The Practicing Photographer
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Compositing street photography images with Photoshop


The Practicing Photographer

with Ben Long

Video: Compositing street photography images with Photoshop

There are a lot of different kinds of photography. There's landscape photography, there's portrait photography, there's fashion photography. And of course, there is a great tradition of street photography. The process of getting out on the street, and shooting candid moments of everyday life. This was something pioneered by the great Andre Cardie Persand, who spoke eloquently and demonstrated masterfully the decisive moment that I'm not saying that I've got any particularly decisive moments here, but he pioneered what is typical of most street photographers.
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  1. 4m 42s
    1. Evaluating camera-strap options NEW
      4m 42s
  2. 1m 35s
    1. Introducing The Practicing Photographer
      1m 35s
  3. 9h 50m
    1. Choosing a camera
      5m 27s
    2. Looking at light as a subject
      2m 22s
    3. Using a small reflector to add fill light
      5m 45s
    4. Editing photo metadata with PhotosInfo Pro for iPad
      6m 30s
    5. Let your lens reshape you
      7m 26s
    6. Compositing street photography images with Photoshop
      7m 44s
    7. Expand your filter options with step-up and step-down rings
      3m 56s
    8. Shooting without a memory card
      3m 6s
    9. Give yourself a year-long assignment
      5m 28s
    10. Working with reflections
      1m 26s
    11. Exploring mirrorless cameras
      7m 25s
    12. Batch processing photos with the Adobe Image Processor
      7m 30s
    13. Limiting yourself to a fixed-focal-length lens
      2m 13s
    14. Creating tiny worlds: Shooting technique
      4m 15s
    15. Creating tiny worlds: Post-processing techniques
      11m 41s
    16. Shooting macro shots on an iPhone
      3m 18s
    17. Using a tripod
      3m 33s
    18. Wildlife and staying present
      5m 58s
    19. Batch exposure adjustments on raw files
      6m 52s
    20. Why Shoot Polaroid
      11m 12s
    21. Seizing an opportunity
      4m 4s
    22. Four photographers do a light-as-subject exercise
      12m 24s
    23. Shooting macro bug photos with a reversed lens
      4m 54s
    24. Varnishing a photo for a painterly effect
      13m 36s
    25. Shooting wildlife
      7m 24s
    26. Discussion on how to shoot architecture
      12m 27s
    27. Using a lens hood
      4m 48s
    28. Working with themes
      2m 48s
    29. Setting up an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    30. Processing an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    31. Two perspectives on travel photography
      12m 28s
    32. Scanning Photos
      5m 37s
    33. Photo assignment: shooting an egg
      3m 13s
    34. Reviewing the egg shot images
      6m 47s
    35. Shooting in your own backyard
      4m 38s
    36. Jpeg iPad import process
      3m 17s
    37. Shooting a product shot in open shade
      9m 34s
    38. Reviewing the product shot images
      4m 5s
    39. Warming up
      3m 26s
    40. Taking a panning action shot
      10m 17s
    41. Scanning polaroid negatives and processing in Photoshop
      8m 17s
    42. Shooting a silhouette
      3m 9s
    43. Going with an ultra-light gear configuration
      5m 29s
    44. Working with masks and calculations in Photoshop
      12m 38s
    45. Working with flash for macro photography
      4m 56s
    46. Colorizing a black and white photo in Photoshop
      5m 10s
    47. Using duct tape and zip ties in the field
      4m 14s
    48. When the on camera flash is casting a shadow
      3m 4s
    49. Using Lightroom on the road
      6m 28s
    50. Listening to your camera to get good exposure
      2m 20s
    51. Shooting a successful self portrait with a phone
      7m 18s
    52. Switching to Lightroom from another application
      9m 48s
    53. Photographing animals in wildlife refuges
      6m 41s
    54. Shooting level
      2m 42s
    55. Photoshop and Automator
      8m 54s
    56. Shooting when the light is flat
      3m 23s
    57. Discussing the business of stock photography
      9m 48s
    58. Shooting tethered to a monitor
      3m 21s
    59. Making a 360 degree panorama on the iPhone
      4m 45s
    60. Understanding the three flash setup
      3m 34s
    61. Shooting a three flash portrait
      4m 6s
    62. Understanding the differences with third party lenses
      4m 43s
    63. Understanding why files look different on depending on device
      5m 25s
    64. Working with a geotagging app on the iPhone
      4m 43s
    65. Using high speed flash sync to dim ambient light
      7m 29s
    66. Using your iPad as a second monitor
      5m 46s
    67. Understanding exposure with a leaf shutter camera
      3m 28s
    68. Photography practice through mimicry
      8m 8s
    69. Canon wireless flash with built in radio control
      5m 59s
    70. Posing and shooting pairs of people
      5m 35s
    71. Shooting with a shape in mind
      3m 15s
    72. Shooting tethered to a laptop
      4m 40s
    73. Softboxes vs. umbrellas
      2m 55s
    74. Getting your project out into the world
      6m 25s
    75. Exploring how to think about shooting a new environment
      3m 56s
    76. Discussing the book "The Passionate Photographer" with Steve Simon
      6m 4s
    77. Highlighting iOS 8 updates on the iPhone5S
      10m 46s
    78. Exploring manual controls with iOS 8 and ProCamera
      5m 30s
    79. Understanding how to compose with an empty sky
      4m 54s
    80. Using an iPhone to make a print in the darkroom
      7m 16s
    81. How to use glycerin as a photography tool
      2m 16s
    82. Understanding micro focus adjustment and Lens Align
      11m 19s
    83. Working with hair in post
      3m 28s
    84. Taking a quick portrait and directing a subject
      5m 50s
    85. Getting inspired through the work of others
      11m 22s
    86. Taking a flattering portrait with flash
      4m 21s
    87. Creating an unaligned HDR image
      3m 3s
    88. Exploring how to use Bokeh
      5m 38s
    89. Shooting stills from a drone
      6m 57s
    90. Using a monitor to get a first person view of the aerial camera
      8m 0s
    91. Understanding lens profile correction
      5m 33s
    92. Working with models
      2m 40s
    93. Understanding the labels on SD cards
      10m 32s
    94. Setting up a macro time lapse of a flower
      6m 18s
    95. Taking a portrait that's tightly cropped or slightly obscured
      3m 24s
    96. Tips for shooting panoramas
      7m 16s
    97. Carrying a point-and-shoot camera
      4m 44s
    98. Adjusting the color of shadows in an image
      5m 35s

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Watch the Online Video Course The Practicing Photographer
9h 56m Appropriate for all May 16, 2013 Updated Mar 26, 2015

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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.

Ben Long

Compositing street photography images with Photoshop

There are a lot of different kinds of photography. There's landscape photography, there's portrait photography, there's fashion photography. And of course, there is a great tradition of street photography. The process of getting out on the street, and shooting candid moments of everyday life. This was something pioneered by the great Andre Cardie Persand, who spoke eloquently and demonstrated masterfully the decisive moment that I'm not saying that I've got any particularly decisive moments here, but he pioneered what is typical of most street photographers.

Going out and nailing that one shot that just captrues a particular moment in time. It takes a lot of practice. However, no matter how good you are at recognizing and capturing that moment, there are times when the world doesn't conspire to help you get the shot that you want. For example, I was here at this intersection, and I saw this bicyclist coming along. I could see that he was going to make a right turn. So I thought, oh, this is really cool. I'm going to get this bicyclist right in the middle of this nice vista. There was a problem though, which was that right before the, I was ready to take the shot, a guy stepped into frame.

So, I ended up with this. Now, obviously, this image has not been edited yet, so the tone is off. But you can see there's this guy standing here. I decided not to worry about it. I decided I can take the guy out, and to facilitate removing the guy, I took another shot a few moments later. So I actually had these two shots. That I was able to composite into this finished shot. Now, before we get into how I do this. I will say that I am not a photojournalist. So I am not actually concerned about any kind of journalistic integrity or authenticity.

What I have just shown you is that this shot that we're looking at now is not actual literal truth. When I took this image, there was a guy standing there. If you are a photojournalist, you have a different set of parameters. I'm just looking to make a nice picture. And in my mind, this picture is not as nice when this guy is standing here. So fortunately there is a very, very easy way to do this in Photoshop. I'm going to take both these images. I'm in Bridge right now. And I'm going to go to Tools > Photoshop > Load Files into Photoshop Layers.

