Creating a Composite Image in Photoshop

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: November 29, 2010

Category: General

Ok I have an admission to make…
Last week I mentioned that I was going to write a walk through of the photo shoot showing how I photographed the image above. Now whereas that part was true, what wasn’t was the bit about the ‘location scouting’ because you see the image of ‘Leah’ is a composite. Leah was photographed in a nice warm studio and the grungy location was actually a Royalty Free Image from iStock Photo:

So I thought for this post I’d give you an overview of how the composite was put together concentrating mainly on how Leah, including her shadow etc, was added into the room but first off here’s the lighting set up for the initial shot taken in the studio:

For this shoot I already had the background (location) image so I knew the kind of angle I would have to photograph Leah for it to look realistic. Also as the wall behind Leah was going to be in focus this meant that when I was photographing Leah in the studio I would have to have an Aperture that gave a decent depth of field so I chose to shoot at f/8.0

Had I photographed Leah at anything wider, say f/4.0 for example, then it’s likely that from beyond her face she would have started to fall out of focus and having this with a sharp/in focus wall behind her just wouldn’t have looked right .

So now we have our two images; our photograph of Leah and our ‘location’ image. Opening both images in Photoshop we need to make sure that in the layer stack, the ‘location’ image is above:

To make the composite as realistic as possible it was vital that the real shadow cast by Leah in the studio was included and this is where a bit of ‘Blend Mode Magic’ was called for.

Changing the blend mode of the ‘Location’ (Top) Layer to Overlay did a great job of blending in Leah’s lower half and shadow; however not such a good job on her upper half as you can see in the image below:

So, now Leah’s legs and shadow have blended into the picture time to work on the upper body. To do this I firstly turned off the top (location) layer and then clicked on the layer containing Leah’s studio shot. Then using the Quick Selection Tool made a selection of the top half of Leah:

To make sure all those loose hairs were included in the selection, as I’m using Photoshop CS5 I then made use of the Refine Edge tool:

In the Refine Edge dialogue box the ‘Output’ was set to ‘New Layer’:

Having pressed ‘Ok’ the new layer containing Leah’s upper half was then dragged to the top of the layer stack which then with all layers turned on was mission accomplished…

Ladies and Gentleman…Leah is in the building 🙂

Now that Leah has been placed into the room it’s time to start creating the overall feel of the photograph by adding details, altering the colour, adding a vignette and so on. From here on in I’m not going to go through exactly what I did to get the final look of the image as the main purpose of this post was to show a way to create a realistic looking composite; however, that being said I will give you an idea of some of the things I did which first of all started off by ‘adding detail’.

To ‘add detail’ I use a technique that I learned from Photoshop Guru Calvin Hollywood and that he calls the ‘Double Raw Conversion’. To do this I first of all flattened the layers and saved the image as a TIFF and then re-opened it but this time in Camera Raw. To see the ‘Double Raw Conversion’ explained fully by Calvin, watch the short video below:

Having done the ‘Double Raw Conversion’ to add some details into the image I then moved onto working on the colour which in this case meant desaturating slightly. To do this I created a Black & White Conversion using my favourite plug in of all time…’Nik Silver Efex Pro‘ and then once back in Photoshop simply lowered the opacity of the new Black & White layer to around 25%

From here on in it really was a case of playing around to come up with the final look that I was happy with by adding a vignette, adding contrast, playing around with a colour balance adjustment and slightly softening the focus to name a few of the things that I did.

•    •    •

So there you have it…one way to create a composite image using both Blend modes and the Refine Edge Command in Photoshop.

The thing I love about using Photoshop is that I never stop learning and there’s never really a right or wrong way to do something as we all have our own way of working, so as always if you have any questions or comments about anything in this post then please feel free to make use of the comments section below.

Enjoy 🙂

Keep up with Glyn ‘Day to Day’ on Twitter
Get more ‘Behind the Scenes’ by becoming a ‘Fan on Facebook’

You may also like…

Interviewed by Ron Clifford
Interviewed by Ron Clifford

A few weeks back I was invited onto Ron Clifford YouTube LIVE Channel to speak with him about all things photography....


  1. DaveT

    Hi Glyn,

    Great post and explanation of technique. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.


    • Glyn

      @DaveT…You’re welcome mate; thanks for looking in and commenting 🙂

  2. Tim Skipper

    Great image the only downside is having to search iStock or any other micro site for an image. 🙂

    • Glyn

      @Tim…Cheers mate and good luck with the searching around 🙂

  3. neal

    Isn’t that my daughter? lol

    • Glyn

      @Neal…Sure is 🙂

  4. kelley

    Beautiful image. The lighting is spot on. Very well done! You have inspired me to begin a collection of backgrounds and skies (inspired from some of your earlier posts).

    Your work is always so well thought out and beautifully done.


    • Glyn

      Hi Kelley 🙂
      Thanks for the comment. It’s great to hear that you liked it and that it’s inspired you to get out and photograph backgrounds, skies etc…

      I have a number of folders on my computer with heaps of images from textures, to walls, clouds and so on…they always come in handy.

      Thanks again for the kind words; I really do appreciate it.
      Best wishes to you,

  5. Abdullah Hamad

    Thanks Glyn its very useful tutorial

  6. Glyn

    Hey Abdullah, that’s great to hear.
    Thanks for dropping in and commenting 🙂

  7. Thorsten

    Very “Calvin Hollywood” 🙂 Nice to see it written down like this step by step.

    • Glyn

      @Thorsten…Cheers Buddy

  8. Marvin

    Great tutorial Glyn. I’m actually trying out compositing myself but do not have the benefit of having a studio to take a photo of the subject. I can’t agree more on how effective the refine edge is on making the selections!

  9. penelope

    great technique and Calvin is fantastic to share his photoshop recipe



  1. Composite Photos in Photoshop | Brady MVCC Digital Design - […] […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *