Studio Composites

Happy almost new year!

Tyler and I are back in Boston, and though I have a few more Michigan/Christmas photos to share, I want to go back to some schoolwork here. Though I’ve only been on break two weeks, it seems like forever! School feels very far away; I’ll be happy to be back at it on Monday, though I won’t be particularly happy with my 6:30am wake-up … but it’s a small price to pay!

Before break we did a week at school called “Integrating Photoshop into the Creative Studio.” In layman’s terms this means taking shots in a studio setting where you consider each element in your scene to be a separate entity; you shoot optimally for each element, then composite all the elements together in Photoshop. Voilà, the perfect photograph, perfectly exposed for each of its parts! This is how all major product photography is done.

Here’s an example for you, as it’s always easier to understand with a visual:

I took one shot with very soft light for the earrings to get that nice shiny gradient light on them, then another with a harder light added to pick out detail in the pine cone background. I then merged the two shots together in Photoshop, resulting in a photograph I wouldn’t have been able to complete with just one shot.


Here’s another example:

I took one shot to get detail in the black cat (which blew the white cat out entirely), then another to get detail in the white cat (which made the black cat completely too dark). A third shot got the background nice and well-lit. Composite the three and you just extended your dynamic range without using HDR software! I love those cat salt and pepper shakers.

Our third assignment for the week was a bit more than mere compositing: we had to take a photo of something in the studio, then insert it convincingly into a scene we had already shot, taking care to match light, camera angle, etc…

I chose a sandy forest scene I snapped while on the Cape over Halloween, then shot a little porcelain cat figurine (yes, I am a crazy cat lady with multiple cat subjects in one post, but you should have already known that by now!) with strong directional light that matched my scene. We learned how to add shadows in Photoshop, too, which makes it all the more realistic. Okay, so no giant cat statue is going to block your path in the woods, but at least it looks like it kind of maybe was there?

I did a lot of shadow work, even copying the left trees and turning them into dappled shadows on the cat. Photoshop is extremely time-consuming!

It’s been nice to have these weeks of break to pursue my own photographic interests, and to relax and sleep in, but it will be equally nice to get back to school next week.

Until then, have a happy and safe New Year!


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Filed under Photo Assignment, Photoshop, Still Life

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