When I get an idea for a composite photo in my head, I immediately become obsessed with all the details I will need to consider before I ever click my camera. Even if an image isn’t possible in real life, you want the viewer to BELIEVE it can be so. And if the details aren’t right, it instantly loses credibility.
For this image I knew I wanted her being lifted in the air by 6 balloons to represent her birthday age. And I loved the idea of her being skipped across a body of water as they pulled her away. Her favorite colors are shades of orange, so I knew I would want to incorporate blues and purples to compliment the warmth and make the image more interesting.
Once she chose the dress to wear, I was instantly reminded of the beautiful images I have seen of the turquoise lake in Banff, Canada. The lake image was the only stock image I used, and it was found on Adobe Stock. I always have a lot of luck, even though sometimes it take some searching to find light that will match your other images. I have included the SOOC of the images I used for her. I shot her on a dark blue background because the contrast makes it easier to cut out in Photoshop, and I knew any color reflection I may get would match my final scene. Cutting out images for composites does take practice and patience, but if you do it right from the beginning it will pay off. I like to use a combination of channels, select subject, and just a brush.
After I cut out my subjects, I line everything up and make sure my composition is just how I like it. I keep all my layers, and rarely flatten, so I can go back at any time and adjust things as I go. Once my image is laid out in a way that is aesthetically pleasing to me, I start multiple layers of dodging and burning so the light in my image is cohesive. You will be amazed how correctly placed shadows and highlights can change your image. While you can get the direction of the light correct in camera, considering what the elements truly are in your scene are the most important. Even the balloons’ reflection had to be changed to mountains instead of my window. It is such a small detail, but all the small details add up to make a solid composite.
Next I start to color grade with gradient maps, LUTS, and add my favorite color profiles with a camera raw filter. Textures and color overlays can also be really helpful to blend your image. Check out my editing videos as I show you how to make all of the layers come together to make one magical image.
Head on over to the Hello Storyteller Members group to watch my exclusive behind-the-scenes video on how I edited this composite image!
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