One of the things I love to do as a photographer and an artist is to grab a recent image and see what I can do with it – both technically and artistically. It’s one thing to take a great image in the studio. Getting the pose just right and controlling the light is an amazing part of the process itself, but really “playing” with an image after the fact to see what I can get out of it is really an exercise of pure joy for me, and lately I’ve been into making composites from my studio images.

What the heck is a composite?

A composite is a combination of at least two images to make a new image, but it’s not a collage. The distinction is simple. A collage is more than one image shown blended together, but still distinctly separate images. A composite is the seamless blending of at least two images to become a single new image. The composite normally shows an extracted subject in an environment that was nowhere near the subject at the time. It is either another photograph, or can be created from thin air.
What’s so fun about making a composite?

Recently I’ve been shooting models and clients on seamless black or white paper with my Paul C. Buff PLM Umbrella system and then using those “good” images to create composite images. I extract the model from the background and then install either another image that I shot or create the background from scratch.  Here’s an example.
The image of model, Morgan McCarty on the left was shot in the studio on a black mottled background. The image on the right is the same image, with Morgan extracted and a new background installed in the background. The mood – the light – the entire image has a new feel. The fun for me with this one was creating that background from scratch. The books and shelves didn’t exist before I created them from nothing.

So what makes a good composite?

In my not so humble opinion, a good composite is one that combines two or more images seamlessly. The light matches. The color matches, and the combined image creates something fun and new that wasn’t conveyed in the original image.
Take for example another image of Morgan that I turned into a composite. Again, the original image was created on a seamless black background. The composite combines three elements: the extracted image, a snapshot of mine from the Las Vegas Strip, and a graphic I created to look like railing. Note that the light passes through all of the gaps in and flyaway hairs on her head.

Here’s a Tip

When you’ve completed your composite, edit it again as if it was a brand new image shot all together. The extra processing will pull the elements together.