Photo Editing: How to Create A Simple Composite

Thanks to the digital age, it is incredibly easy to create simple composites with photo editing software. Composite images are created when two or more photos are combined into one. Composite images aren't just limited to stills. The odds are pretty good that any movie you've seen made in the last ten years with special effects has compositing in it. In movies, this is accomplished with green screens, CGI images and fancy lighting. But, if you're compositing still images together on your computer, then all you need is the editing program and the digital photos.

Step 1: Picking the Right Photos

The goal of your composite is to make your viewer say "wow". You want to fool them into thinking that the image is real. The first step in pulling that off is picking the right photos. The two need to be very similar in lighting and in angle. If one of them is off when combined in the composite, then it would look unnatural and phony. The scale can be altered easily and is not so much of a factor.

You also want to pick photos that are going to have some kind of dramatic impact on your audience. You want to create something that is out of the ordinary so that attention is driven to your composite. After all, what's the point of creating a composite of a yellow taxi cab on a New York City street when anyone can go out and photograph the real thing?

Photos used in the composite can be broken down into subject and background. A few photos can be combined into the background and a few photos can make up the subject. But, at the very minimum of two photos, you want to have one subject and one background photo.

Step 2: Cut the Subject Out

If you're using a program like Photoshop, then you're going to open up both of your photos in the program. For this example, we will use a photo of Godzilla and another photo of the New York City skyline. Using the magic lasso tool, we will cut Godzilla out of his photo and move him into the photo of the sky line.

Step 3: Divide up the Background

To add more realism to the photo, we are going to bury Godzilla into the background. We will create a new layer, cut some of the buildings out, and then place them on that layer. When we stack the layers, it will be the cut out buildings on the top, then Godzilla, and then finally the background.

Step 4: Fine Tune the Composite

Once the pieces are in place, we want to fine tune the composite. Perform whatever touch ups are necessary to make the composite feel like it is it's own photograph instead of a combination of two. You want to make it look real.