Chapter 5. Compositing in Photoshop CS

Compositing was thrust into the public attention in a big way early in 2005, when a certain home economics tycoon was released from prison and Newsweek published a jubilant photo of her on the coverexcept that it was actually only Martha's head superimposed on a model's body. Photoshop had done it again! Whether the photo is an Oprah Winfrey/Ann-Margaret hybrid (TV Guide, August, 1989) or nudging two pyramids closer together (National Geographic, February, 1982), when compositing is deemed to mislead, it's often castigated and condemned.

Fortunately, compositing is perfectly fine if you're not a news organization or corporation charged with presenting a truthful image. After all, what are you to do when a hated ex-brother-in-law mugging in the center of a treasured family portrait ruins the photo for generations to come? Do you want a photograph of the Eiffel Tower in downtown Wichita, Kansas? Would that Little League photo of your kid be a little more interesting if you could show a baseball intersecting the bat? Compositing is the perfect solution.

You can do the same thing as tabloid magazines, which regularly picture Hollywood celebrities out on "dates" when, in fact, they may never have met. Even more legitimate magazines, like the late Picture Week managed to picture Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev having a friendly chat that never took place. Journalists have some serious ethical considerations when creating composited images. (Robert Gilka, former director of photography at National Geographic magazine says that significantly manipulating images is an oxymoron on the order of "limited nuclear warfare.") The rest of us, however, can happily modify and combine images to our heart's content, as long as we're not attempting to defraud anyone.

This chapter concentrates on the tools and techniques you need to create composites. Sometimes, your goal will be to create realistic images; other times, you'll simply want to combine several pictures in interesting ways, even if the end result is obviously a fantasy. If you want to learn more about compositing, check out my book Digital Retouching and Compositing: Photographers' Guide, from Course Technology. You'll find the topics covered in this chapter in much more detail in that guidebook. You can find information on that book on my website: www.dbusch.com.

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