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Lesson 1 from: Creative Composites Using Your Own Photo Stock

Karen Alsop

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Lesson Info

1. Introduction

Learn how to creatively photograph elements that become other elements in a composite. Turn miniatures into life sized elements. Photograph incredible costumes and dress your subjects in Photoshop. Create brushes, textures and patterns from photos that you can use over and over again. Be resourceful and creative in your hunt for elements, and take your compositing to the next level.

Lesson Info


Welcome to creative composites using your own photo stock. My name is Karen also and I am a digital photographic artist based in Melbourne Australia in this class. I am going to share with you how you can photograph your own textures, atmosphere and elements that you can use in your composites. I'll show you how you can easily manage your own photo stock library. Even if you haven't keyword ID and how you can find those photos that you took years and years ago. I'll show you how to shoot miniatures and focus stack, which is really important when you want to actually bring an element into a bigger composite to make sure the depth of field matches. I'll show you how you can supersize even phone images and make them fit within a high resolution artwork. I will show you how to create Photoshop patterns and brushes that you can use for just about anything in your photographic work. And I'll show you how to photograph costumes and dress your subjects in Photoshop. You will find that there ar...

e so many creative ways to achieve just about anything. If you think outside of the box through this class, I'll be sharing via showing you my camera settings, showing you all the technical aspects of why I do what I do and I'll answer all your questions that you might have on creating a realistic Photoshop composite. I'll take you through some of my most recent artwork and how it was all put together. I can't wait to get started. I'd like to begin this class by sharing with you some of my work where I have created photos. They're not really photos are they? Their artworks, creative composites of animals. And I've told a story through a whole range of different layers, sometimes hundreds and hundreds of layers. I start with the idea, there are so many ways that you can get that idea down onto something that translates. So I use Pinterest quite often. I use mood boards. I try and schedule, I use adobe products on an ipad often just to sort of sketch it out and while it might not be a work of art at that point in time, it really does help me to visualize what that finished product will look like. I'd love to share with you first my homeless wildlife series. This series is a work in progress and it is all about telling the story of wildlife, Australian wildlife and the challenges that they face. I've met so many incredible wildlife rescuers and heard from them on the individual challenges that these animals have. I've learned so much. I started the series with homeless Joey and I photographed this homeless Joey. His name was joseph and I wanted to show him in a human like form as such. I really wanted people to connect with this animal as though it was their own child and that's the premise of this series. Now you cannot do that in one shot. You know, still photographers that go out and photograph one brilliant image. That is one form of art. But for me, I love to tell the story through lots of different elements and little clues that might be in the piece that help communicate something to the viewer. So with homeless Joey I photographed with Joey and then I talked to the rescue are about what they do when the Joey comes into their care and this Joey you'll see up on screen has a dummy and some milk bottles, a little knapsack. But that dummy and those milk bottles are literally for the joeys. They are what they use to help feed them when they come into their care. So I integrated that into the story and then brought in some more human elements. So the knapsack, the under the arm there, the teddy bear in the hand, the suitcase with the animal's name on it, which was actually drawn by the rescuer. And then in the background there you see this sad scene of the mother that has passed away and a crow up on a wildlife crossing sign. All of those aspects bring it together to help tell the story and how people connect to that Joey and feel for that Joey as though they would feel for a child that is left homeless photographing all these pieces. Some of the pieces I didn't know I was going to use until I came back to them later and that's why later on in this class, I want to take you through how you can catalog your light room images so you can come back to them. The background I photographed in new Zealand a beautiful morning where there was fog everywhere. And I just walked around this Airbnb property, this farm and photographed this scene. So the background as you see it, the road and the light and the sky is all. One shot. The kangaroo lying on the ground was in fact asleep again at the time. I didn't know I was going to use it in this piece. So I encourage you when you're out photographing that you try and capture as much as possible. You really never know what angle that you'll need or what part of an animal or an element that you might need. So getting lots of different shots gives you that flexibility. I photographed the sign when I had built the idea. So, there are aspects in this piece that I photographed for the peace and that's primarily everything else there. So, the kangaroo, I knew exactly what I was doing with that with that Joey. And so I photographed the Joey at the Rescuers place. I did bring some lighting. It was in a confined space, but I made sure that the light was surrounding the joeys so that it was a really beautiful soft light all the way around. And I also brought some blue screens that just helped if the kangaroo happened to be in front of it. Just help with the extraction. I made the knapsack from pieces of material. Uh and I wrapped up some other pieces of material and I found a stick and I tied it on and I popped that under the kangaroos. Um and then the crew, I was looking here everywhere for Cruz and then I rocked up to a place I regularly go and found so many of them scavenging in the bins. So I quickly got my camera out and photographed that Cruz. So all of these aspects, I planned the suitcase and the milk bottles, all of those as well. Obviously photographed on purpose, the teddy bear later on, which becomes something that repeats in the series as well. So homeless warm bat was the next one in the series and I had a really clear vision with this one of what I wanted it to look like. I started off with photographing that area or the background and it's often a really good way that you can go about creating your piece because then you can match that lighting and match that look with what you put in. So the elements that you photograph later. So I went down the road to a back alley behind some shops and I found this area that had the bins and the rubbish and the graffiti and it all looks like how I wanted it to look but it wasn't one shot. So I got out my camera, I photographed the different parts of the bin, the trolley, the rubbish, the fence, the wall, the light all in the same area on an overcast day. If you photograph when the sun's