Running behind with blogging this week – this image took a lot longer to complete than I planned. Compositing is a lot of fun to do, but it takes a while to put it all together and get a realistic feel to the image. I love doing this type of image but between coming up with a good idea and finding the components, it takes some time. I had been thinking about what kind of story I could present with this background image which I really liked. I decided I liked the idea of the little girl and the Leopard catching each others eye and sort of a hidden mysterious spot. The image has 5 added components all with different issues that needed to be addressed to get a good final look. The background above was taken at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas (while I was attending a PS World). The Seal Statue and Parrot are from PixelSquid, a great resource for objects but you do have a fee to use them. The little girl and fish were from my own images. The Leopard was from Pixabay. The final image has many many layers – had to use lots of groups to keep it all straight. An older blog from a few years ago is being re-blogged since the info discussed is still very relevant. These really are a lot of fun to do so without further ado, here is the original.
This week I decided to do some compositing just because its fun to do. There are a lot of reasons to do this besides being fun, like it teaches you to really be aware of your light source and shadows to get a realistic looking the image. Also it gives you a chance to use some of the Photoshop tools and techniques that are not used that often. And finally, by choosing each object a good story can be created in the image.
I have always loved this image of a yellow corvette taken quite a while ago and just had not found a good place to use it. So this is where the compositing process began for me on this image. Since I started with the object first, a suitable background needed to be found to start my story. The image used was of some beautiful trees in Madison, Mississippi. If you are into compositing, it is important to take a few photos to use as background images – places where anything could be added to make an interesting image. The yellow in the car and the greenish yellow image seemed to be a good fit. The colors of the objects is important in composite images to help blend the objects together in a natural way.
After adding all the objects, the light and time of day of the background image needed to be considered to once again, blend in the objects naturally. Everything added to the image must fit with the scene. The blanket, cooler and picnic table were all downloaded from PixelSquid, but I could have used my own images of these objects. The following is a basic workflow on how this image was put together and a couple tricks I have learned along the way.
Preparing Objects for Placement
So this is where the PS tools and techniques come in handy. The car was sitting in a field with a bunch of other cars around it and a fence behind it. Just a little color adjustment was done in Lightroom before opening up the car in PS. It was removed from its background using PS CC2017 and the Select and Mask panel – the Quick Selection Tool was first used to select the car, and then the edges were refined using the Refine brush. Also the windshield was removed in this panel. Any selection tool or filter that removes backgrounds could have been used, I am just finding the new Select and Mask panel pretty nice to use. I also noted that the light was not shining on the car in the t direction – another problem to address later.
Background Image Prep
Now the Tree image was opened up in PS after just some minor adjustments in LR. Several items were removed in the image using the Spot Healing Brush. Next the corvette was placed in the image and positioned – used Free Transform (CTRL+T) to fit it in correctly. I decided the image needed to be expanded on the lower level to make the image look balanced so the car layer was deleted. In CC2017 the Crop Tool was used and Content-Aware was checked to fill in the Options Bar. Note that the Content-Aware option only works with the Crop Tool on a single layer. Therefore, either the image must be merged down at this point or crop the image first before adding your objects. I found I still had to do a little clean up after the additional pixels were added.
Adding Objects into Image
The car was again placed in the image – you can either use the Move Tool and drag to the composite image tab, go down to the image, and release; or use the old fashion way which is to select (CTRL+A) and copy (CTRL+C) in the object image, then paste (CTRL+V) in composite image. I use both. The car was Free Transformed (CTRL+T), and a layer mask was added to the car to remove the incorrect shadows in front of the car. Next the picnic table, cooler and blanket were added from PixelSquid (see my How To Use the PixelSquid Add-on in Photoshop blog – it is no longer in beta testing but is a pay to use program.) The shadows for these objects could be manipulated with the downloaded objects.
To get the objects to look like they really belonged together, some of the foreground areas had to slightly overlap parts of the blanket, tires, and table legs. So layer masks were used to add this effect in on each object. A very small brush was used to get this effect – try using different brushes in the mask to get a more natural result. The area seen through the windshield of the car had to be slightly blurred , so the Blur Tool, which I almost never use, was selected and just painted in a bit of softening to the windshield. It worked great!
Adding Some Special Effects
A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was placed on top and Topaz (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Impression 2 was opened. The Degas I preset was applied at around 40% – that was all that was changed in this preset. The layer was duplicated and Topaz Glow’s Oh Hey preset was applied at 30% – this filter does a great job of applying an overall lightening to an image. On another duplicated layer, Topaz Texture Effects 2 was opened and a downloaded Community preset called Fall Foliage Fall Trees was applied with a little manipulation to the Vignette and Basic Adjustment sections. Each image will use slightly different settings in these sections. The Light Leak had to be flipped horizontally to keep the lighting consistent in the image.
