Composite Workflow & Studio Lighting

Renee Robyn teaches studio lighting for advanced composite imagery

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For portrait photographers obsessed with lighting, blending your studio portraits with epic backgrounds can be challenging. This composite photography tutorial explores the fundamentals of studio lighting & composite techniques to allow photographers to create flawless images with high impact for their clients.

Studio Lighting for Composite Photography

Photographers often struggle to blend subjects into backplates shot at separate times with different variables. Renee Robyn teaches how to read, understand, and recreate lighting in backplate images, so you can properly capture a subject in the studio. Renee takes you through every step of her process to create perfect studio lighting to blend your subjects to match the backplate.

Composite Photography Post Production Workflow

This tutorial blends in-studio photography shoots with advanced composite post-production workflow. The tutorial shows 3 full model shoots from start to finish to give you the foundational knowledge to blend your backplates shot on location with your in-studio portraits. Perfect for those that travel and want to build a library of backplates for future composite photos.

Renee then demonstrates her post-production Photoshop magic to blend studio and location captures into a seamless and impactful story-driven composite photographs.

If you are looking to take your portfolio images, portraits, and composite landscapes to the commercial level, this tutorial is a perfect investment into your photographer career.

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  • 01. Lighting Checklist
    • Thumbnail for Lighting Checklist / Introduction
      Introduction (2:36)

      Welcome to the Composite Photography Workflow Tutorial with photographer and retoucher, Renee Robyn. For this series, focus on tackling the challenges of lighting for compositing workflows. Learn to analyze background plates and build lighting with intention for an optimized post workflow. Develop a firm foundation for compositing using studio strobes, posing, and a repeatable process in Photoshop.

    • Thumbnail for Lighting Checklist / Step 1 - Light Source
      Step 1 - Light Source (5:35)

      In this first step, follow retoucher, Renee Robyn as she explores and explains the importance of understanding the source of lighting for your composite images. Using Photoshop, learn to leverage the threshold tool to see lighting within existing plates. Hone your ability to evaluate lighting sources in relationship to environmental elements as well as perspective of the photographer and camera.

    • Thumbnail for Lighting Checklist / Step 2 - Light Direction
      Step 2 - Light Direction (9:29)

      With an understanding of how to identify the source of light within an image, focus on how to isolate its subsequent direction. Learn to evaluate bounce light, shadows, highlights, and reflections across a series of landscape and interior backplates. Understand the relationship of subject and environment to the directionality of light.

    • Thumbnail for Lighting Checklist / Step 3 - Light Quality
      Step 3 - Light Quality (8:35)

      For the third step of studying light for a compositing photography workflow, learn to analyze lighting quality. Using Photoshop, follow retoucher Renee Robyn, as she reverse engineers and diagrams lighting setups across a series of backplate scenarios. Learn to evaluate what lighting gear and modifiers would be most effective for lighting subjects to be composited with a variety of backplate examples.

    • Thumbnail for Lighting Checklist / Step 4 - Light Temperature
      Step 4 - Light Temperature (6:29)

      In this stage of photography lighting study, focus on light temperature. Learn how to evaluate more backplate examples in Photoshop, to determine what lighting and modifiers will enable you to capture cohesive color temperature in camera. Explore the usage of CTO gel and white balance manipulation when lighting subjects for compositing.

    • Thumbnail for Lighting Checklist / Step 5 - Lens Identification
      Step 5 - Lens Identification (6:12)

      For this stage of the composite process, learn to examine a backplate and identify the lens used during image capture. Maximize EXIF data to learn what aperture, ISO, and shutter speed were used to understand the image perspective, depth of field, compression and rolloff. Build on this knowledge to establish a solid base for subject placement within a composite image that is realistic and integrated.

    • Thumbnail for Lighting Checklist / Step 6 - Subject Placement
      Step 6 - Subject Placement (8:23)

      In this final step of the lighting checklist, put all of the steps together to understand the intricate and inextricable relationship between the lighting of a background plate and your subject captures. When creating your own custom backplates for photo composites, learn the value of creating subject reference points. Examine how each step of the lighting checklist relates, evaluating some of Renee Robyn's own image captures from various locations and environments.

    • Thumbnail for Lighting Checklist / Backplate Practice
      Backplate Practice (11:28)

      In this tutorial section, put the theory into practice. Follow retoucher, Renee Robyn, as she applies the steps of the lighting checklist process across four different images. Use Photoshop to identify lighting source, direction, quality, temperature, lens identification, and subject placement. Hone your ability to see light from existing backplates and the kind of light required to shoot composite elements for natural, realistic integration.

  • 02. Soft Light Shoot
    • Thumbnail for Soft Light Shoot / Lighting Checklist
      Lighting Checklist (3:06)

      Transition to a studio environment for a Soft Light composite shoot. Follow photographer, Renee Robyn, as she applies the lighting checklist in a production scenario. Learn to evaluate a backplate on set, to build lighting and capture subject composite elements.

    • Thumbnail for Soft Light Shoot / Lighting Setup 1
      Lighting Setup 1 (15:45)

      Using the lighting checklist process, with a backplate reference on set, capture a subject composite element in studio. Build up a lighting setup around the model, using Capture One for a live, tethered preview for how the subject will composite with the target backplate. Focus on pose, bounce lighting, highlight and shadow detail, as you iterate through a series of exposures to capture a clean subject element, in camera. Put the lighting checklist into practice in a real world environment.

