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Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

Lesson 2 of 31

Adding Fine Art Compositing to Your Business

Karen Alsop

Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

Karen Alsop

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Lesson Info

2. Adding Fine Art Compositing to Your Business

Lesson Info

Adding Fine Art Compositing to Your Business

I want to share with you why this is such an important class too because what I've discovered is that this kind of photography can bring to joy to your clients. Normally, you know I was a wedding photographer. I was a portrait photographer. I was focused on capturing moments. So capturing joy, capturing all those moments that are happening and waiting for them to happen and now I'm able to create those moments and to create images that create joy and give people experiences that they wouldn't normally have. So this class will give you the skills that you need in terms of how to extract, how to photograph on a green screen and extract and also on a black backdrop too. How to place someone into the correct perspective because it's really important that everything matches. How to shade and light our subjects in the scene as well so that they match the scene and realistic shadows. I know that's sort of a thing that people struggle with. How to create shadows to make them look realistic. Ho...

w to warp and we're going to be using puppet warp which is a relatively new Photoshop thing that we are going to bring that in and show you how you can move arms around and legs around and things like that. We're masking and using different brushes to mask. So a lot of really cool skills that you'll learn with that. Tone and color. Painting with light. So, so many different skills in this class. You don't wanna miss any of it. I was a wedding photographer and portrait photographer as I said and my background is that when I was 16 years old, when I was a teen my grandfather got me interested in photography and he gave me my first camera and we set up a darkroom. So I've got the background of taking photos on film. Black and white photography. Developing my own prints. Printing in the darkroom and dodging and burning and doing things like that and I've always, ever since Photoshop was pretty much born I was into this whole Photoshopping thing and I created lots of, I would hate to go back in time and actually see my creations 'cause I'd be embarrassed by them but I was always loved doing it. And so over the years I have continued to experiment with Photoshop. I've continued to use it in my business but it wasn't until two years ago that I actually took this path of compositing and two years ago I was heavily into the wedding photography. That was my main source of income. I was photographing weddings with my husband and we had two young kids. They're now three and five. And having to go out and photograph weddings every weekend and leave our kids with people to be babysat was getting to be a very difficult thing. So it was through that that I wanted to discover something that I could do that would work around family life better and I started investigating different genres of photography and I sort of stumbled across compositing and realized that this was something that I'd always loved doing. I'd always experimented with but it was something that I wanted to take further and so in doing some images for marketing purposes and for portfolio building purposes I actually realized that this was something that I wanted to go forward in and drop off all the weddings and portraits. Just concentrate on this. The first image that I ever created that I would call a proper composite, a detailed composite was an image that was replicating a painting and it was of my daughter and my son with the dog and it was a Pears soap replica. And I created that for a pet pampering shop in my hometown and I created it for the wall and they were going to advertise me through it. So the idea was that I'd put it up on the wall and they would display it and they would advertise my business. At that time, I thought it was just to advertise portrait photography. You know general sort of stylized portrait photography and when I took that print into them, the finished print. They said, "This is amazing. "People are going to be asking for this "and wanting you to do this." And immediately my first thought was, "Wow, it took me so long. "How would I even market that? "How would I do that?" And but I didn't wanna kinda let it go. I sort of started investigating it a bit more. Trying to find out how I could price it. Doing a few more images for different shops and I think it was probably, it wasn't long it was after a month or so of doing this that I realized, nope, doesn't matter. I'm going to drop everything else and I'm gonna focus on this 'cause this is my passion. This is what I wanna do and I did. I dropped everything else. I gave myself three years to make it work. Here we are two years later, less than two years later and it's just, because I'm passionate about it it's been something that I've been driven to do and it's become, yeah. It's amazing what it's become and for my business, the people that are coming to me asking me to create images for their family. Images for kids that can't walk and can't speak to give them wings to fly. It's just amazing what's been happening. So I'm going to share a little bit more about that. I wanted to also make sure that you realized, I think and the audience too out there that digital compositing often when you first start out, you think it's all about Photoshop. You might find some stock images, play with them, try and put things together and often you'll look at that and other people will look at it and you might even get CC in in certain groups. People saying, no that's not quite right. The light's not right, the shadows aren't right. The angle of the lighting, the perspective's not right and understanding that is important but if you can get the photography part of it right then it will all come together. So I want to emphasize in this class that the photography aspect and shooting your own elements really comes together to make a realistic composite. Sure you can use stock but also understanding that stock and the lighting and the perspective is crucial. So, we will be photographing all of our elements today. I photographed the background and all the different parts and I'll be taking you through how I created that background as well. So that you can understand that that's a crucial part of it. You don't wanna drop