Monday, 31 August 2015

Holly Burns - The Fine Art of Compositing

So what does it take to create a fine art composited image?

It is not the case that you can simply merge any photographs you like to create a cohesive composite. All images used must be carefully considered and prepared for use.

But why? What are the considerations that essentially make or break a composited image? Lets break it right down to what has to be 100% right before even clicking the camera shutter.

1. Perspective.
The geometrical perspective absolutely has to be the same throughout a whole image. If just one element possesses a different geometrical perspective, the eye will immediately recognize this and the brain will realise it is wrong. The viewer may not be able to specifically distinguish what is odd but will know something is definitely off.

2. Lighting.
Lighting differences will be apparent in the final composite image if the shadows are different between separate images. For instance, if your main image has been taken on an overcast day with no apparent directional shadows, you cannot use any images that contain directional shadows. Or if your main image has light coming in from the left, you will not be able to use any photographs with light coming in from the right – all lighting conditions must be consistent so it all looks as if it is coming from the same source.

3. Depth of field.
In a photograph, you only have one plain in focus, so it is important to never have more than one in focus in a composited image. This means you cannot place an image that is completely in focus in a background scene that is out of focus and vise versa.

4. Colours and Tones.
If the colours and tones in the image aren’t the same than it’s blindingly obvious that they weren’t taken in the same place/time. You will see it the most in the highlights and shadows. Now unless you are taking all of the photographs in the same place and at the same time, this cannot be helped. Natural light can change from minute to minute and from place to place. How I combat this is to take some time in postproduction to digitally alter the shadows and highlights so that they have the same tonal qualities, making a more cohesive scene.

5. Wind direction
Just like how lighting must be consistent, so must wind direction. This may seem very obvious but I’ve seen it many times where a subjects dress is blowing in the wind but her hair is completely still. This would not happen if it were real, so it cannot happen in your composited image.

If all these aspects are taken into consideration before clicking the shutter, you will form a good foundation and have the building blocks in which you can build upon to create a good, solid, cohesive composited image.

Holly Burns

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