7 Days 7 Composites Challenge | Rules

I decided to set myself a compositing challenge to really force me into fast thinking and fast learning so i decided to create 7 composites in 7 days, taking inspiration from trends that i see often on Facebook like the 7 Days 7 B&W Photos which is circulating at the moment:

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 19.40.59

I haven’t found anyone that has done 7 composites in 7 days yet so i decided to set myself some rules:

  • Each image had to be finished within 1 day
  • Only use my children & what i had around my home
  • Be original
  • Combine different lighting techniques, Natural / Strobe / Indoor / Outdoor
  • Edit in Photoshop

And some quick tips from Brooke Shaden:



Be Strategic About Your Main Shot

Your main shot is the foundation of the image you’re building, and should have as many of your final elements incorporated into it as possible. What you can’t include in your main shot, you’ll incorporate with additional layers. Maybe you want birds in your photo but they were absent on the day of the shoot? Just take separate shots of the birds, and then layer them onto your main image. Compositing is ultimately taking the elements of your story and letting them build upon each other into one integrated piece.

Shoot a Blank Shot

After you’ve finished with your main shot, remove the model and snap a few photos of just the background. Whether it’s a wall, a landscape, or body of water, you want a stand-alone image without the subject of your photo. This way, you can easily remove unwanted elements from the final image in the Photoshop Layers Panel. For example, when you erase an unwanted tree branch from the main shot, the background from the blank shot shows through.

Expand the Frame

Expanded frames are a hallmark of Brooke’s work — and they’re super easy! Simply take extra shots all around the frame of your main image, which you can then stitch together in order to get the appearance of a wide angle. So, why not just move the camera back and crop in? Expanding the frame not only allows you to print at a larger scale, you’ll get great depth of field with the appearance of a wide lens.

Use a Tripod

Hand-held photos are great, but not so much for compositing. If you consistently use a tripod, your photo won’t shift, you won’t lose your angle, and you won’t lose your focus –– all of which are extremely important when adding layers! After all, you don’t want your blank shot to be at a different angle from your main shot. Even a few inches can throw things off, and your images won’t match up.

Maintain Consistency

Using a tripod will help keep your camera steady for consistent framing, but you also need to think about lighting. If the light ends up hitting your model’s face from two different sides because you shot at two different times of day, the final image won’t look believable. So, what kind of light is best to use? Brooke prefers natural diffused light (try right before or after sunset), which is easier to manipulate in post.

Make The Image Believable

Brooke’s photographs might be completely other-wordly, but she stays true to the rules of the world she’s creating. Composited images should still make sense to the viewer –– for example, if the wind is blowing your model’s hair, it should also be blowing her dress!



the borrowers


Off i go ………..


7 Days 7 Composites |Evaluation

I set myself the ‘7 Days Of Composites Challenge’ to force myself to think quickly, use what resources i have around me to shoot, edit each image as realistically as possible and finalise one image per day…and most importantly LEARN MORE PHOTOSHOP ALONG THE WAY.

I planned to do something different on each day regarding background, natural light, flash, bright colours, muted colours to find out what works and what doesn’t.

What I learnt about shooting composites –

  • Shooting a scene in Natural light and then the model under strobe was really difficult to get right, when using Strobe you get a much sharper more contrasting image than if you would in natural light so i had to play with the distance and power of my flash, bouncing it off walls etc to create a more subtle light.
  • As i was using my kids as the models i had to shoot each image of them before they went to school so that i could edit through the day….this wasn’t easy because i had a 10 minute window to get the shot before they had to get ready for school. Although i was happy with most of them, if i’d of had longer then i would of definitely taken more of a variety of images of the one with Owen stealing the grape because i wasn’t happy with the position he was in, but it was the best one out of what i got so i had to use it.
  • The more photos you take the better, get lots of variety in the angles because when it comes to editing if something just isn’t looking right it’s good to have an alternative.
  • If using natural light try and shoot everything at the same time of day, then all the different elements that you shoot will be much easier to merge together because light direction & temperature will be the same.
  • DOF – Making sure the depth of field you use for your scene matches the DOF used on your subject. If you shoot a scene using a narrow aperture 5.6 or more so there is a lot in focus and then shoot the subject with a wide aperture like 1.8 then the focus is going to be falling off the subject when they need to be fully in focus from front to back.

What I learnt about editing composites –

SHADOWS ARE EVERYTHING!!! There is quite a lot you can do to manipulate your image in photoshop but if you don’t get the shadows right, it doesn’t matter if the DOF, Perspective, Colour Toning is perfect if the shadows don’t look right the image will look wrong…..i learnt that…..hours of painting shadows then rubbing them out then trying again and again!!! Even the colour of the shadows is important, i sampled the colour from other shadow areas in the image and used that as my colour which worked well.

I often refer to videos from PHLEARN on Youtube, he shares so many great tutorials for Photoshop so i followed this one for painting shadows:


I also found that when i was cutting Soph and Owen from different colour backgrounds that the grey worked best, the white worked great on the first image i did but i think that was because it was cropped really tightly whereas when i photographed Sophie on a white sheet with her mermaid tail on too much light seemed to reflect up off the sheet (perhaps if i’d had a bigger room to shoot in i could of moved the flash further away so it wasn’t lighting everything so much) and so where shadows should have been on her bum/legs/tail there wasn’t much and i really struggled to get her to look right in the sand when i was editing.

My Final 7

Soph & Owen Comp Final SML-2Owen Dino -EditSmelly Sock-FINAL SMLGrapes-SMLMAgic SMLMermaid SMLSOph & Rolo SML

For Day 7 i needed to try something different again so i planned to include one of our dogs in the image.

Concept: Sophie the dogs dinner

Location: My Garden

Equipment Used:

Nikon D750, Nikon 35mm 1.4

1 child

1 Dog

Camera Settings: Dog & Sophie 1/320s (a faster shutter speed than previously used because how much Rolo moves around i didn’t want him to be a total blur, F5.6 ISO 500

Shooting:  For this image i knew that i was going to be placing Sophie leaning against the fence so that is where my focus was, i didn’t need Rolo to be in focus because it was Sophie’s face of fear that was going to be the focal point. I needed to get Rolo to stay where i needed him which resulted in me rolling round on the floor with a stick trying to keep him entertained at the gate while i took a multitude of images in the hope that one would work! He’s a very soppy dog and i needed him to look slightly aggressive but i knew that was going to be impossible but luckily he licked his lips which made him look like he was hungry so i was pleased with that one.

I then got Sophie to lean against the fence and pretend there was a savage dog round the corner waiting to eat her!


Merging these 2 images together was really easy because they were shot at the same time of day, same light and i was putting Soph onto the same background that she was photographed against.

SOph & Rolo SML


Really pleased with this one, the edit is very believable i think it really looks like Sophie is there and the direction she is looking fits well with where Rolo is.

Creating Composites | Day 6

For Day 6 of my Composite Challenge i wanted to try photographing a scene where the lighting was different so i chose to photograph my fruit bowl as this area isn’t near a window so i would have to find a way of using flash but getting an ambient amount of light.

Concept: Owen stealing grapes

Location: My dining room

Equipment Used:

Nikon D750, Nikon 35mm 1.4, Yongnuo Flashgun

1 child & 1 assistant

1 melon

Shooting:  So today i photographed Owen sat outside on a table, yesterday i photographed them in front of a white wall & sheet which made it fairly easy to cut around them. With Owen sat outside and the garden behind him it was going to make the cutting out harder.

Camera Settings: Fruit Bowl Scene –  1/100 F7.1 ISO200 & Flash bounced up to the left.  Owen – 1/60 F5 ISO200 & Flash bounced up to the left.

I used a melon so that Owen’s hands would be in the same position as they would be if he was holding a giant grape, unfortunately because of the weight of the melon i didn’t get too many shots before they refused to hold it anymore because it was too heavy!

**Perhaps i should of used a green balloon instead!**



The methods i used to edit were no different than with my previous composites.