off the photography aspect. This is very much a photography class as much as it is a Photoshop class. And that's the thing that you know, there's this, is Photoshop, is digital imaging or compositing photography? Or is it a photo? And people ask that question but it is photography. It's not a photo because it's more than one image but it is photography but it is also art. So I wanted to make sure that we're clear that the photography side and the first day, which is today, the first day, the photography side is crucial to getting everything perfect at the end or close to perfect. I don't know if it can ever be perfect. The other thing that I wanted to share with you is that I think that this is something that is going to be bigger in the future. So I was sharing before that people are requesting it. People are asking for these little bits and pieces but actually the fantasy side, the digital art side of things I believe will grow and I believe that it'll become a genre the clients will be asking for. At the moment a lot of people out there in the domestic market don't really understand it and so for me to, what I've been focused on is sharing every part of my workflow, the speed edits, the behind the scenes videos, sharing all of that with the public so that when they understand what it takes to create one of these images. Because clients out there, when you first talk to them they might say, "What is that? "How is it done?" And so I think it's very important to share all of that when you're creating but as more, more and more, more people do it, people will understand it. It's like anything. It's liken photography started and no one knew what was a photo, what was a camera, how does it work? So I think that with the onset of even Photoshop and Lightroom and Creative Cloud being so much more accessible now, more people getting into that side of things and also apps on your phone can do things like that. Adobe's created apps that allow you to extract images and put people in different scenes. So it's all a whole lot more accessible to people so then as that grows, then the expectation of people being able to do it grows as well. So I think it's a good time to get into this market. It's at the start and it's about to go up. So to learn how to do this and to be able to offer it to your clients is fantastic. The reason that I'm here as I said, this has been a journey for me and teaching this aspect is a passion of mine. I was a teacher for seven years and I love teaching but I also love creating and so I hope that you guys get so much out of this class and yeah, and you actually, I hope my Australian accent is easy enough to understand and hopefully any of my little sayings that are very Aussie, you can all let me know if I say something that doesn't make sense. But yeah I love teaching, I love sharing and I'm an open book. So I love questions. I wanted to share first a little video of an image that I created for a wedding. So, I had been doing this story artwork for a year and half or so and I had wedding client, I still had wedding clients obviously that had booked prior and this, these wedding clients came to me and said, "Look, we'd love you to integrate a story art piece "into our wedding." Now my first thought was, that is going to be a lot of work. Very challenging, this wedding was interstate so not only you know, we were having to fly interstate to shoot the wedding but we also, they were also requesting a story art image. It was a full day shoot as well. So from getting ready through to the reception. But I know, I love challenges and I thought a great opportunity to try something different and my main purpose or something that I needed to do in this was to shoot all of the elements on the one day. So to enter I decided, this is an opportunity to enter a very different wedding image in WPPI. I hadn't entered WPPI before, but I wanted something very different but the rules are, in wedding contemporary, that all of the images need to be shot on the wedding day. So I started thinking about how I would create this image and how I would shoot every single element. This wedding party was a group of 14. Huge wedding party and so thinking about how I would create that, I ended up breaking it up into the boys and the girls, so doing one for the boys and the girls and the video that I'm showing you in a moment is of the boys one. So, the background is the groom is a pro boxer and this image represents him and his interests along with all of his groomsmen, his brothers and three groomsmen and family members and we shot from about 8:30 in the morning to 2:00 a.m. the next day getting all of the different pieces and the day before we did a lot of prep work as well. Making sure that we could make it all happen in a very quick and easy way for the bridal party the next day. So I'll show you this video, but just to let you know, I did, it was worth all the effort because I did win the wedding contemporary section in WPPI, so very excited that the time was well worth it. We're here at the Cardioflex gym and this is the craziest thing I've ever done in a wedding shoot before. We're photographing the groom and his best man, groomsmen and we're really doing something that tells the story of his day, as well as the bride and her girls later on. Looking up here, I was using strobes for this and I tethered to my way companion two. Okay, we're about to photograph Jeremy and his groomsmen and we're going to create a boxing image but before we do that, we need to create some atmosphere. So we used some smoke bombs here to create the atmosphere. Colored smoke, yeah pretty cool. And then showing, this is the brother. So showing him how to fly through the air. Now this is my husband helping him, so. A few test runs first. It was very different, I've never done a boxing sequence before so it was very fun. And it was quick and efficient actually, it was good. And yeah, in action so we had to shoot. The creativity behind this is what makes this so special. This is definitely not something you'd see at every wedding at all. So here I'm yeah I'm grabbing different shots at, so making sure that I create different images but set on a tripod. So that I can mask out the different areas as I go. I think that's exactly what it is. It's just something so different and it's so cool and it's, you don't really see that. Especially for things like wedding photography and stuff you don't see that different and I guess unique piece that anyone else share and it's just incorporated something that I love and it's just yeah, just really cool. So as I said, I'm on a