Skip to main content

Basic Photoshop Tools for Compositing Part 1

Lesson 13 from: Fine Art Compositing

Brooke Shaden

Basic Photoshop Tools for Compositing Part 1

Lesson 13 from: Fine Art Compositing

Brooke Shaden

most popular photo & video

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

13. Basic Photoshop Tools for Compositing Part 1


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction


Why Composite ?


Logic Checklist


What Not To Do When Compositing


Shooting for Composite


Changing Backgrounds and Light


Shoot: Simple Swaps Part 1


Lesson Info

Basic Photoshop Tools for Compositing Part 1

my process is about planning I mean I'm not a technical person I'm not a logical person so for me to just take a bunch of shots really quick and then sitting photo shop and try to sort through that I would probably go nuts trying to do that I don't work like that very well so I need to think about it I need to take my time shooting I need to do it right and then I get a photo shop and then it's easy to do that it's not like a liberace process to composite things and that's why I like to promote that because it's if you have a client shoot if you have something to do with anybody else involved even if it's just a model I don't wanna waste their time bye you know not knowing what I'm doing on set and moving things around and trying to work my way through it with them they're I'd rather do that first and then spend the time shooting the right way do it once and then when you get in editing it's just it's so quick because there isn't really a lot to do there especially for something like t...

