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  • Writer's picturePhil

Photoshop basic basics I wish I knew when I started.

Sometimes I think I am starting to scratch the surface of photoshop and I may even be starting to make a dent! ... All things you don't want on a cars surface when you photograph it weirdly enough.


This is for those who are relatively new to photoshop and compositing images, so if you know your way around photoshop then I apologies if this wastes your time but I want level with people who are new to photoshop, as I am, with some little tips and tricks that have helped me create composites.


I just want to say from the start that this is my way that I have figured out, there are definitely other ways and probably better ways but this is my way at the moment and if it helps you find your own way then bingo!


If you are compositing two images. In this case a car and a background you must carefully select the background for the car as you have to make sure that the perspective is as close as you can get it between the two images so you don't have to distort the background much if at all, match the warmth of the car and background as close as you can (this can be changed to a degree) and also make sure the direction of the light in the background matches which side the light is coming from on the car otherwise you'll be up the creek before you start.


First things first before I start with an image in photoshop, I import it into Lightroom to make some basic adjustments to do with exposure, highlights, shadows etc only basic to make it easier for me when in photoshop seeing the image. Once I have done that I will right click and import into photoshop (the image below is easier than me explaining)

Once the image is open in Photoshop one little trick I have learnt is to always copy the image should you make a mistake you have an extra copy or if not it is a handy reference for before and after, you do this my clicking on the layer with the image in at the bottom right corner and pressing 'Command J' or 'Control J' this will duplicate that later which I have found to be so useful. Once I have imported the layer with the car I will then import the image that will become the background duplicating that as well, once I have imported all the layers I want to composite together I will put them all in a group by selecting all the layers and pressing 'command G' or 'control G' to group them all together so I have a folder with all the raw images in as in the image below.

Once I have the raw images all in one folder I then cut, stick, glue, erase, paint, clone and mask until my hearts content knowing I have the raw files if needed or just as a reference point.


When it comes to cutting out the car from the image to place onto your new background the pen tool is your best friend, get to know this tool, take your time and be happy to make some mistakes with it. one little tip I learnt and wish I knew from the start was once you have placed two points and made matched the blue line up with the panels on the car click on the end point of that line while holding down the 'option' button on a Mac or 'Alt' key on windows as that stop the next point you make skewing all over the place as in the second image below.

The top image is holding down the 'option' or 'alt' key the bottom is without which was a dream moment when I realised I didn't have to cut cars out with straight lines two or 3 pixels at a time.


Next little tip I wanted to share when it comes to automotive work and well I guess this applies to any images you are compositing together is the shadows on the object you have imported. The shadow is key in making that connection between the car and the background otherwise it just looks like a sticker. A shadow is normally more that one black area it is usually built up of a minimum of 3 layers, one which is a deep black which is the immediate connecting point between the wheels and the ground (this shadow normally overlaps onto the wheels of the car, so don't be afraid to paint a little black onto the wheels of your cut out car) and the others are then slightly lighter in there opacity built up to create a convincing shadow.


1. This the the car with no shadows except the overlap of the shadow on the wheels.

2. The Car with the immediate connecting shadow plus a first shadow layer, the initial difference is drastic with just this.

3. Extending shadows will give that nice fade or run off from the shadow.

4. I also added a really faint shadow coming off the rear of the car showing a cast where the car is blocking light.

All these shadows were added using a black paint brush at varying opacities, I have added each shadow as its own individual layer so that I can easily go back throughout the editing process to make alterations if I want to.


As I said earlier, making sure the perspective of the background is correct to start with is key to making the image as believable as possible. However you will probably have to do some fine tuning to the perspective of the image to make it look realistic. To do this, click on the background layer then either go up to Edit at the top then go to transform and click distort this will allow you to alter the perspective of the image to make it look like the car is sitting on the road. 'Command T' or 'Control T' will also go this then you can right click with the mouse over the selected are to pick the distort option.

The warmth of the car you are almost definatley going to have to play around with to ensure it matches that of the background you have chosen. So click on the layer of the cut out car and then click the button below that looks like circle which is half white half grey and add a Colour Balance adjustment layer, you can also add a Hue/Saturation layer and then to have these only effect the car later and not the other layers you need to click on the 'this adjustment layer clips to the layer' button (I will show you in the images below).

Once you've added your Colour Balance and Hue/Saturation adjustment layers, click on that later then click on the button which looks like a solid white box with the arrow coming out of the left side of it. It is just above the layers panel.

Once you have these adjustment layers imported you can alter the colours in the image with the Hue/Saturation to remove or alter any colours that you don't want and use the Colour Balance adjustment layer to alter the warmth and tint of the shadows, highlights and midtowns to tie the car into the background more as you can see below.


1. The car with no colour corrections.

2. I did also add a levels adjustment to pull back the highlights a little (same process of adding the adjustment layer and clipping it to only effect the car).

3. This is the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer I renamed to 'kill green reflections' due to the reflections on the left rear and left section of the wing.

4. The colour balance later to match the warmth and tint of the background.

So I think that is that with the little tips and tricks I wish I knew when I started a few weeks ago, all I can say is play and have fun with this software as it can do amazing things even if it is a little sassy from time to time, normally that's your fault not the softwares even though it is easier to blame the software. Don't be afraid to watch YouTube and copy what you see but don't also be afraid to take the processes and go wild to find your own way or as I have many times found out how NOT to do things.


Anyway enough waffle, here's the final image of the Lamborghini composite I have used in the blog as well as that Ferrari image you can see in Lightroom at the start.








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