How to Make More Compelling Photos Through Compositing

Compositing a photo may seem quaint in the age of AI-generated everything, but it's still often the best or sometimes only way to get the image you're truly going for.

Toronto-based photographer Anthony Gugliotta shares a quick tutorial on how to combine a longer exposure photo with a shorter one, an easy way to create a portrait where the world is moving along behind the subject of a photo that looks like they're standing (or in this case, kneeling) still.

AI can pull from existing images to create new backgrounds and compositions out of thin air, but it's better, as in the case in the video above, if you shoot the same scene with both a fast exposure and a slower exposure, the faster one containing the subject. You can combine the two in Lightroom or Photoshop to create something a little more interesting. It's a more compelling photo to have the subject frozen with the illusion of the water moving behind him.

While there are a number of ways to get this effect, for a human subject, it's probably easiest to simply select your subject (OK, so there's a little AI magic behind the object selection tool, can't get away from it these days) and then use the "paste in place" command so that they line up with the scenery you're shooting. It's best to use a tripod so that you can do this, or the shots won't line up, and you'll have to manually drop your subject into the long exposure photo.

There are a number of ways to use long exposures for this effect beyond the waterfalls you see here. Think moving cars that become streaks of light, stars that become trails — the possibilities are endless.

Take a look at the video above for detailed instructions on how Gugliotta arrived at his composite.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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