his that we're about to start doing so we're about to start editing the simple swaps the moving the hand moving the hair moving the veil getting people people out of the background we all know we're talking about here and so way need to do is just try to work around that and it becomes simple because we've shot it in a way that makes it simple now if I'm wrong and this is turns out to be very difficult than who knows but hopefully it will work out perfectly and so we can move on from there so we're actually I think we're actually going to be editing every single shoot that we've done eventually as time goes on but but yet the shooting is very important to me and that's why I want to spend some time doing that flute too don't get it so what I want to do here is first I'm going to go through a photo shop just a tour of my photo shop how I work what I work with why work with these things the way that I d'oh and you might be thinking that that's a little bit boring maybe that you already know what brushes do and things like that but I find that by going through this process so often where I'm looking to see what I'm using more often depending on the day or the time of I don't know time of my life then uh then I find that I am just so much more able to use them in a more efficient way a more effective way and really just jump into it knowing exactly what needs to happen so I want to take you on a tour of the things that I used for compositing most often and you'll probably be surprised to see that I use everything that I use in photo shop can be used for compositing in some way whether it's changing the light changing the color changing you know cutting something out whatever it may be and this ranges from a whole bunch of different things so it could be that we're working with a brush it could be that we're working with the warp tool it could be a perspective shift it could be something like that so there are some things that are just really basic like a brush in other things that are not so basic like figuring out perspective and how to change the perspective without distorting too much and things like that so let's just jump in here then to the workflow that I have open now I have three of our shots open I'll show you where I got them from in a little bit I use bridge when I edit so I go into bridge first I select my shots then I go into photo shop and that's just part of my process I never learned how to use light room I've never been in light room before they showed me earlier they said we're going to close this and I said yes good because I'm confused looking at it so I don't really know light room so have white room questions I'll try my best over the next year tto learn light room but you might just want to ask somebody else about light from so instead of just going to be exclusively in photo shop and the reason why I don't get in the white room or why I've never had a reason to is because of the compositing aspect so correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think you can composite in light room right okay so I know that much about light room and that's why I don't really bother with it because when I opened my images let me go find an image in bridge here so let's say it's this one and when I opened that up it opens into camera raw and I might make some changes to that so I might say okay looking at this picture it's all right but maybe the shadows need to come up a little bit so maybe I pulled the shadows up and maybe I like that better cause I can see all the detail everywhere and that's good the thing that is not good about camera raw in compositing is that if you're opening your images up at separate times and they were shot on the same location let's say like these were you start making adjustments to different things like this so I've just made all these adjustments to this picture when I say open then the issue is that if we go back into bridge here and then I select another photo that I want a composite like our dry bod picture then I don't know what the settings were that I change the previous image too so if I am going to edit on camera or off I know that I want to make some sort of change then all go in how yeah it's just so good okay so maybe then I will go in here and open both of these images at the same time and I'm going to do that by holding shift to click on another image opened them up and then they both show up the issue is that if I start making changes like I pull up the shadows on this image it's only applying that to that one image unless I choose select all so I'm just going to put that back to zero and then choose select all and now when I make those changes it's going to make it to both and you can kind of see that little little exclamation point pops up on both when I start making these changes so you know that I am making it to both I could select on only run and then you'll see that that little exclamation point is only on one of them so I do that a lot I'll open up several images all at once when I once I've chosen exactly the ones that I want to open and that's when I'll make slight changes when it comes to camera I'm generally not looking to change the color temperature I'm not looking to change the tent I like it though I'm not looking to do that because that's making an overall adjustment that I want to make it the end of the compositing process then everything is really cohesive so it all matches and I'm not ready to make that decision yet in my mind for the illogical person out there I try to look at it more in terms of I have to do one thing first and then build on top of that I don't like to just jump into photoshopped take a look at this image and say okay it would look better if it was brighter if the highlights were down if the blacks were up if the tent was like this well I don't know what I've done here but that's bad so I don't do that because I'm not ready yet I need to just look at it in terms of compositing so let's see is there a reset button on here it doesn't matter because we're not opening them so yes cancel all images so what we want to dio is I have these open I just opened them up into camera raw I did not make any adjustments and because of that I don't have to worry about you know maybe I made too much color pop in this one not enough in that one it's all going to come together really really easily now so let's continue the tour once I've opened them up in photo shop and I'll go ahead and close this cause we didn't want that open so I have my image is open they're just open in the separate tabs I don't open them in new windows typically I know that some people that's a common practiced open them in different windows but then I go crazy and I can't deal with it so I like to have everything just pinned in here on this one bar that photo shop gives you instead of pulling it out which I could by clicking and dragging and that would pull it out to a separate window but that's just not my process personally so let's go on a little tour here now when I first started photo shop I just stuck to the left hand tool bar I mean I couldn't fathom doing anything but that really so I stuck to this left hand tool bar that most people will have pulled up in photo shop when you're working so I started with the move tool which is kind of a simple concept it's a little black arrow we can move things around if we have something to move around if not you're going to get this symbol that the layer is locked and what are you trying to do okay so I use the move tool in a couple of ways one if I do have an object popped into my image I will move that object around with the move to all but next this is also how I moved one image on top of another so you could choose teo select the whole image copy it taste it if you wanted teo you could choose to do what I do which is the move tool so I would take the whole move tool here click on that picture and then drag it to the tab that we're working on and just let it drop on top so that's how I typically move things in photo shop it's a pretty simple process but the only thing that we have to be mindful of is the fact that you can't let go of your click until you've dropped it on top of that picture so I'll click drag to the tab that we're working on and once it flips over still won't let go of my clique I can just drag my mouse down on top of the image and then let it go so that's just one easy way of moving an image on top of another and then with that move tool you're able to move the image around wherever you think it needs to go so we're not ready to do that yet so it's just backtrack there the next tool down is our marquee tool which is pretty pretty simple so we can click and drag and that will create a selection and then we can do whatever we want to that selection a whole range of things we could copy and paste it which is one way of moving the image to another space we could go in with a smaller selection and say hey I like his head let's copy that and paste it and then with that moved tool we can move him around well I think this would be a fun thing to pursue but I'm not going to right now so we'll go back okay so that's how I used the rectangular marquis tool I use that if I'm really just I don't need to make a good selection I just needed to be quick I'll click that I'll do that then I've got a big selection made so I use that from time to time I don't use it as often though is the lasso tool if you hold down this dropdown menu here well once it's done freezing then that will bring up several other options which would be the elliptical marquis tool and line or something there we go let's check it out single row single column I don't use thes ever I never have a reason to use them but I do use the elliptical marquis tool especially from doing ahead