Cutting out: MAGNETIC LASSO TOOL, then i tidied up the edges by adding a LAYER MASK, zooming in tight and using black on top of the WHITE LAYER MASK tidied up the edges by painting with the BRUSH IN BLACK.

I merged these 2 images because i  liked the first one best because of the angle of the grape but i wanted to add a watermelon blurred in the background from the second picture so that it enhanced the DOF.

I then added Owen in and painted some shadow underneath him and increased the shadows on his back and legs.



I would of liked to of had longer but my time ran out that day, i would definitely of re-shot Owen to get a better position if i’d of been able so that it looked like he was really putting all his effort into trying to pull the grape off. And perhaps the grapes being pulled out of the bowl more.

Creating Composites | Day 4

Concept: Tiny Mermaid Sophie

Location: My living room & Sophie’s Bedroom


Nikon D750, Nikon 35mm 1.4, Yongnuo Flashgun,

White Sheet

Sophie in her mermaid tail

Camera Settings:

Sophie: 1/200s F9 ISO200, Flash bounced to the right 90 degrees.

Shell: 1/125s F9 ISO 800, Natural Window light to the right, Flashed bounced to the right 90 degrees (it was a really dull day so i had to increase the light coming from the window by bouncing the flash off the thin white blind that i had pulled down)


First i photographed Soph with her tail on in the morning before school, she was very tired this day and couldn’t quite get into imagining she was in a shell with another mermaid (lol…..at 8am why on earth not!??) so i didn’t get very many photos before she was sat there just looking sad…which we can’t have so i thought i’ll just have to make the best of what i’ve got.

Then once i took the kids to school i faffed around in Sophie’s room trying to figure out what i could put her in/on.


I decided to use this shell and it was a pain to photograph because it was such a dark day and whenever i used flash it made the plastic shell look awful so i decided to look for a new location and photographed my sink and chose this image:


….and then spent the next 5 hours trying to get that one to work….and it didn’t, no matter what i did i just couldn’t make it look real (…well as close to it as i can) And i ended up with this –

Sophie Mermaid

And i just wasn’t happy with it…. it looked TOO photoshop’ed, so i scrapped it and started again and then spent the next 2 hours trying to put her back in another shell image and ended up with this –

Mermaid SML


Getting the tail to look right against the sand was so hard and this was as good as i could get, i simply couldn’t get her hand to where i was happy with though so i cheated and put a shell over it. But at least it looked more real than the sink anyway and my challenge was to shoot and edit and finish each composite in one day so i had run out of time to improve it anymore.

I didn’t enjoy doing this one, it turned out to be a nightmare and i think it was because i was tired from being up late editing yesterday’s composite and unlike my first 3 which i could see in my mind exactly what they were going to look like before i even started i didn’t have a clear vision of this one. All i knew it was going to involve Sophie in her mermaid tail.

So this was the least enjoyable one so far, the first 3 worked out exactly like i had seen them in my mind, i didn’t have a clear vision & plan for this one hence why it was such a disaster.

**Note to oneself ……. GET A VISION FIRST!**

Creating Composites | Day 5

Concept: Tiny Owen playing his favourite card game Magic Of The Gathering

Location: My living room

Equipment: Nikon D750, Nikon 35mm 1.4

Camera Settings:

Owen & Card Scene: 1/100s F14 ISO800, Natural Light

For this image i think i tried to go easy on myself because yesterday’s image took so long, i was still tweaking it at nearly midnight and was left feeling deflated because it hadn’t gone as well as my first 3. So there was no combination of lighting, it was natural window light only.

First i photographed Owen stood on a box holding my big drawing pad above his head which i planned to replace with a Game card in post.


Then i got my husband to hold the Game card with the tiny pair of pliars that i used to hold the sock in Day 3 :


Then i just had to photograph the Game scene which i took many angles as well as my husband using scissors to make a small indent in the box where I figured Owens feet would be:

Then very simply cut out Owen from the background, merged all 4 images together using blending tools and then i increased the canvas size upwards to create a Portrait rather than landscape so that i could proportionally fit Owen in as well as the Game card he was holding.


