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I have spent a lot of time recently creating fantasy composite images for a new venture of mine. I have not blogged about them only posted them on my Facebook page. A lot of my Facebook fans have asked how they were created – and whilst I’m not going to write a full blown tutorial on compositing images I felt I could put something together that shows how the images are created and how much work goes into creating them.

The key to creating believable composite images is in choosing the correct images for the composite. All the images should have have been shot with the same focal length of lens, to ensure perspective is consistent have the same depth of field and the lighting should be the same across the images. Colour is very important too – and in my next blog post I’ll share a top tip for ensuring consistent colour between background and foreground images.

The most important piece of the puzzle though is lighting. Light can come from any and everywhere in life, there can be soft shadows, hard shadows or no shadows at all and even a mixture of them all – a composite images will look totally fake if the light and the shadows to not match between background and foreground images.

Ideally you should go out and shoot your subject with a composite in mind – that way you can shoot the subject in a way that will fit in with your composite backgrounds. For instance, if you have already chosen your background images and they have directional lighting with soft shadows – you can light your subject to fit in with that.

Some people prefer to shoot the primary subject in a studio setting, so they have total control over the lighting – this is not necessarily a bad thing, but shooting outside can sometimes give you a quality of light that can never be replicated in a studio. My personal preference is neither, I use studio subjects as well as outdoor subjects.

Background stock images can be sourced from a variety of places, if you shoot landscapes or architecture you will probably already have some great images that can be used for compositing – but if not you can spend a serious amount of time searching places like Deviant Art, or iStockphoto or any of the other microstock websites out there. Some stock you may have to pay a few pounds for, others are free, its up to you to decide on what’s best for you – but there are plenty of amazing stock images out there.

Right – enough of the pre-amble. This is an image of the lovely Gemma, daughter of my favourite Bridal Wear supplier.

Gemma in magical forrest

Gemma in magical forest

This is a composite of two background images, the forest trees, the flowers in the foreground and Gemma. Gemma was actually shot in a studio environment for this shot.

This is the composite image BEFORE any work has begun.


Gemma was backlit in the studio and you can see the beautiful light on her hair – this fits in ok with the final image as although the background trees are misty – they are brighter than the foreground – adding a shaft of light in with a photoshop technique adds realism to the lighting on Gemmas’ hair.

In total, this image took around four hours to create, there are 117 individual layers in Photoshop and the unflattened file size is 270 MB. The butterflies, shafts of light and sparkles are all created in Photoshop, using pre-made brushes. Butterflies were coloured and transformed to different sizes for realism.

Finally I coloured the image an overall violet to match the foreground flowers and keep up the overall fantasy woodland theme.

In my next post I’ll show you how I created a fantasy snow queen complete with horses.

Best – Colin