So I rarely do composite type images preferring to do as much in camera as I can. However sometimes it can’t be helped. Do do hate spending forever trying to draw paths or make complex masks though, so whenever possible I like to utilise this quick and easy composite trick.
It really is incredibly simple and uses the layer blending modes to create the composite. Ok, so first of we do need to plan ahead a little. As the composite relies on various blending modes, the tone of the images we aim to composite is vital. For example, if we take an image shot against a simple white backdrop, we need to use an image of a similar tonal value to achieve the best blending results. In the following example the subject is shot against a plain white wall.
The first thing to notice if we were to try to cut or mask the subject out, is the difficulty with the hair but also the shadow area. The image I choose for replacing the backdrop was this stock background image of a distressed textured wall. Notice that as it is mostly light coloured the tonal range is similar to the original images backdrop. (if you are looking for more textures or backplate, this is a great resource)
The first step is to place the stock image on-top of the original creating two layers.
Align the layers to your own taste then to create the composite effect try several different blend modes until you achieve the desired effect. With this white/light tone you will find that it should be one of the darken blend modes, and more often than not Multiply will render the best result.
Once we have changed the blend mode the result will pretty perfect. The texture will be blended with the subjects edge and shadow detail. Unfortunately there will be some of the texture residue that will be applied to areas we don’t want effected – the clothes and skin for example.
To fix this we simply apply a layer mask and paint over the effected areas. The great thing about this type of blending mode is that we don’t have to be to overly accurate or fussy with the mask as the texture is really only visible over the lighter areas. Even if I am being very intricate it still takes less than a couple of minutes to get a perfect result.
To finish the image, I applied a quick colour correction via a Curves layer adjustment and added a little vignette to the edges – quick comp in less than 5!
One more example – this time with a darker image. Subject this time photographed against a grey seamless paper roll.
The image we choose for this composite was again of a similar tone to the grey background.
Now of course the thing to notice here with the subject is the fly-away hair. Incredibly difficult task even with the advanced refine edge mask in Photoshop, So once again our blend mode trick works wonders. This time the best blend mode to use will come from the contrast range and ‘Overlay’ produced the best result.
Even the very finest hairs have been blended perfectly and seamlessly with the new background. As before a very rough mask is necessary to clean up any of the texture residue covering the subject, but yet again, a composite in under 5 minutes!!