just sort of draw draw circle so that's pretty pretty simple now let's go over teo the lasso tool which is right underneath and this is what you'll see me used time and time and time again I love the lasso tool I think it's ingenious the fact that you can draw and select something really simple I use the tab what though and that's important to note because I don't have any control over my hands so if I switch over to the mouse and I try to do a really fluid selection I have a very hard time doing it requires a lot of my concentration and they get frustrated so I'm not using a mouse I am using a tablet but if you don't have control then you can use the polygamy or lasso tool and that's going to allow you to click to define points that way you don't have to worry about drawing it perfectly the first time so why would he be using these tools and these air all mostly selection tools here of different varieties so we have the crop tool which will allow you to select the image to then crop it we have the eyedropper tool which will allow you to select a color or a tone on dh then we have a quick select tool which is really good for cutting and we have the lasso tool so if I slip but switch over here to the lasso tool the reason why I want to talk about thes is because this is how I composite so if I need let's say I want to get rid of this hand this is exactly how I would go over here to find a different hand just by cutting it out that way so I use it a lot and within the last o'toole we have all of these different options feathering refining edge different things like that which we're going to talk about in the second so right over here if I hold on the drop down we have the magic wand tool in the quick select tool these are things that I do not use is often so the first three that we just talked about I do use this one not as much but the quick select tool khun b kind of fun I mean it's just kind of guessing at what you want selected based on the contrast between your foreground and background so that might work we have cem cem pretty good contrast here which is kind of nice but then down through here it's going to kind of get confused like that so I get frustrated with tools that are auto like that like if it auto select something tries to guess for you I don't really like that and so I tend to stay away from it there are certain instances we'll go against that so we'll talk about that too now the magic one tool uh I don't like it but all use it sometimes so the magic one tool can be good if you do have a lot of contrast in your background and your foreground um and different things that you can do or you can change the tolerance here so if I say one hundred for tolerance than you'll see that it's going to select a lot so I've basically got everything but the extreme highlights and this image selected I could take this down teo five for tolerance no use I said five okay and then it's going to select very very little in comparison so the tolerances indicating how much you're selecting within that tool so that's a really good thing to know especially if you're using the magic wand tool and you're like one of the many many many people who are very frustrated with it try changing the tolerance and that could help quite a bit now cropping is something that I obviously do a lot in my work but not for the reason that you may think I tend not to crop into a square button that I expand into a square so you can do that with the crop to it makes it really nice and easy now in the newer versions of photo shop we have the crop tool that works like this just a cz you see where you click the crop tool and immediately all these lines pop up all around it so that's indicating that's where your frame is right now and once we have that weekend then click on any of the sides and move it around and do whatever we want to crop but we can also do that to expand the frame as well so if I wanted teo add more space up top I could go ahead and do that and you can see that once I start moving the crop toe outward we have these color swatches down here and whatever colors in the background that's what's going to fill the background of your image so if you want to pay attention to that then you might want to just go ahead and play with those color swatches so if I say okay you can see that that has just expanded my frame upward and that's just indicating that now I can put mohr of an image up top in that space if I didn't do that and I tried to put an image up here it just wouldn't show up they would just go off the frame and you wouldn't see anything so if you want to play with your color swatches you can always go ahead and do that whenever I'm expanding my frame though I'm not worried about that some filling it with a different picture altogether so it could be magenta on that wouldn't make any difference but let's just say that it did make a difference that you wanted to match it exactly well then you could always just take your little eyedropper tool here and select that background color and then fill with that color and this is good and bad and I say good and bad because it's good if you want to be a little bit lazy than it's good because then if you sort of miss a spot where filling it in and it still looks like it's building but if you're going to be printing your image is in any way or you need tohave like real detail in the shot than oh phooey I didn't put it in the background okay I'll put that in the background now when I expand if you want to print and you want it to be exact and then you're gonna have to match this betterthan I mean you're gonna have to even if you just miss a spot I like to use a contrast in color in this case usually white or black in the background and the reason why I do that is because now when I expand aiken see exactly what's missing from this equation here so then I know exactly where I missed exactly where I need to fill in and I can fix it later that makes me feel much much better about creating images because I've done a color that's very similar in the background before and then going to print with that and then on lee when it's printed it forty inches do I see that there's a black strip on the side or something like that but I totally missed because I didn't use a contrast in color so that always is really really awful okay so let's go ahead and move out then from that crop tool it's pretty straightforward on if you want to crop into a square you can always hold shift and then click and drag and that will maintain that aspect ratio and I'll get out of that but you can also always go into ratio and say wonder one square and that we'll crop it into a square for you um and then you can move outward as well with that okay but I'm going to get out of that one to one ratio I just like to dio regular ratio which will allow you to draw whatever you want to draw okay so now we're going to move the eyedropper tool which again I don't use very often it's something that I might use if I just need to sample a color somewhere around so we're not gonna focus too much on that and then down here we have the hell brush tool so the hugh brush tool that's what we talked about earlier to remember that blue dress shot with the well red dress shot as it ended up being with the umbrella that image was done with the hairbrush tool so how people would normally use the heel brush tool is who come in here and use it on somebody's face to clean up skin something like that I don't typically use it for that mostly because you don't usually see faces in my work but even aside from that I will clean up a face from time to time but typically I'm just working with blending fabric with the with the hairbrush tool and that's how I like to use that quite a bit so the way that it works though is that if you hold option if you're on a mac I am usually on a pc so if I sound like I don't know what I'm talking about that's why but option or salt on a pc I believe then you can always click to define a source point so whenever you see that little brush turn into the crosshairs which if I make that a little bit bigger you'll see it a little go small anyways well you can see the cross hairs within that brush so wherever I am clicking to sample I just click and then drag that over the spot that we're working on and whenever I'm using the hell brush tool the clone stamp tool anything like this that's when I'm going to try my best to find a really neutral area so I just selected from right here what I don't want to do is select from right here because then I'm going to be drawing her eyebrow onto her skin and nobody wants that so I'm just choosing a really really neutral area to finding that source point clicking and dragging and that's how I am typically using the hell brush tour just right on top of that layer now we do have other he'll brush tools in here like the patch tool the spot he'll brush tool so the patch tool is going to allow you to draw a point that you want to fix and then move it and then it will overlap the section that you just moved it to so let me do that one more time let's see see this little spot right here which I'm positive is supposed to be there but pretend it's not so if I select this little area here then I then move this to a more blank spot right here where there's just cheek it's really smooth and then I drop it then it's going to smooth out that area it's basically just blending thenew section with the old section so that's another really good one that all use from time to time it can be good for sort of like places like this where there's a little bit too much highlight maybe I'll put it up there and then it'll sort of take care of some of the highlight I did too big of a section so it was a little bit muddy but it helps for stuff like that quite a bit

