Zoom conferencing is enabling us to access speakers who are based too far away to visit us in Leighton Buzzard. On Thursday 11 June we were delighted to welcome Elaine Butler, zooming in from Dublin, to show us how to make “composite” images.

More of Elaine’s work can be found at http://www.elainebutlerphotography.com/

Elaine told us “I do photography simply because I enjoy it”.  She has been a member of the Palmerstown Camera Club for nine years.  As winner of their Advanced Club League Competition in 2018-19 she was awarded their title of Photographer of the Year (Advanced).

Elaine’s presentation was designed for “novice / intermediate / any photographers who have not yet ventured into composite photography, and I provide a step by step overview of how composites can be useful in many scenarios.  I begin with how to create simple composites, with no studio equipment, and work through to more detail on how I created award-winning composite images.”

She said the idea was “to start simple and then let your imagination carry you away”.  She was hoping to kick-start our ideas and creativity.

By way of introduction to the subject, Elaine explained that a composite is an image made by combining a variety of pictures.  It is not to everyone’s taste – some regard it as “not real photography” – but it is a legitimate photographic genre.  One should be careful, however, not to try to pass off a composite photograph as real.

There are plenty of justifiable reasons for manipulating photographs.  These include:

  • Making corrections (eg, replacing the eyes of someone who blinks in a group portrait);
  • Aesthetics (eg, replacing a sky);
  • To show movement;
  • For fun (eg, shrinking people to make a surreal image);
  • Art (ie, to create an artistic image).

Elaine’s key tips were:

  • Plan the elements required;
  • Shoot against a high-contrast background (for ease of selection);
  • Shoot all the elements similarly (ie, with light from the same source and angle, with the same perspective, and with the same lens or focal length);
  • Select image elements that work together;
  • “Ground” the subject (ie, ensure it has the right shadows and shading);
  • Ensure “realism” (ie, that the overall image has the right depth of field and “atmospheric depth”).

Elaine then worked through three of her own projects live on-screen to show what might be done with composites and demonstrate some of the techniques that she uses:

  • Tree Reflected (to show how to add a reflection);
  • Boy Sleeping Under Book Tent (to show how to “shrink” people and objects);
  • Strength (to show how to create an artistic composite).

Elaine has subsequently provided step-by-step guide sheets (PDFs covering both full Photoshop and Elements) for each of these projects for members to try out for themselves.   SEE HERE

This was an intriguing and instructive presentation, even for those with no particular interest in this photographic genre.  Many useful Photoshop techniques were demonstrated.  As Elaine emphasised, there are many different ways to do any particular action in Photoshop – use the one that suits you best.

Members who have not previously played around with composites should now be suitably inspired to give them a go.  Lockdown is an ideal time to see what more might be done with existing images.

And Chairman Mike saw an opportunity for another “Chairman’s Challenge”, so watch this space.

More of Elaine’s work can be found at http://www.elainebutlerphotography.com/