Photography is split into multiple disciplines and skills, all of which are useful in some applications. There are obvious ones, such as sports photography, wedding shoots and that sort of thing. However, as I explore on my page titled ‘Album Design and Photo Retouching’ there’s also a call for composite images. A composite image is something created from a photograph but with a degree of after-editing. We’re not just talking about adjusting saturation and exposure either, but a wholesale reimagining of the images.
As you can see from this composite image I created for my brother Jacob Ewert, blending images together to create something altogether different is a huge skill. You might just be editing an image to something surreal and ethereal for your own amusement or building an image for a client. Either way, there are some things to consider if you wish to create strong composite images, as we explore in more detail below.
If you want to create striking composite images, you’re going to need a good camera. I’m not talking about an iPhone or anything like that either – a digital SLR is a must. They allow you to shoot in RAW, which gives you must more in-depth editing options before you even get started with the slicing and dicing.
Traditionally, there’s been a leaning towards either Canon or Nikon, and they’re both good places to start. The Nikon D850 is a good choice as it boasts a 153-point AF system. It’s an older model now as well, so might not set you back too much. If you want something a little more cutting-edge, the Canon EOS R6 MkII is a solid choice. The 24MP sensor delivers a nice balance between image quality, low-light performance and speed. Both will allow you to capture the sort of pictures perfect for making strong composite images.
You’re going to need a good laptop, ideally, something packing a decent graphics card to manage the complex tasks your software will carry out. A MacBook Pro is the obvious choice, with its crisp display giving genuine colors and super fast M1 Pro 14-core graphics chip able to put some proper grunt behind your editing.
There’s no doubt that Apple’s products are great for editing, but if you’re a Windows person, then a Dell XPS 17 is a good, solid choice. The top-spec model comes with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 6GB GDDR6 graphics card and a 17” InfinityEdge Non-Touch Anti-Glare display.
There are other choices that will suit you – just make sure the graphics card is powerful enough to handle a program like Adobe Photoshop.
There are photo editing companies that are not Adobe, but the truth is Photoshop has become a byword for editing with good reason. Adobe Photoshop is the premier piece of software photographers use to touch up images or create whole composites, and it’s available now as a subscription model, meaning you pay monthly for the privilege of using the product.
If you wish to look outside of Adobe, there are solid options – Affinity Photo and Procreate are two that spring to mind, and they’re improving all of the time. My tip is to pick one and then stick with it because, for the best results, you have got to learn the ropes.
That brings us to my final point, and that’s learning. You cannot possibly expect to get great results the first time you start a project; becoming skilled in photo manipulation is a long process. It’s good to choose your software and then use YouTube tutorials to improve your skills. That’s why Adobe is a solid choice – there are loads of tutorials on there taking you through some basics of photo manipulation.
Composite images are great fun to make, and they can be effective in a range of applications, from advertising to album covers. However, making sure you have the right equipment is paramount, and hopefully, we’ve helped you with that a little bit today.