out, you get a particular lighting direction coming at your subject or what it is your photograph, you're gonna get shadows, you're going to get harsh light. Now, if you know exactly what you're doing, any photograph, everything with the same light that can work. But if you don't and you're mixing and matching from different angles, light will tell the tale of it not being a realistic composite. So for the most part, when I'm out collecting stock photographing all of my own elements and I might use later, I'm trying to do that when it's overcast. I used to be a portrait and wedding photographer and I used to just not photograph when the light was soft like that. I wanted the golden hour, the golden light and I pretty much refused to photograph any other time unless I really had to compositing has opened my world to the possibilities of photographing really any time of the day. But in particular when it's overcast when maybe it's a little bit drizzly. So I always go to photograph my elements at those times now in Melbourne, get a lot of those days. You can also replicate that by photographing in shade or just making sure that there's not different light hitting your subjects. So putting together this piece I've been did a little bit of a sketch up, but I sort of brought together a few elements got it looking how I wanted and then I knew where I'd be placing that wombat and so when the warm back came into the studio or there's too warm bats, baby and Bonnie when they came into the studio, they could then try and replicate that light which I'd cast from the light above. So I wanted to have that light above casting down into the warm back. I worked with the rescue are to have the warm but in a position. And I actually used a light a strobe overhead to achieve that look. But for all the other photos that I took of the warm bats that day, I took that strobe away and I just photographed them in that soft lit environment in my studio that's behind me. I've got four lights and they're all pointing inwards and they create that soft lit environment. So if I've got animals walking around, doesn't matter what angle there on, they're going to look quite similar with the light. And I photographed all the bits and pieces and the knapsack again, the newspapers and actually making sure that those aspects that were on top of the warm bats of the teddy bear in the newspaper and the knapsack were all also photographed with that light that strobe overhead, which then created the same lighting. So then there wasn't as much manipulation needed in Photoshop and that's one of the keys to, I just want to communicate with you, the more you can get right in camera, the easier it's going to be to bring together a convincing composite. Let's move on to the third in the series, the koala homeless koalas. Now I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted to do with this. I knew I wanted them in an old dingy caravan and that I wanted a bushfire showing from outside of the window and I wanted it to be kind of spooky feeling. Now I made a really big mistake when I photographed this one and I want to highlight that I didn't have a backup plan. I went and photographed the caravan with what I thought was going to be the lighting that I wanted. I used a green jell o on a strobe that was coming through the window and cast all of this green light into the caravan and while I felt like that sort of looked right when I was on location when I came back to it and started playing with it. I just was not getting the field that I wanted. It was uh and so I regret it because I spent so long adjusting the color and the light. I regretted that decision not to have a backup plan. Maybe not to just take the gel off. So, I had some shots that weren't in that light, but you live and you learn and sometimes you rush things and sometimes it's easy to go back and re shoot. So, with the koalas as well, I had photographed the koalas on a trip that we took and I managed to at the last minute arrange access to the rescue park in Raymond Island, which they do wonderful, wonderful work looking after the koalas there. So, I photographed the koalas there and I didn't have access to being able to bring my lights or have particular lighting. So there's quite a lot of adjustment that needed to take place in Photoshop with this one to create that lighting effect on the koalas to match the light in the scene. Now, I photographed this piece and put it all together. And then I wanted to put in this scene a very subtle dog actually, this is the third dog that I put in this piece. And it was a matter of finding the right look, dogs are a very big problem on Raymond Island because even the team dogs can attack the koalas. They often low in the in the trees and there's so many of them on the islands because they're not able to actually move off the island. So it's it's a real challenge. The dogs attack. And then the rescuers have to look after this koala didn't often put them down if they are attacked too badly. So putting a dog in there, but making it a domestic dog that looked a little bit scary. And also to create that, you're looking at it, you don't see the dog, it's a dog and then all of a sudden you see the dog and you get scared, you get that jolt. So that's the purpose of that being there. There's other elements in this and the previous ones with the newspapers, newspaper articles about these pieces then showing up in the next piece. So that's a key part of the series that continues on. So you can see that planning goes a really long way in creating a series as well. Now let's get to homeless penguins. This is the one I'm taking you down the rabbit hole with, I'm going to show you how to create the waves and the brushes and everything that's in this. I'm gonna show you how to dress a penguin. Now you might not be dressing penguins, you might be dressing something else. I'm gonna show you how I did that. I'm going to talk to you about how we photographed the elements like the lanterns and the fish of some fun stories and how you can bring all of this together to create your own composite. So we are going to go through a number of these aspects step by step. So what I'm teaching you today will then contribute to having the knowledge to be able to create something like homeless penguins. I'm so looking forward to taking you through this. Oh yeah. Mhm mm. Yeah. Mhm. No. Mhm.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Story Art Education Offer
Actions and Brushes
Camera Files

Ratings and Reviews

Charlene Mitchell

WOW! I'm not familiar with Karen's work so this was a wonderful surprise! Loved the detail she included in her instruction and her passion shows through in every topic! So many tips and tricks to help 'sell' the finished piece as believable - details I wouldn't have thought of. Going to check out her other class on CL and also her website!

Melissa Helland

Can’t tell you how much I appreciate all I’ve learned from this teacher. Wonderful classes here on Creative Live and her site has even more learning opportunities. Worth every penny of my Creative Live membership just for this class alone!

Cristina Menor

Karen is an excellent teacher. Her lessons are always very well explained and very easy to understand and to follow. You will learn lots of valuable tips. I absolutely recommend this class if you want to learn how to create incredible compositions very near to reality.

Student Work