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7 Useful composite tips for retouchers

We visited safari park on Samui and I took a picture of baby elephant. They may call it “park”, but in reality it`s a zoo. I hate those places, because animals there looks so miserable. Anyway, I`ve been looking at that image and it made me sad, so I decided to free baby elephant at least on a picture :-)

Here is what I came up with:


Original image which I took at the zoo:


While doing this work, I`ve decided to share some composite techniques with you, guys. I`m sure that you`ll find them helpful in your work.

1. Match shadows and lights on all elements of your composition. Keep in mind where your light source is positioned and how it`ll effect shadows.
In my case – main light is sun, which is positioned above elephant. Clouds is like softbox, so shadow under elephant will be blurry. If I had harsh light source (for example 12 o`clock sun without clouds) shadow would be sharp and more obvious.

2. Match perspective. Detect your horizon line and vanishing point. Keep in mind in what angle camera was pointing when image was taken.

3. Consider depth of field when doing composite. Objects that are closer to viewer or which are the main in image – should be sharp. Other objects, which are away, should be blurry, but transition should be smooth. Practise with photocamera will help to understand how depth of field is working. Experiment with aperture and shutter speed.
Also match the blur of objects that are placed together.

4. Match noise on objects. For this purpose Filter Grain should help you.


5. Match colors of the objects. Colorcast should be the same. You can do this with Curves, Color balance or other adjustment layer.


6. Match contrast for all elements. You can make Black & White layer to see the difference and then match contrast of objects with Curves or Levels.


7. So your objects would be more insert to the background, you can use clipping masks and layer Blending mode.

For example: I’ve inserted stone more by adding trim light to it. I created clipping mask to the layer with stone with blank layer. Then changed blending mode for this layer to Screen. With brush color set to the one near the stone, I painted near the edges of it.

I did the same with elephant legs.



Hope you are picked up something new for yourself from this article. Please let me know if you have any questions in comments. I`ll be delighted to answer them :)

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