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Things to Keep In Mind When Planning Out a Composite Image

A few years into my photography, I became intrigued by digital composites. The fact that you could take your subject and place them in any location and environment without them actually being there, opened up a whole new world of creativity for me in the industry. With a few stock images and a subject willing to use their imagination, you can create magical works of art that definitely get you thinking "outside of the box". If you feel you have became advanced in both running your DSLR like a champ, and you have learned your way way around Photoshop pretty well, consider taking your skills and services to another level.

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Just as with any typical photo session, there are a few things you should keep in mind when you are planning out a composite image. For the above image, I placed my daughter and her teddy bear in the kitchen floor and encouraged her to use her imagination. I explained what I was going for, and to imagine herself surrounded by water and sail boats. It is critical that your subject has an idea of what the finished product will be. The direction they look, the expression on their face, their pose and position...all are important factors in getting what you are looking for. This will require guidance from you, so be sure you have your vision planned out before you begin. 

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For this image, I again, used my kitchen as my primary background. I wanted a photo of my daughter looking out of the window at night as Santa and his reindeer passed by the moon. I knew that I wanted the moon to be the only source of light in my finished image, so I would need parts of my image to be highlighted. For this reason, I chose to face her looking out of the window during the day, so that she would be highlighted properly just as she would with the moon shining through. After adding a sky overlay "behind" the window, and placing my moon where I wanted, I ended up with exactly what I was going for. Lighting plays a huge factor in getting composites to look as realistic as possible. You always need to aim for getting the source and direction of light to remain coherent throughout the image, keeping shadows and highlights in mind. 

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When doing these types of images for clients, you want them to represent your subject and their interests, hobbies, etc. When communicating with my client for this above image of her son, the first thing we discussed was things that her son had an interest in. She told me that he loved animals, especially bears. So I took the idea and ran with it. I purchased the stock image of the bear and then planned my image around it. I wanted it to appear he was hand feeding the bear, which led to me having him pose the way he did. Planning these types of sessions really involves you getting to know what type of image would leave them grinning from ear to ear when they see the final product. As a bear lover, this guy was very excited to see himself put into a location with his favorite animal, that most likely would have otherwise not have been possible. 

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When you are ready to dive into the world of composites and let your imagination run wild, just keep in mind that preparation is key. Posing and lighting should be your main focuses when making sure your subject fits the scene of your final vision. While there are many factors that go into creating a well executed composite, these basic tips should get you going in the right direction when it comes to planning out your creations. 

All images courtesy of Sparkle Hill Photography

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