Compositing in its essence involves fusing two or more separate images together to create a single image. This can be to humorous or fantastical effect, and is often used to convey ideas that would otherwise be impossible in real life. It is one of the most artistic forms of photography purely due to the limitless possibilities it presents.
Until now, compositing photographs is something that I have only played with for a cheap laugh, like distorting faces with the liquify tool or giving myself stick-on fairy wings. For that purpose, it was good entertainment, but it wasn’t until recently that I’d been exposed to the true potential of compositing. I have always been a fan of fantasy — something that is based off of our real world but also ever so removed — so the idea of creating something greater than real life in my photography really appealed to me. The “how”, however, eluded me, so I turned to the internet for some inspiration.
Erik Johansson is in many ways a classic photographer who just happens to composite his photos for conceptual effect. His reliance on Photoshop in regards to creating special effects is limited, and 100% of the photographs used in his composites are taken by him. Since he takes all his photographs traditionally instead of relying on photomanipulation, each of his images takes a long time to create, but it pays off in the sense that all of his composites look highly realistic. Personally, I love the visual puns in his work and the clever ways he has replaced objects, like the moons coming out of the van in one of the above photographs. Clever use of lighting and contrast also helps to add an immense amount of depth to his images as well.
Antti Karppinen is a photographer who has been heavily influenced by fantasy, sci-fi and steampunk genres, but as an award-winning commercial photographer he clearly understands how to make these less-mainstream genres into images with mass appeal. Many of his photographs are portraits with edited-in backgrounds and intense lighting effects to make the images lively and fantastical. I particularly like his photomanipulations of Escher-esque structures as they demonstrate a keen understanding as to how to make the surreal believable by using texture, composition and lighting.
Robert Cornelius probably has my favourite portfolio of the three because I adore his use of colour and seamless blending of the real into the fantastic. His images are less based on actual photographs and are more heavy in visual effects, but the results are truly stunning artworks where the line between what is real and what isn’t is truly blurred thanks to his expert post-processing. Once again I feel like lighting plays a major role in achieving this style of image, but in Robert’s case ambient lighting and glow effects are in my opinion even more effective than the harsher studio lights as they create a more painterly impression.
So with my research undertaken, I took my leap of faith to create my own composited photograph. Much of our compositing had to be undertaken using our own photographs which was somewhat restrictive for beginner photographers without much skill, but it meant that the objects in our photographs counted for that much more. The glass heart was my core object that had to be incorporated into the task, and I found a birdcage and spare lace lying around my house which I figured could be used to make an image symbolic of locking up your feelings much like a bird is trapped in a cage.
I achieved the final image in the right by cutting out the left image and compositing it onto a stock image of a sky. I then manipulated the colours and lighting in Photoshop to create a dramatic standalone image that would also be cohesive with the rest of my series, which will feature in my post next week. While creating the image was very time-consuming thanks to cutting out all the holes in the lace, I am very satisfied with the final result and I am excited at the possibilities that compositing presents.