Compositing. Share your efforts here.


Pastafarian minister
Mar 25, 2018
The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield, UK.
Real Name
I'm a bit of a fan of compositing. I'm a follower of Nemanja Sekulic's work amongst others, have often tried and failed to emulate his composited images. Some say compositing is cheating, but I disagree as long as no attempt is made to deceive the viewer.

People like me who were brought up with film cameras will appreciate that there was no easy way to combine images and finish up with a realistic result. Younger photographers perhaps take manipulation for granted.

I'm not terribly good with manuals. Stuck inside owing to lockdown, and with little else to do (there are only so many times one can mow the lawn), I've revisited a number of tutorial videos and revived an old project - a picture which I set as a recent post processing challenge on this website.

The image is of a Sea King helicopter, photographed from the ground at an airshow with my EM-1. I got an excellent shot of the back of some bloke's head at the same time. It was a dull day and the image is pretty flatly lit. It made a good candidate for a total background replacement.

Here's my final image, with the original shown below it. The background was downloaded from and the photographer is credited as Peter Laskowski.

All work done in Photoshop CC.

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

The most challenging part was the masking. I tried a luminosity mask with the Lumenzia plug in (there is a free version) and got some of the way there. I got a good mask of most the helicopter fuselage by going to channels, and using photoshop's calculation function to blend two of the channels together as demonstrated by Deke McLelland on (at this point, I should mention that I wasn't planning on posting this here and didn't make a note of which channels I blended - think it was green and blue) using blending mode 'add' with an offset of about 150. I then cleaned the mask up further using a levels adjustment. Grey patches were painted out by hand.

I then ended up with a reasonable mask. It was then necessary to go around the edges with a black brush to ensure I'd got all of the edge detail. The hoses and aerials had to be masked back in by hand.

Next, I made another copy of the mask, and took the fairly agricultural approach of copying the rotors from a black and white version, playing with the contrast, and blending them in to yet another black and white version of my mask in a separate document.

My new background came from via photoshop. I can't recall exactly, but I think this feature is built in to PS. I resized the downloaded shot, blurred it with Filter > blur gallery > field blur, and then played with the colour balance and density of both the background and helicopter using clipped adjustment layers until I was happy with a reasonable match.

The lighting on the ground is coming from the right, so I added another layer and painted in some highlights on the helicopter, taking the colour from the sky (which I know is a bit cyan, but I like it). Next time I do this, I'll pay more attention to lighting directions before I try compositing the pictures. I think I got away with it because my original image is so flatly lit.

Lastly, to tie the two images together, with two more layers, I added some pollution from the exhaust below the rotor, and some faux heat haze.

The heat haze was done by copying a triangular area of the blended image dipping below and to the right of the exhaust, and adding a ripple effect with Filter > distort > glass.

I've since tweaked the tail rotor on the final image by copying it, changing the density until I'm happy with it and blending parts of it back in. Added a bit of a vignette.

Overall, I'm happy with my result and look forward to one day putting a Lancaster bomber on the moon.

Critiques are welcome. I'm keen to learn. Only advice for anyone else I have at this stage is to meticulously label your layers and use smart objects where possible.

Note to moderators - I had a good look for a similar thread before posting this here. By all means move somewhere more appropriate if such a thread already exists.
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