What is Composite Photography?

March 5, 2021

Welcome to the wonderful world of composite photography, where the only limit to creating stunning, out of this world artistry is your imagination, your software, and your patience.

Lauren Gray

Wild Fyre Co. | Kansas City, MO

What is composite photography?

Composite photography is generally recognized as combining two or more images together to create a new, final image. Composites usually depict deceptive or fantasy situations, capture movement, or tell a story.

Composite photography is typically digitally manipulated in an editing software program, such as Photoshop. Images are uploaded into an editor and divided into layers. Editing tools such as brushes, overlays, smudging tools, and color adjusters are utilized to create a final image. 

What can be created with composites?

You may have seen composite images used in advertising on media such as movie posters and book covers. Many times, two images of a couple will be blended together to create a romantic feeling, and other times people will be layered into a beautiful landscape. Keep an eye out for marketing photos and you will recognize how often composite photography is used in advertising! 

Have you ever come across an image that looked so bizarre it seemed real, but deep down you knew it was fake? Many times composites can be composed to make otherwise unrealistic images seem realistic and whimsical. Elements can be inserted and blended into the photo layers to give the final images details from any realm, including fantasy, horror, and surreal art. There is an endless library of stories ready to be told through composite art.

Where can I find elements to create a composite?

Many editing programs offer image clips to layer within your photos for practice. If there are additional elements you’d like to include, many websites and designers also offer images and backgrounds, as well as brushes and overlays, for purchase to help bring your creative vision to life and to streamline your editing process. When adding lifelike or fantasy elements into your composites, ensure that the sizing and scale measures realistically. Shadows and harsh blending lines can cause an otherwise lifelike image to appear edited and fake.

You can also create a composite image solely from your captured images. Always remember that the setup of the shots are just as important as the editing. Think about the end result you’d like to achieve with your session and shoot accordingly. Don’t be afraid to use colors, textures, and negative space to your advantage! Keep these areas in mind so your lines will blend seamlessly and come across more naturally. 

If you are skilled at creating new graphics through drawing or editing programs, completely custom elements can be created to convey an exact perspective and offer a more personalized and one of a kind touch.

If you’re interested in learning how to create a composite image, there are many video tutorials and group forums that can walk you through your creations! You can also take a course offered by an educator that inspires you. Reaching out to an experienced composite artist as a mentor could also be a great path in learning. What will you create first?