Compositing is the art of putting photo elements or combining pictures to create a new image that would be nearly impossible to capture in the real world. It is a great way to create a image that tells a story or has visual impact. The challenge in compositing is to make the final image look believable. Or to make it look like it was always that way and not a combination of images.
Now I have seen all forms of compositing. It is very common in advertising and is so well done you may not even realize it is a composite. For example, it my be very expensive or not realistic to place a model on a high wire high above the round, holding a glass of wine. But you could take the picture of the scene, the high wire, then take a picture of the model in a studio and combine them. That is compositing. It is also used quite a bit in the digital art world and game design.
But it is not limited to still images. Compositing has been used for many years in the film industry and today it is a large part of movie effects. You may have heard about shooting on a green screen. This allows the special effects group to replace the green are with another video or still to make the movie to appear to have been made on this elaborate set.
To have the most success in making a believable composite is to follow the below listed rules.
Camera Angle. When selecting images for your composite it is extremally helpful if all the different images have the same camera angel. For example, you would not want to have a scene where the land in front of the photographers lens was straight on, lets say the camera was 5 foot off the ground shooting straight forward, then you need the subject photographed in the same way. You would not want to shoot down onto someone then place them in a scene where the camera angle was straight on.
Color Temperature. Light camera angle, it is best that all the components or images to be combined have the same basic color temperature. So for example, if you have a subject that was photographed in warm light, you cannot place the subject into a scene what has a cool light. Unlike Camera Angle, it is not hard to adjust the color temperature of one of the images to match the other. But they need to be very close or the final image will just look off.
Direction of Light This is another important factor. If you have a scene where the sunlight is from the left and the subject you are placing into the scene was lit from the right, it will just not work. Here is an important note. It is always best if you can find a subject that is flat lit. That means there is no obvious direction of light. It is easy to add shadows on a subject, but nearly impossible to remove shadows. You could try flipping the subject or the scene to match up the direction of light but sometimes that just does not work out.
Collections When you get into compositing it changes the way you shoot photography. Up to now, your photography consisted of capturing the best complete image in a single frame. You look at everything in front of the lens. But when you start compositing it opens your eyes and imagination to what I refer to as components. Items to be used to create compositing. So when you go out to take photos you now look at the scene just like you did before and capture that single from, but, you also start looking around at objects to photograph. For example, that lamp post, or park bench, or character walking away. You start photographing skies, and empty fields. You start getting odd looks from your fellow photographers when you say, stop the car, I want to photograph that tree.
I recommend you start a library on your computer with object categories. Here is a good starting list.
You can expand on this list but starting this library makes it easier when you get the creative urge or have a concept in mind to create.
Source Material. It is always best to photograph your own material. But that can stifle your creativity. Now this is something you must decide on your own. The internet is a wealth of images to create with. And there is even website specifically for compositors. These images have open licenses to allow you to freely use them in creating your own composites. And there are images that are royalty free. There is some that you can purchase rights to. But that can become expensive. And there are stock photography services you can subscribe to.
But you can also just Google and grab images you want to extract parts from. If you plan to sell your works, then I would suggest you may want to stick with the stock, royalty free, or your own photos. If not then it comes down to your own ethical feelings. For me, I do not sell my composites on the open market and I just enjoy creating them. With that said, I do not like stifled in my creative endeavors or feel boxed in.
I hope you will give compositing a try and if you want to learn compositing reach out to me and I will help you.
Welcome to Pixel Mountain Studios. Here is where I create, write, and teach. I am a retired IT Specialist so I understand Tech. I am also a lifelong photographer, artist, and instructor. I hope you find the information here interesting and informative.