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Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

Lesson 24 of 31

Workflow: Group Rabbit & Child Images

Karen Alsop

Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

Karen Alsop

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Lesson Info

24. Workflow: Group Rabbit & Child Images

Lesson Info

Workflow: Group Rabbit & Child Images

The big thing that we need to look at now that we've done our shadows and we've done some rimlight, we've created some shading on our characters is the color. The color is not too far off. Sometimes you might have images that really do not work together. Looking at this image these are going to be some subtle adjustments, more so with Alice than the rabbit, but definitely there is some adjustment needed to bring Alice into the scene further. And then we are going to paint with light, which will bring more of the scene and atmosphere around our characters. So the first thing that I wanted to look at was Alice and I have grouped our rabbit and our Alice into separate groups so that we can work on these groups as one. So just to have a look at this, the rabbit group is containing our white rabbit with all its elements and all its adjustments down there, and I've put that into one group so that I can make overall adjustments on the rabbit. I've done the same with Alice. So all the levels, ...

adjustments, the shadows, the highlights, every little part is in a group. The hair, everything that we've done there. So now looking at Alice and zooming up here, we have a little girl wearing blue, surrounded by what I feel is perhaps a slightly warmer scene. I'm looking at the color around her and it's a subtle difference, but she's not quite fitting into the scene at the moment. So the first thing that I do before I start painting with light and running other colors over the top, is to try and get my characters as close as possible to the background scene, so that then all those other adjustments work together to bring that scene into one. So with Alice, the first thing that I would do is create a color balance adjustment layer. We're using adjustment layers again. There are a few ways of doing this just like with everything in Photoshop, you can use a levels adjustment layer, a curves layer, all of those you can adjust the color. My preference is color balance and maybe it's because it's actually a little easier to use in terms of color than some of those other methods. So with the color balance layer there I want to clip that to Alice so that it's only affecting our little girl. So right click, create clipping mask. Now we are able to adjust the colors independently, and in color balance you've got shadows, midtones and highlights. So looking at my Alice here, the first thing that I will adjust is the midtones. Sometimes that's all it takes, just a little midtone adjustment to bring the right color into the overall scene. I'm going to zoom back so that I can see more of the atmosphere around her. So for me, I'm looking at this and it's more an eye thing. There's no specific mathematics to it, I'm not really a mathematical person so I'm looking at it and I'm assessing the scene. And I feel like I want her to have a touch more yellow, a touch more warmth. So I'm going to bring that slider up. And if I do it all the way up you'll see what it's doing, it's bringing yellow into the midtones. So I'll bring that down. OK, so, sliding it up bit by bit, until I feel until I feel it's matching more closely to my scene. So I've only adjusted it by 19, let's go a bit further. That's too far. It's too much yellow in it. Somewhere in between there. 19, minus 19, that's feeling closer to the scene. There's a touch more warmth in the scene, in the grass, in the color of the grass. There's a lot of green in the grass, but there is warmth in that grass as well. There is warmth in the pathway, so bringing some yellow into the midtones helps to bring her into the scene more. I could adjust other settings as well. I'll just show you what this slider does, so more reds or more cyan. So sometimes it's helpful just to play around with your sliders. Take them to the extremes. And get a sense of what, which way you need to go with a particular color. I'll leave that at zero though. Now with the greens. There's a lot of green in this scene. I've actually enhanced the green in the background plate. But there's no green in Alice. So I'm not going to bring in more green, 'cause that would make her skin look horrible, in fact even if I slide it towards the magenta further, it could actually work better. So taking some of the green tones out of the scene works. You don't have to match the color, you're matching the white balance really. You're matching the grays in the scene. So the color balance layer that we have on Alice we can now place on our rabbit as well. So if I turn that on and off, it's again a very subtle change. But it's enough to bring them into the scene more. This is a step by step process, with the coloring. It's not a one step fixes everything. So you need to consider it in that, in that method. Because if you try and do it all at once, you will find that it it doesn't work. It's too over the top or it's not really merging. If you do it step by step one thing at a time, then you'll find it really blends a whole lot better. Going back to the full screen. Now we're up to just any other adjustments that we need to make before we paint with color, so I'll just take you through those. As I said with this one, the reason that there's not too much color adjustment that needs to take place is because when I photographed Alice and the rabbit, I tried to get the correct white balance and when I photographed my scene, I'm trying to make sure that my white balance is correct before I start. The issues that you'll come up against more when you're, you've got an image that the white balance isn't quite right so maybe it's too magenta, maybe it's too yellow, and then you're trying to match that with an image that you've taken that's too blue and so you've got all these white balance issues. It's better to fix those in the RAW in Lightroom or in Camera RAW before you even get to Photoshop to try and get your color right before you bring it in, so that then that adjustment is minor. But if you've got an image that is totally off, you can go to extremes with color balance. But you can also go into your RAW image, and I need to go back down to this hidden smart object to show you what I mean. This is the costume. And this one is one of the smart objects so if you're working on an image and the color's not quite right, and you want to fix it in the RAW, you can double click the smart object and then make your changes in the RAW. And that is going to work a whole lot better than trying to make adjustment layers on top of your image, because it's sort of like a JPEG. When you're working with a JPEG, you're adding to it. You're not, you've got not enough data there to change things, you're actually adding to it. So when you're working with the RAW image, you've got so much more data and information that you can play with. So you can go back. That's why smart objects are great, you can go back into them and adjust the color in there as well, and adjust the white balance to suit. So that's one tip that I'll give you, is to really try and keep your objects, your images as smart objects so you can go and fix the color and try and match in that. So we'll go back, I don't want to save that. But in blending it more, 'cause she's still standing out, the rabbit I feel is blended more and perhaps it's 'cause he's wearing, she's wearing green as well, Alice is still like she's popping out of the scene. And we need to blend her into the scene, like there's atmosphere around her. When you're building a scene, if you look at the trees at the back here, they're a lot softer. There's atmosphere in between it. The further away something is, the more atmosphere there is in front of it. So building up a scene you can make things change the opacity, put like a soft white fill in front of it. So what I'm going to do with Alice first, because she is just a little further back than the rabbit, this is something I try first, is to change the opacity of one of my subjects that's further back down just a touch. I usually don't go much further than 95. Because if you go too far, you're going, they're going to be see through. But if you bring it down just a touch, then instead of it being like they're popping right out of the scene, there starts to be a blending with the color behind them. So the further back they are, and I've done this with the trees, they're actually a lot more see through and they're bringing in the color from the sky behind, so with Alice we can bring her down to about 95 percent. With the rabbit, he's right at the front of the scene, so we're going to leave him at 100 percent. Then we still want the color and the atmosphere to be around our subjects.

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.

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!


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.