Taking Composite Images To Another Level

By: Tim Palmer at the Springfield, IL Creve Coeur Camera store.

A composite image is a photo that is made from the combination of multiple images merged into a single photo.  This technique often generates interesting, weird, and surreal effects. While this technique is more widely used today, it is not a new or purely digital concept.  It was invented by Sir Francis Galton in the 1880s, whereby multiple exposures were taken on the same photographic plate.  Elise Wright and Frances Griffiths from England fooled the world for a brief time with their photographs appearing to capture fairies at play in their garden in the early 1900’s.  Photographic studios also could include people in a family portrait who couldn’t be present. They’d cut out the missing person from one photo, glue it to the family portrait and simply snap another photo of the images combined.

Today Photoshop takes composite images to another level.  Do a simple Google search and you will find images that could have been combined from a multitude of photos taken from various locations. Follow these steps to make a composite image from one location:

  1.  Set your camera up in a location that allows you to capture multiple images of one subject without moving the camera. (using a good tripod is recommended)
  2. Take multiple shots of your subject. You can take your time by posing your subject or use a continuous burst to capture movement.
  3. Load all your images into Photoshop that you wish to combine.
  4. Select all the images and auto-align them. You can find auto-align under the Edit tab. Once the auto-align option opens, choose “auto” and click OK.
  5. Apply a layer mask to all your images except the bottom layer. (There is a shortcut key for this located within your layer window)
  6. Select the paintbrush and the color black.
  7. Start “painting” over the mask to reveal the image below. If you make a mistake simply select the color white and “paint’ over your mistake.
  8. Do the same for all the images with masks applied to achieve the composite photo you desire.

Check out my photos below and be sure to stop by Creve Coeur Camera to show us your creative images!