David Stoddart is a photographer and post-processing obsessive from Suffolk. He travels the Uk creating composites from his adventures, and has recently been creating a series based on planes from the world wars. Here David takes us through one of his composites.
This is one of my favourite Photoshop composites, mostly because the subject matter of the Avro Lancaster is close to my heart and also as it was quite a simple project with most of my concentration going into the lighting and shadows and not too many layers for once.
(Even if it is a simple composite, always name your layers correctly as this can get out of hand really quickly)
As a keen Photographer with an interest in video game graphics, Urbex, Landscapes, Architecture, Aviation and Militaria I wanted to take my images to another level, so I’ve been creating composites for a few months now, teaching myself the extra techniques and processes along the way, as well as attending a few workshops. I found the Aad Sommeling workshop really helpful, try and get on one if you can. I feel I know about 2% of Photoshops special powers currently and am still learning a lot every day
I always use my own photographs of the aircraft taken with my trusty Sony A7Rii plus purchased stock images of backdrops and I also take my own stock sky images too when I’m out and about. I use s23527.p99.sites.pressdns.com for any extra “parts” I may need, such as lighting, effects, dust, particles and buildings etc.
For this project the software I used was Photoshop CC, Nik Color Efex Pro and Topaz Clarity.
Firstly, I photographed this beautiful WW2 Bomber at a local Air show after gaining cockpit viewing access and rather than taking the usual shot I plumped for a different angle with a future composite in mind.
Here is the starting image of the plane, you can see there isn’t a massive amount of cutting out to do, but I always use the “quick mask mode” in Photoshop to tighten those edges up anyway.
So, here is the cut out plane, the windows were the most difficult part as predicted!
You can see the crowd through the windows but simply masking through that layer with a low opacity and flow easily gets rid of the crowd whilst leaving the glass a bit “smoky” and used as it would be.
The next step was to find a suitable backdrop, iStock provided that with this great mountain range image taken from a moving plane window. Finding the right sky or clouds is often the most time consuming part.
Normally at this point of a composite I make several adjustment layers of brightness, contrast, hue and saturation, photo filters and colour balance to make each part of the composite “fit” together nicely and also to make stock images slightly your own, even if someone else took the shot, plus some dodging and burning. (Don’t forget to hover over the layer and press Alt to make the effect only apply to the current layer and not all the layers below it, I only learnt this a while ago and it made life inside PS so much easier).
My next task was to take the image into the Topaz Clarity plug-in and add some grunge to the plane to really make those details pop showing years of war torn rivets and flying hours on dangerous missions!
Next I always use Nik Color Efex Pro, this is my “go to” plug-in of choice. My most used effects are Darken/Lighten Centre and Pro Contrast. Plus, I always add some “glow” at this point, a nice lighting effect to gain some soft features in a hard environment.
You can see its far too “misty” so I just calmed the opacity down a bit on this layer.
And so here is the final composition! “The Long Flight Home” Avro Lancaster NX611 “Just Jane”