Skip to main content

Compositing Background

Lesson 38 from: Fine Art Conceptual Photography from Shoot through Post-Processing

Bella Kotak, Pratik Naik

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

38. Compositing Background


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Artistic Vision and Inspiration


Personal Projects


Creative Motivation and Defining Your Story


Organizing Your Inspiration


Building A Character


Creating Wardrobe and Props


Location Scouting


Lesson Info

Compositing Background

So, essentially, the way that we're composing is very similar to what we did with the location shot, as you're gonna see me do right now. I need to fill in the area over here and this area over here. So what I'm gonna do is go to this picture, and I'm gonna grab some of the foliage from this side and bring it in. Great. And just show you that it's this exact same concept. So, using my marquis tool, made a selection, Command C to copy, Command V to paste. And I'm just gonna place it in this scene and see how I feel about it. Okay, I think I'm quite happy with it there, I think. I'm gonna also go back and find a few bits and pieces that I can also use. So, do you wanna tell them what we did or didn't do yesterday? Oh, so, interesting enough, I'll mention this, is that we, there's two things. Yes, we could've actually put her in the center of the frame. The reason why I intentionally didn't is to serve as material to show you how compositing works if you wanna add in other elements. So,...

that's one thing to mention. And also is the fact that, even though we shot close to the sides, it did give us options to bring elements from the other parts of the frame inside. But otherwise, normally, you'd just have a bigger canvas space, or put them closer to the center of the frame, or shoot other plates, but it was kind of like an experiment to show you that it's still possible without having blank plates. Yeah. Okay, so I'm just having fun at this point, and I'm just moving the pieces that I took in different places. As you can see, I'm not being particularly tidy about it. I'm just seeing what could work where. And there's a bit of blank over here, so I think I'll just fill that in as I go. Yep. Okay. So, here are the three pieces that I brought. One is gonna fill up this side. One's going to fill up the top, and the other one is going to fill up the opposite side. And I flip them over because I quite like symmetry and I think that's just because you find a lot of symmetry in nature. I don't know. There's something about it that I'm quite attracted to, and I feel like it lends a little bit of extra in an image, but only if you tweak it so that it doesn't look as like you flipped it over. Essentially. So, we're just gonna tweak it and see if it works, and if it doesn't work, it's not the end of the world. Okay. It's the end of the world. I know, everyone's freaking out. (laughing) So, yeah, we were a bit excited yesterday, weren't we, when we were taking this, that we forgot to take the empty plates. So, this is you watching me figuring it out. Mm-hmm. Yeah, 'cause that happens as well at photo shoots. I think it's better that way, you know? If everything's too perfect, all the time, what are you gonna learn, so it's nice that we did that. Yeah. Yeah, we actually were gonna take empty plates, but I ended up taking a selfie with the model, and it all just worked. After that. We could composite you in there, instead. That would be fun. No. That could be a good class. Okay. So, I'm very, very quickly, at this point, quite rough and tumble, again. There we go. Bringing back that layer, tweaking it, pressing on and off to see what I'm doing. Retaining some of the information. Some of the foliage from the layers below it. And again, you can do that by pressing show and hide layer. So, I'm constantly doing that, and looking at the hair. So, we actually already covered how to composite in the last segment, but we're gonna carry, I'm just gonna show you very quickly, so you can really see that this is how I work. Very excited to see how this turns out. Okay. And now, we're gonna come to this corner, and turn this on. And open a layer mask, and do the same thing. Turn it off and on. Make sure, on my layer mask, see that it is selected and then use a black brush to hide what I don't want to show. Okay, brilliant. I quite like that, actually. Oh wait, maybe I didn't. (chuckling) We'll see. All right, and, leave some of that in there. Okay, and let's turn that off and on. Mm-kay. Turn that off and on, see what's underneath. See, it's something interrupting here. So, get rid of that. Brilliant. Off and on again. Brilliant. Mm-kay. And so, we're retaining some of the information from below in the previous layer. You can do this, which is flipping it over, and still have room to play, and not making it look completely symmetrical. It's interesting, because even though we have other parts of the image that have different information, you're doing this intentionally because you like the symmetry. That's the point to note. I do like the symmetry. Yeah. If you look through my work, you'll often see symmetry. Hiding in there. And I will always take a little bit of time to craft it. Yeah. Compositing is where I spend most of my time. Sometimes, it's like three hours. (laughing) Because there's so many decisions to be made, and so many directions an image can go into. Okay. So, we're just tidying up. Who else finds it like quite therapeutic to watch other people do this? (laughing) We're gonna be here 'til nine. Is that okay with you? That's fine. Yeah, perfect. I love it. Yeah, I find it really interesting to see somebody else edit, but when I'm