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Logic Checklist
Must Have Shots
Favorite Photoshop Tools
Lighting Effects
Practice Files - Cutting out Hair from Background
Practice Files - Building a Dress
Practice Files - Swapping Hand
Practice Files - Levitation
Adorama Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

Logan Fox

I'm so thrilled to have come across this course and to have been introduced to Brooke Shaden. As a bit of background I do photography as a hobby, and always had an appetite to composite my work. It's only after watching this course that I can finally put a name to a craft that I love, that being 'fine art photography'. Through my own personal journey I've read various books, followed online tutorials both paid and free. When I came across this course I did hesitate. I wondered 'is it going to teach me anything new'... 'would the standard of the course be up to scratch'. Well, I can honestly say with hand on heart that this is by far is one of the best courses I've come across to date. As a solo photographer myself I've found it difficult at times to be both photographer and subject at the same time. From the outset what became clear was that Brooke is just like me in this respect which made the course so 'relevant' to what I do. Brooke shows throughout the course what can be achieved with a little planning and some creative approaches to situations that can be difficult to pull off when on your own. She is such a joy to watch and listen to, I loved her sense of humor and great how the audience were involved in some of the shoots. All I can say is, if you're in to photography and interested in compositing your work, you should give this a go, you wont regret it!


I'd like to show my gratitude and gratefulness to Ms Shaden and other wonderful people at CreativeLIVE for sharing your vast knowledge without making a fuss. Not everybody has a super computer and a top-notch camera, not everyone has a studio to work in and not everyone needs to know everything as perfectly as some instructors and professionals do. I, for one, have gained so much insight and have been intrigued by Ms Shaden's present and past lessons, she makes the most difficult and surreal subjects unfold so easily and effortlessly. Ms Shaden has made me believe no matter where I be and no matter what i have, as long as i have a good story to tell, and the right vision, I should be able to handle it with a working camera and any version of Photoshop. Unlike many other instructors who kill us every 5 minutes to buy their flashes or gear and support this or that company and agency, Ms Shaden has spent the whole time teaching and teaching and teaching and I am sorry I cannot be there to thank you in person, but you, Ms Shaden, are awesome and nobody can unawesome you :)


Brooke has a wonderful way of not only making it all look so easy, but actually be easy. In a plain and down to earth manner, she can make both beginner and advanced pro comfortable with the material covered in this class. From a simple starting point to a polished post-production finished work of art, she takes us on a relaxed and joyous journey. I am a former professional commercial photographer returning to the art after a 30 year absence. When I left, there was no such thing as digital photography. Now, to be able to embrace such concepts and techniques as taught by Brooke, without any difficulty to me, says that this course provides great value and time well spent. Well done Brooke! Well done Creative Live!

Student Work