To really soften the edges of the objects, individual New Layers were added to paint in some correction color. For example, on the blanket, a little dark paint was added to give it more of a rumpled feeling on the grass – just used a soft round brush and set the layer opacity to 13%. A little lighter color was added to the right side of the cooler using a dab of light yellow and set to 60% layer opacity. To add a little lighter coloration to the front right area of the car, a little light color was added to just highlight it, and the layer opacity was set to 20%. Even the background was tweaked slightly to blend the image and give that vintage feel. This trick was learned from a wonderful class by Karen Alsop on Creative Live called Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World. Check out Karen’s website for some great compositing images! Some darker shadow effect was needed under the car, so this same technique was used there also – the shadow will be darker right under the car and blended out softly the further away it gets. The layer opacity was then adjusted down a little. This can also be used for the atmospherics in the image – where the further away you look towards the horizon line, especially in landscapes, the more muted the colors become.
The overall image appeared to be too yellow to me so a blue (R156/G161/B220) Color Fill Adjustment Layer was set to Color blend mode and 13% layer opacity to offset this. Blue is opposite Yellow on the Color Wheel so this will serve to curb the yellow color somewhat.
Finally, a little more definition was needed in a couple areas of the image. The area around the headlights was burned. The trees were slightly darkened behind the brighter areas of the light trees to separate the branches a little. To do this, a New Layer was opened, set to Overlay blend mode, and with a soft black brush set to 12% layer opacity, just painted over these areas. (See my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog.) The layer was set to 57% layer opacity.
Now the image is complete! I was pleased that it tells a story, has the vintage feel I was after, and the components all fit together well (using tools and techniques I do not always use) – to me that is what a composite should do when done correctly! It does take a little effort to create a good composite, but it is well worth time if it turns out the way you want it. I know there are lots of ways to create composites, this is a pretty complicated one, but they are fun to do! Hope everyone in the US has a great Thanksgiving Holiday!…..Digital Lady Syd
Keeping with my “photo art” theme, one my favorite things to do in Photoshop is to create composites so I decided to share some of my workflow and some of my experiences when creating one. I have created several composites that now hang in my home as canvas art. When I do a composite, it takes several iterations and a few days to get the exact feel I want in the image. This one above, which is named “Sisters,” has taken me a good part of three days and eight iterations before it was finalized. I try to create what I consider “relevant composites” or ones that convey a theme – not just slapping a bunch of unrelated images together. I have found that most of my Photoshop skills are put to test when creating a good composite. This image contains five objects – the floral background and bee photos are my shots, the beautiful young ladies are from an artist at Deviant Art that was willing to share his lovely image, and two clip art butterflies.
So lets talk about how to get this final result.
1. FIND A BACKGROUND. First you need to select a good background image to place your other objects into. I knew I really liked this photo of Moss Rose flowers that grow in my front yard. I also know that it was a very blurry image (I do have some nice ones of them) but the color was beautiful in this image. It got me thinking this would give a nice background for a dreamy fairy tale look. Below is the image used for the background – it had been processed as a 3 image HDR and some texture added – only the basic HDR layer was used for the image. You can see how flurry everything but the front flowers were but the colors are very pretty.
2. ADD IN OBJECTS. The next step was to find something that would fit the “dreamy theme” I was going after. If you go up on Deviant Art (here is a link to my page), you can search for beautiful images of people dressed up in Victorian and all kinds of costumes and most are readily shared for your use. The artists at DeviantART are usually very willing to share their expertise and it is a wonderful community of people. That is how I got this wonderful image of the two young ladies in this image – it is called Split Personalities by J Hicks at Deviant Art. Oddly enough, he used two images from another person, Eirian Stock, at Deviant Art.
From Adobe Bridge, place your selected image into your background layer image (or you can start with a totally New Document and add the background image in first) so it becomes the top layer. Add a layer mask to the image and paint out what parts you do not like showing. Free Transform the layer and change the size or distort it to fit – anything you want to do. Sometimes warping does the trick. In this case, the ladies were placed among the flowers and the whole background around the girls was painted out except for a small part of the bench they were on.
I decided that I would like to add some butterflies and a bee to the image – it seems like these objects have a fairy tale feel to them. Since I had the bee image, but it was only a small part of a bigger image, it was first opened into Photoshop and the bee was loosely selected and placed on its own layer (CTRL+J) – then this layer was copied (CTRL+A to select and CTRL+C to copy) and placed (CTRL+V) into the composite document. Using the same procedure as in Step 3, a layer mask was added to the bee layer and painting with black only the bee was left in white on the mask. If you do not have object images, try some of the free stock photos places – I like stock.xchng.
