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Congratulations on venturing into the world of composite photography. Please have a read through the hints and tips below - they will help you enjoy your journey and hopefully start as you mean to go on!  

 

1. TIP NUMBER ONE - PLAN, PLAN , PLAN!

This is the single most important thing you can do. If you shoot specifically with the composite in mind you will get much better results than trying to insert a random baby image into the template.


So if you know the nest has cream fluff, shoot the baby on a very light backdrop like cream or white – this will make your life much easier when you come to doing the composite. If possible, also try using a similar texture for best results.


If the composite uses a mid tone like pink, peach or pastel colors you may be in a position where you don't have the same color. That is fine if you use a medium gray or any color in a similar tonal range, you can always do a color change afterwards.


Please don't try and insert a baby shot on a white blanket into a composite with a dark blanket/fluff (or vice versa for that matter). It just doesn't work as you cannot retain the shadows, and the shadows are what make the composite images look realistic. Of course it is possible, but it would require hours in Photoshop with no guarantee of a great result. The idea of digital templates is that they save you time NOT add editing time to your schedule. So keep it simple, plan as much as you can and the magic will happen.

The quickest and most believable composites happen when you are transferring not just the baby from the original image, but also the layer it is on, thus retaining all of the original shadows. That way the only blending you need to do is of the actual blankets - and not going through having to do complicated extractions, and spending hours in Photoshop.

2. TIP NUMBER TWO - LIGHTING

Oh so important! Replicating lighting leads to much more believable composites. So the trick is to pay attention to the light direction.  My backdrops are shot with both studio and natural light. On the newer templates I try to mention how they were lit - but you should be able to work this out from looking at the images anyway - just look at the directions of the shadows. Most ( not all) of my nests and baskets are shot with the light coming in at 45-90 degrees from the left, and a white reflector used to the right to fill in harsh shadows. Most (not all) of the swings and beds are shot with light coming from the right, with the reflector on the left. Replicating lighting leads to more believable composites.

3. TIP NUMBER THREE - APERTURE

Ideally shoot the baby at an aperture between F4-F5.6 to ensure there aren’t too many blurred areas, you can always add blurring later. When shooting on a blanket , especially in the tushie up position and focusing on the face, the feet often go out of focus. For composites it is preferable that they are not blurry. So take your usual shots, and if you need one for the composite, just adjust the settings so you have one that is a little sharper all the way through- you can always blur later!

4. TIP NUMBER FOUR - WRAPPING & POSITIONING

For nests and baskets you are best shooting the baby from above, in some sort of wrap. The tighter the wrap and the more snuggled the baby is (think feet not too far from the face), the better it will fit into the composite. There are many you tube videos that show how to wrap newborns and are very useful. Always bear in mind the angle of the baby and think how it will fit into the composite at shooting stage - I find the diagonal angle with the baby not in a poker straight line works best. 

For swings and beds the best position is either on the back with face towards the camera, on the side facing camera, or the tushie up position. Look at the before or afters in the  store to see what works best - but don't be afraid to experiment with your own ideas!

5. TIP NUMBER FIVE - POST PRODUCTION

I recommend that when editing your baby shot you look at the tones used in the template – are they warm or cool? Adjust your image so it compliments the template whilst editing. Personally I like to edit the baby shot before I do the composite (so clean ups plus any skin work are done), so by the time I put the baby into the composite the only work remaining is adjusting tones and density to match the backdrop, plus of course any blending to make the composite believable. If you have a “look” you like your images to have – for example using matte actions or shifters, adding textures etc, I recommend you do this last after you have completed the composite work – basically as a finishing touch. You can use the color balance or selective color tools to make any amendments to the colors in your template (or any other tool you like!)

BASIC EDITING GUIDELINES

1. First and foremost please save and back up your template after downloading it (so you don’t accidentally save over it - always work on a duplicate)

2. Open your digital backdrop and the file you will be combining it with in Photoshop or your editing program

3. Copy & Paste your image into the digital template, or drag the baby image across on top of the digital template

4. Reduce the layer opacity of your image so you can see the backdrop underneath

5. Use the Transform Tool to place your subject wherever you want it

6. Once placed increase opacity back to 100% and add a black layer mask

7. Use a white paintbrush at 100% to paint your subject back in

8. Now use the paintbrush to blend the edges so your subject does not look “stuck” in, you can do this by varying the brush opacity, and also using the dodge & burn tools.

9. Finish your image with whatever effects you wish to apply & save as a new file.

There are of course many other ways of doing this, I just find that  way works best for me. Please feel free to use any method that you see fit.

Please don't ever feel dejected if your first few composites don't look like what you imagined. Pop into the Facebook group, post your before and images and get some constructive feedback and some help - we are a friendly bunch! Also please do check out the Sweet Bambini Design You Tube channel for some helpful tutorials.