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COMPOSITE IMAGES - SHOULD YOU?

Updated: Dec 21, 2021


Picture the scene if you would. You have travelled hundreds if not thousands of miles to your dream photography locations. You have been filled with anticipation about visiting this place, can't wait to get the camera out and capture the image of a lifetime that will be worthy of your portfolio. You can visualise the waterfalls, the rapids, a setting sun behind the mountain with amazing colour in the sky. You have set yourself the goal of finding a unique composition. Everything is going to be amazing.


As you approach your destination in the car, a sinking feeling starts to overpower the excitement that has build up inside you. The light is terrible and its only going to get worse. Still you are here and the weather forecast could be wrong, you are going to make the most of it, secretly keeping every finger crossed that you might get the briefest of breaks in the clouds. You find you composition and frame it up exactly the way you want, test shots taken it all looks perfect. Another quick prayer to the light gods that they will afford you a brief moment of perfection. They don't oblige and the light only gets worse. You end your session, happy that you have visited, slightly deflated that the light was rubbish and vowing that you will return to get your killer shot.


In reality we have to be really lucky to go to a location for the first time and get perfect light. I have been to venues where it has taken many many trips before I got prefect conditions. That's the thing about landscape photography, nothing is ever guarnateed. I am still waiting for the perfect conditions at Kirkjufell and despite visiting Iceland many times have never witnessed the Aurora over the iconic mountain either. I am sure that will change in 2022!


So back to the story, you edit your images from the day and they come out ok. They are an accurate representation of what you saw but are just lacking the wow factor that you wanted. Anyway you settle for what you have got and then a few months later you dig the raw files back out on a cold winters evening and start editing the images again only this time you start to manipulate the image, which ends up looking nothing like what you actually saw or photographed. The question is, is it wrong to create a composite image?



















Let's take a look at the 2 images above. On the left you have one of the 3 raw files that I used to focus stack the image and to the right, you have an edited image. As you can see the image is ok, its nicely composed but is very flat. There is too much negative space in the sky. Now compare it to the image at the top of this blog. In essence it is still exactly the same composition, but the sky has been replaced, I have removed the little fence posts, there has been some selective dodging and burning, I have added some colour to the water to make it look more natural and I have also sharpened it to create more movement.


Thinking about the RAW image again for a moment. If I gave this image to 10 different photographers and asked them to edit it, I wouldn't get 10 identical images, no of course not, I would get 10 different ones, where each photographer has applied their own individual style to it. That's the beauty we can get as creative as we like and over time we develop our own unique style, to how we edit our photos.