tripod and I'm grabbing these images individually and then putting them together. I do a little bit of photography myself and to be on the other side of the lens and watch it go down so quickly and smoothly was nice 'cause this would take me forever. I actually did something quite, I did something quite similar for my latest tour poster where you know I had a set tripod shot and shot myself in different outfits and blah, blah-blah in my recording studio and I think that took me about two hours. This took about 10 minutes, 15 minutes and yeah, these guys are amazing at what they do. 10 minutes on the day, about three hours the day before to practice and make sure we were set up ready to go. So that was the whole key with this, was planning and making sure that on day it was very easy for the people in the image to have their shots done. You don't wanna take up too much of a wedding day, so and this is the finished piece. Lots of fun creating that. Even the spit coming out of Chris's mouth there we shot at night with a strobe and yeah, everything was planned from start to finish. So lots of work and probably not something that you'd do at every wedding but if it was something that you wanted to add to your own wedding photography or your own portrait photography as an add-on, it's definitely something that can be well worthwhile. It's something that you would charge a fair bit for because of the time that is involved but it's definitely an area that would keep, it would set you apart from the crowd for sure and it has done for me. So we're not wanting to do wedding photography anymore 'cause I'm so passionate about just every, all the story art images that I create but it is awesome to have something different out there. That was our last wedding at this point in time, I may still shoot a couple more but that was sort of the last wedding so it was awesome to go out with a bang and to do something really different. And the other thing that you can do is in portrait photography you could have this as an add-on. So you may not be wanting to go into it as a full time sort of focus but it could be an area where you could do an add-on you could do someone's portrait sitting and then say, "Do you want a special image created?" And you could take those photos at the same time as that portrait sitting and then you can create something special and charge for that and charge extra for that. So it's definitely, there's definitely lots of different avenues that you can take with this type of photography. For me, I've taken the road of it being very high-end it's, every image I create is different. I don't tend to use stock. I photograph all the elements myself. I sit down with the client and I work through what they want. For me that works because that's who I am and how I work but for someone else it might be that you would have sets and you would have all of the same images. You might have a set of 10 that you do and you repeat and then you do another set of 10. So there are so many different ways that you can approach this. And different ways that you can even charge for it. One of the things that happened more recently was after creating images for clients, creating images for competitions, people started noticing my work and I had a, someone that was following my work. Her name was Jackie and she moved from another state to my state in Melbourne and she contacted me and she said, "Karen, I would love you to create an image "of my daughter who can't walk. "She can't talk, we don't know what it is that she's got. "She's five." This lady is a photographer herself so she has many beautiful images of her daughter Tahlia but the images are of Tahlia being propped up or Tahlia sitting in a chair and so she wanted me to create an image where she, Tahlia was free, so she's free from all of these restrictions and as soon as I got that message from her I thought, "Yes, this is something that I'd love to do. "This is a way that I can use my skills "in a way that is so, "not basically impossible with just one shot, one camera" And so we started developing it and I'd love to show that video of Tahlia and the image that we created for her. ♪ These little balls ♪ ♪ They could try ♪ ♪ They can try ♪ ♪ But they're never holding us back ♪ ♪ And these little tubes ♪ ♪ They don't keep you alive ♪ ♪ Only our love can do that ♪ ♪ Let's both pretend ♪ ♪ That this bird can fly ♪ ♪ It's our little secret only us in the sky ♪ ♪ If you get tired baby ♪ ♪ I will take the lead ♪ ♪ Imagine the sunrise in me ♪ ♪ We imagine the sunrise don't we ♪ ♪ These little bones ♪ ♪ May be fragile they say ♪ ♪ But you have the heart of the lion ♪ ♪ And no matter what ♪ ♪ They get thrown all away ♪ ♪ Somehow you manage a smile ♪ ♪ Let's both pretend ♪ ♪ That this bird can fly ♪ ♪ It's our little secret ♪ ♪ Only us in the sky ♪ ♪ If you get tired baby I will take the lead ♪ ♪ Imagine the sunrise beneath ♪ ♪ We imagine the sunrise don't we ♪ ♪ Oh, oh, oh ♪ ♪ Oh, oh, oh ♪ ♪ Oh, oh, oh ♪ ♪ Oh, oh ♪ ♪ Oh, oh, oh ♪ ♪ Oh, oh, oh ♪ ♪ Oh, oh ♪ ♪ Oh ♪ ♪ Oh, oh, oh, oh, ♪ ♪ Oh, oh, oh ♪ ♪ Oh, oh, oh ♪ ♪ Let's both pretend ♪ ♪ That this bird can fly ♪ ♪ It's our little secret only us in the sky ♪ ♪ Oh if you get tired baby I will take the lead ♪ ♪ Imagine the sunrise beneath ♪ ♪ We imagine the sunrise don't we ♪ ♪ We imagine the sunrise ♪ Sorry, that always tears me up. Even every time I watch it. To create that for this little girl and for this family was just an amazing experience. To be able to give her those wings to fly and I know she looks at that image up on her wall and she sees it and just I don't know, it must give her a feeling of being free and for the family. They are, they've just been so overwhelmed by it and that was the start of bit of a journey with creating images like this for children that have disabilities and I'll speak a little bit later about the heart project and what we've been doing with that but it's incredible what you can accomplish with compositing. It's not just to create magical fairytales but it's to give people joy and hope and to be able to bring something that, that photography starts to do but this just takes you to a whole new level. So I'm here to help you. To give you the tools that you need to see the dreams that you have in your mind of what you can create come true. So you guys might have some different dreams that you want, some ways that you wanna impact people or you might have some ways that you wanna create things in your business that you haven't been able to do yet and I'm hoping that this class will give you those tools to go that next level.