the one editing, I'm like okay, all eyes are on me. No, it's nice. Okay. Yeah. Great. And of course, guys, feel free to step in and ask any questions. I wanna be able to answer them as we go, as well. Okay. So, would be this turning that off and on, what's happening with that leaf. Okay. But what happens if I take the leaf away? I think I like that a bit better, 'cause it looks a bit more delicate that a giant leaf coming out of her head. Okay. And then, if I'm not happy with something like this, like whatever's happening in this corner, or even here, then I would just grab another piece from another photo, bring it in, and tidy it up, the exact same way. And that's why you can see how time can get. You can really lose time in this process. So, do you see this symmetry, but one leaf is higher than the other, it's not completely symmetrical. We can even get rid of this one, actually, if we wanted to. Yeah. There we go. So that there's one here and one here. And that could work quite nicely, as well. Mm-kay. Mm-kay. And now, we're gonna just grab the last few bits. Could you clone that from any other pieces? I was gonna say, if you wanna be a bit cheeky, then what you can do-- Cheeky? Cheeky, especially when there's like small areas, then you can open up a new layer. I'm just gonna name that cloning. Op. There we go. Cloning snap tool, making sure that I'm sampling current and below, and we are going to zoom. We're gonna select from here, actually. There we go. Gonna sample from here, 'cause the color tones are similar. From over here. Maybe here. Sample from here. Gonna zoom in. And we're just going to brush. Opacity is 100%, where flow is at nine, and I'm just gonna brush very gently. There we go. And because this whole piece is quite textural, we're getting away with it. Yeah. That's the beauty of also shooting nature. You get these elements that blend together nicely. Yeah, see, I can just add a little bit there, as well. And because we are at low flow and opacity is 100%, then I'm just making sure that I'm staying in that area long enough so that I'm getting 100% of the stamp. Right. Happy with that. Again, selecting from here. And then just quickly stamp over here. Using my keyboard shortcut to change the size of my brush, to suit the area I want to stamp. Okay. Brilliant. All right. Also, not feeling this red. So, that's gonna go. I thought it was too distracting. So, that's outta there. See you later. Okay. Gonna come in here. Right, and there. But it's impressive that you can get 90% there in such a short amount of time without being overly particular. Yeah, I'm not being overly particular right now. That's all. And I think sometimes if you're being overly particular, it takes the fun out of it, as well. If anything, I'm just making sure that I'm noticing all the things that I wanna notice, and I'm doing each area as effectively as possible. So, I'm going around, having a look. There's some red here which might work, but maybe, maybe I don't like it. It's okay, I'll leave it. Okay. Is there anything I have missed? Let's see, this one. Yep. My brush tool. Oh, no. See? And that's what happens if you're not on the layer mask. So, you-- What are you trying to do? I was trying to layer mask, and if you have selected on the layer, you end up brushing on the layer, but you have to make sure your layer mask is selected so that you can-- Are you bringing back the flower? Yeah, just a little bit, 'cause I noticed the edges were not clean. There we go. Okay. I'd probably work this up a little bit more. But overall-- Let's zoom out. We zoom out. Not too shabby. Right. We're gonna grab that top layer, hold down Shift, oh, I missed a bit, didn't I? There you go. Look at that. Kay. Just grab something from here. Perfect. Zoom in. And we go for it. And because I'm using a low flow, I think that's why I'm getting away with still being able to show some of the hair. Yeah. Right? There we go. Okay. I'm gonna go real lightly here. There we go. That's not too bad. I know, considering we haven't spent so much time on it. Yeah. Brilliant. 25 minutes, it's pretty impressive. Yeah. Okay. So let's see the before/after, so far. All right so I'm gonna grab that, hold down Shift, grab layer one, Command G, call that my base. And there we go. Before. After. Wow. So before. After. That is really cool. It's really cool. Before, after. If I do say so myself. (laughing) You're really cool. And I do.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Practice PSD File - Sleeping Beauty
Pratik Naik Retouching Actions
The Royal Collection - Fine Art Actions
Practice PSD File - Location Shoot (~700mb)
Practice PSD File - In Studio Shoot (~1.3gb)

Ratings and Reviews


Great class and great instructors. Genuine and informative. Practical tips to create stunning images. Seeing them work through the process from shoot to finished image was great and I loved that they shared the thought processes behind the creative decisions. Definitely recommended!


Truly a remarkable duo. Bella is so down-to-earth and humble for a photographer with such a strong beautiful and ethereal voice. Her explanations of her process really inspired me--I was sketching concepts throughout the class. Pratik's process really opened my eyes to "smart" retouching--understanding what can be done in fewer brush strokes and slimmer PS files. All in all a really unique and inspiring class that makes me excited to realize my next conceptual shoot. They're also adorable together!

Mai Her

I've gained sooooo much from this I can't even contain my appreciation and excitement! So much inspiration and so much generous advice and tips to help me! Thank you so much Bella and Pratik and Creative Live!

Student Work