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Room for Improvement

As you learned in the retouching chapters in Part II, many pictures can be improved simply by removing defects. Retouching consists largely of taking stuff out that doesn’t belong there, such as dust, scratches, holes in the background, bad complexions, your brother-in-law, and so forth. Compositing is a lot more versatile. Here are some of the things you can do with compositing techniques:

  • Remove large objects. Do you have a mountain vista in which an ugly old house squats smack dab in the middle? No problem. You’d be hard pressed to retouch such a large object out of your photo, but you can certainly delete it by replacing it with something else, such as trees, a mountain, a lake, anything that might be more attractive to look at than the ugly old house. Your fix can be virtually invisible, blending in with the surroundings seamlessly.

  • Relocate objects in the photo. One of the projects later in this chapter involves moving a pesky tourist from the center of a photograph to one side, where she doesn’t dominate the composition quite so much. Using compositing to relocate objects gives you the opportunity to correct faulty compositions, change the center of interest in a photo, or make something else a little easier to see. Perhaps you have a photograph of the company bowling team and the captain, who happens to be your CEO, ended up in the back row. Compositing lets you move the chief up to the front where she belongs.

  • Replace components in the photograph. I had a nice publicity shot of myself showing me proudly holding the first edition of my latest scanner book. Then, the second edition was published and it had a completely different cover. Should I reshoot the photo? Too much trouble, and, besides, I was much better looking two years ago in the original picture. Why not just grab an image of the new book (even a scanned copy will do) and then use Photoshop to fix the perspective and drop it into the original picture? Compositing to the rescue again.

  • Add new objects to a photo. After you learn to blend objects into photographs, I guarantee you’ll go nuts with the possibilities. Did all the department heads except for one show up for a group photo for the annual report? Add the straggler later. Could your beach scene use some palm trees? Plant some quicker than you can say “Arbor Day.” Do you want to see the Eiffel Tower in the middle of downtown London? The only hard part is obtaining photos of la Tour Eiffel and Piccadilly Circus.

  • Squeeze things together, or stretch them apart. If you have a picture that is too wide for your intended use, you can often take the left and right halves, overlap them, disguise the seam, and end up with a narrower photo that fits, but doesn’t look distorted. Or, you can fit something into the middle of the picture (much like adding a leaf to your dining room table when company comes) to make it fit a wider composition.


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