Think Ahead for Composites

We have stated several times that our goal is to get the shot correct in the camera, so we don’t get too dependent on post-processing.  And we really mean it - really.  But…. Every now and then, this doesn’t work.  That’s when you have to understand your software well enough to picture the image possibilities in your head; capture the components; and then assemble the pieces together when you get home. You have seen several examples of this – just look up at our banner.  The panoramas are many images, stitched together in post-processing, into one image.  You could capture a version of the panorama in the camera with a wide angle lens, but the dimensions wouldn’t be the same, and, with the lower resolution, you couldn’t create the great 48” wide images as sharply. (And do me a favor and bug Mark to fix his images in the banner.)

Well, it was really quiet in the house this weekend, and I was reading about some compositing techniques in Photoshop.  Playing around with the program is the best way to learn it.  Any way, I figured I would do a quick overview of the procedure, since I happened to have some images that were made for this.  So why don't we do a quick walk-through that demonstrates creating a single image from various components and then creating a composite with the results.  The real time-killer here is removing the background from the final airplane image.  I actually did that back in February and just hadn't gotten around to playing with it.  The creation of the composites below only took about five minutes, total.

Back in January, Mark and I went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum out near Dulles Airport to make some airplane images. (Warning: Tripods are not allowed.)   They have lots of historic aircraft packed into a hanger-like museum.  It is nearly impossible to find a clean shot anywhere – that place is packed with airplanes!  Then you have that corrugated look to the ceiling.  The planes are great, but, their surrounds, not so much.  I knew as soon as I entered that there was going to be some serious post-processing work and went forward with that in mind.  I took many shots, but I really liked this fighter.  I had no idea what I was going to do with this shot, so I shot the plane in pieces.  This allows me to keep the resolution high if I need a big plane somewhere.  Here are three of the component images:

20090110__RAD4680 20090110__RAD4681 20090110__RAD4683

When you do this, make sure the exposure settings are the same for all the images.  Switch your camera to “manual” to ensure your camera doesn’t change the aperture (and depth of field) while you’re moving through the different shots.  If you do any post-processing on one of the components, apply the same changes to all of them.  Then, stitch them together into one image.


That’s nice, but it's a little dark.  I need add some more punch to the image and get rid of some of the extraneous stuff around the plane.  We need to isolate the plane from the ceiling, other planes, etc.   And shouldn’t the prop be spinning?  (You can do that by copying the prop; applying some motion blur; and offsetting it from the still prop.)


Now you have an image you can use in composites with other images.  Here are three that have some promise.  I need to work on them a little more, but you can see what I'm talking about in these rough drafts.  Yes, I know that in the third image the lighting is wrong, but I'm just having fun - how about you?