Class Description

Karen Alsop is known for creating beautiful fantasy worlds through her unique compositing techniques in Adobe® Lightroom® and Adobe® Photoshop®. Whether you're a wedding, portrait, landscape or commercial photographer, this class will show you how to create beautiful and distinctive images you can offer your clients to expand your business.  

Join us for this class, and you’ll learn how to: 

  • Shoot with your composite in mind: lighting, posing and angles.
  • Choose background and subject images that will work best in the composite.
  • Learn Adobe Lightroom and AdobePhotoshop techniques to create a fantastical atmosphere.

Karen’s emphasis on creativity and imagination in her process has helped her to make a product that competitors have a hard time recreating. Karen’s beautiful, intricate work is not simply the result of vast technical skill, but rather is the careful integration of a number of elements. She puts subjects at ease and inspires them with artful direction; incorporates them into fantasy landscapes using Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop and then effectively prices and markets the final product.  

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2015


Judy Mitschelen

I've found many great instructors at CreativeLive and Karen ranks right up there at the top! With her relaxed, thoughtful manner of presenting, I was immediately hooked. Her organization, clear explanations and demonstration, and on target response to questions are superb. This course covers an amazing range of skills and tricks of the trade. Whether you're interested in getting better shots to work with, better workflow at the computer, or better output at the end, Karen covers it all.


Karen is very talented and a great teacher and I enjoyed every minute of the course. But what I found to be the best part was seeing what an amazing person she is. The video of compositing the disabled children to make their dreams come true had me in tears. It has inspired me to use my talents to help others and not learn photo manipulation for self enjoyment. God bless you Karen.

Endigo Rae

This was such an amazing class! Karen is so talented, inspiring, and such an amazing teacher. Very forthcoming and open about all of her techniques. I'm so looking forward to jumping into compositing, I feel like this is definitely something my soul desires to explore and Karen has made it so easy and accesible through her beautiful course! Thanks so much Karen and CreativeLive!