.  The iguana  probably gives it away, but it made me laugh.  Composites can be a lot of fun.