This evening, as well as the last two, I've been watching Brooke Shaden's class on Fine Art Compositing on CreativeLive. It couldn't have come at a better time because I had recently started my first totally composited image. I use compositing techniques regularly in almost all of my images, however I'm usually just adding on, or changing parts of an image from frames that were taken during that same shoot. I've never pieced together an image from material taken from completely separate sources. So I figured it was time to give it a shot. I thought it quite likely I would fail miserably, but that would be ok because I could trash it and no one would ever know. If I succeeded in making a believable composite, it would open up a whole world of new possibilities in terms of conceptual imagery. The crux for me, was in making the composite believable. I want you to look at my images and believe them, even if they are fantastical. I want you to wonder why an image was created, even how it was created, but I certainly don't want you to look at it and think "She just stuck that person in there in Photoshop". Then it all falls apart. The fantasy is gone and you automatically dismiss the image as just poor fakery. That, I do not want.
So I found a picture I liked of the lovely Jen Brook that I took back in August:
I dug out a background that I put together from some images I shot on a foggy day last summer in Nova Scotia:
And lastly I found a sky that I liked from Portobello Beach:
Then I started putting them all together. I flipped things around, swore a bit as I tried to blend the tips of the blades of grass into the sky, and readjusted Jen's size and position a million times until I ended up with this:
Clearly there was still a loooong way to go at this point to make this believable. One thing that is really important, and that I think worked in my favour here is that the light on Jen's face and the lighting on the clouds is consistent. Choosing the right sky to drop in was crucial here and I had to flip it from the original to match that.
The next step was to add a shadow to Jen to "ground" her in the area of the background image that was in focus. I also wanted to even out the colour/tones of the separate images to blend them together better. So I applied colour toning to colour the shadows, midtones and highlights consistently across the three images, which brought me here:
Definitely an improvement over the previous image. Once I got to this point I started to feel some hope that it would work out, but I still felt the colours were pretty incongruous and I didn't feel that there was much of a story here. She's rising above the ground, so what? It looks kinda cool, but why is it happening? What is her story? Story is everything.
So, I sat and stared at it for a while. I tinkered with colour changes, going back and forth for an hour or so before finally settling on a palette. I laid in bed at night thinking instead of sleeping, and that's when her story came to me. Now, normally I would start with a story first and then create an image, but this time I was creating this just to see if I could. So my process was a little bit backwards. Nonetheless, I still felt a story to motivate the image was really important to me. Enter some birds in the background. To me, birds symbolise freedom and transcendence and I loved the mirroring of our subject rising into the air, taking flight herself.