That's going to create a single document with each one of these images in a separate layer. Now, I don't have to use Bridge to do this. I could also do it manually. I could create a new document, open my other documents, and copy and paste their contents into separate layers. But this is a really nice way of having a one shot, single click, solution to this. So, now you see I've got this document here, and I have two layers. Photoshop's still thinking a little bit. It has put the guy on the top layer, if I hide this layer, you can see what's underneath.

And, this is actually great. This is the orientation that I want. What I would like to do is, take this guy out to reveal what's underneath. I could just grab the eraser and start erasing him to reveal what's underneath. But if I do that, I don't have a way of backing out of it later if I make a mistake. So I'm going to undo that. And offer up a different suggestion which is to add a layer mask to this image. So here on the layers palette with this layer selected I'm going to click down here on the add layer mask button.

And now I have a layer mask. The layer mask is completely white indicating that all of this layer is currently visible. I'm just going to switch over to some black paint and grab a paint brush and now when I paint into this mask, I'm taking the guy out to reveal what's underneath, so it looks like he's gone. If I go in here real close though, well, actually that was pretty clean. I can see there are some problems with, with what I've done. I've not got a partly visible car here, so I need to refine my mask.

I'm going to go in here with a smaller brush and some white again, and this is why I recommend using this approach rather than the paintbrush, because it means that I can go in and retouch my mask, but now I'm seeing that I, I have a problem in that my lines aren't lining up here. Well, that's because I had jostled the camera a little bit between shots, and you might have noticed this already. As I hide this upper layer, we see that the, the lower image is rotated a little bit. Fortunately, Photoshop can take care of that for me very easily, as well. I'm going to start by deleting this layer mask.

I just right click on it, and hit Delete Layer Mask. Now I'm going to select both layers by holding down the Shift key, and clicking on the lower layer, they're both selected. Now if I go up to Edit > Auto align layers, and just take the default auto projection. Photoshop is going to figure out how to get these layers perfectly aligned. So you can see it's done a little rotation here. And now when I click to hide this upper layer, I don't see that big shift in geometry. I see that the clouds have moved, and I see that the tree is blowing, but that's okay because I'm only going to be masking this little part down here.

So now, let's create another layer mask here, get some black paint, and now when I paint in here, to take the guy out, zoom in here. We can see that that crosswalk line is actually matching up just fine as is this line right here. There won't be any seams in this composite, because my layers are properly aligned. So, this is a very easy way to do this type of compositing. If you have multiple shots, you can very easily paint data in and out of one or the other using layer masks and aligned layers to come up with a final result like we saw earlier, which is this.

I think the bigger lesson here is not so much the compositing which is very simple, but a different approach to street shooting. The way that I work when the light turns really nice like this is I walk around looking for nice lighting. Here's another example of a final shot. I really liked the shadow that this building was casting and this black turn signal or, or stoplight. Anyway, I like the way this creates a frame. So I framed up a shot like that and then waited for some things to come it that were interesting. So I'm really playing with the light here.

And waiting for subject matter to come along within it. But let me show you what I started with. I knew that I was going to be masking this stuff so I went ahead and shot a few different things. I just took a shot that was as empty as possible. One reason it's difficult to nail that decisive moment in a good composition at a busy intersection like this is at one time or another there are always cars either going this way or this way at the light's change. Same thing with pedestrians. So then I shot this. So that was a nice bicyclist, I liked him. But I liked this one better. And then my final image, you can see I removed this car, I removed this car.

And I was able to do that because I had this image here that didn't have any cars in it. So I stood there for awhile shooting several frames until I was confident that I had a clean spot on every part of the street. And again what originally attracted me to the shot was not the unfolding of a particular event but compositional elements that I liked. I framed those up and then waited for events to unfold. Shot a bunch of them. With the idea that I would be able to composite it how I want. This is a different approach to street shooting than the decisive moment approach, but in a really busy chaotic environment, this is a way to get some compositions that would otherwise not be possible.

So, my call to action for you is to get your camera, go outside, find some cool lighting. Shoot multiple shots with subjects in different places in the frame, and then by auto-aligning and using layer masks, see how you can composite them together to get a final image.

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