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  • Writer's picturePhil

Learning to composite

While we are all in lockdown in the UK and can't go out and shoot, I have challenged myself to learn something new which is compositing. ordinarily my style leans away from heavy photoshopping and compositing, only using photoshop to remove a sign or post or something small that doesn't detract or add to the image in my opinions however with this time I wanted to dig deeper into photoshop and see what I could create as oppose to shoot.

All of the cars/vehicles in the images are shots I have taken myself and when I finally figured out how to use the pen tool properly I was able to cut them out and place them into new backgrounds. For someone experienced in photoshop this is probably no problem, however for someone like me this has taken 5-6 hours per image, it is mainly the cutting out of the car/vehicle that takes the most time.

I have taken a lot of inspiration from people who I look up to in the photography world and often refer to their work for ideas and reference. Also Youtube is a massive tutoring tool I have used when coming up stuck, I have even created my own smoke brushes from images of clouds thanks to a Youtube tutorial.

So to start with for me when it comes to compositing if you already have the image of the car and you are looking for a background/backdrop ensure that the scale of the backdrop is correct and that you can convincingly place the wheels onto the backdrop as these contact points between the car and background are vital. If you can't do this with a background you are left with two options one is find another background or alternatively spending time with the transform tool trying to balance the rake of the backdrop so that the wheels correctly 'touch' the background.

Alternatively is you find a background/backdrop or already have one that you like take the time to observe the height and angle the shot is taken before going out and doing your best to shoot the car/vehicle at that angle and height to ensure that they tie together as well as possible. Doing this will save so much time as well as trying to find a location to shoot the car that best matches the white balance, exposure and overall ambiance of the background/backdrop.

Once you have the background and car the next big thing for me to tie them together is the shadows (when you look back as I am now there's always something you notice that you want to improve on and that is more often than not the shadows for me). Often there are minimum two shadows on a vehicle one at the contact points for the wheels and another larger one of the car itself, ensure when you are putting shadows in you observe where the light source is in the background you have chosen and oppose that with your creation of shadows. Going from the shadows then it comes to twerking the white balance, colours, exposure etc etc of the car to match the background this may include adding extra shadows over the vehicle or a highlight across the car to add some continuity to the overall image.

From there once they are tying well together it is a case of taking it as far as you want as photoshop will pretty much allow you to create anything your head can dream up while also keeping in mind the aim of the image and also if the image is for a client remembering what they are looking for. Personally I prefer to keep the images simples, not only because that it my personal preference but also because my skill level isn't able to to add a space octopus into the passenger seat of a Lamborghini while its being chased by a cowboy on horseback wielding lasso down across tower bridge in London at night while in the background Neptune explodes... I mean if you can do it id love to see this but I don't have that level of skill ... yet.

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