Pup composite - C&C please

CherylL

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Composite using 3 photos. This is version 5 and I've looked at this for a week now. Should I crop a little? Thoughts on the color blending of the 3 images? The three images are the pup, trunk and flower woods.


Snickers
by Cheryl, on Flickr
 
Nicely done! A very pleasant image all around. The relative light levels and tones all look right.

For my taste I think the bright yellow and vivid green is a little distracting for a background. Your model has quite subtle tones, so the background is a little overpowering.
 
Nicely done! A very pleasant image all around. The relative light levels and tones all look right.

For my taste I think the bright yellow and vivid green is a little distracting for a background. Your model has quite subtle tones, so the background is a little overpowering.

Thanks TM, I did tone down the yellows they were more nuclear :) You may be onto something about the model vs the background overpowering. I think that is why I'm struggling with this composite to look right. Quincy is the light tan pup and maybe he would be better suited for the yellow flowers. Thanks for the feed back, I'll adjust the greens & yellows and see if that works.
 
The problem I have with this in addition to tones, is that Snickers is sitting "on the image", not "in the" image. Think of a composite as slices of image, each of those slices has an order, the background flowers, the stump, Quincy, the flowers in front. As you stack each one on top of the other it covers part of the previous layer. That's the way it is in PS, as you move up the stack each layer shows/covers something below.

If you don't understand and use Blending Modes your composites will always end up looking like cutouts stacked on top of each other. In simple terms, blending modes compare the luminosity of the tones on the layer below with the current layer, and make changes on anything below or above 50% grey according to the mode instructions. There's a ton of videos explaining how Blending Mode works out there. Next each layer has a Layer Styles. Dbl click on the layer to open the Layer Styles dialog box. This also has a bearing on how the layer blends with the layer below. Quick tip, you should shoot the subject of anything you intend to use in a composite against a grey background. Doing so will make it way more effective when using blending modes.

No matter how good your selection, you will never be able to select fine or flyaway hair. Using the blending modes will help, but eventually you get to a point that more is required. That's where painting with a brush comes in. I have a collection of "hair brushes", some I've made, some downloaded. Using a blank layer, and a hair brush, Alt/click and sample the hair to get a color, then work the edge to paint in hair. Change the color frequently as you work the edge. You can also use the hair brush to work areas of the fur/hair that need a little more detail.

Finally you need to tone map the image to blend the layers together for uniform tones. There's several ways to do this, but one of the simpler ways is to use one or more LUTS (color lookup tables). As an example this composite uses ALL of the suggestions I just gave you above.

The Aviator by William Raber, on Flickr
 
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I like the positioning and the blending. I agree with the previous poster who mentioned the background color. It dominates the image.
 
The problem I have with this in addition to tones, is that Snickers is sitting "on the image", not "in the" image. Think of a composite as slices of image, each of those slices has an order, the background flowers, the stump, Quincy, the flowers in front. As you stack each one on top of the other it covers part of the previous layer. That's the way it is in PS, as you move up the stack each layer shows/covers something below.

I agree that Snickers appears to be sitting on top. Usually my composites have more foreground images. The stump would work better behind the grasses and in front of the flowers. I do understand layers and your explanation is helpful to anyone reading this that doesn't understand layers.

If you don't understand and use Blending Modes your composites will always end up looking like cutouts stacked on top of each other. In simple terms, blending modes compare the luminosity of the tones on the layer below with the current layer, and make changes on anything below or above 50% grey according to the mode instructions. There's a ton of videos explaining how Blending Mode works out there. Next each layer has a Layer Styles. Dbl click on the layer to open the Layer Styles dialog box. This also has a bearing on how the layer blends with the layer below. Quick tip, you should shoot the subject of anything you intend to use in a composite against a grey background. Doing so will make it way more effective when using blending modes.

I agree Blending modes are important to compositing and use often. I saw a tut awhile back that used the "Blend If" in the Layer Style UI panel. Have you used this before? I need to rewatch the tut. Good tip on the gray background for shooting.

No matter how good your selection, you will never be able to select fine or flyaway hair. Using the blending modes will help, but eventually you get to a point that more is required. That's where painting with a brush comes in. I have a collection of "hair brushes", some I've made, some downloaded. Using a blank layer, and a hair brush, Alt/click and sample the hair to get a color, then work the edge to paint in hair. Change the color frequently as you work the edge. You can also use the hair brush to work areas of the fur/hair that need a little more detail.

