Realistic Composites

Creating an image that's not meant to be completely realistic is relatively easy. Faking realism is a lot harder. The main tasks to consider in making composites are the following:

► Keeping your backgrounds simple

► Isolating the elements on different layers for easier editing

► Making sure that the pieces you combine are in proper scale with each other

► When you're done, merging the layers for a smaller file


What You Add to the Image Makes It Better

Remember also that adding shadows, reflections, or other special effects can make a big difference in the end result. Watch out for perspective, too. If it's wrong, you'll know it, although you might not know why exactly. When you're walking around town or sitting in a well-lit room, notice the shadows. See where they appear and how the light source affects the angle at which they fall from the object causing them. Look for reflections, too. See what direction they reflect. When you understand how science and nature do it, you'll be able to fake it more accurately.

In my collection, I have some photos of desert scenery in Nevada—very close to the mysterious place that the government calls Area 51. It's rumored to be a landing site for extraterrestrial beings. The photos show lots of amazing rock formations but no little green men. But they got me thinking. What's the most alien life form I could imagine out there in the middle of nothing? Probably the fashion doll. So, let's send her out there.

Let's start by choosing an interesting background. Figure 20.6 looks to me most like a good spot for an alien sighting, and Figure 20.7 shows my favorite Martian, shot on a cluttered desk. When you're doing things like this, placing a piece of plain paper behind the object you photograph makes it much easier to separate the background from the subject. It's like the big rolls of seamless paper the pros use, only in a more appropriate size.

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