Be aware of the composition you are creating – the image should be balanced and have a focus point. First I tried one of my butterfly images but the colors in the butterfly were too dark and it just did not blend in correctly into the total image. The two butterfly objects are from an old clip art book I purchased called Decorative Butterfly Illustrations by Dover Publications – they look rather authentic. They were on a white background so the white was removed using the Magic Wand Tool and CTRL+BACKSPACE to remove the white. Then Free Transform (CTRL+T) using Warp was applied to adjust them in the image.
3. CLEAN UP. Once you get all your objects assembled, then the clean up begins. In my image I did not add the bee until I realized that one of the girls was looking at something where there was nothing to look at in the image. First the upper left yellow flower was added – this was cloned on a separate layer from the yellow flower on the bottom right and warped to look unique. Then the bee was added. I tried to adjust the objects so the eye stays toward the center of the image – with no bee, the eye tends to follow the girls gaze off to the left. The butterflies on the right also keep the eye from roaming too far right.
Another big issue was that the butterflies and bee were too sharp edged to match the soft edged flowers they were near. Therefore, a Gaussian Blur filter was applied to each at a fairly low amount, roughly a 4 radius, to give a soft feel and out-of-focus look to them. Some petal clean up was done where the petals looked overexposed. (See my Getting Rid of Those Blown Out Areas in Your Image blog.) Using a similar technique, little areas of the skin were smoothed out and hair and dress color was adjusted by adding New Layers and sampling color near the areas to be cleaned up – then with the brush tool set to a low opacity of 20% or less, painting back in to smooth rough areas of image. Below is what my image looked like at iteration 4. I decided I did not like the lighter colors – a little flat for the effect I wanted. Also it seemed the girls and their dresses did not stand out and I wanted them to be the focal point of the image. Using a Curves Adjustment Layer, they were lightened just slightly to make them stand out more from the colorful floral background. You can always clean up an effect anytime during the workflow if it just does not look right.
4. ADDING TEXTURES AND FILTERS. Now I could not resist the temptation to try some textures on this image. Several were tried but I decided to use one that created by using the Smudge Tool and Watercolor brushes in Photoshop – see texture below. I will be blogging on how to create your own background textures in the next couple of weeks and this is one of the examples. Use Dr. Brown’s Paper Texture Panel to try out different textures and blend modes. You can always paint out areas on the layer mask and create some very localized texture effects. For the final image, the texture was set to Multiply blend mode at 55% opacity, and it was painted out of the skin areas using a white layer mask and painting with black. The yellow and oranges really brightened up the image and gave me some colors I liked.
Thinking I was done I decided to try just one more thing – Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in. (Use Smart Objects for this so you can go back and adjust the sliders if needed – Filter -> Convert for Smart Objects.) Maybe it would do something really interesting. (If this had not worked, I would probably have gone into OnOne PhotoEffects 3 or Topaz photoFXlab’s InstaTone – for website links, see my Tidbits Blog). The new Film Efex: Nostalgic and used Film Type 4 filter was selected – it just softened up everything and created almost hyper-pastel colors but I really liked the effect. The Overall Strength of this filter was set to 86% to tone it down just a little. Also Brilliance and Warmth was applied adding just warmth at 29%.
5. FINAL STEPS. It now feels like the image is almost done so I used my favorite clean up plug-in, Nik Viveza 2, to lighten up the whole image. Also the middle area of the image was softened and more detail was added to the pillow flower. You can do all kinds of subtle changes with this plug-in that can really enhance the composition and direct the eye.
Last steps involved brightening up the dresses more using a Curves Adjustment Layer whose layer mask was filled with black and just the dresses painted back in with low opacity brushes.
A final texture is added for framing, one of my favorites – ShadowHouse Creations Old Photo2 which gives an very old vintage feel to the image. It was set to Darker Color blend mode at 55% opacity and a layer mask was used to paint out the center and just leave the texture details around the edges. Below is how my Layers Palette looked after completing this image.
This is a decent example of what goes into a good composite. In this image alone, there were 5 Curves Adjustment Layers, 5 clean up layers, and 5 paint layers where I sampled colors and painted over areas. My original file is 955 megs and 11 X 17 inches so this is a pretty large file by my standards. A composite lends itself nicely to large canvas images. There are many other composite techniques not used here in this example but on others such as using the Gradient Tool and Color Fill Adjustments layers for unique effects and blending. This is definitely where you get a chance to experiment. Give a composite a try – it is very rewarding to create one that represents your own personal expression……Digital Lady Syd