Use images that work well together.
Achieving that realism starts with combining complementary photos. The images you’re working with should have something to do with each other when it comes to factors like color and light. “You can be amazing and know what you’re doing,” says Valdes-Hevia, “but if you are using two pictures that are radically different, that have very different perspectives or lighting, you’re going to have to heavily edit it.” The more you have to edit your photos, the harder your job is. .
Get the perspective right.
Perspective is the first thing you’ll want to line up when combining photos. While it’s possible to alter lighting and colors in Photoshop, altering perspective is much more difficult. Get tips on how to introduce new objects to an image or subtract existing ones.
Match lighting and color.
After that, match lighting, going from darkest to lightest elements in your composition. “When you’re trying to match lighting, you want to match the darkest color of your subject to match the darkest color of your background,” says Valdes-Hevia. “Same with the highlights.”
Making sure colors match is your next step in combining images. Matching shadows, and their range of colors, is important. An ordinary viewer might not be able to articulate why shadows look wrong, but they will notice it. “I always adjust the hue and saturation settings,” says Ong. “Make sure shadows blend into the background. Brightness, contrast, shadows, highlights — try to make it blend.”
Control subjects and elements in camera.
Finding stock images or other existing photos with complementary elements is possible, but sometimes the best photos are the ones you take yourself in a controlled photoshoot. “It often looks better if you take your own pictures because you can plan ahead and match all the lighting and perspective beforehand,” says Valdes-Hevia. Getting shadows and perspective to line up and work together is much easier if you’re the one who created those shadows and perspectives in the first place.
As you edit, make sure that you can go back and change things or restart your workflow. “One of the first things I had to learn was how to edit non-destructively,” Valdes-Hevia emphasizes. “Make sure you can go back later and change things you’ve done in the beginning. Masks are your friends.”
Try these photo manipulation ideas.
Creating new images out of existing photos is an art. It’s difficult, but rewarding. The best way to get good at it is to do it. “Work on it. Try different things. It’s not going to look amazing at first, but it’s all about practice,” says Valdes-Hevia. “You’ll build an eye for realism, perspective, lighting, and colors as you go along. Don’t get discouraged.”
Here are a couple of ideas to help get you started.
Create composite photos.
Make two photos into one image. Discover the photo manipulation techniques to create dramatic composite images.
Do a double-take.
Double exposure is one of the oldest photo effects. Learn how to create seamless double exposures more easily with modern technology.
As you practice, learn your tools. “I learn the most just messing around in Photoshop,” says ValdesHevia. “I think to myself, I’ve never clicked on this. What does it do?” Be curious as you investigate photo manipulation in Photoshop and get familiar with the software. “Know the name of each tool and what they’re used for,” advises Antonio.
Grow your budding skills by studying photo manipulation tutorials. Find examples of photos that have clearly been manipulated and try to work backward to figure out what the artist did. Play around with stock images for additional photo manipulation ideas. Keep making your own work and putting it out there. As you do, your own vision will take shape and your own worlds will emerge.