Remember the first time you tried to combine images in Photoshop to create a composition? I certainly do, and there are a few things that I wish I know then that I’ve learned over time.

These 6 tips are easy to say but not simple to master. It’s an old cliche but it takes time and practice to become an expert. So absorb the knowledge, then put them to good use in your next composition!!

1. Perspective & Scale – Size matters

When creating a photo composition, there is nothing that looks more out of place than an image that’s not in scale with all other images. We can all detect errors in scale and perspective subconsciously, we simply compare to real life scenarios and think, “that doesn’t look right”.

Making sure your perspective and scale are correct is a great place to start. This begins at the image selection process when you are choosing the stocks images to use in your composition.

2. Lights and shadows – It’s all about the source

When combining multiple images into one composition it’s important to unify the lights and the shadows. Each image you place into the composition will have different lighting and shadows, using adjustment layers you can unify the images to create a realistic final image.

To unify the lighting you need to make sure that you have your light source decided from the start. Depending on your background stock there may already be a natural light source in your composition. Equally, you can create a specific background with specific lighting for your composition. Either way, get the light source decided early and adjust all your images to match.

3. Adjustment Layers – Stack em’ up stack em’ in

Adjustment layers should be your best friend! If you are not using them, then I would suggest you get started as soon as possible.

Reasons we love adjustment layers:
1. Non-destructive – They can be removed, deleted and edited without affecting the original image.
2. Quick – You can produce great effects in a super time frame.
3. Layer masks – Adjustment layers are exactly that, their own layer. This means you can use layer masks to target specific parts of your image.
4. Stackable – You can use multiple adjustment layers to build up an effect on a single layer.

Those are a few points that jump to mind when thinking about adjustment layers.

4. Resolution – How many pixels ya’ll got?

When creating a composition you need to think of pixels as the raw material that you use to build. If your raw materials are not to a high standard, then your end product will suffer. So when choosing your stock images you need to make sure they are of high quality to ensure that final composition is of high quality.

When creating your documents you must set the resolution at 300dpi (dots per inch). For print media, the document must be at least 300dpi, any lower and the print quality will not be up to scratch. Additionally, if you place an image of low quality into your 300dpi document, it will be clear if the image quality is too low due to the size it appears in your doc.

A good rule of thumb is to create your image at a larger size than required and then resample down (if required). There is no great method to upscale without loosing quality so make sure this is correct form the start.

5. Transform Tools – A skewed rotation

This one goes without saying, the transform tools are vital for all compositions. Every image you place into the composition will need to transformed in some way shape or form.

Take your pick from Scale, Rotate, Skew, Distort, Perspective, Warp and flip. Quite a few to choose from, hey!

6. Final Adjustments – Give it a polish

Final adjustment layers are like the icing on the cake, the decorative part at the end that helps combine all the elements together. It’s often a step that is missed but believe me when I say, the final adjustment layers make a world of difference.

The main benefit is the unity that you can create between all the images within your composition. You can also adjust the tone and overall feel of your image at this stage.

So when you think you’ve completed your composition, take a step back and add some final adjustment layers. Take your time, there is no rush. Leave your image a day or 2 (if the deadline is not imminent) and then return to add the final touches.

A closing thought

So there you have it, these are the 6 best tips to improve your photo compositing. Adopt them, use them and master them!!

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