Think about shooting for composites and you can create landscapes of the mind

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Shooting and compositing multiple exposures can provide you with unique and creative images. Many camera bodies have settings that prevent the shutter from advancing, allowing an infinite number of exposures to be made on the same frame. For most of us, however, Photoshop will be the ideal tool for making composite images. Moons can be added to landscapes, dreamy effects can be made by shooting one image in focus with the other defocused and ghostly images can be produced, having a background bleed through a double-exposed primary subject. Every time you go on a new shoot, think about creating them.

Having a previsualized idea of what to construct can help in the endeavor to put the elements together. For instance, when I head to the botanical gardens or just around the neighborhood to photograph flowers, I turn my thoughts to the dream world. The first part of the multiple is a recording of the flower in full focus combined with a second where I completely defocus the lens. This creates a halo of color around sharply defined petals. If I’m photographing fall color, I may take a close-up of a leaf and record the entire tree as an overlay to show the relationship. Along the coast, I may set my motordrive on high and make eight exposures of incoming waves on the same frame. Since these effects often are hit and miss, I may wind up deleting every image or going home with one that hangs on the wall as a 16×24.

Layering and blending multiple images together in creative ways can add a unique perspective to the final photograph.

Often, a creative flash of brilliance strikes after the fact. Thankfully, Photoshop provides the means to do what you didn’t think of while you were out in the field. Follow these steps.

Step 1
. Open the high-res file of the base image in addition to a high-res image of the moon, for example. Both need to be the same dimensions. If they’re not, size the file of the moon the same as the base image by going to Image > Image Size and type in the same pixel width, height and resolution of the primary subject so they match. Having the sizes match is important. If they don’t, when the moon file is dragged over the base image, the moon may be too small or too large, depending on the differences.

Step 2. Use the Move tool while holding down the Shift key and drag the moon image onto the main image. Holding the shift key allows you to line up the two photos so they’re registered. A new layer will appear in the Layers palette, and the base image will disappear under the photo of the moon. Don’t worry about the fact that you can’t see it, as it’s temporarily “hidden.”

Step 3. Click the Down arrow on the Blending Mode pull-down menu in the Layers palette. More than likely you’ll see the word Normal. In order to allow the base layer to show through and have both the moon and base layer visible, drag the cursor to Screen. This is the key step, as it allows the two layers to bleed through each other and create a very realistic effect. Depending on the density of the sky in the base layer, you may need to highlight the moon layer and darken it using Levels. Additionally, play with different blending modes to become familiar with their characteristics and watch how the layers interact. Each mode creates a different effect.