Photography

Use Adobe Photoshop to make a photo composite.

Learn how professional artists create striking composite photos.

The basics of composites

  • Compositing is used to create layered image combinations.
  • Composites can show anything from every step of a complex movement to a fantastical dreamscape.
  • Follow photo composition principles to help balance visual elements within your composite.

What is a photo composite?

A photo composite is multiple images combined or blended into a single image. Similar to collages and multimedia art pieces, composites can combine elements from a number of different pictures, paintings, graphic art, and other mediums.

   

Some composites are fantastical or surreal, while others go for a more realistic blend. For example, you might want to swap out the background of an image — transporting someone from an indoor to an outdoor background. If light and shadow are correctly modified, these composites can become indistinguishable from a photo shot on location.

           

Different techniques for different outcomes.

There are dozens of different styles of composites to experiment with to create online graphics, posters, and more. Here are just a few ideas:

           

  • Clone, clone, clone. Ever see a picture where you see a snowboarder doing every part of a stunt, all in the same image? That’s an example of compositing — the background remains unchanged, while the athlete in question is repeated in different stages of movement.
  • Clearing out and retouching. Combining multiple images can be a useful way to retouch photos, removing elements that you don’t want — for example, multiple photos of the same beach scene give you the canvas to remove the people you don’t want in the frame, all while making it look like that was how it was in the first place.
  • Surreal dreams. Composites are perfect for creating fantasy dreamscapes and dreamlike people and creatures. Many surrealist artists find the similarities between disparate objects and then combine them to create their art.

           

Dive deeper into dreamy composites.

Composite photography gives you the opportunity to experiment with new methods and features in Photoshop. Experiment with unlikely pairings to create striking new photo composites using these additional photo composite techniques from Julieanne Kost.

Follow this composite photography tutorial from Temi Coker.

Download these sample images from Temi Coker or practice with your own.


Step 1: Prep Your Images

Start by dragging the image of the betta fish into the Photoshop document as a new layer on top of the image of the model.

An image of a mouse cursor dragging a photo of a betta fish into Photoshop on top of an image of a person.

Step 2: Adjust the position

Using the transform controls, rotate and position the fish wherever you want. Next, right-click on the fish and select Warp to manipulate it further.

A photo of a betta fish being edited in Photoshop using the transform controls.

Step 3: Reveal the face

Select the fish layer and click on the Layer Mask icon to create a mask. Coker used the Brush tool with black selected to allow areas of the model’s face to show through.

A photo of a betta fish being turned into a mask in Photoshop.

Step 4: Repeat the steps

Drag the betta fish again to add another layer; then follow the previous steps to position the additional fins to create flowing “hair” on the model. Coker alternated turning layers on and off to edit in isolation; you can experiment the same way or view the composition in its entirety.

A photo of a betta fish being edited on a person's head in Adobe Photoshop.
A composite photo of a betta fish and a person's head. The betta fish's fins and body have been turned into hair on the person's head.

Photo compositing vs. photo composition.

Photo compositing might be confused with photo composition. Photo compositing is the art form of combining multiple images, while photo composition is a principle of photography and design that teaches you how to arrange an individual photo or piece of art for maximum effect.

           

Good composition happens when the empty space and the elements of your art are balanced well. Use photo composition techniques to help any piece of artwork shine, whether it’s a simple portrait or a fantastical composite.

Final photo composite is added to billboard on large city building

Note: Project files included with this tutorial are for practice purposes only.


Headshot of Temi Coker – Adobe Photoshop Visual Artist Nigerian-American.

Share this article

Adobe Photoshop

Do more with Adobe Photoshop.

You may also like

Please make sure that the "dexter.base.react.umd" and "dexter.base.consonantcardcollection" clientlibs have been added to the template's Page Policy