Hair is a pain! I should look for hair brushes. What I did with this photo, I selected an area of hair and used channels to get a clean mask. Used that new layer a few times to transplant to other areas that looked too cut out. I have a few brushes that I mask getting a feathery look on the cut out and then go back and clone to paint in hair. Very tedious work. Do you have a link to good hair brushes?

Finally you need to tone map the image to blend the layers together for uniform tones. There's several ways to do this, but one of the simpler ways is to use one or more LUTS (color lookup tables). As an example this composite uses ALL of the suggestions I just gave you above.

For my composites I use Cross Processing from NIK collection and/or a LUT. Those layers at lower opacity. The image above I had some and deleted because I couldn't decide on the look. I need to rework the image with fresh eyes. I love the processing you chose on Sadie's photo.

Thanks for the feedback
 
I like the positioning and the blending. I agree with the previous poster who mentioned the background color. It dominates the image.

Yes too overpowering! Thanks for the feedback
 
I agree that Snickers appears to be sitting on top. Usually my composites have more foreground

The number of images is not as important as using blending modes, and other tools in PS. The example of Sadie is only two. She was shot against a grey paper and became the base layer. After editing her, the next layer (map) was an internet grab. Changed the blend mode of the map to overlay then used a mask with black brush to clean away any of the map showing on her. Note NO INTRICATE SELECTION REQUIRED. Here is a link to a tut that will make your life so much easier.

Do you have a link to good hair brushes?

I have a whole bunch of hair brushes that I downloaded for free. Just do a search for "animal hair brushes for Ps". However I can tell you that I rarely use them. I have a few custom made that I seem to be most comfortable with, and if they don't work, it's easy to make one that does. Here's a good tut to show you how to make and use your own. If you've ever done any oil painting you'll know what I mean, you just seem to gravitate toward certain brushes.

For my composites I use Cross Processing from NIK collectio

To each their own, but I'll tell you the same thing I've told others I got rid of NIK a couple years ago and haven't looked back. All the tools you need are there in Lr and Ps why screw around with something else. For me, tone mapping a composite is the icing on the cake, it's the step that pulls the layers into one homogeneous tone. It was also the hardest thing for me to learn, as it can vary from image to image. I might need a LUT, I might need a solid color layer, I might need a texture or pattern, or hue saturation layer. Don't be afraid to experiment. It took awhile for me to get it and I still find myself using the "I wonder how this would look" method. Read all you can on tone mapping and blending modes, as I can't emphasis how important this final step is.
 
I agree that Snickers appears to be sitting on top. Usually my composites have more foreground

The number of images is not as important as using blending modes, and other tools in PS. The example of Sadie is only two. She was shot against a grey paper and became the base layer. After editing her, the next layer (map) was an internet grab. Changed the blend mode of the map to overlay then used a mask with black brush to clean away any of the map showing on her. Note NO INTRICATE SELECTION REQUIRED. Here is a link to a tut that will make your life so much easier.

Do you have a link to good hair brushes?

I have a whole bunch of hair brushes that I downloaded for free. Just do a search for "animal hair brushes for Ps". However I can tell you that I rarely use them. I have a few custom made that I seem to be most comfortable with, and if they don't work, it's easy to make one that does. Here's a good tut to show you how to make and use your own. If you've ever done any oil painting you'll know what I mean, you just seem to gravitate toward certain brushes.

For my composites I use Cross Processing from NIK collectio

To each their own, but I'll tell you the same thing I've told others I got rid of NIK a couple years ago and haven't looked back. All the tools you need are there in Lr and Ps why screw around with something else. For me, tone mapping a composite is the icing on the cake, it's the step that pulls the layers into one homogeneous tone. It was also the hardest thing for me to learn, as it can vary from image to image. I might need a LUT, I might need a solid color layer, I might need a texture or pattern, or hue saturation layer. Don't be afraid to experiment. It took awhile for me to get it and I still find myself using the "I wonder how this would look" method. Read all you can on tone mapping and blending modes, as I can't emphasis how important this final step is.


Thanks for the links. Much appreciated Bill
 
I agree that Snickers appears to be sitting on top. Usually my composites have more foreground

The number of images is not as important as using blending modes, and other tools in PS. The example of Sadie is only two. She was shot against a grey paper and became the base layer. After editing her, the next layer (map) was an internet grab. Changed the blend mode of the map to overlay then used a mask with black brush to clean away any of the map showing on her. Note NO INTRICATE SELECTION REQUIRED. Here is a link to a tut that will make your life so much easier.

Do you have a link to good hair brushes?

