A behind-the-scenes look at how I photographed and composed the following photograph of our daughters’ wonderful dog, Appa!
The studio setup:
- Key light – 22″ beauty dish with grid, Einstein 640, mounted to a super boom on a C-stand.
- Kicker – Einstein 640, on a back light stand.
- The softbox seen on the left side was not used.
- Canon 5DIII
- 1/125 second @ f/18
- ISO 100
- 24-70 mm f/2.8 L @ 35mm
The Raw file was processed in Photoshop Lightroom CC, and edited in Photoshop CC for the silhouette.
To silhouette, I used the quick selection tool and dragged across Appa to make a rough selection. Since the background was smooth and contrasty, the rough selection was a decent start.
The area that did not work well was her shadow on the floor due to similar tones. Since this area will be covered with a foreground image, I was not concerned about an accurate selection there, so I let it go.
Next, I used the “Refine Edge” mode in Photoshop to fine tune the selection edges, so Appa’s fur along the edges, would look realistic when cut out and placed in a new scene.
Here’s a look at the “Refine Edge” screen:
You’ll notice, it did a pretty good job with “smart radius” selected. I played with the amount and may have increased it slightly, to what you see above.
Next, I searched my collection of background photos, for something interesting and found this shot taken with my Fuji X100s mirrorless camera:
The challenge with adding an image into a different background scene is making it look realistic enough to fool the eye into believing it was photographed that way.
The foreground would look odd with Appa floating in the scene, so to make it look realistic, I softened the background using a lens blur filter in OnOne software’s Perfect Effects 8.
I don’t recall the specific settings for the lens blur effect, but you will need to experiment and adjust as each image is unique. I wanted enough of the trees be recognizable so there would be no mistake it was a forest, yet have them appear blurry, to help solve the difference in camera angles from Appa and the scene behind her.
To solve the difference in colors of lighting, I created a layer in photoshop on top. I sampled an average green color from the background trees, filled the layer. I created a mask and on the mask, I loaded the silhouette of Appa as a selection, then deleted it to reveal only the green color over Appa.
The color cast was too heavy, so I reduced the opacity of the layer to 25%.
The photo was taking shape but needed a foreground of grasses, to portray the forest ground. I found this shot in my archives taken at the NJ shore:
All I needed was the grass, so I added the photo to the layer stack at the top, above the silo of Appa, but just below the green overlay layer. I added a layer mask and used a graduated fill to eliminate the sky and fade the grass into the scene. I used a soft paint brush using white to reveal some of the strands of grass, so they didn’t look cut off abruptly, and used black to paint away some of the grasses over Appa, to make it look more realistic.
I lowered the opacity of the foreground grass slightly, to 70%, to blend into the scene.
Here’s the finished image:
I ordered an 11 x 14 print on metallic paper from Bay Photo, framed with walnut wood and a simple white mat with clear acrylic on top.
The image on metallic paper is stunning and adds a unique 3-dimensional quality to the composition.
It has been well received, and no one knew it was a composition until I spilled the beans!
It was great fun and I hope this inspires others.