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Book Review: Photoshop Compositing Secrets: Unlocking the Key to Perfect Selections by Matt Kloskowski

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The process of creating composites – the mixing one or more different images to create a single new image, has really taken off over the last couple of years. You see them everywhere, from magazine ads, to posters, and they have even made their way into portraits. Clients and customers are asking for more and more creative things to be done with photos, and the ability to composite an image is becoming more important.

With the power of the latest version of Photoshop and the inexpensiveness of the digital medium, the ability to composite an image has become easier than ever before. The goal of Photoshop Compositing Secrets is to give you all of the tools that you need to create great composites. Photoshop Compositing Secrets is 408 pages in length and is contained in 16 chapters.

Chapter 1, “Selection Secrets,” looks at one of the biggest keys to composting – that of making selections. When Photoshop CS5 came out, a new feature, the Refine Edge dialog, was added and this chapter takes a look at using it to make selections. Here you will learn how to select, adjust the selection, extract hair, and what makes the best background for selecting and extracting.

Chapter 2, “Basic Composite,” next looks at a simple composite of putting a guy, shot in as studio along with a background of an alleyway together. Here you will see how to plan ahead, prepare the background, prepare the portrait, and create the composite.

Chapter 3, “Creating Motion,” through the use of a studio shot motorcycle and a background of a tunnel. Again it is all in the preparation of the background, the studio shot, and putting them both together to look like there is motion in the scene.

Chapter 4, “Senior Portrait,” will show you how to create a portrait of a high school senior basketball player from a studio shot and one of an outdoor basketball court. This adds a set of ominous clouds to the sky for additional effect.

Chapter 5, “Professional Office,” turns to the creation of an office scene of three medical professionals using three separate portraits and a medical looking background area. Since the three individuals were photographed separately and at different times, it was important to get the lighting so that they looked as if they had been shot together.

Chapter 6, “Family/Group Portrait,” takes the same idea as in chapter 5 and uses it with several groups of people and then puts together the family portrait. This is very useful especially when you can’t get all the groups together at the same time.

Chapter 7, “Studio Sports Portrait,” looks at how to take an in-studio sports shot and merge it into a dramatic scene using four other images to create an advertising stylized shot. This is the type of scene you see in many of the sports drink ads.

Chapter 8, “Live Concert,” takes the idea of putting together a scene that looks like a live concert shoot and taking it from concept to reality. Here four separate images are pulled together to get the look.

Chapter 9, “Multiple-Exposure Action Photo,” goes outside the studio and uses multiple shots of a single event and puts them together in a sequenced set of images to show the action. In this case, it is a snow-boarder going over a jump.

Chapter 10, “Movie Poster,” now creates a movie poster from the composite of five images. Because movie posters are not depicting something that is real, they make for a very good basis for composites and you see this type of composite all the time in movie posters.

Chapter 11, “Ultra-Grungy/Edgy HDR Background,” is a very popular style and has a real edge to it. It takes an HDR background and then fits into a dramatic studio image and makes the two really pop out.

Chapter 12, “Sports Template,” and collages are another perfect fit for compositing because, by nature, they fit the multi-image situation. Here you will put together several images into a single sports schedule.

Chapter 13, “Single-Photo Composite,” works well if you have only one image and you want to make it look like there is much more going on in the image.

Chapter 14, “One-Person, Multiple Poses,” is similar to the multi-exposure chapter, but now instead of a sequential series, you have independent images composited together to make a thematic image.

Chapter 15, “Adding Illustration,” takes your photographic image and combines it with swirls and shapes to give it a mixed look. This is not supposed to look realistic in any sense, but rather to just look cool.

Chapter 16, “Advanced Commercial Compositing,” now takes just about everything that you have learned in the book and puts it together in a single complex image formed from 12 separate images.

Photoshop Compositing Secrets really gets down to business right away and provides a whole lot of projects that you can get your hands around. One thing to keep in mind is that for most of these, you do have to have studio styled shots on seamless backgrounds. It is what makes the selection process much easier. You also have to have the lighting correct as well.

In addition, the author also recommends several plug-ins that will make the compositing process easier, but what I like is that he also shows you how to make the composite without the plug-ins as well. I also like the fact that the images are available for you to download so you can work along with the projects in the book.

Photoshop Compositing Secrets is very well written, laid out, and has a lot of pictures and screen shots showing you exactly what you need to do for each of the projects. If you want to learn professional composting techniques quickly then I highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.