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Book Review: Real World Compositing with Adobe Photoshop CS4 by Dan Moughamian And Scott Valentine

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Real World Compositing is all about the ability to put multiple images together to create a new, composite image. It is aimed at creative professional or serious amateur Photoshop users who want to gain the skills to bring images from different places to create something entirely new.

Because this book is for the more experienced Photoshop user, it makes the assumption that you know how to use Photoshop, and also does not show you step-by-step project instructions on a specific composite except a couple of examples at the end. Instead, the book is organized by process type to better show you techniques that you will need to accomplish tasks. Real World Compositing is 288 pages in length and divided into 11 chapters.

Chapter 1, "System Considerations" begins by looking at what you need in computer power, memory, and other equipment to do quality compositing. This also includes information about additional software beyond Photoshop that can be used for additional effects. Chapter 2, "Brainstorming" is a very important part of compositing. For an image to look right you really need to plan your layout so that it doesn't look contrived.

Chapter 3, "Choosing the Scene and Subject" is an important first step. The scene is usually comprised of the backdrop of the final image, and the subject is what the focus of the scene is. Here you will look at various methods of coming up with images as well as working out complications that may arise in the acquisition of the images.

Chapter 4, "Using Stock Images" is helpful when you cannot get the exact shots that you need. But stock shots may not always be the end-all of your images and here you will examine some of the issues that accompany stock photos and license agreements. Chapter 5, "Capturing the Scene and Subject" focuses on the photographic elements in your composite images. Here you will work with light and deal with reflections, as well as other compositional elements like perspective.

Chapter 6, "Organizing and Evaluating Images" is as important as anything in compositing so that when you need a specific image you can find it. In this chapter you will see how to work with Adobe Bridge and the use of keywords to locate files quickly. Chapter 7, "Processing Raw Source Files" explains the benefits of using RAW (or DNG) files as the starting point for your composite images. You will also learn about the difference between RAW and JPEG and what the difference may mean to the outcome of your composite.

Chapter 8, "Enhancing Source Images" is all about removing defects and distractions from your images and making further enhancements to tone and color to ensure that your composites blend smoothly. Chapter 9, "Creating 3D Content" examines how you can work with 3D applications like Cinema 4D or Strata to create 3D content and bring it into Photoshop for compositing.

Chapter 10, "Compositing Source Materials" is where all of the planning, brainstorming, and retouching come together. You will now see how to put it all together. Chapter 11, "Output Options" are where you need to look once your new image is complete. Is it for print, the Web, or someplace else? Here you will look at what you need to do to get your final composite ready.

There is also an appendix to Real World Compositing that contains two examples from start to finish on compositing. The first is a blue moon image with buildings, and the second is an old man in an alleyway.

While I think that Real World Compositing is a good book, I do think that outside of the mention of additional software in the first chapter, which could have been done in the introduction, there was no need for the system considerations. Since this is a book for those who have proficiency in Photoshop, I think that most know what kind of equipment, backup, etc. is needed to run the product efficiently. The same could be said about the section on working with RAW files.

Beyond that, Real World Compositing does provide a lot of good examples of techniques that one needs for creating good looking composites. These techniques like reflections, shadows, using light sources, and otherwise making multiple images blend together all are very well done. If you want to see how to improve your skills with composing then take a look at Real World Compositing.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • http://blog.lightningsymphony.com Scott Valentine

    Thanks for posting your review! Dan and I appreciate your comments, and will consider them on the next revision.

    -Scott