I tried to mimick the shadows that were under the dice in the ones that were coming from Owen’s feet and it was quite tricky getting the shadows correct around Owens fingers because i had him holding a a red pad the red had reflected onto the shadows on Owen’s fingers  so i had to add:



I am fairly happy with this one, Owen loves it because it’s his favourite game (in the world right now) but there’s nothing extra special about it. I could of played round more with the way the game was set up…. on a different platform/table would of looked better and not in front of a boring radiator so there is definitely aspects of this one that i would change if i was to attempt it again.

**NOTE TO ONESELF…. Keep all skin away from strong colour reflections**

Creating Composites | Day 3

Sophie & Owen will be photographed separately, and then the scene photographed and i will attempt to put all 3 elements together.

Concept: Tiny Sophie & Owen sat in their Grandad’s drawers with a smelly sock

Location: My living room & Grandad’s Bedroom


Nikon D750, Yongnuo Flashgun, Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art Lens

Grandad’s Drawers & Smelly Sock

2 Children

Camera Settings:

Sophie & Owen – 1/160s F8 ISO 100, Flash bounced 90 degrees to the left.

Drawers – 1/60s F7.1 ISO 1000, Natural window light 90 degrees to the left.


In the image i wanted it to look like Sophie was holding out one of Grandad’s smelly socks so i got her to lean behind a chair that was covered in grey material which was acting as the drawer front and she held out a grey pillow case which i was planning to swap for a sock. We took quite a few images but then i decided that she should change her nightie, it had printing on it that wouldn’t of looked right:


I wanted her to be wearing something more neutral so she got changed and we shot some more:


With the hand in different places so that i had options to choose from in post.

Then i put Owen in the same place and told him to close his eyes and imagine him and Sophie were tiny in Grandad’s drawers throwing out his smelly socks and he naturally laughed his head off:


So that part was easy enough and once i had taken them to school i went to my father-in-laws house…. emptied his very crammed bedroom drawers then hung one of his socks with a pair of thin pliers that were hidden and holding it from the back inside one of the drawers:


Post Production:

I chose these 2 images and then using the same methods for cutting out & blending as Day 1 & 2 merged them together to create this final image:

Smelly Sock-Edit

By using the grey fabric to shoot Sophie & Owen on it made it easy to cut around them, especially their hands and fingers, when i was cutting them out i didn’t cut in right to the skin either i left some of the shadow that was on the grey fabric which then became the finger shadows on the drawers and sock.

I desaturated the reds in the image very slightly and sharpened Sophie, Owen, Sock and drawer edge that they are leaning on and added some contrast.


I was really pleased with the end result, again like yesterday it was exactly how i envisaged it and i don’t think there is anything that i would change if i had to do it again.

Creating Composites | Day 2

For Day 2 of my Composite Challenge i wanted to do the same process as what i did yesterday but make it harder.


Concept: Tiny Owen feeding his Lego Dinosaur

Location: My Garden

Equipment Used:

Nikon D750, Sigma 50mm 1.4, Nikon 35mm 1.4

1 child

1 Lego Table expertly crafted by myself

1  Hungry Lego Dinosaur

Shooting:  So today i photographed Owen sat outside on a table, yesterday i photographed them in front of a white wall & sheet which made it fairly easy to cut around them. With Owen sat outside and the garden behind him it was going to make the cutting out harder.

Camera Settings: Dino Scene –  1/80 F8 ISO640, Owen – 1/160 F7.1 ISO640

The light was really low today so i had to have quite a low shutter speed compared to what i would normally use but i just made sure that there was no camera shake when taking the photos. Getting the angle of my shot was crucial so it matched with the angle of the lego table that he was going to be sat on.


I stood where i thought the lego dino would be in relation to the table and got Owen to look at me and then i ran to my camera and pressed the shutter……..this took many attempts because every time i moved away his eyes followed me… but we got there in the end. The Disco’s weren’t originally going to be in the shot but while i was setting up my camera Owen was starting so he got some crisps and the shot just created itself…how perfect to have Dino’s eating Disco’s 😀

Post Production:

After importing all files into LIGHTROOM and choosing the 2 i wanted i took them through to PHOTOSHOP and cut Owen out using the LASO TOOL, it was a bit harder than just tracing round when there was a white background and i was left with a rough edge.



