Composite Photography Tutorial

The Little Gardener – Photography Tutorial


I haven’t done a photography tutorial on one of my images for a while, and I thought that this image would be a good one to pick this back up on.  Be warned!  This one is a little long!


The original concept for this image was for it to be the entire family.  I had the idea that I would be gardening and find my son on my spade with a plant on his head as my wife looked on in confusion consulting her gardening book.  I took all the photos for this to be the finished image, but when I put it all together I just really loved the outcome as you see it.  The judges at The Societies monthly competitions must have as well as this finished image won Gold in the Open Avant Garde category for the month of April.


So, how was it done?  This image is a little different than my “Family Tea Time” photo in that this was not a single space composite, but a full composite consisting of 6 different images to produce the final result that you see here.  Here are the 6 images that I shot for this as they looked straight out of camera.



Planning and shooting the background


The biggest, and most important, aspect with creating this image was the planning.  Before I went out to take a single shot, I had a finished photo in my head and knew what I wanted the finished image to look like.  This is extremely important as it dictated what I needed to photograph, and how I needed to photograph it.


The first thing that I needed to photograph was the background.  The one nice thing about living in East Anglia is that farm fields are not a problem to find or photograph!  When I photographed the field I took a couple of things into consideration for the finished image.  Where there any distractions in the background?  Where was the horizon and how was that going to intersect with the subjects in the finished photo?  Taking those elements into consideration I then carefully composed the scene…using a tripod!  I can’t stress enough how important this is.  When I take the shot on the tripod I will do one of two things…measure the height of my lens from the ground if the legs are not fully extended, or if they are fully extended I then make a mark on the top extension.  This is so that everything else shot for the finished image is shot from the same perspective.  This is extremely important.  Oh, one other note about the background…the lighting.  I already knew the lighting setup I was going to use to photograph my subjects, and that was going to be a three light setup.  With a three light setup the light looks as though it is coming from all directions…so in this case I wasn’t overly concerned about the direction of the light on the background.  If I was only going to be shooting with one or two lights, the light direction on the background is absolutely crucial for making a realistic composite.


The mound of dirt I really struggled to find a decent sized one to photograph.  I knew that I wanted it bigger than I needed so that I could then scale it down for the photo.  Eventually I found one in a car park and for this I just took a quick photo and went on my way.


Photographing the subjects


Since I had done all my planning ahead of time, this was really the easy part.  I setup my white background and lighting in my lounge.  Again, I knew ahead of time that I wanted to use a three light setup for this shoot so I set up my beauty dish slightly off camera right and 1 light 45 degrees behind either side of the subject.  I setup my tripod again and shot me (holding the spade) from the mark that I had made on my tripod.  For my son, I sat him on a stool so that his legs could hang freely (as they would if he were sitting on a spade).  I placed my plant on a ball that was roughly the size of my sons head so that it would have the natural curve it would have if it were in fact sitting on his head.  😀


Putting it together


I am not going to get into the technicals of putting this together for this photography tutorial…that is a whole separate and long tutorial in itself.  But, the basic gist of it is that I prepare the background first.  Put the sky in, put in the mound of dirt and give the background the overall look that I want for the finished shot.  I then cut each subject out in Photoshop and place them in the scene where I want them.  Then it’s a matter of making it all work together.  That involves adding some shadows under feet and making the tones and colours all match, making it look as though they all belong in the same photo.


That’s it!  Really!  Composite photos are really quite simple, if you plan accordingly.  I can’t stress enough how important the planning is!!


Any questions?  Feel free to ask them below and I will try my best to answer!


What photography tutorials would you like to see in the future?