Start with a Vision –
This particular composite started as a quest to build a boat from smoke images. My original vision was of a large square rigger or perhaps a pirate vessel or a Viking ship. The elements of wind, water and sails seemed well matched, somehow, to many of my smoke images.
I knew at the start that I might not get exactly what I had wanted. Things always seem to change as the pieces of the composite come together. In the end, I enjoy this variation and hope this image sparks your sense of wonder. I asked the OOTB forum members, “Where in your imagination could this ship come from?” I sure appreciated all their responses.
Pieces of the PuzzleThese are the 4 images used in the final version. The bluish sail on top is a crop of a single flash smoke image that is flipped upside down. Next down is a 90 degree rotated, multiple flash exposure for the bow of the boat. The last two are made from a multi flash smoke image that is rotated and then flipped. These bottom two images became the hull.
The Composite Story
Here are the major compositing steps. Remember, any Layer can be Free Transformed (Ctrl + T) to better fit the composition. Work on the component smoke images ahead of time to make sure the backgrounds are as black as possible. (See “Smoke Photography – Part 2”)
– Open the three smoke images as separate layers in a single Photoshop document.
– Set Blend Modes on each Layer to Lighten.
– Click on the Hull image in Layer 1 and expand canvas for extra working room. (Ctrl + Alt + C and select Black Background color.)
– Copy Hull image (Ctrl + J) and flip horizontally.
– Use the Move Tool on each Layer to position the pieces to make the boat.
– Once you are satisfied with the shape, click on top Layer 3 – Bow and press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E to make Layer 4 – Composite.
– Click on Layer 4 – Composite and duplicate (Ctrl + J) to make a new Layer and Invert it (Ctrl + I).
– Change the Blend Mode of this new Layer 4 -Inverted to Difference blend and press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E to make Layer 4 – Difference Blend.
We are basically done at this point, except that I wanted to make the image background a pure white.
– Add new blank layer and fill with white. Edit- – > Fill- – > White.
– Add a Layer Mask to this layer and fill with Black. Edit- – > Fill- – > Black.
– Using a soft brush at 30% opacity with pure white from the color picker, brush any area of the mask where you feel the image needs whitening. The soft brush helps smooth out any hard transitions. As you can see from the mask, I painted all the area around the boat. If mistakes are made, just press Ctrl + Z to undo. You could also change your paint color to black and paint on the mask to reduce the whitening effect. This sounds a little confusing but you will get the hang of it after a little practice.
– And last, click on the white layer and do another Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E to make the Final layer.
Thanks for Viewing
Hopefully, this give you some ideas of how to composite an image and use different Blend Modes for unique effects. Honestly, none of my projects have ever been completed as quickly as the steps I have outline here. They usually have a few detours along the way. Surprisingly, you can learn a bunch from those roads less traveled.
Check the Archives on Denise Ippolito’s Site
This article was first published in Denise Ippolito’s Creative Photography eMiniMagazine.
While the e-Mag is no longer published you can still find the archives for the articles at: Denise Ippolito – A Creative Adventure
This RefineEdge Photography Blog contains more articles I wrote for the eMiniMagazine. Just look in the sidebar for the eMag category.