To get rid of the rough edge i DUPLICATED my layer & added a LAYER MASK, i then used a very small brush just to paint away the rough edges. For the rest of the image I used all the same methods as yesterday, lots of DODGE & BURN, painting on Shadows, adjusting contrast, clarity & sharpening & curves to warm up the image a little.

Owen Dino -Edit


I love this and i’m really enjoying having a play! I don’t think there is anything i would do different if i did this one again, it turned out exactly how i planned it.

Tomorrow’s composite will be harder again –  Each of my children will be photographed separately, and then the scene photographed and i will attempt to put all 3 elements together.


Creating Composites | Day 1

I have done basic composites before but this was the first time i have done one like this.


Concept: Tiny Owen was sat on Sophie’s hand.



I watched these youtube tutorials on cutting out in PS


Both of them used a method of copying the most contrasted RGB layer (Blue) and adjusting the levels on it to make the darks darker and the whites whiter.



Without the use of my studio I thought it would be a good challenge to try to do something at home because I’m not always going to have full control over where i am shooting so this was good practise making do with what I’ve got.


Equipment Used:

Nikon D750, Sigma 50mm 1.4, Nikon 35mm 1.4

Flashgun – Bounced 45 degree to the left off a white wall

White Sheet & box to sit on

2 children 🙂



My plan was to create an image where Owen was sat on Sophie’s hand.

We picked clothes that were bright for Sophie to wear so that she stood out from the background and dark grey clothes for Owen so that he was easy to cut out from the white background.

I took about 15 shots of Sophie, using the 50mm so that she was almost filling the frame. She was sitting in front of my white bedroom wall holding her hand out to the side and pulling faces.

Then i put a box on top of my chair with a white sheet over it so that Owen could sit higher up, i needed to get his feet dangling in the shot. I changed to the 35mm so that i could fit his whole body in the frame. The Sophie jumped around behind me making him laugh 🙂

Camera Settings – 1/200s  F8  320ISO

I used F8 because i wanted to make sure that Sophie & Owen were both totally in focus with no fall off, if i had used a shallow depth of field then there would have been areas on Sophie’s hand that were out of focus so that wouldn’t have worked when i put Owen on top.


Post Production:

  • Imported images into Lightroom
  • Chose the 2 i wanted to merge
  • Took them into Photoshop & cut them out from the background. The Youtube tutorial that i watched demonstrating how to do this was quite a laborious way, definitely the best way if there was difficult areas like hair etc to cut around but i had quite clear lines around the figures so i decided to use the MAGNETIC LASSO instead as this was quicker and did the job fine.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 17.39.16

  • Added a white background layer
  • Scaled Owen down with the TRANSFER TOOL and then positioned him on Sophie’s hand.
  • Then I added new layers and with the EYEDROPPER i sampled the colour from the shadows on Sophie and with the BRUSH TOOL painted new shadows underneath Owen, adjusting the opacity to suit.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 17.41.58

  • There was a very slight highlight on the right edge of Owen’s trousers which didn’t look right because that should have been a shadow area so I added an INNER SHADOW in the Layer Style options, playing with the opacity / spread / size until it looked right.
  • Once I was happy with that i added a CURVES layer over the whole image and played with the levels to brighten up the image and then finished off with some sharpening & contrast. And finalised by cropping it.


Soph & Owen Comp Final SML-2


Owen Crop



Getting the angle that he was sitting to match the shape of Sophie’s hand was tricky, also painting in the shadows took some time to do. I kept going back to the original image of him sat on the box and tried to re-create the same shadows on Sophie’s hand.

This was a good first experiment to see how long it took to get a person to look right in another scene.

Time taking the photos – 20 mins

Time watching tutorials – 20 mins

Time editing – 2 hours

For my next project…. i found this video on youtube from Photillustrator which shows a different way to cut out which i would like to try  –