Sometimes the client brief requires some creative thinking about how to achieve the final image – welcome to the world of composites.
This image had to be done as a composite (two or more images merged together) because it was part of a spring / summer collection for a Chinese fashion label. The brief was to provide European looking models with London backdrops but the shoot had to be done in December. So the only practical way of achieving what the client wanted was with composites. Those central London locations would have been difficult to shoot anyway, at the best of times, because of crowds of tourists and the requirement for permits, so this was definitely the best solution for the job. And in December, there would have only been a minimal window of useable light, not to mention cold, unpleasant weather.
Shooting the backdrops
It’s important for composites to shoot the backdrop first, because then it’s much easier to match the model, the light and the angle with the setting, so that it all works together convincingly.
So, I went out in London about a month before the shoot was due to happen. I took a bunch of photographs of London landmarks for the backdrops – Tower Bridge, the London Eye, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square. I had to hang around until people moved out of the frame sufficiently to get a clean shot - and then quickly move on before I was stopped by the 'photo police'.
I then loaded half a dozen of the chosen backdrop images into my iPad so I had them as reference when I was in the studio with the models. Here are some of the other backdrops I used in the shoot – and my artistic stick chick drawings!
In the studio
When shooting the model in the studio, there are two main things you need to consider to make the model fit convincingly into the background: the angle and the light.
The angle at which you shoot the model should match as closely as possible to the angle and focal length at which the backdrop was shot – otherwise the perspective will not match and it will be obvious to the eye that there is something not right with the image.
The light should be sympathetic with the background – ie it should be plausible it would be lit that way. You can mimic the natural light in the scene or you can take it as if you used lighting on location.
Editing the composite
An easy way for doing the edit is to shoot against mid grey in the studio, this is because it’s easier to blend the background against 50% grey using the hard light blending mode in Photoshop. By using a cut-out of the model from the studio image at the top of the layer stack you can bring back fine details like strands of hair and clothes fabrics from the original studio image layer (at the bottom of the stack) by sandwiching the (composite) background between the two in hard light blending mode. This technique really needs a separate blog to explain properly but it is quite straight forward to do but can be fiddly getting the finer details of the mask and shadows right.
Finally I added some clouds in the plain sky from another image to complete the composite.
These pictures (there were a set of six in total) ended up being used as posters in over 200 fashion outlets in China – in other words, the brief was fulfilled and the client was happy.
Another example of a fashion photography composite for stylist Maria D’alessio…
Here’s another example for a different client of the same composite technique. This background was taken in Shoreditch on Curtain Road and the model was shot at Tower Bridge Studios a few weeks later.