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In Photoshop CS5: Creative Compositing, Chris Orwig demonstrates how to take photographs to the next creative level by combining images in Photoshop. This course covers multiple compositing scenarios, including portraits and architecture photos, from selecting the images, to blending photos with layer masks and blend modes, and resizing and sharpening the results. Chris also covers tips and tricks design to inspire and increase the drama and interest of photographs. Exercise files are included with this course.
One of the things that we want to do at this point is start to add some shadows so that this composite begins to look a little bit more realistic. Again, it looks like she is floating on top of the books rather than sitting on the books. Now, there are a couple of different strategies that you can take when working with shadows. One easy approach which you can begin to use and then modify is to create a drop shadow, to then copy that drop shadow to its own layer, and then to mask in particular areas of the shadow that are relevant. Let me show you what I mean. Well here on our top layer, we'll go ahead and double-click this layer and we'll click to add Drop Shadow.
Now the Drop Shadow that we want is going to be pretty tight and we also want it to show up underneath the image. So we'll go ahead and change the direction there and I'll bring the distance down a bit so we can see that. Now, press Spacebar in the image to move it over there so we can actually see what we have. Now this Drop Shadow doesn't look very good, right? And the problem is that again it almost makes it look like this image is sitting on top of the background, it's not part of the background. So what we want to do is just keep modifying our settings here and look to see what might work with this and I'm guessing that we're going to need to have a real low Amount on these different values, perhaps a bit more Size or Spread there but a pretty low tight Amount, and then we'll go ahead and click OK.
Well, now that we've done this, we need to put the drop shadow on its own layer. To do that we can go over to our Layer pull-down menu, choose Layer Style, and then go all the way down to Create Layer. This will then create a new layer of this particular drop shadow. Here it's warning us just saying, "hey, you know what, sometimes this won't work very well. Do you really want to do this?" And yes, we do. All right, well, here you can see we now have the drop shadow on its own layer. Click on the eye icon; there is the before and then the after. What's great about this is we can click in the shadow and then use our Arrow keys if we have the Move tool selected and just nudge this around a bit.
Again, just try to nudge it to get it just in the right spot there. And what I think we want to do is we want to have a shadow where we have a little bit of this point of contact here. We want it to be really small. We'll build a bigger shadow later but for now we're going to have a little bit of a small little shadow. So next let's create a mask. Press the Option key on a Mac, Alt key on Windows and then click on the Add Layer Mask icon. This creates a mask filled with black. In other words, we have no shadow. Next, we want to zoom in for this. We grab our Brush tool by pressing the B key or clicking on it.
We also want to paint with white, so we choose white in our color picker, and then we'll increase the size of our brush, so we have a size of a brush which allows us to paint in a shadow in the area like this. We want to lower opacity so that we can then incrementally bring in the shadow and here all that I'm going to do is just start to bring in the shadow in this area. And you can see that what we can do is where the shadow is touching something, perhaps it's going to be a little bit more prominent and then it might taper off a bit. So, again, I'm just going to go ahead and make my way through here, bringing in this little shadow that we have, and the great thing about this is that if we make a mistake, we can always press the X key to invert and then just paint that shadow away.
So we'll go ahead and just bring in these shadows back and forth. Again, just that little bit of that point of contact that the object should have. It should get a little darker in that area, kind of showing that we're getting close to this. And again the nice thing about this is we have such precise control over the intensity of this type of shadow and also over how it's starting to look. Now, if the shadow is too far dropped down, grab your Move tool and then just nudge it up a bit. Again, we're just looking for that touching point. We need that point of contact shadow. We also will need some other shadows of course, but this little point of contact shadow starts to begin to build that believability that we really need.
Now of course there's going to be more work that we need to do, so whenever you start to work in a project like this, don't be dismayed if it doesn't look great initially. Keep in mind there is a process here. We need to go through these different steps in order to get this looking even better. All right, well now that we've created this point of contact shadow, what I want to do is create some more bigger shadows. So in order to do that, we're going to create a new layer. Let's go ahead and click on the New Layer icon here and let's name this layer shadows. Next, let's lower this underneath the point of contact shadows and let's rename this layer point of contact, because that's that touching point, and let's name this girl up top just so we have our layers named really nicely.
All right, well now that we've organized our layers, let's click in the shadows layer and change the blending mode to Soft Light. Soft Light is a great blending mode when you want to either brighten or darken areas of your image, as you know. So here we press the B key to select the Brush tool, we want to paint with black, and we want to have a real low opacity so that we can incrementally build this up, so around 35 might work. Maybe even a little bit higher, we'll see. And then we're going to make our brush nice and big. Right-click or Ctrl+click, with this brush you want to make sure you have no Hardness there, so we have no Hardness, which is great.
We just want to think about shadows and we want to think about you know what happened here is that these certain areas should just be a little bit generally darker. If there's someone near it, it will trap the light into that area, and this is just some general, more environmental shadows, and we'll lower the opacity way down to get a little bit more of that darkening effect. This will help connect these images. We also want to play on the shadows that we have here on the books, darkening those up as well. So I'm just painting across some of these other shadows. I'm looking to bring those down a bit more around the leg, also around the knee, because if the knee is close to this, there is going to be a shadow and it's not going to be a point of contact shadow but it just happens that the light should be blocked a little but over here, the book should get a little bit darker in those areas.
So again, we'll start to just work on that and work around the hand and darken that up, and as you work on these shadows, a lot of times what you'll feel is that you're not really doing anything, it's not really worth it and you'll kind of second-guess or question your progress here. Well, that's good. You shouldn't see anything really dramatic, anything that stands out like a sore thumb. If you do or if you feel like your shadow is getting a little bit too prominent, what you might want to try is to go to Filter, choose Blur and then Gaussian Blur, and then soften out your brush strokes and you can see that you can just incrementally bring this up, in order to add a little bit more diffusion so that those shadows, again, aren't quite so dramatic. Or if that doesn't work for you, another thing that you can do of course is create a layer mask.
You can create a layer mask and then on that layer mask with your Brush tool, paint with black and make your brush nice and big and just paint away some of the shadows if you think that you overdid it in a couple of ways, and this can be a nice back-and-forth way to start to again bring in some of the shadows which will make this look a little more realistic. Let's take a look at how we're doing. Here we have our before and then our after. And it's these type of shadows, combined with our point of contact shadows, which really help the subject rather than float, start to be part of the overall frame.
And another thing that we want to do is I have been mentioning earlier is that we want to make sure on the shadow layer that we work on some of the other shadows in the image, we darken up some of these, we add a little bit a drama here. So burn and dodge other areas, other shadows in order to add to the overall aesthetic of what we're trying to accomplish and we can really come up with some interesting results in this sense, and just by darkening up some of those books and adding those shadows, it feels a little bit more like light is traveling this certain way from a certain perspective.
Let's zoom out and see how we've done so far. Here we have our before and then our after, the shadow layers are looking pretty good. Here's before without the shadows and then here is with the shadows. Well, now, we obviously have a few more issues we have to deal with. We have this light source coming into the hair. we have this rim light around the subject. We have a couple other things that we need to do in regards to color and tone and to creating a bit more of an imaginative look and feel. Let's explore how we can do all those things and a bit more in the next few movies.
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