    • Thumbnail for Soft Light Shoot / Lighting Setup 2
      Lighting Setup 2 (16:46)

      In this second lighting setup, hone the process of compositing with a wardrobe change. Iterate through multiple exposures to capture the proper highlights, shadows, perspective and subject placement, to create a realistic and natural composite. Leverage the power of Capture One, tethering for a live preview, making dynamic adjustments on set, to create natural, in camera subject elements for compositing. Learn to evaluate details and implement best practices to create powerful, dynamic, and industry leading image composites.

    • Thumbnail for Soft Light Shoot / Retouching
      Retouching (34:43)

      With the Soft Light studio shoots complete, follow retoucher, Renee Robyn, as she culls through her image captures to select the best compositing elements. Learn which images she selects and why. Evaluate pose, highlights, shadows - in addition to creative storytelling elements to integrate the perfect placement, scale, and perspective into the environment backplate. Watch as she explains a high level look at how she built the final composite image.

  • 03. Cathedral Shoot
    • Thumbnail for Cathedral Shoot / Lighting Checklist
      Lighting Checklist (4:16)

      With a grasp of compositing workflow, begin a new project using a dramatic cathedral image photographed in France by photographer, Renee Robyn. Follow the procedural method of Renee's lighting checklist to create a compelling, realist, and accurate final composite image.

    • Thumbnail for Cathedral Shoot / Lighting Setup
      Lighting Setup (13:40)

      With a solid plan in for the cathedral backplate, go on set and in studio with photographer, Renee Robyn as she captures a subject element for a dramatic composite. Iterate through a series of capture, modifying lighting, considering styling, evaluating shadows and highlights. Build up an intelligent lighting approach that effectively integrates the subject with the target backplate of the cathedral.

    • Thumbnail for Cathedral Shoot / Shoot - Part 1
      Shoot - Part 1 (21:18)

      Begin shooting the model, evaluating pose, perspective, and story as you iterate through exposures for the perfect subject composite element. Follow photographer, Renee Robyn as she evaluates perspective, lens selection, shooting with purpose and intention. Learn to analyze each image capture and how to communicate with your subject to achieve the best results.

    • Thumbnail for Cathedral Shoot / Shoot - Part 2
      Shoot - Part 2 (10:57)

      For this shoot, light and compose for a different backplate option. With the same wardrobe and subject, learn to adapt your lighting and posing for a different compositing scenario. Using the lighting checklist, dynamically adjust your setup for your set and create another option for compositing.

    • Thumbnail for Cathedral Shoot / Retouching - Image 1
      Retouching - Image 1 (15:40)

      With the cathedral shoot complete, transition into Photoshop for the compositing phase of the Cathedral image. Follow retoucher, Renee Robyn, as she guides you through an overview of the compositing and retouching process for this dramatic, rich image. Combine the subject with the backplate, focusing on sculpting shadow and light. Manipulate saturation, hue, exposure, and blend modes to create a compelling integration of the image elements.

    • Thumbnail for Cathedral Shoot / Retouching - Image 2
      Retouching - Image 2 (19:47)

      Using a different backplate for the cathedral shoot, composite another perspective and story for this theme. Build on your ability to shape light, environment and compositing capabilities. Paint shadows and sculpt light for realistic, beautiful composite imagery using Photoshop.

    • Thumbnail for Cathedral Shoot / Retouching - Image 3
      Retouching - Image 3 (4:12)

      For this final retouching example, composite an exterior cathedral image. Follow retoucher, Renee Robyn, as she walks through a high level look at her process at an accelerated pace.

  • 04. Paratrooper Shoot
    • Thumbnail for Paratrooper Shoot / Lighting Checklist
      Lighting Checklist (11:13)

      In this final example for Composite Workflow, learn to build a dynamic action shot from planning, production to post. Follow photographer and retoucher, Renee Robyn, as she concepts, shoots, and composites a paratrooper action image. In this section, follow the procedural method, implementing the lighting checklist to effectively shoot a subject for action compositing.

    • Thumbnail for Paratrooper Shoot / Pose 1
      Pose 1 (10:11)

      To build a realistic pose of a paratrooper jumping out of a plane, learn to evaluate your subjects body position, sense of gravity, and perspective. Follow photographer, Renee Robyn, as she builds up effective lighting, iterating through multiple captures to create a dynamic and realistic subject element. Using Capture One, evaluate exposures in relationship to the target backplate for real time analysis and feedback on the final composite.

    • Thumbnail for Paratrooper Shoot / Pose 2
      Pose 2 (11:42)

      For this second pose, learn how to evaluate perspective, scale, and dynamic motion to create a stage in the story of paratroopers. Put the subject in motion, using cable suspension. Develop a process for creating a sense of flight and direction. Watch as photographer Renee Robyn leverages the use of modifiers, cables, and a ladder to create a paratrooper falling through the atmosphere.

    • Thumbnail for Paratrooper Shoot / Pose 3
      Pose 3 (8:45)

      For the third and final pose, in the paratrooper shoot series, create the final component of subject in flight. Complete the story arc and visual narrative by adjusting lighting for environment and cables for angle and movement. Learn to accurate create a sense of scale, perspective and motion to complete the story.

    • Thumbnail for Paratrooper Shoot / Retouching
      Retouching (33:00)

      Congratulations! You've completed the Composite Workflow with Renee Robyn series. For this final section of your training, put all of the pieces together - literally. Composite the 3 paratrooper poses into an incredibly dynamic, action composite. We encourage you to share your progress with the community. Try. Fail. Ask questions. And grow. We look forward to what you are going to create!



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