10 tips for shooting composites

  1. PLAN AHEAD – If you start with the final image in mind, you can plan the poses and shoot the background so that everything fits together properly when you go to merge the images together. Think about where your subject will be standing or sitting in the background and make sure that area is in focus when you shoot the background. When you shoot the subject, make sure they’re sitting at the right height.
  2. MATCH THE CAMERA SETTINGS – Make sure camera settings are as similar as possible for the background image and subject – shoot from the same angle, with the same aperture, focal length and ISO.
  3. MATCH THE LIGHTING – If the background image has soft light, your subject should too. If the background has harsh light, the subject should too. If there is strong directional light in the background, make sure the light on the subject is coming from the same direction. If the background has warm light, the light on the subject should be too.
  4. SHOOT ON A CLEAN BACKDROP – Make your life easier – shoot the subject against as clean a backdrop as possible. One color is easy to extract.
  5. FEATHER YOUR CUTOUT – When you’re extracting your subject from the background, the softness of your brush should match the softness of the area you plan to paste them into the background. If the background is tact sharp, your brush should be hard. If your background is a bit blurry in that area, the cutout should be too.
  6. PAY ATTENTION TO SHADOWS – All subjects cast a shadow. The depth, darkness and direction of the shadow depends on the quality of the light. Think about where you subject’s shadow would fall in real life and try to imitate that. If you background has shadows, look at how sharp they are, what direction they lie in, and how strong they are. Be careful not to place your shadow too far away from the subject as that can give them appearance of floating.
  7. MATCH THE TONES – Once you have your subject placed in the backdrop, tone the whole image to help tie it together. Make sure your color temperature matches on your subject and background.
  8. ADD FOREGROUND – Elements in the foreground, in front of your subject, help make the image look more realistic. The more your subject appears to be interacting with the background, the more convincing it is.
  9. TELL A STORY – All the whiz-bang power of Photoshop to create fantastical images is nothing if there’s no meaning behind your image. Use your powers for good. Don’t add more effects just because you can. Always ask yourself, why am I doing this? What purpose does it serve? Does it improve the image?
  10. HAVE FUN – You can make any fantasy come true with the power of Photoshop. Get creative. Try new things. Explore.