Have you seen the photos on Instagram where your best friend has three clones, and all of them are having dinner at the same time? Or maybe his/her face is melting down into a building, and the visuals are so realistic!
These are called composite images, and they create some stunning visuals to make the photos look surreal. But honestly, they are edited.
When I started doing composite photography, some of my images had two or more photographs combined to create a single image.
Creating composite images
Thanks to editing software applications and digital editing, composite photography has become much easier than before. These images can evoke and indicate time-lapse clearly.
However, you need to know your M43 camera settings before attempting this type of photography. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II provides several advantages when it comes to composite photos.
It has five stops of image stabilization, meaning that I can hold the camera even at slower shutter speeds without any fear of blurred images.
If you are shooting clones, the depth of field will matter. My micro four-thirds system provides a depth of field twice that of a full-frame camera at any given aperture. This allows me to get more in focus when shooting.
Of course, if I want a shallower depth of field to match that of the full-frame system, then I need to think carefully about my lens, its maximum aperture, and distance to the subject.
Contrary to popular belief, M43 systems are capable of a beautiful bokeh.
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II has a live composite mode that allows you to watch in real-time as the photo develops before your eyes on the back LCD screen.
A few weeks ago, I composed a composite image of a guy on a skateboard practicing. I set up my camera in a corner. The lighting was favorable, so I took as many photos of the skating guy as possible.
One tip that you should always remember while shooting these types of pictures is the main elements in the scene shouldn’t move.
For example, if there are vehicles or any mobile object in the scene, they should standstill. Later, while editing the photo, I selected some of the best shots from the scene and merged them together.
How to Edit and Make Composite Images
Apart from the photos you take, you will also need photoshop to create a composite image. Let’s take a look at some of the tricks to keep in mind while creating a composite photo:
Considering you already transferred the images to your computer, you now need to select the photos you want to use.
For example, if you are editing a picture with two separate photos, one with a plaster hand and the other a painting.
The objective here is to make the photo look as if the plaster hand is holding the painting between its thumb and index finger.
Your first step is to drag the background layer from the main photo into the image of the plaster hand.
It will automatically create a new layer and fit inside it. Close the main image because you no longer need it.
Next, I resized the image that I imported from the main photo; otherwise, if there is a difference in the ratio of the size, the final image will not have the perfect balance it needs to create a stunning visual.
I added a border inside the photo to make it look as big as the frame that I planned to attach to the photo. So, if you want to attach it to an A4 cardboard or frame, you need to resize your image accordingly.
However, be careful with the proportions. Fitting it in dimension may make one of the pictures too wide or too tall compared to the other, but that’s okay as long as the other image is not affected.
This is the trickiest of the three steps until now. It is where I applied the transformation to change the dimension of the images. There is a rectangular marquee tool that you need to select.
Drag it over the portion of the photo that you want to keep. For example, if you want to keep only the figure in the painting, you can drag the marquee tool over it.
Once you finalize the area, choose the following option: Select > Inverse. This will invert the selected area. You can press delete if you want to get rid of the excess image.
The next step is to warp the image. Here, my objective was to fit the painting photo to fit in the shape of a card. So, I selected the image and went to Edit.
It had the Transform option followed by the Warp feature. This allowed me to add a series of warp handles in the painting image.
If you are editing a similar photo, you can drag these warp handles to bend the image so that it fits the area you want to cover.
It took me a few minutes to adjust the position of the image appropriately. Once you are sure of the position, you can confirm the transformation.
Adding a white border around the image changed the way the entire photo looked. I was fiddling with some of the borders before selecting the white one. It made the image look as if the photo was stuck on a card.
You can also do the same thing by selecting the image layer followed by adding a layer style button at the bottom of the layers palette.
While doing this, always select the white color and ensure that the size is similar to your image.
Don’t forget to set the position of the photo on the inside. This gives you square corners on your image. Selecting the outside or center option will give rounder corners. If you like the transformation, click on OK to confirm.
I was still working on the primary image layer and wanted to merge the images and create a final composite photo. So, I clicked on Add Layer Mask at the bottom of the layers palette.
I used a medium-hard brush to paint on the mask and reveal the finger of the plaster hand from the underlying layer. This made the finger look as if it is above the painting and not behind it.
Depending on the images you are working with, you can also hide the photo layer instead of using the medium-hard brush. Use the Quick Selection tool and select the finger to place it over the background layer.
Using the selection in place feature, select the mask, and display the top layer. Always keep black as your foreground color. You can also press Alt + Backspace and fill the selected area with black.
Those who are new to composite photography face a few problems in this stage, especially while using the mask. It usually distorts the stroke around the final image.
Ideally, the stroke should work on the image, and the mask shouldn’t have any function.
There is a trick to bypass this problem. You need to double-click on Effects while entering the layers palette. This opens the dialog box for Layer Styles.
There are Blending Options in this box where you can check the box for Layer Mask Hides Effects. It will configure the layer on the mask to hide not only from the image but also the styles applied on the layer.
Once you press confirm, you will notice that the plaster hand is now holding the painting with two fingers. You can create more innovative composite photos using these steps.
Try some of them and show off your skills to your friends.