In this composite walkthrough, photographer and digital artist Clinton Lofhouse shares how he created this striking composite and gives several tips for how to make a fantasy image like this one believable.
One of the best ways to learn how to do a thing is to watch someone else do it. In this behind-the-scenes speed tutorial, Lofthouse breaks down how he went about compositing several stock photographs with the original image he shot on location to create a final fantasy piece. He uses tools like Refine Edge to help him get a clean mask around delicate edges, like the owl's feathers, and also puts the Pen tool to work cutting out delicate details, like tiny mice feet.
It's handy when doing any composite work to pay attention to tonality and color, which is something Lofthouse shows while blending the composite elements into the backplate. For this purpose, he uses a Black and While Adjustment Layer and Curves Adjustments. Watching as the animals go from looking like cut-out pieces to looking like part of the scene, it's easy to see how these little tips can be put to powerful use.
Lofthouse also mentions that adding the moon to the photo was planned when the shot was executed, with the strobe placed the position in which he planned to composite the moon, which makes the final piece more believable. He also talks about using colors already present in the image to create highlights and shadows, resulting in a more realistic lighting scenario for the composited piece, before finishing the image off with color grading and dodge and burn.