I had the honor to capture a unique First Holy Communion portrait session for a pair of girl/boy twins back in early May. In this session, I used digital backgrounds frequently. Such technique is referred as “composite”.
My session always starts with pre-consultations. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for me and for my clients. Very often, clients’ dissatisfaction arises when photographers failed to meet their expectations. And in most cases, it is because expectations have not been communicated well before the session. I can communicate with clients in various ways – emails, texts, instant messengers (Facebook, WeChat, etc.), phone calls, or even in person meetup. I encourage clients send me favorite images they collected elsewhere or from previous portrait sessions to help me understand their preferred styles. (A picture says a thousand words. It helps to facilitate communication. The exercise here is not the same as trying to imitate other photographers’ works.)
For this First Communion session, Mom sent me images she collected from Pinterest. They are mostly outdoors. For example, a girl sitting on a flower swing in her First Communion dress, a boy praying under the sky in his First Communion suit, etc. I clearly understood what she wants but also realized there was a challenge: those outdoor locations and props are difficult to find around us and weather had not been in our favors to conduct a session outdoor.
The thought process led to the decision to utilize digital backgrounds. A wise use of digital backgrounds can help clients to achieve certain desired realistic looking outcomes without having to go through the extra miles and thus save both the photographer and clients time, energy, and costs. The entire session was then set up indoor with a dark gray muslin backdrop as the main theme. A few images were taken with a beach backdrop. There are two reasons to choose dark gray – it is a medium color between white (the girl’s dress color) and black (the boy’s suit color) and it also is a preferred background color for preparing digital cutouts to be used with digital backgrounds.
Most of the session images were delivered on traditional, classic dark gray background. Some are on the beach background. Each image was touched up lightly (in order to preserve children’s natural beauty) with color correction, skin tone balance, and blemish removal. Selected images were given black/white and/or light cast effects for a different look and feel. Qualified poses were further edited with digital backgrounds.
There are two types of digital backgrounds. One is a flat wallpaper type. And the other is called 3D or with layers where you can insert your subjects. Some 3D digital backgrounds even come with more editing tools to give your images more dreamy and realistic look. In my session I used both. Please always remember to obtain your digital backgrounds from a reputable source and pay attention to terms & conditions of use, especially if it is provided to you free of charge. Things like whether it is allowed to be used for commercial purposes, whether attributes are required, so on and so forth, need to be checked before you decided to use them. Just like photographers don’t like their work to be stolen, you don’t want to steal other people’s work even sometimes you might not do it intentionally, thus obtaining them from a reputable source can give you a peace of mind.
Other composite techniques involve applying overlays and digital props.
I don’t recommend anyone to go overboard with composite. There are many other techniques and approaches to make images interesting and beautiful.
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