I have a whole bunch of hair brushes that I downloaded for free. Just do a search for "animal hair brushes for Ps". However I can tell you that I rarely use them. I have a few custom made that I seem to be most comfortable with, and if they don't work, it's easy to make one that does. Here's a good tut to show you how to make and use your own. If you've ever done any oil painting you'll know what I mean, you just seem to gravitate toward certain brushes.

For my composites I use Cross Processing from NIK collectio

To each their own, but I'll tell you the same thing I've told others I got rid of NIK a couple years ago and haven't looked back. All the tools you need are there in Lr and Ps why screw around with something else. For me, tone mapping a composite is the icing on the cake, it's the step that pulls the layers into one homogeneous tone. It was also the hardest thing for me to learn, as it can vary from image to image. I might need a LUT, I might need a solid color layer, I might need a texture or pattern, or hue saturation layer. Don't be afraid to experiment. It took awhile for me to get it and I still find myself using the "I wonder how this would look" method. Read all you can on tone mapping and blending modes, as I can't emphasis how important this final step is.


Thanks for the links. Much appreciated Bill


You're welcome anytime. Message me if you need any help.

Another thing on brushes for hair everyone's different but I found that creating brushes with only 3 -4 strands easier to control and blend with the image. If you'll look closely at Sadie' s ear, there's a lot of brush work there. With only 3-4 strands you can pickup different colors laying them down in seperate strokes to build the color, much like you'd do in an oil.

I use these small strand brushes in portraits as well to ease the edges, and add detail to hair.
 
@smoke665- I wasn't familiar with this technique, but it works exceedingly well. Thanks for the video and tip. Like you, I am not too big on using plug-ins, and prefer to do everything in Photoshop. I DO have a question for you though… Is it possible to use a green/blue screen, make your mask from there by using color range and using an Alpha channel rather than always having to use the gray background? Seems to me that if you can make a mask from any color, the rest would be identical to your workflow here without "requiring" a 50% gray background. Have you ever tried this? Just curious.
 
@smoke665- I wasn't familiar with this technique, but it works exceedingly well. Thanks for the video and tip. Like you, I am not too big on using plug-ins, and prefer to do everything in Photoshop. I DO have a question for you though… Is it possible to use a green/blue screen, make your mask from there by using color range and using an Alpha channel rather than always having to use the gray background? Seems to me that if you can make a mask from any color, the rest would be identical to your workflow here without "requiring" a 50% gray background. Have you ever tried this? Just curious.

I've used color range for different selection applications, and a chroma color definitely makes the selection process more precise, but what your misunderstanding is the masking part of the process doesn't require a selection in the precise sense. Think of it as using a 6" wide house painter's brush rather then a fine point brush, and while tones other then 50% will obviously blend, think of grey as the magic color of Ps. Its the neutral in a sea of color, the one tone Ps uses as a baseline from which to make a change. Masking is just a way to get rid of the places Ps missed in its calculations.

Overlay Blend is a combination of Multiply and screen. Anything darker then 50% grey it will multiply or darken. Anything brighter then 50% grey it will screen or make lighter. Anything "equal" to 50% magically disappears.

To illustrate this open a new document in Ps size isn't important, unlock your base layer to make it editable, and fill it with a pretty bright blue which depending on the blue could be a Chroma Key (Chroma green will also work if you want to try it). Open another blank layer, grab your brush and and paint three big dots, one black, one 50% grey and one white.
Annotation 2020-08-30 092626.jpg

At this point you should have a bright blue background with 3 big dots showing.
Untitled-1.jpg

Now go to the layer with the 3 big dots and change the blending mode to Overlay.
Annotation 2020-08-30 092626.jpg

Surprise! If you've followed directions you should have your original blue background with one darker blue spot and one light blue spot, but the grey has completely disappeared.
Untitled-1.jpg


Now change the blending mode back to normal and move the 3 big spot layer below the color layer, then change the color layer blend mode to Overlay.
Annotation 2020-08-30 092626.jpg

Surprise! You now have your original blue background with one black spot and one white spot but no grey. The magical color is gone in both examples.
Untitled-1.jpg


The last thing my examples illustrate is that Ps is going to always favor the layer below in how it applies/doesn't multiply or screen. Also, of all the blending modes Hard Mix is the only one that doesn't turn grey transparent.

Using the Overlay Blend mode doesn't require detailed selection because frankly would you really notice if the background actually did show a little on an individual hair. Plus if you follow the clean up methods in the video, there wouldn't be much anyhow.
 
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