A real composite job is something I have always wanted to try my hand at, and this month’s 10 Magazine cover was the perfect chance. We were setting out to create a cover for a cheesy romance novel to introduce the cover story of “Romance in Korea”. I knew I’d never be able to get permission to shoot the cover in a single image at Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul, it just wouldn’t happen. I also knew that I wanted to put a spin on the usual Fabio + beautiful maiden + European castle cover formula for so many romance novels. It was going to be my chance to see if I could pull off a good composite.
What you will see below is the process of how I got to the cover image, not a guide on how to do it, or a tutorial. This is not my usual style of photography, and I do not profess to be teaching the ‘right’ way to do this, just how I achieved the final result.
Our wonderful models Cody and his wife, Ji Hee, were absolutely stunning in their performance for our studio session. They worked hard to produce stunning cut after stunning cut while wind technician Ian Phillips got to work on making their locks sway in the breeze. It was hard to choose one in the end, but I settled on this as the perfect frame for the images I had in mind.
The lighting situation was created to ensure that although it was obviously lit in a studio, the light itself would not draw attention away from the concept. To this end, we kept it simple. A strip on either side as accents and a small octa above (visible in the process shot) as key.The rim lights and good illumination on the models meant the cut-out job was simple, and the only parts that needed my attention were the edges of the hair. These were easily taken care of by Photoshop’s ‘refine edge’ tool.
The next thing to do was to crop into the 10 Magazine cover dimensions and start work on the background. I cleaned it up a little with the clone tool and slowly started to build up a painted effect using a combination of filters in Photoshop. I also added a neutral grey sky as I knew I could blend a sunset over that more easily later.
Following this, I dropped the couple into the scene and did some additional work on the mask to make sure they would fit more seamlessly into the photograph.
Next, it was adding another little dimension to the image. I wanted a foreground of the Korean national flower, but alas I didn’t have anything that would fit this image in my collection. I picked up a stock image and dropped it in on top of the models.
Now, it was time to start working on the mood. I wanted a lot more drama and warmth. My choice was to add a sunset into the background, and of course mirror its reflection in the pond. Here is the reason I added in the grey sky earlier, to give me a base on which to add the sunset. After dropping it in, I set the blend mode to multiply and masked away the parts that I didn’t want, such as those covering the models.
At this junction, we are looking at all the different parts of the image come together to make something very close to the final image. However, it still looks a little fragmented and pieced together. To make it a cohesive whole, I added a series of adjustment layers for colour and tone that essentially tied everything together. Here is the final result.
Those final few layers were really the key in bringing this composite image together. Without them it looks fragmented. From the original images, and as the image progressed, I had trouble seeing the final result. But I knew what I wanted, and a kept tweaking until I found the balance that held it together. That I feel was what made the shot possible.