Making a composite image

This is an exercise that requires us to make a documentary image using Photoshop to incorporate elements of multiple images together.

I’m not that comfortable with Photoshop; despite working my way through various courses I still have something of a silo based understanding and only really know how to do specific tasks that crop up less infrequently than others. Express Your Vision didn’t really encourage the use of Photoshop at all, and my knowledge from the Foundation course is now slightly out of date because of the new versions that have been released. Although I have made composites before there was no “documentary” requirement. Unfortunately the “documentary” aspect of this one tended to get lost in the general panicking about my limited Photoshop skills and as a result I’m not sure if this exercise is meant to build photoshop skills or build understanding of how photographs in a documentary or news setting may not be genuine. Either way, it’s had enough of my time now.

Anyway, I wanted to layer a photograph of an ice cream van into a photograph of a derelict village that is now owned by the army and closed to the public. First off, I couldn’t get the wheels selected. It turns out that the select and mask tooks in Photoshop had changed since the last time I used them. It also turns out that my Wacom graphics tablet doesn’t behave consistently with the tools so I had to sort out an external mouse (I normally use either the Wacom or that little tracker pad thing on the laptop.

I need to do more work around edges, at the moment I don’t really get them. For this work I did the following steps:

  1. Opened the images as Layers in Photoshop (from Lightroom)
  2. Used the Quick select tool to roughly select around the van
  3. Used “Select and Mask” from the top line
  4. Used the + and – tools with the brush to refine the selection
  5. Exported the masking work to a new layer with mask
  6. Used Ctrl T with shift-drag to scale the icecream van.
  7. Saved as a JPG.

Not that happy with the results to be honest, I suppose neither of the donor images were anything special so the result wouldn’t be either. I think I should probably take all the shadows out from under the van and possibly dull the colours slightly. I’m not sure that the perspective is right either, but we’ll never see an ice cream van in Imber to know for sure.

ice cream imber

Writing this up, I was reminded of the composite, layering and pixel manipulation work that I did on the Foundation course. Somehow I found that more engaging though clearly it will never pass as a documentary image, and the hair selection is pretty rough.

blythe zip line composite

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4 thoughts on “Making a composite image

  1. Catherine November 12, 2017 / 11:43 am

    I think you did pretty well actually. At lest you can now build on the basics. The bottom one is so appealing as well.

    • Kate November 12, 2017 / 3:48 pm

      Thanks Catherine. I’m not sure that documentary is my thing… I prefer the bottom one, with its stars and woodland.

  2. Simon Chirgwin November 13, 2017 / 9:46 am

    It’s something to do with difference between the contrast of the ice-cream van image (sunny day – contrasty) and the background (dull, not contrasty) but the shadow almost gets over this.

    You could do a whole load of really interesting pictures taking your backgrounds from Imber and adding in people from a ‘normal’, living village doing normal every-day things, I think…

    • Kate November 13, 2017 / 5:29 pm

      I like that idea! One of the ones in my ideas notebook is to photograph normal things in Imber, but I think photoshopping is certainly easier logistically! I’d love to make a composite image with a washing line set up in Imber and other trappings of normality too. Thanks very much for reading and commenting.

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