Compositing in Photoshop: An Introduction for Beginners
Ever thought of bringing together elements of two different scenes in one? Compositing in Photoshop can make that happen! The process of compositing allows you to get both subjects and backgrounds from different scenes to blend into one final image. Whether your aim is to replace the sky in a photograph, add a new subject at a specific spot, or combine the two – a composite image could enable you to explore your creativity and add unique effects to your photographs. However, creating a final image that stands out requires precision, and if you are wondering where to start, this guide is here to help.

Types of Compositing in Photoshop

Collage of two different pictures, one with just the background, the other with just the subject Images Courtesy of ShootDotEdit Custome @sierrasolisphotography

There are two types of compositing – frame and element. Frame compositing allows you to combine multiple images that are usually photographed in the same frame and bring them together as one in a single image. This type of compositing can be a good place to practice this technique as it is easier to combine elements from the same shoot. 

On the other hand, element compositing is when you combine images that have different frames and are photographed at multiple locations. With this type of compositing, you get to explore the limitless possibilities of this creative technique. Both of these compositing types are often used to create thought-provoking images for art projects, advertisements, and editorials. 

Simple Steps To Create a Composite Image in Photoshop

1. Add New Images & Combine Them

Adding new images and combining them in Photoshop
Image Courtesy of ShootDotEdit Customer @sierrasolisphotography

To begin the process of compositing in Photoshop, start by dragging the images you want to composite together to Photoshop or go to File in the upper bar menu and click on Open and select the image from there. To make the process easier, we suggest using two landscape images where you want to replace the sky and add a subject. Now, to combine both images in the same document, select an image (Select > All) and copy it, and then paste it on the other image. As you do this, you will see that there are now two layers in the layers palette.

Layer 1, right now, shows the image with your subject, you can rename it to Subject Layer. The Background Layer displays the previous or the other image. To see both the images blend, you can change the opacity by going to the layer palette and clicking on Opacity, and dragging the slider to change the percentage. To move the images around, go to the left-side menu bar and click on the Move Tool (keyboard shortcut: Press V).

2. Add a Layer Mask

Adding a Layer Mask
Image Courtesy of ShootDotEdit Customer @sierrasolisphotography

Select the Subject Layer and then click on the Add Vector Mask button (third icon from the left in the lower panel). Once you have added the Layer Mask, you can use the Brush tool to paint around the edges of your subject black or white – whatever works with your background.

3. Change the Blend Mode

Infographic stating play with the perspective of the subject using the Warp option

Up until this step, your subject appears rough over your background. Now, it is time to smoothly blend things a little. To do this, the Blend Mode needs to be changed. In the layers palette, go to the Blend Mode section, and from the drop-down menu, select whatever works for your subject. If you want to make darker areas of the Subject Layer invisible, change it from Normal to Screen. If you want to shrink or enlarge your subject, press CTRL + T and then use the edges to change the size. To flip the subject, right-click on the screen, and from the menu, click on Flip Horizontal and Flip Vertical. If required, you can also use the Warp option to play with the perspective of the subject.

4. Blend Foreground

Now, you will notice that the edges of your subject have smoothly blended together, but the subject body still overlaps with the background. To fix this, select the Background Layer and go to Select and click on Color Range. A Color Range dialog box will appear. Now, click on the area you want to select using the eyedropper tool, and it should appear white in the small window. Then, press OK. The white area should now be turned into a selection. Now, click on the Add Layer Mask icon (third icon from the left in the lower panel). To invert the selection, press CTRL + I. 

5. Match Colors

Now, to make everything appear more realistic, it is essential to match colors. To do this, click on the Adjustment Layer icon, and from the display menu, select Gradient Map. You will notice that a dialog box will appear on the screen. In the Gradient Map dialog box, click on the top bar, and the Gradient Editor window will appear. Now, you can either choose from the already loaded Presets or create a new one. Once you are done, click OK, and the effect will be applied. You can further increase or decrease your opacity using the Opacity slider as per your requirement.

Further Read: How To Use Gradient Mapping For Creative Coloring In Photoshop

Final composite image showcasing the subject on a different background
Image Courtesy of ShootDotEdit Customer @sierrasolisphotography
We thank Sierra for allowing us to take two of her amazing images and letting us have some creative license for the purposes of educating and mocking up this composite.

Compositing in Photoshop can be a complex process and takes time to perfect. The more elements you combine, the more tricky the process could become. Moreover, remember that different creative ideation can be achieved by following different approaches. And the steps mentioned above are just there to get you started.

We hope you found this blog helpful! For more blogs on Photoshop and Lightroom, you can check out our Lightroom and Photoshop tips section. At ShootDotEdit, we provide professional wedding photo editing services. If you need help with your post-production workflow, check out pricing plans to learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business. 

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