The ever elusive composite

Compositing is an art … some call it wrong … but it has a place in many areas of photography. When it’s done well, it’s not noticed. Done poorly, it’s difficult to look at. And, there are times that a non-composited image can give the impression upon examination of being a composite.

Some sites don’t hide the fact that they’re compositing … like a certain fire truck builder that uses a seasonal backdrop to display their new deliveries.

Anyway, it all begins with a cutout or masking of the subject. There are dozens of methods to achieve this depending on the subject matter. Photoshop has several tools for this and there are third-party plug-ins or stand-alone software packages that specialize in creating complex masks.

For this example, I used the Pen Tool in Photoshop. It’s the tried and true method for creating detailed masks with straight lines and curves.

fire engine cut out

Then, I created a panoramic image from two files of a rural road in Alabama. The scene includes a pond and farm … a natural setting for a water tender.

rural road with pond and farm
Two image composite of a rural scene. Larry Shapiro photo

After creating and editing the scene. I placed the engine on the road.

composite image with fire engine
The cut-out engine is placed into the scene on the road and sized appropriately. Larry Shapiro photos

Sadly, I was not able to keep the other structure in the finished image. I like the partially rusted metal roof, but I would have had to place the truck half out of the frame. Then I decided to go one step further, and see if I could create motion in a convincing manner.

composite image with fire engine
Using several layers, I attempted to simulate the truck driving through the frame. Larry Shapiro composite

Since the truck was on it’s own layer, I could add some blur to the background without affecting the truck. Then, I used a layer for the blur of the front tires, and another for the rear wheels. It’s not bad … if you ignore the fact that there’s nobody inside the cab.