In last week’s post about Creating composite images (pt 1), I went over visualization, development of a story, planning the shoot and capturing the images needed to create a composite image. This post will address some of the post-processing steps to achieve a final result, such as this:
Creating the background image
The first step is to put together the background image from the variety of shots that were taken to to get the entire scene, as shown in the prior post. Depending on the amount of real estate that is covered in these images, there may have to be a bit of fancy processing to be done in your favorite image editing software; I use Photoshop, but there are many other capable software packages available.
You see the finished background image here, but it is actually made up of components of a number of shots, as can see in the screen grab of the Image Layers. The base image is opened to show the 7 different shots that were used to create the background.
Additionally, I did a bit of warping on some components of the base image to get them to stitch together more perfectly, and you can see that I use masks to control what is visible from each image.
Of course, if I had used a wider angle lens than the 85mm f/1.2L, it would have been easier, but then I would have to deal with not getting the benefit of a telephoto, which gives more of a sense of looking into the scene than a wider angle lens would (if it were possible, I would have shot from a larger distance, but I was already in a corner of the library).
In later shoots, I have often been able to get the entire background image in a single shot, trusting the pixel quality of my camera.
After the background or master image is complete, it is time to put our model into the image and have her float ethereally in front of the bookshelves.
The Main Subject
Our wonderful model will now make entrance into the image.
It is rather straightforward to get Steph into the image while she stands on the ladder.
We simply add the image of Steph on the ladder as a layer and, voila, she is there!
Note how this image also changed the breezy curtains to Steph’s left, as the moved curtain was not in her main image. It is layered on top of the master image, so we need to make some corrections.
You guessed it! It’s time for another layer mask, which is your friend in Photoshop.
Masking out the Steps shows each of the components that create the overall look coming together with their individual layer masks.
A quick note on masking and selections in general. A common mistake that many people make when first starting with masks and selections is that they try to be very precise, which leads to artificially sharp boundaries. When our eyes see those sharp edges, our brain immediately screams: Photoshop!
In order to avoid this, you’ll want to feather your edges by a couple of pixels. This causes the foreground and background image to blend rather than delineate sharply. Too much feathering looks fuzzy, but a couple of pixels usually will get the look that you want to achieve.
So let’s take a look at what we have created in the image thus far.
We’ve got a pretty good image, but there were a couple of details that I wanted to address:
- The book – it became too translucent, when I reduced the opacity of our ethereal being to give her some translucence. My fix for this was to put another copy of the book on top, which obscured her right thumb, which I then put on top of the new book. Part of the reason for taking this extra step is that I wanted to throw some additional light on the book, so that the eye would go there naturally.
- The floor – it’s just way too bright, which draws the eye to it, for which I used a curves adjustment with a mask.
At that point, I was pretty happy with my first truly composite image. Over time, I have found flaws in it, which I will edit at some point. Part of the issue is that I have learned more over the past couple of years, which has made my eye more observant and thus critical of earlier work. Regardless, I’m still pretty happy with it.
I’m looking forward to hearing from those of you who have taken on similar projects or are thinking about them, and I hope that you enjoyed these posts.